How to Treat Trauma through Dissociation and Distortion
Trauma has been mostly termed and popularised as an experience in a person’s life; it is rather the consequence of an event or experience. Trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being. Trauma carries the tendency to leave someone with a loss of hope, limited expectations about the future, and of leading a ‘normal’ life ahead.
The experiences we encounter are transformed into trauma because of the organisation of the memory of the said event. We perceive life and store it in our memory through and based on our five senses called modalities, namely, visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory, and gustatory (VAKOG). Trauma has been shown to leave a biological impact on people, which includes deregulation and dysfunction of the limbic system. The frequency, time duration, and many other factors related to a traumatic event, also define the strength of the impact on one’s biological functioning. Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, and dissociation from reality are comorbid to trauma and may need professional assistance to function in these cases. It is essential to understand the intricacies of the overlapped symptoms and impact of a traumatic incident and further adapt suitable treatment techniques.
The daily life of a person with active trauma consists of an intrusive and dysfunctional pattern due to the organization of the event memory and daily life triggers which make those memories easily accessible. Anchors are what activate our past modalities or sensory data of a particular memory when faced with a stimulus to the sensory system at the present moment, therefore taking that past learning and acting in the present. The anchors are the environmental and behavioral cues that associate with the memories and condition us to feel and experience the same memory all over again. Anchors that trigger keep us attached to the belief system we have created around a certain memory or experience and thus we establish a pattern of behavior when faced with similar stimuli.
Trauma memories – like all memories – are malleable and prone to distortion. Distortion is often done adjacently to dissociation in trauma therapy to create a process involving the disconnection of Visual/Auditory and the Kinaesthetic element of the trauma experiences. Dissociation simply means to disconnect or separate. It is to look at an event
from a distance. While dissociating, separation is achieved between the present and the emotions of trauma. The dissociated perspective not only provides a different point of view but also creates an emotional distance from the event or the stimulus. The process called the Visual/Auditory Kinaesthetic Dissociation (V/A-KD) is an intervention including minimal recall of the trauma response along with the creation of multiple new associations that, in its nature, rewrite the memory. The traumatic event is either rendered unavailable, severely transformed, or made accessible through a non-traumatic declarative process. The Visual Kinesthetic Dissociation technique (V/KD), is supported by anecdotal reports by practitioners that cover nearly a quarter-century. Among the anecdotal reports are those provided by Richard Bandler, Steve and Connirae Andreas, Robert Dilts, and William McDowell who severally relate that each of them has treated thousands of persons suffering from PTSD and phobic conditions with immediate, lasting results from this short-term intervention.
In a collectivistic society such as India, trauma is followed by the concurrent symptom of guilt
and shame in the victim. In the cases where the trauma event involves a rather unspoken theme like sex and domestic dysfunction, the systematic and deep-rooted shame results in victim-blaming because of the society’s discomfort with addressing such political themes. Further, this transcends into guilt which acts on a personal level because the victim feels the failure of their expectations which they form according to societal values. As a result, it is imperative to resolve these aspects of trauma with forgiveness.
Trauma makes a person unable to trust, have hypervigilance, and cannot live a life where their body feels safe. The pioneers of Neurolinguistic Programming have conducted extensive research and published information about the functioning of the brain concerning one’s experiences and how they further complicate the creation of an elaborate map in the brain. Dr. Richard Bandler in his book Use your Mind for a Change (1985), establishes the ground for further research into submodalities and addresses the concept of perspectives. Connirae Andreas and Steve Andreas (Heart of the Mind, 1989), have written a self-help book that gives an insight into the use of Neurolinguistic Programming and its concepts in different life situations including understanding and healing traumas. Richard Gray published a review (2011) of two main techniques for the treatment of PTSD and trauma called reconsolidation and extinction and further elaborates on the successful functioning of Visual-Kinesthetic Dissociation Protocol, also known as the Rewind Technique. Koziey, P. W., & McLeod, G. L. (1987) conducted a study with 2 rape victims to treat rape-induced anxiety and related phobia through the Visual-Kinaesthetic Dissociation procedure and in a preliminary stage suggest using this technique for the treatment of such trauma. The effectiveness of solution-focused therapy and visual-kinesthetic dissociation on self-concept and adjustment of physically abused adolescents (F. Trinidad, 2000) was investigated with institutionalized 13-17-year-old female physically abused adolescents. These studies carry empirical proof and tested results for the effectiveness of dissociation and distortion procedures in different aspects involving trauma clients and issues that arise parallel to the trauma-causing dysfunction in a person’s life.
This Blog on 'How to Treat Trauma through Dissociation and Distortion' has been contributed by Abhinav Rai.
Abhinav has completed his undergraduate from Delhi University, Hindu College in English Literature. He loves to research and write about everything from seemingly trivial ideas to broad larger-than-life concepts that transcend human grasp. He finds linguistics and psychology incredibly fascinating and wishes to continue research in these fields. He is a wallflower that often builds his bridge to the world through words, metaphors, and interpretations.
He is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.