Dissociation is like a mental escape. It happens when a person disconnects from an experience, thoughts, feelings or memories. Deliberately dissociating from a memory or an experience significantly reduces emotional overwhelm.

Being dissociated typically occurs when observing yourself doing something because you’re looking at it from an external perspective.

Using Dissociation in Therapy

Therapists can use controlled dissociation to help people deal with tough memories or emotions. Here’s how:

  1. Safe Space: A therapist might guide someone to therapeutically disconnect from a painful memory to reduce the emotional connection so they can talk about it without feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Stepping Back: By feeling like they are watching their life like a movie, a person can discuss traumatic events without reliving the intense emotions.
  3. Unlinking responses: Dissociating from an experience helps disconnect the response from the stimulus.
  4. Making positive changes: Reducing emotional overwhelm and looking at things from an external perspective makes it much easier to deliberately change learnt associations and behaviours.


Association is about connecting with memories, experiences and emotional responses. Associating into an experience typically intensifies feelings and emotional responses. Being associated is used for amplifying positive, pleasant experiences and resource states.

Association and Memory

When your brain links things together, it creates strong connections called synaptic pathways. This makes it easier to remember things because your brain has a direct route to the information. Here’s how it works:

  • Creating Shortcuts: When you associate a smell with a memory, your brain forms a shortcut. Smelling that scent again can instantly bring back all the details of the memory.
  • Good Memories: This is great for happy memories. For example, smelling cookies might remind you of happy times at grandma’s house.
  • Bad Memories: It can be problematic for bad memories. For example, a certain smell might trigger a vivid recall of a traumatic event, bringing back all the unpleasant emotions associated with it.

Using Association in Therapy

Therapists use the principle of association to help people build positive connections, resource states and memories. Here’s how:

  1. Positive Linking: A therapist might help someone associate a calming activity, like deep breathing, with feelings of safety and relaxation.
  2. Change Work: By linking positive emotional responses with new skills and coping mechanisms, therapists can help people replace negative associations and dysfunctional behaviours with positive feelings, functional behaviours and better experiences.
  3. Learning New Skills: Therapists can teach new behaviours or ways of thinking by connecting them to things the person already knows and feels good about.


  • Dissociation can be used as a powerful therapeutic tool to help patients detach from unpleasant or scary experiences to reduce emotional overwhelm. Thereby enabling you to let go of bad feelings.
  • Association is about mentallyconnecting withexperiences, which amplifies responses, enhances memory, creates emotional connections, and assists the process of learning and understanding.

Dissociate from bad or unpleasant experiences. Associate into good experiences and memories.

Published On: May 31st, 2024 / Categories: Getting great results /