Dissociative states abound. Dissociating is an unconscious response to a present triggering event. The event can be short or something that happens over time. The mind decides on some level to check-out for the sake of preservation. It is an adaptive behavior, often called a maladaptive behavior -bad or poor reaction to a situation. People with traumatic pasts might do this as a coping mechanism. It is a nice thing the mind does for us when we witness ourselves or others in extremely difficult situations. The mind tries to ease our mind. I've seen this in so many situations with so many clients. Dissociative states are gifts our mind gives us to cope. The problem is that these dissociative states tend to appear long after the difficult situations are solved or passed. Herein lies the problem; When we don't need this adaptive response anymore we can't seem to find the switch to turn it off.
My father has Narcolepsy. It is a semi-rare dissociative illness that is mentioned in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Illness) as not a mental illness. But I don't believe it. I think it is definitely a dissociative state since one of the characteristics of Narcolepsy is the cataplexy that usually accompanies it. Cataplexy is a super creative dissociative state. This is how it looked when I was a kid. My dad would get really angry at someone, me or my siblings for doing something stupid and before he could run after us or spank us he would completely collapse. He would just fall against something, look at us, not say a word and wait until he regained his strength. By that time he was not angry anymore. It was awesome. Of course, the first time that happened I panicked and started to pray out loud, I thought my dad way having a heart attack. This is absolutely a dissociative state; having a cataplectic episode to avoid something the mind wants to avoid processing. My mom has told me many times that my siblings and I were lucky, we escaped more severe punishments because of dad's Narcolepsy and cataplectic attacks. Hum, I wonder what that says about parenting in the Hagen family. I have never liked the feeling of being "lucky,"
Circling back, I think dissociative states are very interesting. In my father's case his Narcolepsy saved him from many things including the guilt of punishing his children too harshly. I think dissociative states are created by the mind to lift us out of a burden for a short or long period of time. Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sleeping, zoning out, chronic illnesses, even dying might one day be considered dissociative states; the mind's attempt to lift us out of a moment or many moments in life that just don't feel that good.