Dissociation Mimics Enlightenment

[Written in 2004.]

Dissociation (being split-off from one’s deepest truth) mimics enlightenment – but it isn’t enlightenment. People who are dissociated live in great peace. But this is only because they have blocked their negative feelings. The enlightened person resolves his negatives feelings, and thus his peace is not false.

People who are dissociated do not suffer. But this is only because they have abandoned their healing process and numbed their pain. Enlightenment grows from the fertilized soil of suffering.

People who are dissociated call themselves enlightened. But this is only because they have they have no conception of what enlightenment is. Enlightenment is the polar opposite of dissociation.

People who are dissociated are not easily emotionally ruffled. But this is only because there lies a thick wall buffering their hidden, vulnerable self from the sharp and often honest edges of the world. The enlightened are much less protected, but have such a deep core of self-love that they can defend themselves gently.

People who are dissociated feel they have mastered forgiveness. But this is only because they completely deny the harm done to them – and the damage remaining. The enlightened forgive spontaneously and without effort because they have fully embraced their damaged parts and grieved every honest ounce of their misery.

People who are dissociated are extremely self-confident. But this is only because their self-deceptive armor is impenetrable to self-reflection. The self-confidence of enlightenment is fed by the universal spring of life.

People who are dissociated gravitate naturally toward leadership roles. But this is only because they are experts at leading themselves away from their heart’s true course. The enlightened person leads right to the heart of the matter.

People who are dissociated have gone through hell to get to where they’re at. But they fail to realize that they’re still stuck right in hell. Enlightenment is the freedom of emotional integration.

People who are dissociated feel they have found their true self. But this is only because they equate their true self with no self at all – or at best a false self or ego based on a distorted sense of consciousness. Enlightenment is the true self linked with the conscious mind.

People who are dissociated consider themselves paragons of spirituality. But this is only because their spirits are so buried behind walls of denial that they have no conception of what spirit is. Enlightenment is the passionate spirit of the child held by the consciousness of the adult.

People who are dissociated are quite motivated, sophisticated, and convincing. But this is only because they perennially risk returning to suffering if they do not convince everyone of their lie. Enlightenment brings a motivation to spread the truth that is everyone’s birthright.

People who are dissociated act decisively. But this is only because they cannot see or question their unconscious motivation. The enlightened person is also decisive, but only because he has no unconscious, because in his healing process it, like a now-useless appendage, has dissolved.

Dissociation is contrary to enlightenment.

Behind dissociation lies unresolved trauma, and only once trauma is resolved can the light of consciousness enter the core of our being.

22 thoughts on “Dissociation Mimics Enlightenment

  1. First of all, thank you for providing this article.

    One thing some supposedly enlightened people say is, “anything you perceive isn’t you, including your mind and its thoughts. You are only awareness.” I don’t believe this is true at all. Why can’t our awareness aspect of being be aware of our mind aspect of being? Can anybody come up with a good answer for why it can’t? You are more likely to come up with a useful answer, if you don’t rely on what some supposedly enlightened guru said. The fact of the matter is that we cannot actually separate our awareness and mind aspects of being from each other.

    When people try to become enlightened according to the parameters defined by people that claim to be enlightened, they use a portion of the very same mind that they try to dissociate from. After all, awareness, by itself, cannot do anything but be aware.

    We can use our minds to fool ourselves in various ways. We can even use it to pretend that we don’t exist as a unique individual. Some people find life difficult, so they try to escape their individuality and mind aspect of being, by using a portion of their individual mind, to dissociate from their sense of self and mind aspect of being.

    If individuality didn’t exist, how could specific individuals become enlightened, in the way that some supposed enlightened people speak? In order for an act of willpower to exist, there needs to be an individual for whom will power exists. Something that is only an illusion, couldn’t liberate itself from its confusion. Only something that is real could do so. Awareness is too formless to do such a thing, without the assistance of the mind aspect of being.

    In the 1980s I was into guru-based nondual teachings. Eventually I found that many of the gurus I knew of weren’t as wise as they claim. Some of the things they said were okay, but some weren’t. There was also the matter of their not speaking of significant spiritual matters that one would expect a master to speak of.

