“Dissociation is a big way that we keep from feeling the pain of whatever we’re about to experience when we’re caught <by a predator>. Dissociation is a normal defense mechanism that helps us cope during a traumatic event. And so it’s really natural to experience it when you’re in a natural disaster, an invasive medical procedure, or in a traumatic event- abuse of some kind. But it becomes problematic when the environment is no longer life threatening, when it’s no longer traumatic but our body is reacting as if it still is.”

-Elisabeth Kristof, Founder of NeuroSomatic Intelligence Coaching and Brain Based Wellness 

Have you ever driven somewhere on autopilot or lost track of a conversation that you’re in the middle of with someone? 

Have you lost childhood memories?

Do you experience body dysmorphia, inner critic or perfectionism? 

Have you experienced body violations?

Do you struggle to feel pain- physical or emotional?

Do you engage in avoidance behaviors like scrolling social media, anxiety, numbing out after work or overeating? 

If so, then we have Dissociation in common and you’re in the right place! We’re so glad you’re here to listen to our intimate discussion about Dissociation. 

Dissociation is a protective and reflexive response that our body and nervous system use to keep us safe. It has a wide spectrum of ways that it can show up in your life. As you listen, please remember to hold yourself with grace and love and keep in mind that there’s nothing wrong with you for experiencing Dissociation. 

We’ll be sharing our personal experiences with Dissociation in this episode along with the following highlights to give you a clear and deep understanding:

  • Elisabeth explains what’s happening in our brain- specifically the thalamus and amygdala- when we move into Dissociation and how it affects our memories
  • How Dissociation blocks our interoceptive system and the long term physical and emotional consequences 
  • Elisabeth uses a bike riding example to explain how the interoceptive systems works
  • The relationship between the Freeze trauma response and Dissociation
  • Jennifer shares her experience with body dysmorphia and we discuss how it’s connected to Dissociation
  • How body dysmorphia and being in survival mode can lead to an abusive relationship with our body
  • How you can reconnect to your body and healing using NeuroSomatic Intelligence tools like vagus nerve decompression, upregulating the sympathetic nervous system and intentional movements
  • The importance of using minimum effective dose with nervous system tools
  • The hierarchical role that the Visual System plays in body dysmorphia and Dissociation  
  • The coping strategy of the avoidant behavior of Intellectual Dissociation  

Thank you for being part of this community and for listening to Trauma Rewired. We hope that this episode about Dissociation encourages you to safely reconnect with your body and heal your nervous system. We’re here to support you 100%. 

We invite you to join our online community on the Brain-Based Wellness site. Sign up for a free 2 weeks on the site where we teach live 3 times a week by going to www.rewiretrial.com 


Listen to more episodes of Trauma Rewired HERE


[00:00:00] Elisabeth: Hello. Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body, and what you can do to heal. I’m your co-host, Elisabeth Kristof, founder of Brain-Based Wellness, a virtual platform that works with your nervous system to resolve trauma, change, behavior, and mindset at the level of the body, the nervous system and the brain.

[00:00:24] And I’m Jennifer Wallace, a Neuro Somatic Psychedelic Preparation and Integration Guide and today we are talking all things Dissociation. 

[00:00:34] Elisabeth: I hope you enjoy this conversation and find yourself in some of the nuances of this protective, reflexive survival response.

[00:00:46] Jennifer: Okay, today we are recording something that we are all too familiar with and really quite good at actually disguising, and that’s the protective output of Dissociation.

[00:01:07] Elisabeth: Yep. This one is one that I am intimately familiar with and excited to talk about today because I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about Dissociation. I think people might find themselves in it more than they think. I think people often think of Dissociation as something that’s really severe, like having multiple personalities or losing large chunks of time.

[00:01:29] But it’s really on a spectrum, right? And there are many times in my life where I Dissociate, where I’m speaking, I’m talking, I’m present with you, but I’m really disconnected from my body. I might have trouble remembering that later. I can’t feel the sensations that are in my body.

[00:01:45] Like you’re doing a presentation and you check out of that experience a little bit because it’s overwhelming, or you’re having a difficult conversation or maybe an intimate conversation with someone and you just feel detached. You feel a little bit emotionally numb. You lose a little bit of mobility.

