"Learning To Trust Yourself"

"Many adult survivors have trouble believing their perceptions, senses, and feelings. You may doubt your intuitions and fail to trust your own instincts. You may not be connected to the inner gauge that tells you how you feel about what's going on around you. This lack of self-awareness is a direct result of child sexual abuse.

Children are naturally trusting. Their first impulse is to love the people who take care of them. Sexual abuse shatters that trust, and children learn that it's not safe to respond to their most basic instincts.

Many abused children were told they're crazy, that their feelings are wrong or don't make sense. Abusers often twist reality...you must get rid of the negative messages you absorbed as a child, discovering your inner voice, setting limits and saying no, you will clear away many of the obstacles to trusting yourself.

In order to get in touch with your thoughts, perceptions, and feelings, you need to be present in the moment--to feel your emotions, to stay in your body, to pay attention to what's going on inside and around you. This can be a tremendous challenge for survivors, many of whom learned early on to dissociate, to disconnect from unpleasant feelings and body sensations.

When you were growing up, splitting off from your feelings and physical sensations was an effective and necessary coping skill." [I personally would add here: that in both the case of denial for the survivor not diagnosed with a dissociative disorder and in the case of anyone diagnosed with BPD, in my opinion, DDNOS, and or DID/MPD an important part of why this coping skill worked/works is that it is denial at work as a defence mechanism without which many of us just may not have survived] "You couldn't stand the physical pain, the confusing sensations, the humiliation, the jumbled intensity of feelings the abuse caused. So you learned to space out." [or dissociate in terms of other fragmented parts and or alters] "The problem is you may still be spacing out, even when you don't want to. Like other childhood coping mechanisms, the survival skill may have outlived its purpose." [Again I would interject here that you know it has outlived itself as a coping skill when, now, as an adult, this may be the very aspect of your 'coping' that keeps you from functioning as you would like to in every day life]

"If you space out regularly, learning to be present when you want to be is an important skill. As you increase your ability to be present, your capacity to feel your feelings, think your thoughts, experience your body, and move through life with attention will dramatically increase. Such attention naturally increases your capacity for healing. [Another thing I would add here is that it also increases integration and or it enhances the process of working toward intergration in the sense of a more cooperative system as opposed to the seeking to eliminate fragmented parts or alters]

Learning To Be More Present

"If you want to be more present, begin by observing your current behavior, [and in the case of DID/MPD I add here the behavior which you are in fact aware of] Without judgment, explore the way things are. Then set the intention to change. Decide that you are willing to be present, to feel the feelings and sensations spacing out [or dissociation] has [or does] protect you from. Then practice paying attention. Being present is a matter of intention [to clarify yes it is for the survivor not diagnosed with a dissociative disorder not as much is as clear in terms of intention in the case where awareness and or control may not be very strong where BPD, DD, DDNOS, DID/MPD are concerned] willingness, and breathing.

As you begin your observations, ask yourself [selves] the following questions: Can I differentiate between the times I'm present and the times I'm not? What happens when I space out? What does it feel like inside? What thoughts run through my mind? What feelings do I have? What happens in my body? How does my behavior change?" [For those with DID it may be helpful if someone else can possibly also tell you what they have observed in these times]

When I space out, it feels as if (I'm going down the drain/I'm underwater/I'm behind a pane of glass/I'm floating on the ceiling)



I start (talking really fast/tapping my foot/feeling numb in my fingers)



I stop (making eye contact/breathing/feeling anything/thinking clearly)



I start to think (I'm going to die/I don't think--that's the problem/about going away on a magic carpet/counting things)



Everytime you catch yourself spacing out note the time, place, and situation. Then try to answer the following:

Time of Spaceout: ________________________________________

Length of spaceout ________________________________________

(If known)Place: _______________________________________

Last thing remembered: _______________________________________

What was going on?: _______________________________________

Who, if anyone was there? What were they doing? _______________________________________

What emotions was I feeling? _______________________________________

Was there anything disturbing to me at the time I spaced out? If so, what? ________________________________________

When you observe your periods of attention and inattention, you'll begin to recognize some patterns. When someone is angry with you, you space out. When you are expected to perform sexually, you disappear. When you're sad or scared, you leave. "[Again I would interject by way of suggestion that if you do not have a diagnosed dissociative disorder then your leaving may take the form of denying what you feel and or what your inner child is trying to tell you] "Understanding these patterns is crucial to learning to be present. When you isolate the times you space out, you can identify the need you're fulfilling, and then you can find alternative ways to meet that need.