    Eventually I found that if we want to grow spiritually, we need to take responsibility for all aspects of our being, even if doing so is difficult. By embracing my uniqueness, I was able to become more aware of the spiritual gift of a unique soul-based existence I have been provided with, and this enabled me to become more aware of the presence and love of the source of all.

    In order for two people/beings to share love and oneness with each other in a substantial way, they have to actually exist in a substantial way. After all, how could two beings that exist only in an illusory way, do such a thing.

    Regarding the concept that this world is unreal, just a nonexistent illusion, since the source of everything actually exists and is real, how could anything exist that doesn’t actually exist, while it exists? Is there a source other than the prime source of everything? Some things change not because they are unreal, but because the creative aspect of being, along with its mind aspect of being, is able to change its mind and manifest in different ways. The more this is done with honesty (e.g., taking responsibility for one’s mind aspect of being), the more the creative aspect, through all of us, will manifest according to love and wisdom.

  2. hi dissociation can happen at the same time as deepening into awareness of your true nature that you always already were. the conditioning will come up in the light of awareness and can be met with compassion and awareness with a newly discovered place in youself that was always unharmed, unhurt, even amidst the hurt. not to deny the hurt but to also see this place in you that was always free of it. still it is a hard appearance of a process, still going through it, as icecube melting into the water, at the same time as being pleasantly sweet fruit. but i have had depersonalization before, dissociation, and all of this…and am aware it can still happen. there isa difference. but bothcan be going on at the same time. yet i am not enlightened so i am no expert. i think there are some gurus tho who may be dissocuated and it is suspect when they claim they are enlightened because the truly enlightened are no longer there to claim it.

  3. Dissociation is a dissociation from one’s experience. Dissociation happened because my real experience has been denied and distorted. The denial and distortion has been learnt or conditioned from childhood. The “defense mechanism” has been reinforced by the practice of becoming “mature” or giving up all “childish” ideals.

    A dissociated person experiencing intense internal conflict has greater hope to re-associate with her denied experience. A dissociated person capable of differentiating autonomy and power-seeking/confident facade has made a huge achievement.

    Why strive for confidence? What’s confidence for if we are heading a wrong direction?

    Being doubtful of all existing values and own beliefs is a precondition for re-association.

    Re-associate with what? Experience. The deepest feelings which have been split off from childhood.

    Why must go back to childhood? because our bodies are made from memories. Those memories are completely retractable, although we’ve been denied access by denial and distortion. If there’re denials and distortions at the deepest level, how can we be true?

    But be aware of temptations! The temptation to be accepted by others! Now, the road is lonely and painful, but the wind and the bird will be your company when you no longer need cast any emotion on them.

    The above are my words to myself – in a loneliness of hope and despair.

  4. IF this article is written by a psychologist they should be ashamed of themselves. Not every one who is dissociated has “these truths.” For me, it has caused me tremendous suffering living like this and trying to find a way to heal it since it occurred in childhood. I am not extremely self confident at all, I suffer from a lack of confidence. I never once felt like I have “found” my true self, contrary I have been on inner search to find it because I find detaching so miserable. I realize I am stuck in hell. This article is INSULTING and plays into every person who suffers from dissociated plays into this authors cookie cutter mode of how people are. Perhaps the author should not generalize all people. Part of being aware on any level is doing this. I think the author has dissociated himself from what he’s talking about here lol

    • btw go visit any depersonalization board or people struggling with it. You will find a lot of unhappy people who desperately want to be whole and well and are often times disabled by their condition. Articles like this shame people who have such experiences and don’t look at what they go through. It just assumes a few people who think they are detached are “enlightened” I found this whole thing HIGHLY offensive. Healing childhood trauma , any trauma is painful, and sometimes its not easy. The last thing a trauma survivor wants to hear is a rant about how they think they are great etc. Its a miserable experience for mostly all people. I don’t know anyone who has depersonalization, etc, that wakes up daily feeling confident, feeling their true self. Most are miserable people trying desperetly to get a grip on reality. I think the author needs CBT therapy, NEVER assume people are all like that.