[00:02:03] You’re lost in some other world and thoughts and maybe don’t even remember how you got somewhere. Even daydreaming can be a mild form of Dissociation. So there’s lots of ways that it can show up, and I think that it’s just such a big spectrum. And it’s also important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with you if you Dissociate. It’s just another protective, reflexive response of a body and a nervous system that’s trying to keep us safe.

[00:02:36] Jennifer: Yeah, it is really fascinating and I really wanna explore the spectrum of it because it can happen just when you’re driving and you get on that autopilot or can be as severe as losing real time. And we’ve talked about it here before, that we feel like we’ve lost years of our lives, especially our childhood years.

[00:02:56] I’ve said before, I can’t remember what my childhood bedroom really looks like. I don’t think if there weren’t pictures to prove I was there I don’t even know that I would remember it. And sometimes I get confused on the memory of the picture and the memory that lives in my mind.

[00:03:18] And I can tell you, it can trigger some real feelings of guilt and grief. Like when my friends will remember something and they’ll laugh. I’m sorry, I can’t remember that and I feel bad about that.

[00:03:38] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think that that’s a very common phenomenon for people who experience a lot of Dissociation is to have limited memory of blocks of time, of certain ages of life. We’ll talk a little bit more about what’s going on in our brain and why that is, but just big picture wise for people, a general definition of Dissociation- because it’s a really complex, diverse phenomenon.

[00:04:05] It’s broadly defined as a disruption or discontinuity of the normal subjective integration of one or more aspects of our psychological functioning. That could include your memory, but it could also include your identity, your consciousness, your perception, or even your motor control. So we start to lose the ability to integrate

[00:04:28] and to see, to take into our cognitive mind certain parts of our senses. And this can have a wide range of symptoms. It could be like depersonalization, emotional numbing, memory fragmentation, but it can also lead to bodily symptoms too, like the inability to feel pain, feeling really lightheaded, feeling out of your body.

[00:04:53] So there’s a lot of different ways that this can show up, but all of these are things that are happening at a survival level in our brain. Our brain is making a decision that the stimulus coming in is not safe. And so there’s a part of our brain, our thalamus, that’s our gatekeeper of all of the sensory information that comes in, cause remember there’s a lot of information coming in all the time, and that part of our brain decides what to send up to our cognitive mind, what’s important for our survival, and also what’s too threatening, what we can handle. And so it may make a decision to block out some of that stimulus because it feels too threatening.

[00:05:36] And so we really are not taking in that sensory stimulus in our cognitive mind, in our higher order thinking systems when we’re in a Dissociative state. And so, yeah, we can’t remember because it didn’t make it up to our cognitive mind. It was blocked because it was too threatening. It was too much.

[00:05:54] Jennifer: Oh my God. It’s pretty wild actually to kind of think about that as a protective mechanism. To think that your brain and your nervous system have that level of intelligence. It could be physical, could be emotional. And what about the interoception system? Does that have something to do with Dissociation?

[00:06:23] Elisabeth: Yeah, absolutely. So let’s dive a little bit deeper into this as a protective mechanism because I think it’s really important for people to understand that these responses, like you said, there is a natural intelligence there. It is maybe what saved us in certain moments from nervous system overload, from too much dysregulation of the nervous system, especially when you’re a young child and you’re in a situation where you’re not gonna be able to Fight, you’re not gonna be able to Flee, so you Freeze and you often go into the trauma responsive Flop. Part of that is Dissociation because experiencing that traumatic event, that huge amount of stress would be so emotionally painful, perhaps physically painful and the amount of stress and dysregulation would be so severe that it’d be really hard for a small, developing nervous system to process and discharge. And on top of that, it might mean severing the connection, the attachment bond, with a caretaker and that we also need for our survival.

[00:07:33] And so our system is really doing the most adaptive thing to keep us regulated, to keep us safe and to keep us alive. When we talk about the interoceptive system, this is the system that allows our brain to know what’s going on inside of our body- all of our organs are sensory.

