Dissociation and its Contexts


Dissociation in the world of sports can mean many things.  In long distance running, athletes often dissociate as a coping mechanism.  In a 100 mile race, a runner may at some point detach from their painful reality and think of their loved ones at home in order to complete the race.  However, most experts agree, that when running for a winning time, a runner needs to associate intently with their body and its current state (breathing, running style, running position) in order to perform his/her best.

In the world of trauma, dissociation is a survival mechanism.  When a trauma is happening, our psyche can remove itself from the current situation in order to get through it.  This survival mechanism when carried out too often can also turn into Dissocation Disorder where a person detaches in order not to experience any negative feelings in the moment.  Dissocation or playing dead in a survival situation is surviving, but ongoing dissociation in order to cope is not compatible with living a fulfilling life.

Dissocation in the world of movement simply means different body parts performing different movements independently of each other.  In the golf swing, we have stable, powerful hips allowing for full trunk rotation.  In tennis, we see an on the run lower body moving laterally at full speed  while the upper body striking the ball is moving forwards and rotating across in the opposite direction.  Dissociation when it comes to movement is essential for activities of daily living such as putting on a sock and grows more complex in sports requiring dissociation of body segments at high speeds.

Dissociation requires a core that is stable and strong which then allows for our appendages to move independently of each other.  It is another one of those "use it or lose it" skills.  In seniors, being able to dissociate and maintain balance, can turn a deadly "fall moment" into an inconsequential fumble.

See FB page Lizlkotzperformance for a functional exercise example working on upper and lower body dissociation.

Lizl Kotz