    • you make some good points, justin. my essay was too general. i will be changing my website soon and i will re-read your comments while editing this essay! greetings — sorry it caused you pain. not my intention at all!! daniel

      • The article does deliver important information about distinguishing Enlightenment and the facade of enlightenment, or distinguishing enlightenment and getting rid of suffering.

        An enlightened person is a more sensitive person capable of sensing every ounce of joy as well as loss.

        Enlightenment is NOT peace if you are still living in this world. Peace is NOT something worthy to be striven for. In suffering there is peace because there’s no resistance of suffering. This is authentic suffering, not neurotic suffering. This is not looking for suffering or making suffering, but acknowledging suffering as suffering.

        Truth in this world cannot be dissociated from suffering, because the “reality” we share has been made of millions of layers of suffering, including the suffering to avoid suffering.

        On the spectrum of dissociation, at one end is the people who are digging deeper into their suffering in the aim of recovering their truth.

        On the other end, there’re people who are shielding away suffering at all cost- therefore they are more dissociated than the former group because they want to cut off suffering completely. They construct confidence, they scramble for power, they project their vulnerability onto other people.

        the second group are people who are dissociated from knowing their dissociation. It’s a secondary dissociation.

    • If you don’t feel satisfied in this state then it means you’re not dissociated to that extent. I actually know people that are satisfied in their dissociasion despite their deep problems (I used to be this way too and I hate it). One of them is my mother so you can’t claim it’s someone I don’t know. Maybe if I didn’t know her that well by being her daughter and living with her for years and reflecting back to that I wouldn’t think of herself this way because she’s visibly ”normal” most of the time. She makes sure she conforms to everything and she despises ”abnormal”, ”deviant” people and she feels proud she’s not like them because ”different”, suicidal and even homeless people and any people asking for help are like that because they’re inherently ”worse” than her and they’re not ”strong” enough. Her mother (although she’s mentally healthier in comparison and she has a different personality) is also obsessed with being normal and she was the one that actually buried and probably even killed that authentic inner child/self within her daughter while somewhat staying in connection with her own inner child just because she didn’t know how to raise children and had them because ”everybody did” so it wasn’t a thought-through decision.

      Of course, there are almost no absolutes but to me this article makes sense. I think when we’re dissociated and repressed we just drive each other into misery this way and it’s important to acknowledge it because it’s so prevalent.

  5. I believe I may be the person you are describing here. I don’t take offense to your depiction at all (as others apparently have,) rather it has shocked me into a greater awareness of something I had already begun to suspect. Having grown up in dysfunction combined with early traumatic loss, I am beginning to see how this protective mechanism negatively influences my life today. I am most aware of it in the areas of self-care and in career progression. When confronted with the need to leave my comfort zone in order to make positive changes, I suddenly become “fuzzy” and unclear about how to start. Suddenly my mind goes into fog mode and I can’t make logical sense of things – I feel as though I am forced to “let it go” – again! Worse than the extreme frustration this causes, is the tendency to beat myself up over and over when it happens. The net effect is that I am unable to create the changes I want to achieve in my life and I feel stymied and stupid about it. My obvious question: how does one fix this?

  6. Ok I have a few comments here, but I want to apologize beforehand if I’ve misunderstood your point of critique.

    For one, an insight into ‘no self’, equanimity, transience, impermanence etc is absolutely ideal. Its application towards ones own experience – through the practice of mindfulness certainly induces a kind of dissociation, but this is only part of the journey and must be followed by an arduous trekking through the repressed aspects of one’s self. By looking from a dis identified perspective, one can allow whatever traumatic or lively or neutral states to enter into the forefront of consciousness and thereby reconcile those aspects with each other. But, as you say here, that disidentified position that one can take is still within the realm of ones experience– by no means is it an ‘enlightened’ position – but it is a position from which one can truly let go of the trauma itself — and the trauma really does dissolve — that is after months and months of seeing again and again – after examining it from a neutral stance. It’s not repressed again — but this is predicated on an individual entirely open to seeing those experiences from a new light.

