Dissociation Time and Hope

If you look for it there’s alot out there about dissociation. Are trauma memories real or not, is DID real or not, how trauma exposure at a young age causes children’s brains to store traumatic information and subsume it into Alters, little timebombs of memory that can sit forever in one’s mind and impact their entire life of choices, social capabilities, and of course sex.

But there’s a crushing aftereffect of chronic dissociation that isn’t much discussed that requires a great deal of understanding if any therapist is going to be helpful to the patient. And that concept is Time.

I do not have a concept of Time as something that marches forward. I understand intellectually that it’s the year 2010 and I am a grownup. I know that my perps are dead and they can’t come back to get me. I know too that at any moment I can stumble across a trigger and be suddenly thrust back to 1965. Literally, be there in that year. I have smells and sights and feelings and sounds and physical pain exactly as it happened so long ago.

In my world, things are coming at me constantly bombarding my body and my mind. My job is to quickly sort out what goes where. ice cream, for example, doesn’t need much fending off I can let it in without much of a thought. But these split-second evaluations of people interactions, messages in the media, seemingly “safe” video…..much more challenging. I imagine myself in a particle accelerator, tiny pieces of who knows what constantly assaulting me. My job is to fend off the bad stuff before it gets to my hypervigilance zone.

It’s not easy, but it’s how I grew up. And even now, 45 years and more later, processing in the same way. Permanent victim.

There are many, many ways this perspective on my life is not such a great thing. One, as I say, is the permanent victim status. Things coming at me, assaulting me, and all I can do is to fend off the worst of it and dissociate thru innocuous information. But the real biggie is that I have no sense of future. Of an awareness that time passes. I have no timeline in my head, just a series of still shots.

This fucked up lack of understanding of time gives me no ability to dream. To want. To really understand what improvement means. To envision goals and meet them. If I can’t look forward how then can I make plans? How can I say oh one day I’d like to xyz? How can I have any sense of a purpose for my life? and if there is no purpose, how then do I ever dig out of the nightmares of my kidhood?

If time doesn’t go forward, how do I go forward? It’s a tough question. I can look at this moment and decide how safe I think I am, that’s about it. I can’t say in ten years I’d like to be xyz. I can’t say I have a purpose and it’s to help people in abc ways. I can’t think well I’d really like to retire to a ranch in New Mexico or Idaho or wherever. Because that time doesn’t exist for me.

We never hear about the consequences of lack in fluid timeline but it is an integral part of real healing, or so I believe. Looking beyond the past or this second and making any kind of real decisions about my life. If my traumas had started later in my life I might have a sense of something to go back to, to recover. But I am building from scratch.

I hear letting go of the past and it’s consequences are the key to getting beyond mere survival of trauma. That things need to be of value, that I need to let happen a sort of letting the shit go. But it’s really not that simple.

It is all about learning about time. About how to go about incorporating a clock in my brain that goes forward. That is the real trick.

I suppose I will have to write about this, describe it, get it out there that time bends for child survivors. Because I just don’t really see it anywhere. C gets this as much as one can and I am very fortunate for that. She’s constantly asking me what I am going to be doing…tonight or this weekend or whatever timeframe. My inability to picture the meaning of her questions is how I came to understand that I don’t know how to do that. I have a calendar and I put stuff into it and every day I do those things that pop up. But this is the way I’ve learned to manage the world ahead. I am still a slave to my calendar, events are still happening TO ME.

Dissociation. Time. Hope. This is the real key to healing. What I’m saying here probably makes no sense to very many people, but the mental health community has to get this perception in order to do much good to those of us who missed this part of development.

Not The End.



  1. Sarah Olson said,

    October 9, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Excellent post!

    I’ve always thought of time as a rubber band that can only be pulled forward so far until it snaps back. The snapping back is always a shock to me. The other thing is that “time is a highly relative concept”. I have more known time now than probably most of my life, but it’s still not entirely linear.

    I see at leat two internal issues relating to my perception of time. There’s the total loss of time when I was not co-conscious, which leaves blanks. Then there’s time spent doing things that aren’t part of that linear time line but still are known. Like, I know I spent time doing the dishes, but I don’t remember doing them, or how long it took.

    I know now that I was able to make and finish certain major goals (school and work related) because a dominant alter wanted those goals. It took several years of working on internal cooperation to get to the point of goals made by committee.

    The other weird thing is the more integrated I became, the more I totally sucked at time management. I still cannot get how some singletons get so much done in a day. The more it’s “me” experiencing time, the less I seem to have. I’m not losing it now; I just don’t have it. Very hard to explain!

    Keep writing on this! It’s always fascinated me.


    • Splinteredones said,

      October 9, 2010 at 9:43 am

      Thanks hon. I will keep hashing on this. Totally get the time management thing, I have a hard time getting much done too. It’s as if there’s some fundamental something that I just never got. The more multiples/chronically dissociated people I talk to the more I hear “yah me too”. For me it’s alot about establishing a consistent sense of…hope? Thanks for the kick-in!

  2. Susan said,

    October 9, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Good article Splint! Awareness of the time warp thing was huge for me as well. What I’ve put together is that time management and order was not part of what was modeled for me AND that the dissociation I experienced affected my sense of time and memories. I lived in complete chaos and at the mercy of those who yanked my chain. I was in a chronic state of frozen where I did everything I could to not be seen as that was the only way to be safe.

    So now as I travel this new path I’m really tuned into the time thing and that first – it stems from the lie that I was powerless and that no matter what I did it wasn’t good enough so I”m not going to do anything to avoid being told how stupid I am. Dissociation was the safe place.

    I’ve learned to work through this belief/lie that I’m powerless and it’s a damn scary thing to take some action when I’m literally shaking physically out of the fear of being judged again. It’s easier to head into a dissociative state but no longer the only option I have.

    The second part is that I never learned the basic life skills that brought order to my mind and my life. I lived in a chronic state of chaos and had no clue of time. My job was to jump when someone said jump. There was no calendar, no planning, no dreams, no hope no future.

    My goal when I was a kid was to see how many people/men I could screw before I died. So – I learn and practice time management and other life skills every day – telling myself all the way that I can do this thing called life and reminding myself that dear old dad was wrong; that my best is good enough.

    I’ve learned to listen to my deep desires and to dream the dreams that were snuffed out by my family. (who btw are not a part of my dreams – I absolutely do not share my dreams with anyone who might chastise or question me for having hope or my own dreams)

    Like Sarah – I don’t have a sense of linear time but I have found that the more I face the pain of the past and do the anger and grief work that the past is integrated so that when I want to access something from my memory I can choose to do so – or not.

    I so love the way you can identify these issues and articulate the experiences of living with these issues.

    • October 9, 2010 at 1:33 pm

      I’m amazed at how important the concept of time is to us. Seems obvious, losing it when our alters are out. But not having a linear sense of time means so much more. I’m going to continue with this. Fascinating ;). Thanks for ur thoughts hon.

  3. Ravin said,

    October 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    Hey Gal!

    Good post, totally get what you are saying. We call it our time warp. Our TD is finally got it and doesn’t just flat out say well just pick a future and work toward it. Calendars are the only way we live in the outside world.

    Keep posting it’s good stuff.


    • Splinteredones said,

      October 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm

      Thanks hon. Glad you’re safe if in pain. (((())) to ya. My mind is reeling in the cross with Time Physics. Farting the day away about it. If I only had a brain….

  4. I'm DID & so am I said,

    October 10, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    If I didn’t age from all the time I’ve lost, I’d be ten-years-old!


    • Splinteredones said,

      October 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm

      Hah I hear ya. Thanks

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