Breaking Free - March/April 2024

Welcome to the March/April edition of Breaking Free

In this edition we explore one of the key features defining complex trauma dissociation which is not always widely understood. In this article, we explore the continuum of dissociation from everyday moments of disconnection to trauma-related dissociation. We explain what happens when we dissociate, what it might look like to others, and ways to support ourselves.

Understanding Dissociation

What is dissociation?

We all dissociate sometimes. Think about times when your mind just wanders, and you find yourself staring out the window daydreaming. Or when you’re driving along a highway on autopilot, and you’re thinking about something else altogether. When you do that, you are disconnecting from what you are doing in the present and off in another space. It is very common, and we can dissociate for lots of reasons. Yet dissociation is poorly understood.
Dissociation is a term which is used to describe this phenomenon i.e. disconnection between things which are usually associated. Dissociation occurs on a continuum from the daydreaming or highway hypnosis described above to Dissociative Disorders. Many people who have Dissociative Disorders have experienced often severe extreme trauma, usually from childhood.

What is trauma-related dissociation?

Trauma-related dissociation is a process which involves disconnection between our conscious awareness and various aspects of our experiences, thoughts, feelings, memories, behaviours, perception and sense of identity. Dissociation can be seen as a way the mind copes to protect itself from overwhelming stress. When it occurs as a result of trauma, we can understand it is a type of freeze (hypo-arousal) response – a protective survival response. It has been described as the ‘escape when there is no escape’ and a way that a person under threat can be consciously not present or switch out of the situation. The most important thing to remember is that dissociation is a ‘normal response to an abnormal situation’.

Dissociation often occurs at the time and resolves. However, when trauma is extreme, ongoing and occurs in childhood, dissociation can become habitual and last longer. When this happens, it can be frightening for the person as well as for the people around them. People for whom dissociation became more usual as a child can dissociate repeatedly when they feel threatened, as an adult. It is important to validate that dissociation helped them to survive and support them to understand it as much as possible.

Triggers, flashbacks and dissociation

Sometimes people are triggered by a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or something which is in some way reminiscent of their trauma. This trigger can cause a person with trauma experiences to dissociate. Sometimes triggers can cause a flashback in which people are thrown back into a traumatic experience of the past reliving it as if it is in the present. Sometimes people experiencing a flashback can relive memories, which they had previously dissociated.

Just as people are individuals, people’s experiences of dissociation are individual.

woman looking out window

What might happen when you dissociate?

• You might feel disconnected or detached from your body or emotions – as if your body, parts of it or emotions don’t belong to you or as if you are observing it from afar or watching it on TV
• You might feel disconnected or detached from the world around you – as though the world is unreal
• You may feel emotionally numb or not experience physical pain
• You might have gaps in your memory – about things that happened, about particular times in your life, about yourself
• You might travel to another place without knowing who you are
• You might speak in different voices or experience different parts of yourself at different times.
• You might find it hard to identify what sort of person you are and feel as though there are different people inside you

What would another person observe?

It can be hard to tell if a person is dissociating as its signs can be subtle. Most people are not aware that they are dissociating because it is an automatic response.
• May appear vague, numb or spaced out – stare off into space
• May look glazed as if they are off somewhere else or disconnected from the present moment
• May have a temporary lapse in attention or avoid eye contact
• Might lose time
• Might find it hard to remember people and places or details of personal experiences
• May suddenly start to act differently

What can you do?

• Understand that dissociation is the way your mind protected you and that it helped you to survive.
• Explore grounding strategies that work for you and which you can use if you are triggered or dissociate, and which can help you reconnect into the present.
• Therapy with a trauma-informed counsellor who is experienced in working with clients with complex trauma experiences and dissociation. A therapist can support you to start to feel safe, secure and begin to manage your feelings, as a first step. Often this is with what is called a phased approach.
• Self-care although often hard to do including exercise and practising self-compassion can be helpful for us all.

Download our fact sheets including our Fact Sheet about Dissociation in Plain English here:

Blue Knot Helpline Client Survey

woman calling on mobile phone

We would like to hear from you…

We are reaching out to our Blue Knot Community, and in particular those that have utilised our Blue Knot Helpline for counselling and support.

We are conducting a short survey, and if you have contacted our Helpline at any time since 2020 we would greatly appreciate you sharing your experience with us.

We received some invaluable feedback in our last survey and have been working on improvements to our service and we want to hear how we are doing.  Whether you completed the survey last time, or are completing it for the first time, your feedback is valuable to us and supports us to provide the best service we can for our community.

The survey includes 15 short questions, including both Yes/No and scaling questions, as well as spaces for your written feedback. Please note that not all questions are mandatory, so feel free to answer only those that you feel comfortable with.

Should you need to, you can take a break from the survey by minimising the window and completing it at a later time.

We place great importance on your privacy and guarantee all responses will be treated with confidentiality and anonymity. The feedback gathered from the survey will be used solely to inform how we can improve our service to you and others across the community.

We thank you in advance for taking the time to share your thoughts. Please click the button below to start the survey.

Start Survey

How We Maintain Your Privacy when Using Our Services

privacy policy

Blue Knot is committed to maintaining your privacy.

After a review of our policies, we determined the need to make information about how we maintain your privacy more accessible for our community.

For this reason and in response to feedback from some of our service users we have added a Plain English Privacy Policy. This can be found on our website here:

Blue Knot will continue to update our community when we make changes to these policies, so you can make informed decisions when engaging with our services.

Professional Training Calendar Launch – July 2024 – Dec 2024

Have you booked your end of year training yet?

Blue Knot Foundation is pleased to announce the release of its professional development training calendar for July to December 2024.

Our training programs foster the knowledge, skills, and tools you need when working with clients who have experienced complex trauma. Our training programs are focused on informing your practice, leading teams, and supporting self. They range from foundational programs to clinical practice which all contribute to building safe organisations providing better outcomes for you, your clients, service, and organisation.

We offer a combination of in-depth training and fast facts webinars. We currently have training scheduled for the remainder of 2024 which includes both face-to-face and virtual options. Places are limited on our trainings. Follow the link below to view our training calendar and register for our upcoming trainings.

Community Workshops for Survivors and their Family, Friends, Partners, and Loved Ones

There are still places available in our community workshops for survivors and their family, friends, partners and loved ones. These community workshops are focused on developing knowledge about complex trauma and developing strategies to support survivors in their day-to-day lives.

You can find information about our workshops for survivors, including how to register, here:

You can find information about our workshop for supporters (friends, families, partners and loved ones), including how to register, here:

Please be mindful that these workshops are not professional development trainings. Professionals can find information about what we offer in this space here:

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Themes - Online

SPI logo

Blue Knot Foundation are happy to announce our support of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute returning to Australia. Blue Knot Trainer Natajsa Wagner will be providing the training support for Pat Ogden and the team at the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Themes helps therapists make sense of the symptoms and issues of tramatised clients and work with them more effectively.

With a better understanding of how trauma is remembered, and equipped with interventions that speak directly to how post-traumatic issues are driven by the body and the nervous system, you will discover new and deeper ways of helping clients resolve the traumatic past.

The next Australian training begins on the 18th of May and will be held online. If you are interested in signing up and/or learning more you can click the link below:

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Trauma Themes – Australia Eastern Time:

Contact info for more information:
o Student Experience – [email protected]
o Australian Organiser – Natajsa Wagner [email protected]