  7. While I can see where you are coming from, I take great offense to the negativity towards those of us who are dissociative. We may not be entirely as enlightened as you, but every little bit we can grasp into is a sign that we are trying…equally, if not harder than the enlightened person. You dismiss our battles as being weak because we can’t be like you. And while I’m sure that is not how you intended it, that’s how it comes across. Try a little sensitivity, oh enlightened one….

    • hi Me,
      well, i might write it differently if i wrote it now (11 years later), but i think the essential ideas would be the same. not sure if you’ve read much of my website, but if you want to know a bit more about me here, i can say that i have my areas of dissociation too (areas of unresolved trauma) and also my areas of enlightenment. so i’m not writing an essay about myself as the ideal one and dissociation ones as the “other.” daniel

  8. Dissociation is highly unpleasant and disempowering. There are plenty of people who are hiding from their emotions, sure, and some of them are posturing as if they are highly evolved, complete, or enlightened: but there is a very clear distinction that can be felt, seen, and heard. Everybody who is not enlightened is faking it, in denial, covering up. That is different from dissociation. Dissociation is a strategy to deal with very severe trauma which is debilitating. When people dissociate in a given situation they are not present, they are are not aware, they are not empowered: they essentially leave their body. Many people are in denial about their emotional pain; perhaps that is what you are referring to. There is a phenomenon called the “false stone.” People that are seeking the “Philosopher’s stone,” an alchemical term for enlightenment, have some achievement that feels like they have arrived: but it was just a false stone, not the real one. It will show up in the person’s psyche and they will know it at some level and those around them will be able to tell if they have discernment. Blessings.

  9. Hey Daniel,

    I think I am quite disagreeing with some of your views you know, no offence.
    But for example “dissociated” people are not at peace with themselves at all.
    They are haunted by anxiety and stress of having to keep escaping their genuine feelings and of having to pretend to be happy all the time. I know this for myself because this is what I used to have. I don’t want to get into this too much. And by escaping their feelings, this creates an inner void which is filled with either addictions or other people.

    But honestly after I read the “Body Never Lies” by Alice Miller, I feel that I have pretty much found the explanation for why I am suffering so much. Especially the topics she addressed about this inner “void”, how morality keeps you away from you genuine “negative” feelings against your parents, how these feelings will express themselves in either violence or illness etc. etc.

    Especially about communication. I have never experienced genuine emotional communication in my upbringing, so I could never believe that other people would ever be interested in my emotions. Which caused me a lot of loneliness. But only after I trusted my feelings and tried to share them, did I discover that there are people who do communicate in this way. This is very new to me, because all my life I have only experienced communication based on my “mask”, my “facade”, my “false self” and I could only relate to other grandiose people, because I didn’t want to be abandoned by them. And I thought that this was really normal.

    There is so much to explain, but honestly, I think that “the Body Never Lies” is perhaps Alice Miller’s best book in my opinion. I think it goes to the core of the issue, that our own parents are afflicted by; “the deprivations of their bodies” and how children are forced to fill these “deprivations” of their parents, and in the process these children will have to sacrifice their own needs and feelings. And then the whole generational cycle starts all over again. I think that the only way out of this, is to stop denying the feelings and emotions behind these feelings of emptiness and depression. And in the process figure out a way to pay more attention to ourselves and our needs.

    There are some very specific lines I would like to share from the book, but I don;t know if I would be infringing copyright or something.


    Thank you Daniel,


    • hi jdoe,
      no offense at all — thanks for the comment. i hope my reply causes no offense!!!

      you wrote: “But for example “dissociated” people are not at peace with themselves at all. They are haunted by anxiety and stress of having to keep escaping their genuine feelings and of having to pretend to be happy all the time. I know this for myself because this is what I used to have.”

      my reply: i don’t see a person like that as being fully dissociated, according to my definition of dissociated. (i don’t know if you saw my essay on the four stages on the path to enlightenment — that might help, if i wrote it well, to clarify my point of view.) i see the person you described as being partially dissociated and partially in the stage of suffering. a more fully dissociated person doesn’t have to pretend so much — the dissociation comes naturally, easily. a more suffering person has to do the work of pretending….

