Structural Dissociation: How Complex Trauma Causes A Split In Our Being

Structural Dissociation Complex Trauma Causes Split

2. Emotional numbness

We feel empty and numb, unable to connect with ourselves or anyone close to us. We have learned how to move outside of our bodies so we could watch life events pass by in front of us without being in it. We might ‘know’ what is happening in our lives, but we feel as though it belongs to others.

Being a detached observer, however, comes with a cost. While we feel little pain, we also feel little joy, love, and vitality. We might also become fully identified with our intellect, distancing from our instincts, spontaneity, and creativity.

Related: 13 Signs You’re Struggling With Emotional Numbness (The Secret Illness)

3. Disembodiment

We might be dissociated from our physical bodies. As a result, we have difficulty knowing when we are tired, hungry, thirsty, lonely, or sad. We may lose the ability to self-care. We get burnout as we are not able to receive signals from our bodies. We lose touch with our motivation, needs, desires, interests, passions, and even sex drive.

4. Lack of motivation and stamina

Perhaps we were motivated and positive when we set a goal, but when the traumatized parts take over, we lose the mental ability to take action. Because our various parts have different motives, psychology, and mental capacity, we may have trouble starting or completing actions.  

We may find ourselves endlessly procrastinating even it was something we wanted to do. On the other hand, we might suffer from chronic fatigue. This is because energy is taken to suppress our memories and emotions.

5. Counter-dependency and isolation

We develop self-sufficient armor and feel unable to trust or be dependent on anyone. We put up a wall to avoid being known by others. We avoid exposing ourselves because we are fearful of rejection, abandonment, and betrayal.

6. Inner critic

We develop a self- persecutory inner voice. This voice started out as a protective mechanism: ‘It’ believes that by criticizing us harshly, we would not venture out for love, career opportunity or abundance, so we would never be disappointed again.

Not being able to feel fulfilled in our real life, we resort to addictions or mind-altering drugs for stimulation or comfort. This perpetuates a cycle of shame.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou

Related: 4 Kinds Of Self-Criticism You Must Put An End To


Even though the wise healthy part of us knows this splitting or dissociation is no longer serving us, we might feel ambivalent about change. We are afraid of losing our stability. Even dissociation takes us to a barren, lonely place, it is what we know.

With our Apparently Normal Part, we get to shut down hunger, tiredness, and any need for anyone. For a short while, we feel as though as are invincible. This might have led to some degree of career success and convenience, but our soul is crying for help.

We are, after all a human, not a robot or machine. Our needs and vulnerabilities, though denied, do not disappear.

The longer we stay disintegrated, the less able we are to appropriately take care of ourselves in a realistic way.

The longer we stay numb and empty, the more days we spend watching our lives go by without being in it.

The longer we avoid intimacy and opportunities, the longer we are delaying a full, rich life.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”
― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

The Wise Part

Apart from the Apparently Normal Part and the Traumatised Part discussed by the trauma experts, we must also acknowledge something in the matrix of our CPTSD psyche: Our inner wise part, or our healthy part. No matter how traumatized we are, how hidden this part is, it is there. It is our innate driving force towards wholeness and health, and it has been with us since day one.

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