“As an undergraduate student in psychology, I was taught that multiple personalities were a very rare and bizarre disorder. That is all that I was taught on ... It soon became apparent that what I had been taught was simply not true. Not only was I meeting people with multiplicity; these individuals entering my life were normal human beings with much to offer. They were simply people who had endured more than their share of pain in this life and were struggling to make sense of it.”
― Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook
Grounding techniques are techniques that are used to prevent, dull, or distract from dissociation, flashbacks, switching, panic attacks, self harm, addiction cravings, or other negative emotions, internal experiences, or impulses. They work by engaging the senses and occupying the mind in a non-destructive fashion. Many grounding techniques are subtle and can be done anywhere without other people noticing, though some rely on specific sensory experiences or are made available through specific apps for phones or ipads. Grounding techniques are not the same as processing techniques and do not involve getting in touch with one's emotions or struggles. Instead, they help to orient one in the present and to achieve a healthy medium between being cut off from or overwhelmed by emotions.
Some people find that some grounding techniques work better for them than do others, and some grounding techniques may be more helpful in some situations than in others (such as a technique being more useful for dissociation than for panic attacks). Some techniques may become more effective with practice. As well, grounding techniques may be easier to use when an individual first begins noticing the signs that grounding might be necessary. If someone is experiencing an intense flashback, it can be harder for them to realize what grounding techniques are available to them and which are likely to be effective, to carry out a grounding technique, or to even understand that grounding is an option.
Knowing what situations are likely to trigger a negative emotional response, dissociation, or flashbacks and having grounding techniques prepared can help to prevent being too overwhelmed in the moment. Having easy access to tools that one often uses to ground can also help, as can having phone apps that walk one through the process of grounding. In some cases, one's friends, partners, medical professionals, or other caring individuals can help, especially if the individual worked out a plan with them beforehand. Finally, keep in mind that sometimes grounding may need to be combined with temporarily removing oneself from an unnecessarily stressful or overwhelming situation, choosing a different topic of conversation, removing some sources of sensory overload or environmental triggers, or taking a nap or going to sleep for the night if one is stretched too thin to ground in the moment on their own. There's no shame in sometimes needing to change one's circumstances instead of trying to cope with everything as it is. Learning when to ground and when to look for other ways to feel and stay safe is an important skill. More can be addressed by grounding alone through practice and with time.
Mental Distraction Techniques
Sensory-Based Grounding Techniques
Movement-Based Grounding Techniques
How to Make a Grounding Box
A list of positive affirmations and happy memories
In the Case of a Flashback