Dissociation: A Weighted Greyness

Maria Peregolise

“Your words to me just a whisper, Your face is so unclear, I try to pay attention, Your words just disappear, ‘Cause it’s always raining in my head.” Staind, Epiphany, 2001 [1] Artist: Staind, Album: Break the Cycle, Released: 2001

The URANTIA Book language preaches, “The family is the fundamental unit of fraternity in which parents and children learn those lessons of patience, altruism, tolerance, and forbearance which are so essential to the realization of brotherhood among all men.” * [2]84:7:28 (941.9) The Urantia Book. Chicago: Urantia Foundation, 1955

Meanwhile, sometimes it was a belt, but usually Dad’s redirection was ‘Big Hands,’ which was my Grandmother’s term for hitting. I received one particular belt-welt on my upper thigh, when Dad had chased me into the kitchen, and I had nowhere to run. I don’t think he’d liked the mark it had left that time.

Discussing negative tendencies in certain adults, in his book Dangerous Personalities, Joe Navarro suggests, “If you have children with a parent like this, you have a responsibility to try to provide safety and respite for them. …everything possible should be done to set boundaries to protect the child and to provide opportunities for relief.” (Navarro and Sciarra Poynter, 2014) [3] Joe Navarro and Toni Sciarra Poynter, Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People, 2014

Granted, my brother and I could fight over anything, which had to be infuriating – until you consider that Dad would triangulate us against each other to begin with. As my brother grew older and more cantankerous, I, in turn, had ‘Big Hands’ for him. My parents might yell at us to stop fighting, but they never told us we shouldn’t hit each other. I didn’t realize it was something I should stop and think about, until my Grandma pointed out to me that it wasn’t right. This was My Father’s mother. That’s when I started to change how I reacted to my brother.

In a journal entry from when I was thirteen, I describe myself as a rose, the stem is my family, the leaves that come and go are friends, and the thorns are ‘conflicts, unseen.’

I didn’t realize at the time that dissociation was part of my flight- fight-hide (freeze) response, but I wrote about something else that trouble me. Someone presenting signs of dissociation or derealization may be “…inclined to “dissociate” while you are talking to them. …in so doing, they may appear to be detached from their emotions, body, or immediate surroundings, this experience is called derealization. Dissociation can be caused as a direct result of trauma, often experienced in multiple forms during narcissistic childhood traumas (i.e. physical, psychological…). The dissociation is an automatic and effective defense mechanism to overwhelming acute stress the child is being subjected to…” (Louis de Canonville, 2016) [4] Christine Louis de Canonville, The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, June 10, 2016

I was sitting in class and trying so hard to pay attention. The teacher was a kind man, who always had a smile. As he walked the front of the room, speaking about his chalkboard outline, fog-like grey matter kept blurring my vision. I widened my eyes and tried to blink it away. A whirring of sound filled my ears. I shuffled in my seat to ground myself and I cleared my throat to overpower the sound, but the roar and darkness remained.

With my pencil, I colored the entire notebook page on the desk in front of me completely grey to represent the derealization I was experiencing and begged myself to keep trying to fight my way out. Then, I wrote down my thoughts in a free-verse poem about this feeling I had of being immersed in a weighted greyness. I tried to describe the sensation of being enclosed in this thick, grey film that I couldn’t escape. It seemed like something I literally had to tear open. I also drew a scribbled cloud of pencil and black and red ink, with the words ‘Chaos’ and ‘Mind’ written across it.


“Can you see? Do you hear? Do you want to see?

Are you afraid to break the shell?

Don’t be.

I’m not.

I try hard.

It’s very hard to pull it and dig it away. Sometimes it works, but not always.

Sometimes it’s easier to hide in the gloomy depths of the mind.

Fight your way out!

To spring!

To freedom!

Fight ahead not backwards! You can slip backwards! It’s easy to remember (how to slip backwards)!

But the real pleasure is the color and openness of reality!”

