How Needs, Communication & Beliefs Impact Dissociation


3 Crucial Factors Shape Dissociation and Dissociative Functions


Needs drive us.

Beliefs tell us how to drive.

Communication helps us ask and understand directions so we know where we’re going.

Dissociation makes it possible to ignore your headache or the crying child in the backseat as you drive, enabling you to keep driving during a crisis, until safety is reached.

Once the crisis ends, the survival function of Dissociation ceases to serve its’ original purpose. Unprocessed dissociation can later leak bits of the past into the present, causing actions, thoughts, and/or behaviours that can in turn create such nasty interferences and/or trauma that you then need to dissociate the effects of them!


This repetitive cycle of Dissociative Effects creating problems that result in more Dissociative Effects is at the root of a great many individual and societal ills.

This is where addictions, abuse, crime and more are built, and where they connect, when a cascade of dissociative effects forms a larger cluster of symptoms, and the whole intricate network of connections and disconnections, associations and dissociations becomes self-sustaining.

At the heart of all forms of Dissociation, the common denominator is survival level self-protection and self-preservation that always involves 3 crucial core factors: Needs, Communication, and Beliefs.


Factor 1: Needs


Daily Survival = Basic Needs and Drives 

Understanding how our basic needs drive us naturally leads to wiser choices, and benefits inevitably appear, because human nature instinctively drives us forward to ever better things. At the same time however, this driving human need to improve, grow, create, invent, and make our lives better also forces us to ever increasing degrees of Dissociation, ever more variations in how it manifests.





In his Hierarchy of Needs that Drive people, Abraham Maslow taught that people, like other life-forms, have no choice but to do all they can to meet their own basic survival needs. The degree to which each of us feels successful within the framework of our individual beliefs, the degree to which we feel happy and safe, is the degree to which we are able to move on beyond survival needs into higher needs, into love and belonging, compassion, cooperation, and community.

Factor 2. Communication

It is my experience that basic survival needs include not only food, water, sleep, shelter, safety, and a sense of self, of being loved, and of belonging, but equally importantly, we need sufficient understanding and communication skills to make our way in the world.

Communication is a vital needs meeting skill and tool. Basic communication is a survival need – inherently challenging but critically necessary, since we need to communicate to meet our needs, survive, progress, etc, and to fit in, feel we belong, and meet our needs for community and contribution. How well we are able to meet our needs depends upon how well we are able to communicate about them.



This visual model depicts how our needs, life experiences, beliefs, etc interact to color our communication and act as filters – both incoming and outgoing, for all participants.
Non-Violent Communication (NVC) (Also called Compassionate Communication)  For healthy needs-based communication, Marshall Rosenburg’s “Language of Peace” is a great tool that focuses on the needs driving us, providing a simple method to connect with and find new ways to meet the needs of all involved. Learn more about NVC and the Center for Nonviolent Communication: An International Organization at
About NVC Information Handout

Factor 3. Beliefs

Beliefs are central to both the Dissociative Function and to the ways in which Dissociative Effects take shape in your life.

We learn our ways of meeting our needs through our life experiences.
Our life experiences shape our beliefs about how to meet our needs.
How are Beliefs Formed?
As we grow, we naturally adopt the beliefs of those around us, in our homes, families, and communities, taking on their values, morals, and methods to meet our needs.

What are Beliefs – what do they do?

Beliefs are key – the foundations upon which we build. They tell us how to meet our needs, serve as our baseline for what is or is not acceptable, how to get what we want, how to stay safe. Our beliefs create our habits, patterns, behaviours, and ways of thinking and being. They tell us what to trust, what to fear, what to think, feel, say and do to belong, succeed, be happy, and avoid getting hurt or being “losers.”                

Our beliefs also create our affiliations and help us to know who we are, what we like, and who we want to associate with. They are critical to our sense of belonging. They color our relationships, shape our laws, spark wars and divisions. Differing beliefs are often the source of, and justification for, nasty stuff – hurt, anger, denial, force, violence, war, discrimination. Beliefs can make or break a project, a relationship, a business, a system, a person. Like our needs, our beliefs literally control our lives!

Beliefs are critical hinge-pins, and unless we consciously work with our beliefs, especially the dissociated ones, our unconscious beliefs will win out over our desired thoughts every time. As we follow our beliefs to meet our needs, we naturally and necessarily disconnect and dissociate some of our awareness to at least some degree. In the process, we may also dissociate our awareness of destructive or limiting patterns that interfere with or outright control our lives, especially the most challenging, difficult ones – those that are embarrassing, hurtful, fearful, or otherwise overwhelming or unbearably damaging to us or our lives.  It isn’t a conscious process, but it means our lives are determined by our beliefs, whether or not we actually chose them for ourselves.


So now, ask yourself:

Are your beliefs serving you, helping you meet your needs?

Or are they instead messing up your life in some way/s?


Decide consciously whether to follow the beliefs you have, or if it’s time to find new beliefs that better serve you now.


Notice and accommodate the beliefs of others too, remembering they are simply what each person has learned through experience, and that their experience had to be different than yours!


Where the 3 Factors Converge


The 3 crucial factors of Needs, Communication, and Beliefs together form the nucleus of the Dissociative Survival Function, determining when and how dissociation manifests in our lives and communities. Without conscious effort, it is impossible to separate our instinctive survival needs and drives, and our beliefs and communication about meeting them. They are bound together with dissociation every day, in every area of our lives. We can learn to recognize and understand Dissociation at work though, for the betterment of all.


When seen through the lens of Dissociation, the beliefs, needs, and communication we evidence ourselves, or witness in others, provide us with keys to understanding ourselves and each other. It becomes readily apparent that each of us is simply doing our best to meet the basic needs we all share, based on our communication skills and our beliefs about how to meet these needs. In a more complex but similar manner to stereotypes, a dissociation-based perspective helps us categorize and make sense of who we are, what we do and why we do it, and helps us recognize that full agreement with another is not a prerequisite to resolve conflict or find a meeting ground. This in turn enables us to think outside the box, and connect to and free our beliefs, needs, and communication to better guide and aid us.


When serving only its healthy functions, Dissociation is helpful to us.

Now however, individually and collectively, we urgently need to lessen the massive toll the Spectrum of Dissociative Effects take in our  lives and societal systems and structures.

To this end, we must come to understand this valuable information and appropriately apply it in new ways, practically incorporating it in what we do and how we do it. (see The Moral of My Story for ideas.)


Change then flows naturally and healthy shifts occur easily and organically!