[00:07:56] Our brain takes in all of that information about our body temperature, what’s happening in each of our organs, our respiration, and all of this is called your interoceptive system-the signals coming from inside. So when we’re in a Dissociated state a lot of those signals are getting blocked by the brain from making it up to our cognitive mind and

[00:08:26] if that happens frequently, we start to lose that skill, that interoceptive skill to be able to feel and understand what’s going on inside of our body because as we continue to disconnect from it those neuro pathways we start to lose them. They become less efficient, more difficult for our brain to feel into and so we start to lose interoceptive skill, the ability to feel things inside of us and interoceptive accuracy.

[00:09:02] A lot of times we then start to predict too much threat to the sensations inside of our body where there isn’t really any. So we lose interoception ability and we start to develop a problem with the accuracy of our interoceptive system.

[00:09:25] Jennifer: What does it look like to be taking in inaccurate interoceptive information? Can you give us a little bit more detail about that and  how we start to retrain our interoceptive system to bring us out of states of Dissociation?

[00:09:43] Elisabeth: So our interoception system is predictive. It takes in information and it integrates that information primarily in our insular cortex. It takes that information in and integrates it. Then it makes a prediction and then it uses that prediction to start generating an output in our body, inside of our body.

[00:10:09] So say you’re riding a bike and you see a big hill up ahead while your interoception system is taking in that information primarily from your eyes, but maybe you’re feeling it in that gradual incline too. The amount of force needed is starting to build up and it starts to prepare your body for that challenge ahead.

[00:10:32] It starts to increase your heart rate, it starts to generate more force in your muscles, your respiration is gonna start to speed up. Your brain takes in the information it integrates. And it generates an output, and part of that output is what’s happening inside of your body in terms of your heart rate, your breathing, your muscle tension, your digestion- all of that.

[00:10:51] When we lose our interoceptive accuracy we can start to predict too much threat where there isn’t any. Because remember, our bodies are primed for survival, and if big life threatening things happen to us frequently, it’s actually more adaptive to prepare for those big life threatening things to happen because if we don’t and they happen again, then we’re dead.

[00:11:15] Right? They talk about this in pain neuroscience. If you’ve been bit by a snake and that was life threatening and then you see a stick and you think it’s a snake, it’s more adaptive for your body to have the big reaction of assuming it’s a snake. That’s what it experienced before and it was life threatening.

[00:11:38] If you don’t make that assumption and it is a snake, it only takes one time of not making that assumption. You get bit by the snake and you die. So your brain is actually really looking out for you and especially when it’s had these big life threatening experiences, it’s now primed to be hypersensitive to threat.

[00:11:59] And so our interoceptive system, which is predictive, starts to feel the sensations inside of our body and it can predict too much threat where there isn’t any. So we start to receive a lot of activation of our nervous system when we feel those sensations moving into maybe a higher heart rate, quicker respiration, and we start to feel that physiological sensation of panic, of stress.

[00:12:34] Jennifer: We had our conversation about Freeze, do you think if you are stuck in a state of Freeze and you haven’t come out of that Dissociation must be way easier to get into cause you’re already in that frozen state of immobility where you might be emotionally or physically starting to numb out anyway. So it’s just kind of easier to be out of the body at that point.

[00:13:07] Elisabeth: Yeah, Dissociation is a part of the Freeze response. You don’t necessarily have to experience Dissociation when you’re in Freeze response, but it’s highly linked to Freeze response. Often when people are cycling through Freeze response over and over again, or in flop or in tonic immobility, they will Dissociate.

[00:13:28] Remember, we think back to the episode we did about Freeze. You Freeze when there’s no way out of the situation or at least you experience tonic immobility and flop when there’s no way out of the situation. If you’re an animal, think of it as like you’ve been caught by the predator and now you’re going to collapse on yourself. And Dissociation is a big way that we keep from feeling the pain of whatever we’re about to experience when we’re caught. Dissociation is a normal defense mechanism that helps us cope during a traumatic event. And so it’s really natural to experience it when you’re in a natural disaster, an invasive medical procedure, or in a traumatic event, abuse of some kind. But it becomes problematic when the environment is no longer life threatening, when it’s no longer traumatic but our body is reacting as if it still is. That’s that interoceptive inaccuracy or that hypersensitive amygdala or threat detector.