Around the same time, I also wrote a whimsical essay called Ball Point Wisdom in which I recognized that the only way to ‘think’ was to let my pen talk. ‘My eyes fog over with the damp breath of reality,’ speaks to my experience of the ‘weighted greyness.’

Additionally, hyper-vigilance kept me cautious not to immediately react to a situation. I can’t scream back at someone. I can’t act like something is wrong. I have to nervously laugh it off to ease someone’s embarrassment or anger. I’m not allowed to think on my feet. My pen has none of these constraints and ‘thinks of things I can’t think of.’ In this way, I describe how my pen becomes my voice.

“My pen wanders, aimlessly caught up in a doodle in the upper corner of my note paper. I think it feels caged-in by the first two blue lines, the pink margin, and the jagged edge where the spiral wire bites into the page. Perhaps it feels I may have forgotten it there, twirling in anxious scribbles in a square quarter inch of space. And, what kind of life would that be for a creature of such caliber?

The truth is, I too am a little afraid of the tricks reality can play on the maturing mind. It cajoles you into following rigorous routine. It calls your thoughts to attention in neat, calculated columns. It organizes your life into patterns of plaid, blacks and grays. It tempts you to drop your pen and stand in line with chin up, shoulders tense and arms at your side between Mr. Seven-million-six and Ms. Seven-million-eight. It demands of your eyes a straightforward, blank stare. It asks of your imagination… Nothing.

As my eyes fog over with the damp breath of reality behind them, my pen breaks through the margin. It scurries across the page in frantic fantasy, whim, folktale, and lyric. It scolds, preaches, and pours out it’s very blood in an effort which I finally understand.

Awed by this comrade, I hear its plea… ‘The only boundary that may contain your soul is your very fear of boundaries!’ It cries boldly, almost tearing the paper.

It seems that once again my pen is correct.

Now you know why I write.

Because most of the time my pen has a much quicker wit than I do.

It can think a lot faster than I can.

And sometimes of things I might never have thought of myself!

Should I forget, as on occasions such as this, and lose my footing, my pen at least – if no one else – will keep me from falling into the trench of the straight and narrow. Together we will go to an incredible place they call, ‘Astray’ which is over the horizon, far beyond the view of the people in line.”

After my Grandma’s advice, my intense feelings for my brother Joshua helped me to recognize that there is no one who can irritate, upset or worry you as deeply as the person you love the most. This is the person with whom you can most easily overreact.

This is where the fine line between discipline and abuse will lie.

This is how you can lose your cool on your little brother or your own three-year-old, if you don’t remain cognizant that it’s how much he means to you that is causing such intense emotions.

The communication I began to develop as a big sister certainly made a difference in our respect for one another. It would help me to keep myself in check with rambunctious toddlers of my own. It would be in large part, the communication I would use with students in my future classroom. After all, when you have twenty-eight students, you can’t spank them into submission. So, there must be another way to communicate with your own sibling or with your own child.

Not that my children never got spanks if they needed a redirection. But, if reasonable communication of incentives and consequences wasn’t working, a good ear-flick mid-grocery store could get their attention pretty quickly, too — later followed up with a conversation about rules, consequence, and most importantly, the correct manner in which to conduct oneself in that situation.

The URANTIA Book preaches, “Farseeing fathers also make provision for the necessary discipline, guidance, correction, and sometimes restraint of their young and immature offspring.” * [5] 142:7.9 (1604.4) The Urantia Book. Chicago: Urantia Foundation, 1955

References   [ + ]

1. Artist: Staind, Album: Break the Cycle, Released: 2001
2. 84:7:28 (941.9) The Urantia Book. Chicago: Urantia Foundation, 1955
3. Joe Navarro and Toni Sciarra Poynter, Dangerous Personalities: An FBI Profiler Shows You How to Identify and Protect Yourself from Harmful People, 2014
4. Christine Louis de Canonville, The Effects of Gaslighting in Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, June 10, 2016
5. 142:7.9 (1604.4) The Urantia Book. Chicago: Urantia Foundation, 1955