Harris Harrington shows you how to completely cure Depersonalization Disorder once and for all
Are you ready to recover from DP completely? If so, I want to warn you. You are going to have to put some work in, and you are going to have to stretch your mind and emotions. If you’re willing to focus and read through this article then you will be well equipped to overcome your disorder and begin the path of recovery. It may take you a few sittings to digest the information presented here.
It took me years to come to the understanding of DP I am imparting to you here, so please be patient. You can and will recover.
Depersonalization disorder is cured by processing traumatic memories, undergoing anxiety management, and eliminating obsessive self-focus and existential rumination. These three areas of DP which I refer to as the “DP Triangle” (trauma, anxiety, and obsession) are extremely important to target independently. In my ten-hour program Depersonalization Recovery: Total Integration Method, I walk you through a step-by-step process of how to do this.
The Depersonalization Triangle:
In this article I am going to outline this process and give you some techniques from my program. I also recommend that you read through my “DP Cure Tip” series, which is the best overview of recovering from DP on the internet.
Before we get into a discussion of how to overcome the dissociative disorder known as Depersonalization Disorder (which includes symptoms of derealization), lets make a list of symptoms so that we are clear what we are talking about.
- Feeling like an automaton, a sense of having no will or agency
- Feeling like an outside observer of one’s own mental processes
- Feeling that you are not in control of your speech or actions
- Feeling estranged from your self
- Not feeling like the person you see in the mirror
- Fearing that you are going to go insane or lose control
Derealization is a perception that the external world is an altered reality, or is somehow unreal.
- A sense that other people seem unfamiliar or mechanical, that they “lack souls”
- A sense that familiar surroundings are unfamiliar
- It may feel that when you touch an object “you” are not really touching, that you are somehow located more deeply in your body, or that there is a bubble surrounding you
- Things feel numb and less “crisp”
- The external world may appear visually flat, almost two dimensional
- Things may appear smaller or larger than they really are (known as micropsia and macropsia)
- The world and your life feels like a movie that you are watching on a screen
- Altered perception of time
- Visual snow
It’s also important to note that derealization and depersonalization may also be symptoms of short-term panic attacks that go away when the panic attack subsides, but this is different from the long-term depersonalization or derealization which results from the chronic depersonalization disorder. This article is specifically talking about the chronic disorder.
Trauma: What it is and why it matters
DP is usually triggered by smoking pot, taking a hallucinogenic drug, or going through a stressful period in your life. You may think that taking the drug or that one period of stress is all that caused the condition.
But this is just the surface. What truly causes DP is cumulative trauma that you have experienced in your past. Trauma is any psychic pain that is so unbearable or uncomfortable, that your mind literally pushes it out of awareness to protect you.
In people with DP, the trauma that is usually experienced is chronic, and relational.
Examples of chronic trauma include:
- Psychological abuse. Psychological abuse has many manifestations. The main feature of it is a sense of confusion, and disorientation it produces in its victims. Victims of psychological abuse often times don’t even realize they were abused, or are dramatically confused by it. They often times question their own reality and their own perceptions. One example of this is “gaslighting”, where a parent may get their child to question their own view of reality by planting false evidence or getting the support of other adults or family members to pressure them into questioning themselves.
- Neglect: not paying attention to a child’s social, emotional, or physical needs. This may manifest itself as simply a lack of parenting, guidance, and advice on how to become an adult and function in the real world. Many parents want to keep their kids in a childlike role because it makes them feel better about themselves.
- Captivity: being left alone for long periods such as after school or being left alone in a house. When we are left alone for long periods in childhood, we can get absorbed in fantasies and daydreams, which increases our chances of developing a dissociative disorder later in life such as DPD. There is actually a personality syndrome known as Fantasy Prone Personality (FPP) that is related to DPD and it is often a result of neglect and captivity.
- Emotional mis-mirroring: continually telling a child he or she is experiencing a certain emotion when really the child is actually feeling like something else.
- Viewing the child as a treasured object or an extension of self instead of as an independent human beings with rights, boundaries and emotions that need to be validated.
- A person whose house was so chaotic or messy they were terribly embarrassed to bring friends over.
- A parent who chronically guilt-trips their child, calls the child “spoiled”, etc.
“But my family was good. This is ridiculous!”
