Episode 18 – Dissociation, Avoiding Exes, and Being Too Sensitive

Episode 18 – Dissociation, Avoiding Exes, and Being Too Sensitive

This week on the podcast we discuss how to cope with dissociation, what to do when seeing your ex is upsetting, and how to handle an issue with a close friend sharing personal information. Our grab bag question is about whether it’s possible to be too sensitive.


Christine shares that she is recovering from a cold and is excited to get back to the podcast. Chris shares that the podcast section of the Pacifica community has had some good questions posted. Both Christine and Chris are glad to have those questions but still encourage listeners to call-in.

Question 1

I am a university student who struggles with dissociation as part of my anxiety and PTSD. How do you recommend a student deal with issues like this in their day-to-day life? Thank you.

  • Christine discusses that we covered depersonalization in a previous episode. Depersonalization is a type of dissociation, where you feel disconnected from your body or your thoughts. Dissociation is a little broader but similarly refers to the experience of feeling disconnected from reality, or yourself or your thoughts.
  • Dissociation occurs on a spectrum. Many people have moments where they feel like they are outside of themselves and watching themselves like in a movie. Even daydreaming can be a very mild kind of dissociation. This isn’t necessarily concerning. On the further end of the spectrum is something like dissociative identity disorder, where individuals’ personalities split.
  • Typically dissociation is often related to the experience of trauma, especially in childhood.
  • In addition to seeking out psychotherapy for dissociation, other tips for managing it include good general stress management practices such as getting sufficient sleep, setting healthy boundaries, or practicing mindfulness. In the moment, grounding can be a good tool.
  • One good helpful grounding exercise is to identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Chris finds that when he becomes too self-aware or too in his head he uses mindfulness or grounding to reorient.
  • Christine highlights that there is a difference among mindfulness activities. Some are more geared towards broadening your focus of attention while others are more for focusing in and narrowing your attention. Deciding which approach is more helpful depends on the situation. For dissociation, reconnecting with the physical world is the goal, so taking time to observe your surroundings can be helpful.
  • Chris will also sometimes try to connect with people or the situation he’s in to try to get out of his head and back to reality.

Question 2

I stopped talking to my ex after we separated. I still keep her number In case she has an emergency and needs help. But every time I see her I can’t breathe and my stomach turns hard. I have run through scenarios over and over in my mind to prepare but freeze every time. Is there something else I can do besides wait out the time until those feelings don’t hit as hard?

  • Chris was reminded of when he broke up with his high school girl friend and they went to the same college. But he didn’t feel that he saw her very often.
  • Christine likes the writer’s approach of trying to practice the moment. She thinks that doing a role play with a friend could be helpful to prepare and feel less anxious about the situation.
  • Chris is glad that the writer isn’t just trying to avoid the ex and avoid the scenario. He thinks it’s probably true that as time passes some of the intensity of the negative emotions will dissipate.
  • Christine suggests using slow breathing to turn off the fight or flight response that arises when the person thinks about their ex. She also thinks that completing a thought record might be helpful to look at the thoughts the writer is having about their ex to try to re-interpret the situation.

Question 3

I feel like I can’t tell one of my best friends anything anymore. We used to be so close but then she got a boyfriend, and every time I tell her something she tells him. I want to stay best friends with her but not if she tells my business to him and I don’t know what to do.

  • Chris notes that this is not an uncommon experience–where one friend gets a new romantic relationship and sees the friend less often.
  • Chris thinks the writer could talk to her friend and ask that she keep her personal information to herself. Perhaps the friend is unaware that the writer wants the information kept private.
  • Christine agrees that perhaps the friend doesn’t know that the writer doesn’t want her information shared.
  • It’s important to make it clear what you are okay with her sharing and what you’d prefer she kept private. Specifying those boundaries can be helpful.
  • Be sure to highlight how much you value her friendship and want to maintain the relationship.
  • Chris agrees that it’s important to make sure she knows how you feel about her and be clear about what you don’t mind her sharing vs. what you do.
  • Christine notes that writer should probably note that it’s not about the boyfriend or that the writer doesn’t like him but rather is about her desire to privacy.

Grab Bag

I am constantly berated for being too emotional or reacting too strongly to bad behaviour. My question is can a person be too sensitive?

  • Chris describes that if the people around you are violating your values or doing things that you’re not comfortable with, that doesn’t make you sensitive, that makes you a strong person who adheres to their values.
  • Chris wonders who is berating the writer? If it’s the people who you think are doing bad things, perhaps you don’t need to worry too much about that criticism. On the other hand, if you feel like your emotions are getting in the way of you living your life, then perhaps it’s a valid concern.
  • Christine agrees with Chris that it’s more a question of whether your sensitivity or emotionality gets in the way of your functioning rather than whether you’ve crossed a boundary into being “too sensitive”.
  • Christine agrees that it’s OK to object to bad behavior. But it does matter HOW you are objecting to the behavior and how you convey that to those around you.
  • Chris brings up the concept of HSPs (Highly Sensitive People). He notes that there are a lot of people who feel deeply and just because you feel a lot doesn’t mean that’s a problem. It comes down to whether your behavior is working for and if you are living consistently with your values.

Do you have questions about mental health for the podcast? Call and leave us a message: +1 415-855-0553. You can also record an audio note of yourself and email it to info AT thinkpacifica DOT com.