[00:14:38] Hyper sensitive thalamus, which is the gatekeeper, letting in that sensory information. So if these things are hypersensitive, really attuned to looking for threat, then we keep reacting as if the environment is life threatening and we keep moving into that response of Dissociation, even though maybe in that moment there’s nothing life threatening or really traumatic going on.

[00:15:03] Jennifer: It really is interesting when you think about it. It’s a complete takeover of the survival brain and then your prefrontal cortex, which we talk a lot about as being like the human part of us, that expansive part of us, it gets completely shut down. Like you were saying earlier, the memories never really make it up to the front.

[00:15:28] And also because the limbic system, what we think of as the emotional part of the brain, the ‘am I loved’ part of the brain, becomes less refined it doesn’t have a balanced state necessarily. And emotions and memories are so connected, and that limbic system moves all through, touches all parts of the brain. So I guess, that’s where that loss of memory really comes from. 

[00:16:00] Elisabeth: Yeah. When we think we’re under threat and we’re operating from that survival mode, our body will actually reduce blood flow to areas of the frontal lobe to parts of our cerebral cortex, to our front brain, which is again, where our thinking, analytical, rational part of our brain is, but also a lot of where our memory is stored as well as in the limbic system.

[00:16:24] And it increases activation and blood flow to our back brain, just like you were saying, the survival part. So what we experience is an inability to act from those higher order thinking systems and to feel and to move and to interpret and process and remember things that are happening when we’re in a Dissociative state. And it’s appropriate sometimes when we’re in a really life threatening situation where we’re about to be really harmed and we’re about to experience a bunch of pain.

[00:17:06] Yes, we don’t necessarily wanna stay in the body then, but it becomes problematic when we get really conditioned, when it becomes a learned response that gets activated over and over again in our normal day to day life because then we’re having that reaction. We’re turning off those thinking systems. We’re not able to have good cognitive function or memory or to inhibit our back brain because we’re moving into that state when we don’t really need to anymore.

[00:17:40] Jennifer: And this also really affects our amygdala too, because it gets way overactive and it starts to hijack, if you will. Amygdala hijacking is a term. It starts to hijack our experience- processing everything more through a fear state. And when you’re stuck in that chronic Freeze situation you’ve got all that tension in your muscles and nothing to do with it. It just all kind of starts to turn inward. Would your brain be reading that overactive muscle tension as a threat also in the body and then it doesn’t understand why cause the amygdala is hijacked and all over the place. Everything is a threat, everything is fear. And it rearranges the memories.

[00:18:32] Elisabeth: Yeah, it does. And I think, like you were saying, it can be really overwhelming to think about this. It can be really like, ‘Oh, okay, I have this hypersensitive amygdala, I have a hypersensitive thalamus. I’m disconnected from my frontal lobe, and this is happening to me all the time’.

[00:18:55] And we can start to feel really hard on ourselves. And it’s important to remember that it’s just a learned conditioned response that happened for your survival. And it is possible to start to create a different reaction to those same triggers by working with the nervous system, by providing new stimulus, by giving your frontal lobe some activation by making these triggers less active.

[00:19:25] In activating some of our survival neuro tags and you know that that’s possible and that there’s nothing wrong with you for having developed this response. It’s just the best way that your system knew how to deal with some situations that might have been really, really tough.

[00:19:48] Jennifer: Something came up in our Neuro Somatic Intelligence course last night. One of your students asked a question about body dysmorphia and I immediately thought of myself because, I’ve said so many times, I don’t feel like I’m in the right body. My body doesn’t match the internal state of how I feel. When she asked the question about body dysmorphia being attached to the inner critic my first thought- that’s Dissociation. And I think obviously from early childhood trauma, sexual trauma specifically, and learning that I don’t see my body accurately because of how it was preyed upon- and how it has been all of my life- I think a lot of women are gonna recognize themselves in that. Body boundary violations are just a constant part of our construct as we have grown up.

