When I was small I learned how to take myself away from the reality that I had to live in. My imagination was vivid and strong, the adults in my life did their best to crush me through their various forms of emotional and physical abuse, but somehow I could transport myself to a different world through many of the worst times.
As an adult, now in my 30’s, I recently learned that this is a coping mechanism called “disassociation”, supposedly it’s not healthy for us. Mindfulness instead is encouraged, to sit with the feelings and let them wash over you.
When do meditation and mindfulness cross the line and become disassociation though? When faced with emotionally bad difficult challenges, I find mindfulness easier to practice, but in physically painful situations; I have become an expert at taking myself to a happier place.
During times when I am in pain from medical proceedures (for example), I turn into myself, closing out the surrounding world and finding comfort in a gentle world where there is no fear or hurt.
My favorite place is the beach; I can close my eyes, breathe slowly, and find myself there. I can sense the warmth of the sun on my skin, the softness of the sand beneath my body, the sound of the crashing waves, the seabirds, and the gentle rustle of the breeze in the leaves. I feel that breeze against my skin and can smell the salt in the air. It is beautiful.
But then I’ll hear someone’s voice from far away, it sounds like they are calling me from another shore. It is then that I realize that they are talking to me, asking questions, needing answers. But I’m not there; I don’t want to come back.
Is disassociation really that bad? It is a pretty comfortable coping mechanism if you ask me! While most patients my Dr sees require sedation for the proceedure he does for my pain, he is always surprised that I can be so still and calm. Disassociation is my sedative.