I space out so I don't have to (feel angry/be sexual/say what I really think)


Other ways I could meet this need:


"Once you've gathered information about these patterns, you have to decide if you want to change. This is a question of willingness. Are you willing to feel angry? To stand up for yourself? To feel sexual?To be present?

If you are willing to be present, some simple techniques for coming back to your body may help. Try breathing, putting your feel flat on the floor, and saying, 'I'm willing to be here' You may come back immediately. Sometimes you may need other things to help you come back--looking at your surroundings, sitting or lying on the ground, moving or stretching, contact with a safe person who can help ground you, taking a walk, verbal reminders about where you are (or who you are), safe physical touch, or talking about your experience.

After you've gotten grounded again in the present, [or in your own self as the case my be] take a few minutes to figure out why you left. Record your answers in your awareness journal.

Learning to be present is a slow trial-and-error process. Often when survivors tackle this issue, they suddenly find they're spacing out more than they ever did. This can be very frustrating. Hang in there. Be patient. Keep breathing and bringing yourself back. Being present only exists in the moment. You can be present now...and now...and now."

Things to think about

What has spacing out protected me from?

What would it take for me to make a commitment to be present?

Source for the above: "The Courage To Heal Workbook" by Laura Davis

Survivor's Share Grounding Techniques That Work For Them

I have found the following to be great grounding techniques

1. putting my feet flat on the ground

2. deep breathing

3. listening to soft music

4. rocking

5. walking in the woods

6. being around water

Lois and co

I wanted to share with you some of the ways I stay focused. First, let me say that I do not work out side of my home which makes it ALOT easier to distress and not split. I used to clean alot to stay grounded because that was a way of avoiding my thoughts, then I discovered that a hot shower really helps me. I also WRITE,WRITE ,WRITE! I have discovered better out than in! Writing really helps me get rid of all the things that are weighing on me, making me want to hide. I listen to some relaxing tapes from my dr., or if it's really bad I will call her. She usually can keep me focused. And sometimes I just need 30 minutes to myself to think and sit and allow it to pass. This probably sounds like I have all the time in the world, but I am really busy. I am a mom , a wife, starting my own home run business, keeping house, and a Asst. Leader for my daughter's G.S. troop. I just realized at some point that if I am going to function somewhat normal, it takes me less time to take care of myself and distress, than to spend a whole day freaking out about at what point do I lose the battle and split. Possibly doing something to make my life all that much harder. I know that I deserve a half hour a day to take care of my needs if I have to. I hope this helps someone.


1. carrying a familiar object around with you--there should be a great deal of texture: a very rough surface to this object. It could be keys, a necklace etc. Mine is a small silver cross given to me by one of my sons.

2. looking around the room and listing: one thing you can see, one thing you can feel, one thing you can hear, one thing you can taste. Do this until the fog lifts

3. using ice water and ice chips. This especially helps me when I'm ina meeting of some kind.

Phyllis and Chorus

I've found several ways to help me stay present and grounded.

1. Profound breathing. Controls my fears and panic attacks.

2. Any kind of physical exercise. This way I feel every part of my body and I'm not focused inside my mind.

3. Listen to Classical music.

4. Do something creative and or artistic.

5. Call someone on the phone.

6. Hold and pet my cats.

7. If it's summer time, I love to work in the soil. Gardening.

Jason et al

Grounding techniques like feeling my feet on the floor either don't work (feet?what feet? I don't have feet.) or scare me so bad I dissociate worse (holysh*t, I have feet!). I have to try very gentle things.

1. Naming things around me. (computer, chair, floor...)

2. My friend makes her watch beep every two minutes because that reminds her to come back when she's really scattered.

3. Make lots and lots of lists.

4. When I'm losing time and want to know what we're doing, we carry a notebook and every 15 or 30 minutes (depending how bad things are), whoever's out writes down who and where they are and what they're doing. Then if some times are missed at least we know where I was and how much time is gone.