[00:20:58] Elisabeth: Yeah, a huge part of Dissociation is the disconnection from the body. And then it can also lead not only to a skewed perspective of your body because you’re disconnected from it. But it can also lead to the inability to feel pain, and I mean both emotional and physical pain.

[00:21:21] So this can lead us to having kind of an abusive relationship with our body where we ignore our own pain signals because we really don’t feel them. We don’t feel them that intensely. So we can overtrain, we can push through a lot of the softer, subtle signals of our body that we’re under too much stress to get things done.

[00:21:43] And then we can also push through emotional pain because again, when we’re in that highly dissociated state, a lot of the time we don’t really feel the severity of the emotional pain that we’re in, which can lead us to stay in some really sometimes dangerous situations and relationships that are abusive or highly stressful.

[00:22:06] You know, there’s been times of my life where I’ve been in situations for months and years on end that people on the outside, when I finally would talk about it with people, they would be like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that you stayed in that situation for so long. I can’t believe that that’s how you were living’, but I was Dissociated.

[00:22:25] I didn’t feel the extent of the emotional pain and or the physical pain signals that my body was sending me. And so it makes it more likely to stay in those situations when we don’t have the ability to accurately read those signals.

[00:22:44] Jennifer: Yeah, you don’t have the accurate ability to feel the signals, but you also can’t make a good cognitive decision about the situation that you’re in because the cortex has been shut down.

[00:22:55] Elisabeth: Mm-hmm. Yeah. You’re not really fully experiencing what’s happening to your body, your emotional body, your physical body. You’re in survival mode and so you’re just going through making it through the day. You don’t have the altitude or the cognitive ability to evaluate the situation and make the decisions that you need to take care of yourself.

[00:23:23] I think is important to touch on is that avoidance behavior is highly linked with Dissociation. So avoidance behavior is like a behavior that you use to escape or distract yourself from anything that’s super stressful.

[00:23:38] Elisabeth: So it could be social media scrolling, it could be eating, it could be self-sabotage, avoiding actually things that you want, like new job opportunities, career advancements, healthy relationships, social situations. It’s usually like a maladaptive behavioral response because that thing is causing so much fear and anxiety and stress because of all the other things we’ve talked about that are associated with complex PTSD, social anxiety, the inner critic, perfectionism. And so a lot of times Dissociation is a really extreme form of avoidance in like checking out of the situation. And it is also connected to a lot of avoidance behaviors like when you come home and you numb out and you totally detach after a very stressful thing.

[00:24:31] Jennifer: Actually just reminded me of something about perfectionism. When I’m in deep states of perfectionism, I’m completely Dissociated. Then you have this vision of what it’s supposed to look like, so you keep going for that vision and pushing through into that vision, but pushing through into that vision of what you want to happen or what you think something is supposed to look like is a complete disregard of your emotional and physical state.

[00:25:00] Elisabeth: Yes. Absolutely. As you were talking, I was thinking too, circling back to the interoceptive accuracy thing, that accuracy can go two ways. It can go with interpreting too much threat and moving into sort of a panic response. I think it can also go the other way too, where we detach from the signals and don’t read that something is not okay for us or it’s too much stress because we’ve learned to mute those signals as well and interpret them with less attention and awareness than maybe would be healthy.

[00:25:45] And I think when we talk about using the tools, we use a lot of tools to come out of Dissociation- both of us are people who have experienced a bunch of Dissociation- and when we talk about the tools, it is important to remember minimum effective dose too, because when you’re starting to come out of being someone who dissociates regularly and starting to feel these signals again, it can feel quite painful.

[00:26:11] It can be a little bit overwhelming to start to come back and feel sensations and can then lead you to kind of shut yourself down more. So if you think about it, if you’re completely Frozen, if you were like a block of ice and you started to thaw out, there would be some pain associated with that, some burning, some pain, some tingling.

[00:26:32] And sometimes that is what we experience when we start to reconnect, to feel our emotions, to feel our physical sensations to come back to the body. It is something that can be done little by little over time in a way that feels safe and manageable for you.

