What is dissociation?
Dissociation is a disconnection between a person's sensory experience, thoughts, sense of self, or personal history, also referred to as dissociative amnesia.
Why do narcissists experience it?
Narcissists experience dissociation as a defense mechanism so that they don’t recall situations where they behaved badly, hurt others, or acted out. They erase their memories as they live in a false reality. Narcissists literally pretend the damaging situation did not happen.
What’s an example of when it happened to me?
My immediate family went on a 2-week Caribbean vacation with my father. After 4 days, my father stopped speaking to all of us. We were staying in the same house. Some people, in a narcissistic rage, might isolate themselves and have a completely separate vacation, but not my father. He stayed in the same house and took all of his meals with us. He just refused to speak to any of us, including my then children ages 13 and 7. It was the last vacation we would ever take with him. After we returned home, he emailed me and said what a nice family vacation he had.
I wrote about this in my book “Wrecking Ball Relationships: How to Identify, Live With or Leave the Narcissist in Your Life.”
“Recently, clinical analysis of narcissists and dissociation was published in the Journal of Addiction & Addictive Disorders. It explored the concept of dissociation – how narcissists tend to erase memories. It contends since their interactions are through a fictitious construct: the false self, narcissists often dissociate. My father made a conscious effort to stop talking, making everyone miserable. How did we go on two similar vacations with no problems of this magnitude? What made him snap this time? The most confusing event was he reserved this time for our “nice family vacation” for another five years while not speaking. Why would he want to repeat this disaster? It was the last good trip we took together. “
What can you do?
“Now seven years after this nightmare vacation, I reflect on things I could’ve done to change the situation. Looking back, the trip could’ve gone differently if I sat down and had a “come to Jesus” discussion with my father. But I didn’t understand at the time what was happening or why he was so out of control. Knowing what I know now, I would’ve confronted him to put a stop to the madness. He didn’t have the communication skills then and still doesn’t express his frustration or feelings. All my father had was his self-doubt. No one was giving him the narcissistic supply he desperately needed to function. My daughters were too young, and my husband wouldn’t have confronted him. It was left to me.”
If you’ve suffered this type of relationship, it helps enormously to talk to someone.
I’m a survivor of narcissistic abuse and now I coach people on their healing journey. I have purpose in what I'm doing. I give people clarity, validation & comfort.
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