Back when I was researching my book I was surprised to learn that the definition of dissociation stretches all the way from “spacing out,” “reduced responsiveness,” “de-realization,” “de-personalization,” “disengagement,” “lost time” and “out-of-the-body-experiences”, all the way to what used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder, (now DID), and points in-between. What surprised me most was that even with this liberal definition of dissociation, Briere and Runtz (1988) were able to discriminate between college women who had been sexually abused and those who had not.
That’s when I began to look back over my life with new eyes, and recalled a missed opportunity for communication when my aunt asked me if I thought incest offenders should be put in prison. I realize I went inside myself and never answered her.
Briere describes spacing-out behavior and disengagement as withdrawal into a state of affective neutrality, “where thoughts and awareness of external events are, in a sense, put on hold. Most periods of disengagement are relatively brief, ranging from seconds to several minutes, and the depth of dissociation is usually quite shallow” (1992, 37-38).