[00:26:52] Jennifer: But there are some good tools that we use in functional neurology to bring people back. When I’m thinking of my own Dissociation and that not feeling at home in my body, one of the things that I associate, that I’ve trained so much, is the vagus nerve training to bring me back into my body and start to retraining my interoceptive system, because your vagus nerve is so linked to that in delivering all that sensory information from your organs and internal state of your body back up to the brain.

[00:27:24] Elisabeth: Yeah, we do a lot of vagus nerve training, a lot of vagus nerve decompression is really good. Or just you can do simple things to help activate your vagus nerve. You can do some vocal scales, just going down really low and taking your voice up really high to get your vocal chords to have a big range of motion. You can do tongue circles, running your tongue over your teeth, underneath your lips and making big slow circles with your tongue. The vagus nerve activates at the back of the throat, and so that’ll give your vagus nerve some stimulus. Then remember this is a highly parasympathetic state, and so sometimes we do need to decompress the vagus nerve and have it function better, but sometimes we don’t want to increase our parasympathetic activity when we’re in a state of Dissociation. What you really wanna do is actually up-regulate the sympathetic system. You wanna move, you wanna do some strong forceful exhales and move and shake your body and whatever capacity you can move, even if the movement is really small.

[00:28:32] Doing intentional movements with your hands, or intentional movements with your feet. Anything intentional, precise movements that’s gonna make your motor cortex get more active and that’ll bring more fuel and activation up towards the frontal lobe and start to get you out of that state of immobility.

[00:28:58] Jennifer: Yeah, the sensory stimulus and proprioceptive work is a really great way to feel into your body as well. The vagus nerve is such a hot topic and everyone thinks you need this simulation, but sometimes you don’t need that activation- you need to down regulate the vagus nerve. We have so many other systems that can help us do that.

[00:29:23] Elisabeth: Yeah, it’s always important to assess and reassess how something is affecting your body, especially when we’re doing things from the lens of NeuroSomatic Intelligence tools to really make sure that you’re being the expert of your own nervous system and trying some of these drills.

[00:29:42] Maybe you try some tongue circles, or you try some vocal scales or gargling some water.- these general recommendations for the vagus nerve and then make sure that you do something to test beforehand. Test a range of motion, test a movement that you have trouble with, and then reassess after you do whatever it is that you’re doing in see, did your range of motion get better or worse?

[00:30:08] did you feel stronger? Was your movement capability better? Did the exercise feel easier? Because change at the level of the nervous system is instantaneous and we can use range of motion. We can use our body to tell us if something is affecting the nervous system positively or negatively. 

[00:30:26] You can gauge that and you can take these broad recommendations like here’s great things to do for vagus nerve health: cold shower, sensory stimulus, humming, singing, all these big, broad, general recommendations that you see out there. Then test them out for yourself and see how your nervous system responds and if they help you, great.

[00:30:45] Use ’em when you’re feeling that onset of Freeze or immobility. Or Dissociation. But if you reassess negatively, know that that’s okay too. That not everything is gonna work the same way for everyone. And that’s why it’s important to start to cultivate a big toolkit and learn different exercises to work with your nervous system.

[00:31:06] Jennifer: Getting back to the body dysmorphia. When that came up in our class last night, the visual system seemed like a really important system to train because you’re also not seeing what’s really there. It’s hard identifying what’s real.

[00:31:25] Elisabeth: Yeah, there’s actual studies linking visual deficits, deficits in your visual system and the way that they relay information to your brain with body dysmorphia. In people with extreme body dysmorphia there is a correlation between having body dysmorphia and having deficits in your visual system.

[00:31:47] And so from an NSI perspective that’s a great system to start to change the input to experience a different output. If I can train my visual system to provide new inputs into my nervous system then I can change that output of body dysmorphia instead of cognitively trying to talk myself out of seeing my body that way I can work differently to look at the input systems to create a new output that way.