      interestingly, i see alice miller, despite the VERY mature sides of her, as having had some very intense sides of herself caught up in both dissociation and suffering….to the end. and i think her books reflect that. (i have some of this myself, but, from what i’ve observed, less so than she does.) i think she really never resolved a lot. i got a lot of confirmation about that when i met with her son and he told me about his very conflicted relationship with her right to the end of her life…….the literally bitter end, in many ways. he described her actions and i didn’t take them to have come from someone who was free….still very tortured, and in many ways not aware of it…. not to say she wasn’t amazing in some ways, because she was….but still very out of it…….lost.
      all the best,

  10. That gets right to the heart of the issue. I am prone to such meanderings myself. It is easy to try for one come up with the other, and say “well this is somethjing” and keep trying. But getting to know what the difference is like is really important, and subtle. I have had many dissociated moments, being lost in my thoughts and buffered/protected by many effective defensive strategies. The difference is that enlghtenment is a process that happens exactly as fast as you do it. If you aren’t aware that its happening, it isn’t happening. It is the immediate and real witnessing and understanding of the underlying reality of emptiness, or oneness-yet-nothingjness, or nonduality. The conscious moment is the propelling force of the universe. Nothing happens without us experiencing it. It’s like we are just piling up a bunch of to do lists, and say, i’ll get around to witnessing that later. This acknowledgment is a powerful force of comfort and healing, to alleviate the cycle of suffering. To shift one’s focus from self-motivation to being motivated by the happyness and healthy development of others around you, humans and animals, and fueled by mutual feelings of well being and compassion…who wouldn’t want to try it? A good bit of research suggests that altruistic or eudaimonistic people are happier, healthy and live longer. Cultivating social bonds lessen stress and improve standard of living. It is the ultimate “selfish” act because it benefits us the most, because our higher self draws no boundaries. Everything that we encounter, because we are ultimately an encapsulated seed which can only experience what our senses tell us, is also our own moment of empty, transient and ever shifting consciousness. And the more that we believe that this is true, we can more and more understand the true meaning of the implications for our interactions. Our baggage will shift away faster and faster as we get more efficient at comparing nondual reality with the illusions of societal convention or traumatic self-imprisonment, or self-absorbed avoidance behavior so we can recognize them and”through not clinging, let them go” Now honestly all of this enlightenment talk is merely heresay from me. I have meditated for a relatively short time in my life, with pretty good results, but I am in no meditative state right now. It is a very much a form of dissociation, this intellectualized “spiritual” bullywag. I think I tend to measure my progress through experiencing authentic “moments” or whatever approximation I can make thereof…they seem to be going from very far and few in between, to fairly more and more frequent, and the “authenticity” seems to be changing a bit. This usually takes the form of an emotional connection with another being, althought contemplative thoughts could sometimes have their value if paired with meditative mind, “distorted” though it may be so through so many layers of turbulent psychological mess…I believe it is possible to experience both states, dissociation (avoidance, procrastination) and (relative) enlightenment (true spiritual progress), and that one can choose moment to follow, whether to live the illusion or lie. Like comparing nihilism to Taoism which claim the same essential message, it’s all in the approach, the intention…Will I stay with this moment and attempt to notice it? Perhaps it will melt flicker of the pure ethereal nectar, too fast to follow with the mind, you have to become it…a little like that scene at the end of the matrix, but a bit more deliciously vibrant in hue, not so green and rectangular.

    • hi carl jung,
      hmm………i particularly like the idea of dissociation mimicking “enlightenment.” i’m curious as to why specifically you found it to be full of s**t.

  11. Beautiful words man, i myself have experienced first hand dissociation from a spiritual perspective and agree with your words, i believe most meditation practises without a strong community (sangha in buddhism) create dissociation from trauma and underlying issues, and experiencing states of “no self” is just a final point of repression that becomes masked under a placid state of mind. Expressing emotional pain is just that, a “expression” that needs to be expressed rather than repressed, and even the cathartic practise of these issues whether or not they exist from a enlightened point of view help the individual understand pain. and grow out of negative states of mind.

    Look forward to more of your posts


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