5. Make deals with others so that they will let people do their jobs when they have to in exchange for time out later.

Leneh & co.

I tried to think of the top three that really helped me when I had to function out in the world. hmm.

1.Adult clothes: I have a section of my closet that is just adult clothes that are comfortable but just scream grown-up, for me that isblazer type jackets, dress shoes, etc. If I really have to stay grown up, I don't wear anything silly or fun (like a tie-dyed crushed velvet T-shirt). It helps me ground and stay focused on who I need to be. Make up also helps. My kids hate it.

2.Before I go out, I say my multiple prayers, I pray to my alters: Please help me do the job today that I need to do. I promise to listen to your thoughts and feelings, but may not be able to until later tonight, if it's an emergency, tap me and we'll find a private place to talk, please don't just come out. I treat myself just like the passel of children that I am before I go out the door. Anyone need a glass of water? Anyone need to use the bathroom? Anyone need anything else from me before I take over for the day? I guess it is a review of the internal guidelines and going over the battle plan for the day/event, etc.

3.When I finally get out in the world I pay attention. I check in with myself. When I am in a peer situation where everyone is out grownup-ing each other and very business like, I have to constantly remind myself I am just as much an adult as they are, that my MPDdoesn't show, that it's fine if I am different etc. If I allow that critical voice to take hold in me, I'll lose the togetherness and start splitting. And forgetting. I do a lot of conscious self-reassurance, and watch for body cues that tell me kids are too close to the surface. Some of those cues for me are: taking my watch off, twirling my wedding ring, squirming, shoulders slumping, gazing into the middle distance. I take a short break when my kids start bumping at the surface.

4. I avoid anything hypnotic like the plague. I had to do an interview with someone once and there was an enourmous grandfatherclock with a huge pendulum, silently swinging back. . .and forth, back. . .and forth. The man I was interviewing was sitting directly in front of the clock, and I needed to maintain eye contact. Ack! After that experience I learned to say things like, "there seems to be some glare, I can't see your face clearly" and move to another field of vision. Noises and visually hypnotic things make me split split split!


Grounding techniques that work for me:

I have a bracelet I wear and it has a charm and when the little ones get scared they hold the charm. I also have a little bear in a cup at work and if it happens there I can touch the bear and hold it.

< P>I also carry a big bag with safe things: little toys, journaling paper, notes from my therapist, cards from special people, pictures of safe places.

I eat a piece of peppermint - I get something to drink.

If I am entering an unsafe place I ask for my warriors to stay close and giveme strength to do what I can't.

Other protectors inside take the little ones further back inside.

I give all my others inside permission to call our therapist - even the little ones. Its better than loosing a days work or worse!!!


Ideas To Facilitate Grounding

1. utilize safe place 2. visualize setting aside overwhelming memory/emotion 3. change sensory component/input sight for example, take a walk, read a book, touch for example, ice, cuddle a teddy bear, sound for example, tv, radio, talk to peer, taste for example, eat something, smell for example, perfume. Internally concentrate/become absorbed in an activity 5. express something verbally - yell if necessary 6. write in journal 7. do anger work 8. breathing exercises 9. relaxation exercises 10. self hypnosis 11. call on internal support 12. visualize a "stop" sign 13. use positive affirmations 14. connect with the here and now 15. talk in the mirror 16. transfer emotion/memory into mirror 17. monitor self talk - change negative to positive 18. identify cognitive distortions and replace with counter statements 19. dance 20. repeat grounding phrase - " i am here right now" 21. give self permission to address one thing at a time - "rome wasn't built in a day" 22. identify (in writing) all problems. then put into 3 groups (1) those you have control over (2) those you cannot control. (3) concentrate on only those that can be controlled. 23. decide what is important and what is not 24. keep it simple - KIS 25. use transitional (safe) object - crystal, teddy bear, stress ball, etc 26. pray - serenity prayer 27. exercise 28. draw 29. find a safe person 30. listen to a tape of your therapist 31. listen to a tape of self affirmations 32. IDENTIFY THE TRIGGER

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