[00:32:25] Jennifer: When I’m thinking about the visual system and how your brain scales your sensory inputs, I’m thinking of the space that your visual system takes up in your brain and then the space that your hands take up in your brain. Like your thumbs live next to your eyes in your brain. It’s just a really interesting way to think about your brain’s hierarchical scale. It’s really neat that you can train all these systems and think you can actually see the world differently. You’ll experience the feelings in yourself differently. You will see yourself differently and then you will then experience and see others differently as well.

[00:33:15] Elisabeth: Yeah. What you’re talking about is sensory and motor homunculus. It’s these visual representations of the areas of our body that our brain takes in information from and it makes those areas that our brain gets a lot more sensory, our motor input from, much bigger in the representation. So you see this image of this crazy looking little man with huge hands and feet and a big tongue because these are big areas where our brain gets sensory information from.

[00:33:44] So if we can work on rehabbing training deficits in those places where there’s a lot of important information coming into the brain. Then our brain gets higher quality information coming in on a second by second basis. And the thalamus is taking in all those sensory inputs and deciding how much threat you’re under.

[00:34:06] And one of the things that’s really threatening to the thalamus is when that information is unclear and that will push your nervous system into a higher level of threat, leading you to experience more of these protective outputs, more of these threat responses. And so if we can work to rehab the deficits in your nervous system to make these sensory input systems function better and give clearer, more accurate information to your brain- whether that’s your interoceptive system or your proprioceptive system, or your visual system, or your balance system- then we’re reducing the threat of your nervous system on a second by second basis. It becomes much more possible to move out of that dissociative, protective, reflexive response when our baseline level of stress is lower in the nervous system.

[00:34:56] Jennifer: And the clear, accurate information allows for a greater capacity for you to excuse yourself out of the way your body is supposed to look and perform. You start to return to your own expression, expression of movement, emotional, behavioral, like all of the ways that we can move.

[00:35:26] Elisabeth: Yeah, because it is very threatening. It’s scary to go against the normal paradigms of what we should look like, how we should be, what our bodies should be like, how we should move all of this, right? Because there’s deeply ingrained societal structures that we carry around inside of ourselves, ideas of body hierarchy and inside of us.

[00:35:51] And to start to go against those is tough because we’re social animals and we’re conditioned to wanna fit in with the herd and to start to buck those ideas and find our own expression and our own connection to our body, however different it is from that system is a little bit threatening to the brain and to the nervous system. So it’s really important to have tools to work with your nervous system to make that safe so that you don’t have to live under the stress of that constant need to fit into a certain mold that is projected on us from a very early age and that we really identify with being safe, being loved, being able to survive.

[00:36:38] Jennifer: Healing is so radical and just like this system is threatening for us and our nervous systems, our healing is radical to the system because it disrupts the whole thing- the social expectations, the judgments, the body hierarchy that you’re just speaking of, it is radical of you to embark on a healing journey where you start to dismantle those systems of oppression internally so that the world externally that you see and experience changes and that threatens the system.

[00:37:19] Elisabeth: It does and that’s scary. It takes a lot of regulation. It takes a lot of tools. It’s like this whole catch 22 because it’s scary to buck that and to feel comfortable in your own skin and to practice self love and self-acceptance and embodiment. It’s scary to do some of that stuff.

[00:37:45] Also as you start to feel things and experience things as you come out of Dissociation, it’s scary. Also it’s stressful and harmful not to do those things. It’s stressful and harmful to stay in that paradigm where you’re never enough and your body should look a certain way and it’s not okay to not be perfect. That is equally and more stressful than starting to dismantle the system.

[00:38:12] And so it’s really important for our health, for our life, for everything- that we have the tools to be able to make it possible to start to move out of that paradigm without leading ourselves to self-sabotage, exhaustion, burnout, further Dissociation as we try to do that.

[00:38:39] Jennifer: You just said a word that is a super big buzzword in the healing industry right now, and that’s embodiment. There’s embodiment coaches.

[00:38:50] Elisabeth: Yeah, we can’t be embodied if we’re Dissociated. And that’s just the thing, right? I mean Dissociation is on a spectrum, but pretty much anytime we’re in Dissociation we’re not gonna be able to be fully embodied. Because one of the fundamental things is that sense of leaving the body.