Resistance to processing trauma is extremely common. In fact it’s probably the main roadblock in your path to recovery. To be honest, I didn’t believe in any of this psychodynamic therapy for a long time. Remember, even very well-meaning parents produce children that grow up to depersonalize (though sometimes parents do intentionally abuse their children).
And it’s obvious why we deny, and dissociate from the trauma: the memories cause us pain and discomfort. But ultimately these past pains must be integrated into our consciousness if we are to mend the fissures in our sense of self.
Attachment: How it works and how it went wrong in people with DP
Attachment is a somewhat difficult concept to explain, but the basic idea is this: the way we relate to our parents during our first few years of life has an enormous impact on how we relate to others and process our own emotions even when we are adults. People who develop depersonalization disorder tend to have a specific attachment style known as disorganized attachment.
As children, we tend to blame ourselves for anything that goes wrong and always view our parents in a positive light. Developmental psychologists have shown that children have an inborn drive to attach to parents. This inborn drive is called the attachment behavioral system.
When a baby is born, it tries to get as much physical and emotional attention and security from its parent as it can. The type and quality of emotional attunement that the child receives will determine the way it then responds to the parent.
In a sense, babies respond to their parents with different strategies of eliciting the best emotional attunement possible. This strategy then gets laid down in our brains in our first year of life, and is called an attachment style.
Our attachment style sets the foundation for how we not only relate to our parents later in life, but to all other people, and it also influences how we process our own emotions.
So, we actually learn to process our own emotions by the way that our parents respond to our distress as children. That is why our attachment system is not only related to how we respond to other people, but it also plays a role in how we process emotions such as sadness, anxiety, anger, and happiness.
An attachment style exists inside of us on three levels: cognitive, emotional, and behavioral.
Those people who had proper, or “good enough” emotional attunement develop a secure attachment style.
Those who had insufficient emotional attunement and attention develop an insecure attachment style.
A particular attachment style known as disorganized attachment correlates with the development of dissociative disorders later in life (primarily the discovery a psychologist named Giovanni Liotti from Italy).
Disorganized attachment gets ingrained into a person when their parent appears either frightening towards them, or frightened of them. The child looks to the parent to feel security but instead feels discomfort and often fear.
Remember, I told you that the attachment behavioral system is an inborn behavioral system.
But guess what, in disorganized attachment there is another behavioral system that is being activated at the same time as the attachment system.
Can you guess what system this is?
The fight or flight system. Also known as the stress response, or the fear system.
These two behavioral systems: the fight or flight and the attachment system are at odds with one another.
In studies of children with this form of attachment, they display contradictory behavior towards their parent. Sometimes they will approach the parent with their backs turned, other times they display a freeze response or “deer in the headlights” look.
The reason that disorganized attachment can cause us to dissociate later in life is because our attachment system gets triggered when we are adults. The attachment system may get triggered when dealing with a romantic partner, or even processing our own emotions.
If someone with disorganized attachment faces enough stressors and cumulative trauma later in life, it will likely get triggered as full blown Depersonalization Disorder. This may happen when they smoke pot, have trouble in college, take a hallucinogenic drug, get fired from a job, or have a relationship difficulty.
Disorganized attachment results in a breakdown in our abillity to process emotions. So when we face a high enough stress, we dissociate as a last ditch effort to avoid extreme psychic pain.
But in depersonalization disorder, people get stuck in this dissociated state because they have unprocessed traumatic memories and extremely high anxiety levels to go along with it.
In order to cure DP, you have to understand how memory works, and why trauma processing rids you of the cause of the disorder.
Human memory is roughly stored in two ways: verbally/visually and emotionally.
So for most memories, you get a “factual history” (verbal and visual events) and a subjective feeling of what the event or time was like (the emotional component of the memory).
But this isn’t true for traumatic memories. In traumatic memories, these two parts of the memory become disintegrated.
To overcome disorganized attachment, you must develop a coherent narrative.
“Developing a coherent narrative? What does that mean?” Attachment researchers have found that parents with certain ways of making sense of their life pass this on to their children. Attachment ultimately is a way of making sense of the world, your past, your relationships, how your sense of self has changed over time.
In attachment theory they call this internal representation of the attachment system the internal working model (IWM).
