Uses of Disassociation and Dissociation

Disassociation Pattern

Some of the earliest NLP Life Change Patterns that pioneering developers of NLP came up with were centered around the ability to ‘disassociate’ from problem states.   They found techniques for separating the person from the parts of experience that were problematic.   The NLP Life Change Pattern VK Disassocaition is outlined at the end of this article.

Disassocition vs. Dissociation

For the purpose of discussion, there is often confusion around the distinction between ‘disassociation’ and ‘dissociation.’   The term ‘dissociation’ usually refers more to the Psychological separation of significant parts of self from the wholeness of the person.   NLP processes more often utilize the former although either of these to may get a particular desired result.

We Do  Not Diagnose, Treat, or Prescribe

It should be noted that NLP practitioners are not concerned with diagnosing, treating, or prescribing as these are legally reserved as the domain of licensed medical professionals.  NLP Practitioners, on the other hand, believe that people are already, whole, healed, and complete.  They have all the resources necessary, in the NLP belief structure, to achieve any congruently desirable outcome.  People may have those resources organized in a manner that prevents accomplishment of the desired outcome, so the job of the NLP Coach or Practitioner is the help an individual or group to reorganize their resources in a way that achieves the desired goal.


The term ‘dissociate’ means to separate into discrete parts.  Dissociation is about being disconnected.  An example of ‘dissociation’ is when a tire is removed from a car, it is dissociated from the identifier of ‘car.’   The tire could be used for some other purpose.  If it were, it would dissociated from ‘car.’

It is considered beneficial among practitioners of NLP to intentionally separate parts of an unresourceful experience from one another as in closing your eyes or plugging your ears to dissociate from external visual and auditory stimuli.  Dissociation can help a person gain perspective.  This is usually achieved by limiting, shifting, or refocusing attention.  Focusing on an internal fantasy, for example, might be an effective way to control pain for example.

Dissociative Conditions

In Psychology, a number of diagnostic issues are described as ‘dissociative’ in nature.  In dissociated states, some part of a person’s experience is disconnected from the main body or identity of a person or his/her belief systems.  The term often refers to a break or detachment from reality or one’s own emotional experience.  Another example would be a person who is dissociated from his/her conscious and unconscious processes as in sleepwalking and some forms of amnesia.

In cases of ‘dissociate’ states, unwanted habitual patterns tend to be deeply entrenched beyond conscious control.  Hypnosis may often induce dissociated states.  Daydreaming while driving a car might be an example.  Therapeutic processes from Transactional Analysis and Gestalt Therapy identify parts of a person labeled Adult, Free Child, and Adaptive Child ego states.  In one of these therapeutic models, parts can be separated out and labelled ‘Critical Parent’ and ‘Nurturing Parent.’  Once separated out, these parts have roles to play that are familiar to the subject as very much like Mother and/or Father or whoever fulfilled these roles in childhood.  In the demonstration, they operate separately from the primary identity of the person.  An extreme example of dissociation is what used to be called ‘split personality.’

Different levels of experience may be dissociated as in the difference between holding particular values and failing to act on those values.  A person may appear incongruent, inconsistent, or hypocritical.  A problem in some of these cases is that the person does not always have access to feedback, so the ability of the person or system to self-correct is limited.  The value or ‘usefulness’ of dissociation, from the NLP perspective, is in producing the perception of difference.  It can be useful to sort or separate aspects of experience so that the person disconnects and reconnects pieces of experience in order to change or create meaning.  The person can then choose to shift experience and explore new possibilities.  When experience reconnects, the person can then form new feedback loops and self-correct. He or she may gain perspective.


Disassociation may be thought of as separating various components of subjective experience from the larger identity of the person.  The NLP Life Change Pattern, Failure to Feedback Loop allows a person to separate the visual and verbal components away from unpleasant emotional responses of that experience.  The person can then replay the experience without the connection to the feelings that would normally arise.  The person remains intact or regains access to being fully whole and resourceful.  It is interesting to note that this is the opposite of ‘synesthesia’ where sensory representations are overlapping or combining.

Here is the V-K Disassociation Pattern:

Find someone to work with (client, subject) who has a fear response. Sort for a fear response or state that is difficult for that person to get out of or disassociate from. This could be from a traumatic event.

  1. Establish an anchor for the “right here now” state.  In addition, anchor a “calm and relaxed” state as a “bail-out” anchor. Either anchor can be fired if at any time the person gets stuck (associated) in a past event.
  2. Ask the person to remember a time when the ‘fear response’ occurred…a specific time when that reaction occurred. Anchor the state.  Note: Be ready to fire your bail -out anchor if necessary to break from the state.
  3. Break state.  Test the Anchor.  Break state.  When you fire the ’fear response’ anchor (test), it should produce the state.
  4. Disassociate. Step out of it and put it on a movie screen 
in front of you.  Note whether the intensity is lessened.
  5. Run the movie from the beginning to the most traumatic part and freeze the frame.
  6. Go to a disassociated position.  Have the person (you) 
float out of the ‘watching the movie screen’ position and imagine standing somewhere behind that ’you.’  Anchor the disassociated state.
  7. Have the person allow the movie to run over and over while staying in the disassociated position until he or she learns something new or not previously remembered.  Fully access the new leanings/resources.

Optional: Run the movie backwards making the scene smaller and at the same time fade the contrast until the scene is a small dot. Notice that intensity of feeling decreases.

  • Talk to the younger self on the screen. “I am from your tomorrow and this is what I have learned…(your words)”.  Nurture and comfort the younger self.  Bring the younger self on the screen with the new learnings (resources) into the present self. Optional: Fire the “bail- out” anchor for ‘calm and relaxed’ just as the person comforts the younger self.
  • CHECK your work and FUTURE PACE.