[00:39:10] And so if we are going to be embodied human beings that express and feel our emotions and express our mindset in an embodied way and all of these beautiful things that we strive toward. We do have to have tools to help our nervous system and our body be able to do that especially if we are people who have experienced a lot of trauma and move frequently into this reflexive, protective response. It can be really overwhelming to try to take that on without having any understanding of what’s going on in your body that keeps you from being able to and without having any tools to help make that safe and doable for your body and your nervous system.

[00:40:02] Jennifer: Yeah. Safety, feeling safe and being able to relax and surrender into a safe nervous system can be really threatening for someone who is not used to experiencing that. Getting back to the live conversation that you and I had about the integration of peak somatic experiences.

[00:40:23] Elisabeth: Yeah, it’s very easy, very, very, very easy to get pushed into Dissociation with a big peak somatic experience because you are, for the first time- maybe in a very long time, or maybe ever- feeling these big emotions that have been repressed, allowing your body to express and move that emotional energy

[00:40:46] that’s been held in for a long time for your survival because your brain thought it was too much to take in, too much to process, too much to move through. And so when we do some somatic practices, like breath work or plant medicine or different embodiment practices, and we experience those emotional states for the first time, we can end up leaving that situation pretty Dissociated because the brain’s like, ‘Oh, red flag. Threat. Check out’.

[00:41:21] There is one more form of Dissociation, that is something that I am very familiar with, that I think it’s important for people to think about because I experience this with a lot of my clients as well, which is Intellectual Dissociation, which is where you start to intellectualize everything that you’re experiencing and feeling rather than actually experiencing or feeling.

[00:41:47] Both in your body and your mind and it is very common for me to understand and be able to talk about what is happening in my body, what is happening in my nervous system. I could explain it to you very, very well, but I can’t actually experience it myself. I can talk about what happens with people, with trauma and I know all this information, but it’s a whole different ball game allowing myself to feel safe enough to process it, to experience it, and to actually do the things like emotional expression.

[00:42:32] I think it can be an avoidance behavior- that overly intellectualizes everything. And it’s a way to keep ourselves from having to experience and feel things. And again, that’s not necessarily bad. Sometimes we really need it, sometimes the things really are too much. But again, as a coping strategy, it can also get to the place where it harms us because then we’re not able to feel, to express, to process

[00:43:03] in a really true way, we can think about processing it. We can tell you what that would be like, but we can’t actually do it. And the body, the nervous system needs to actually do it, not just talk about it. And so it can be an adaptive coping strategy that becomes maladaptive because it starts to hold us back from really making progress in our healing.

[00:43:31] Jennifer: Yeah, fascinating. Just the protection, that Dissociation, whichever level you’re experiencing. Back to that internal innate wisdom and knowledge that our bodies have and how we are this intelligence system. People think, ‘Oh, I’m here to leave this legacy or do this big thing’, and it’s like, no, you’re here to just survive on a second by second basis. It’s just a bonus. All this other stuff is just a bonus to the world. <laughter>

[00:44:07] Elisabeth: Yeah, absolutely. Survival and safety come first for the brain and the nervous system and everything else builds on that foundation. Dissociation, like all these other things that we talk about, how binge eating is a protective survival response, how addiction can be a protective survival response- it’s Disassotion. There’s nothing inherently bad with it. It’s our brain and our bodies’ best way to survive and cope in a world that is sometimes very dysregulating and hard. It’s just another strategy that sometimes is helpful and it serves a purpose and sometimes it’s time to move beyond it and help give yourself new tools so that you don’t have to experience it over and over again.

[00:44:56] Jennifer: Yes, and if you have found yourself in this conversation today, then book your free consultation. The link is in the show notes. We got you 100%. Maybe this isn’t your first conversation that you’ve heard of me and Elizabeth, but you want to work with someone who understands you and your nervous system. It’s really important.

[00:45:21] Elisabeth: It is, and we really love to do this work with people, so reach out to us through the link in our bio and through our social media channels. We love to see you and talk with you.

[00:45:33] Jennifer: Absolutely. Thank you so much,

[00:45:36] Elisabeth: Thank you.