You can essentially change your attachment style (in large part) by changing the way you view your world and by educating yourself about your childhood and relationships and developing a life narrative that is coherent and inclusive. Inclusive means you talk about both good and bad things that happen, and how this has influenced you and changed your perspective.
By doing this you can overcome a disorganized attachment style and develop what is known as earned security.
That’s right. Even though you may have been born into adverse circumstances, you can change the way you attach.
If past trauma results in a fracture, or disintegration of verbal memory from emotional memory, then how do you connect the two?
A narrative of your life is essentially the answer. This happens when you identify all the “unthought knowns” or traumatic threads and themes that have fractured your sense of self, and when you go about mending them with a narrative.
My ten-hour program gives you the context with which to undergo this extremely important and healing process that I and many others have already used to feel like their old selves again.
Let’s review the deep origins of DPD and how we must resolve them to cure ourselves
- It afflicts people who have an insecure style of attachment known as disorganized attachment
- People with this style of attachment also likely suffered some form of neglect in their childhood that may have been quite subtle, and may have totally gone unnoticed, such as emotional abuse, neglect, toxic guilt, etc.
- This unprocessed, cumulative trauma is stored in the brain in a disintegrated way. In order for the old memories to stop polluting the nervous system with stress, they must be processed verbally. Verbal memory must be linked with emotional memory in order for DP to go away.
- Developing a life narrative is a way for us to mend the fissures in our sense of self, and “feel like our old self again”.
In the rest of this article I will deal with here and now techniques for alleviating DP.
The Normalcy Principle
In DP, we tend to view the world as strange, or unreal. We view things as very abnormal.
Instead, I want you to say this to yourself: “I view the world as normal”.
Nothing truly is strange in an objective sense. It’s only strange because your previous perspective has been challenged by a new view. The external world is still the same way it has always been.
I recommend spending 10-20 minutes a day in mindful meditation. Simply stare at an object and be aware of all thoughts that pop into your head. Don’t judge these thoughts. Simply be mindful towards them, and allow your focus to shift back to the object.
Developing secure relationships with other people
It’s extremely important to develop healthy relationships with other people. In order to do this you must be assertive. Developing assertiveness helps enhance your sense of self, and also helps you make long lasting friendships. These friendships will help you with depersonalization tremendously.
The average American diet is terrible. I recommend cutting out as much unnatural processed food as possible. This includes candy, high fructose corn syrup, and processed white flour.
Eating foods high in sugar will spike your blood sugar and cause your body to go through a lot of stress that you simply don’t need.
Omega 3 fatty acids are an important thing to add to your diet (as long as you consult with your physician that they don’t interfere with a medical condition you may have). They are found in fish such as red salmon and help construct a healthy brain.
Exercise not only reduces stress, but helps generate new neurons in your brain. Its absolutely essential for overall well being.
While you do have DP, and you have been victimized by trauma, it’s important to still be grateful for everything you have. Many studies of shown that the more daily gratitude we practice, the healthier and happier we are as people.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself in life is “what am I expecting?”. If you expect a negative outcome, then you are going to fill yourself with worry, and may even end up feeling helpless.
But if you expect a positive outcome, you will likely feel better. You may feel more empowered and start taking action to make a better future for yourself.
As you take this action to improve your life you will start to feel more like an active agent living according to your own will. This will dramatically increase your sense of self and work synergistically with processing past trauma to eradicate DP.
Pursuing desired goals through committed action
Empowering goals are absolutely essential for living a valued life.
Even we aren’t improving or striving for something, we’re likely stagnating or getting worse. Shoot high. There is an expression that we overestimate what we can do in a month, but underestimate what we can do in 2 years or more.
If you commit to a course of action that you are truly passionate about, and one that you have chosen for yourself, you can do great things in life.
What is recovery like?
Recovery is not a linear process. In fact, processing trauma may actually make you feel worse initially before getting better.
For me, once I connected the missing pieces of my self, I was able to recover within weeks. This took years of study to reach these realizations. The point of my program is to upload all of this knowledge into your brain, so that you can start seeing results immediately. You don’t need to spend years in psychotherapy to cure DP.
Recovery is absolutely worth it and it can be yours. You can and will recover. I recommend you read my “DP Cure Tip” article series for more free information and check out my program Depersonalization Recovery: Total Integration Method.