According to Richard J. Loewenstein, MD, quoting the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), dissociation is a "disruption, interruption, and/or discontinuity of the normal, subjective integration of behavior, memory, identity, consciousness, emotion, perception, body representation, and motor control."
There are disorders linked to this cognitive phenomena such as
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
- Dissociative Amnesia (DA)
- Depersonalization/Derealization Disorder (DPDRD)
The DSM categorizes Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a Dissociative Subtype (PTSD-DS).
Dissociation can make us fantasy-prone, repress our memories, cause us to have false memories and increase risks of depression and suicide. Dissociation is often described in conjunction to the body's "fight, flight or freeze" response. This can cause a trance-like "stupor" or catatonia (Loewenstein, 2018).
This article is not a diagnostic tool nor professional therapy. These are thought exercises to help you develop stronger gears for coping with dissociative episodes.
BE IN PARTS
Being a person means being made of parts.
Dissociation disrupts our memory and fogs our personality. It splits us into suspicious or surreal personas, separating us from who, what, when, where and why we are. It's normal to feel made of parts.
Dissociation will accentuate the divide between consciousness and unconsciousness in your body. It is a bizarre sensation, but it's not fatal or unmanageable.
Dissociation can make you feel as if your character or "soul" is detachable from your body, but it isn't. We become hyper-focused on this possibility of "getting lost" while dissociating, but dissociation is not the same as dying.
Being dissociative is not an absence of body or character.
In secular magick, body is soul. There are always underlying mechanics functioning in us including during dissociative episodes.
You likely don't want to feel lost in a daisy maze forever, so don't waste too much time feeling disgusted by, mistrustful of or resentful to your body's dissociative tendencies. Be a friend to your body, know that you must help it and guide it like you would a child.
Dissociation can be onset by various drugs and psychiatric conditions. Stress is a major risk factor in addition to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and adverse religious experiences (AREs). Don't be afraid to dissociate. You're a magickian who can learn what's causing this, and you can utilize tools, body power and environmental manipulation to manage dissociative spells.
Keep a grimoire of your episodes to track your experiences. Talk to trusted friends or medical providers. Study scientific research about dissociation, and learn its spell.
Image Description: GIF of neon green clocks ticking in a shadow-passing of time
LEARN THE SPELL
Spookywood defines magick as "the design of function."
Spells are magick formulae, and you can learn the spell of dissociation.
There are many therapeutic strategies for managing dissociation. Some require intensive therapy, but there are ways to apply magick in daily living to help manage dissociation.
Although you may not identify with your body, you can trust this spell has a starting and stopping point. There are boundaries about it, and you can identify and name its design and function.
In order to do this most effectively, you need feedback from people clinically trained in fields like cognitive science and physiology.
Annegret Krause-Utz, Rachel Frost, Dorina Winter and Bernet M. Elzinga provided a research study together to explore brain functions and structures in various dissociative disorders (2017).
- reduced gray matter volume (GMV) in right thalamus, caudate + cuneus
- increased GMV in the left dorsomedial prefrontal cortex
- increased GMV in the right somatosensory cortex
Dissociative identity disorder: reduced volumes in the amygdala, hippocampus and parahippocampus
PTSD: reduced hippocampal volumes
PTSD+DID: smaller hippocampal volume
A "suggested link between dissociative symptoms and alterations in brain regions associated with emotion processing and memory .. attention and interoceptive awareness ... filtering of sensory input ... self-referential processes ... cognitive control ... arousal modulation," (Krause-Utz, Frost, Winter & Elzinga, 2017).
Image Descripion: Rotating Brain Imaging Scan with Parts of the Brain Lighting Up
- Read. If you're in a dissociative spell, read its language.
- Write. Document what you're thinking and feeling. Use an emotions wheel to find the words if you need to model your experience as accurately as possible.
- Engage your senses. Smell a favorite candle, take a warm or cold bath, listen to a favorite song, eat a delicious snack, wrap yourself in a blanket, use your voice, stretch.
- Breathe. Diaphragmatic breathing reduces cortisol levels in the body and stimulates the vagal nerve. This helps us regulate emotions and psychological adaptation (so we don't feel we must run away from ourselves).
- Track your triggers. What are your stressors? What are your fears? What happened before the episode? What do you need right now? Write it all down, and map it out.
- Ground. Walk barefoot outside and dig your hands into the earth. Keep a bottle of sand, slime or aromatherapy handy. Exercise to increase blood flow and sensation to your limbs.
- Sleep. We can't control every circumstance, and it's tough knowing when to let go. There are only so many hours in the day, and you need to earnestly take care of yourself as best as you can by getting enough rest.
- Manage stress. Block people you don't get along with. Limit distractions. Prioritize organization and hygiene. As difficult as it may be, take steps to stay focused on your health and financial wellness.
- Avoid relying on gods and spirits for your comfort. This is a time to draw total attention to yourself and the resources readily available to you in sensory formats. Needing a spirit or god from an alternate reality can be inflammatory since your body is already needing a hug from another warm body.
- Pay attention to maladaptive daydreaming. This can happen when you're bored and overwhelmed. You may find yourself slipping into wandering thoughts about fictitious scenarios as a coping mechanism, but this can prolong dissociation.
- Avoid psychoactive substances. This can further irritate a dissociative episode and trigger anxiety and panic attacks. You are working to build as much cognitive command as possible, and sobriety can definitely help.
- Don't punish yourself for dissociating. Although the goal is to not be dissociative, sometimes there are scenarios where it's hard to prevent. Traumatic events and certain neurological conditions require acceptance and support, not retaliation.
Do magick. Remember you're not just a hay bale in the wind. You are a magickian who has powers of discernment. You observe design and function, learn complex details about it and now you're participating in managing its influence over you and your goals.
Magick [as the design of function] is all about supporting ourselves and each other by learning how things are built in order to better process them.
BUILD A MAGICK STUDIO
Creating a magick studio is an interactive way to do magick. It's all about building a space to participate with the design of function. This is a secular magick alternative to religious altars.
Studios are not places of worship — they are workspaces. It's an active space to combine structures for purpose.
A studio can be an entire building, a corner of a room or just a travel bag. Studios can be dedicated to many topics: academic theses, daily office work, raising a family, taking a vacation, cooking a meal — anything with design and function also has magick and can be allotted a studio.
For dissociation, try a sensory studio. This includes sensory items and activities involving your favorite scents, sounds, textures, flavors and memorable charms. These are to provoke memories and activate sensory processes that promote cognitive presence.
Krause-Utz A, Frost R, Winter D, Elzinga BM. Dissociation and Alterations in Brain Function and Structure: Implications for Borderline Personality Disorder. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2017 Jan;19(1):6. doi: 10.1007/s11920-017-0757-y. PMID: 28138924; PMCID: PMC5283511.
Loewenstein R. J. (2018). Dissociation debates: everything you know is wrong. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 20(3), 229–242. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2018.20.3/rloewenstein
Ma X, Yue ZQ, Gong ZQ, Zhang H, Duan NY, Shi YT, Wei GX, Li YF. The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. Front Psychol. 2017 Jun 6;8:874. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874. PMID: 28626434; PMCID: PMC5455070.
Schilbrack, Kevin, "The Concept of Religion", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2022 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2022/entries/concept-religion.