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Grounding Techniques

Dissociation is very nearly the antithesis of grounding, centering and being present. Grounding techniques can help mitigate the effects of extreme dissociative episodes where you experience distancing from your body, your environment, your sense of reality, or the people around you.

The idea is to get fully present in the Here & Now New to the best of your ability. Here's some typical grounding techniques/ideas, of course not all of these ideas will work for every system — your specific past experiences could make some of these triggers instead of grounding so you need to experiment and know your system's reactions to different techniques:

"Three Inches to the Left New"
For folks with somatic flashbacks, or chronic pain, grounding in your body may be "too much". This technique by The Crisses helps you be "alongside" your body but not fully in it.
Mindfulness meditation
The art of being fully present in this moment, paying full sensory attention to what is right in front of you and what is happening moment-by-moment. There is nothing but now. The past is gone, the future isn't here yet. Stay in "Now" and what is right in front of you. Taste what you eat. Hear the sounds in your immediate environment. Feel the floor or chair beneath you. Get fully into your body.
Some people ground well with music, when you are fully present to and listening to music, you are in the now. Music can assist one in grounding, becoming more "real" (as opposed to the dissociative experience of derealization) especially if you choose power ballots or music that you enjoy. Listening to complicated arrangements may help, where you can tune in to different instruments — so for some folk, classical orchestral music is grounding. Your mileage may vary, but this is commonly good for grounding.
Smells can be very common/strong triggers (depending on your personal traumatic experiences), but when they aren't a trigger, they can also help one ground. So you can choose common "grounding" scents like lavender, cinnamon, patchouli, or whatever scents or essential oils help you. Use essential oils in a diffuser to prolong the effect so you can thoroughly ground again. Be careful if burning incense and make sure that you place it on a fireproof surface. You can choose soaps, scented candles (again, only use with appropriate caution) and other items that help change the scents in your environment and help you ground. We (the Crisses) have set out grapefruit-scented candles without burning them just to "clean the air" in the same way lemon sorbet "cleanses the palate".
The use of smoke (or diffused-oil water spray as an alternative for where you can't burn anything) to "scrub" the air and energies that surround all things including people (aura, spirit). One can smudge both one's environment and one's body. Traditional smudging with white sage &/or cedar is thought to be grounding. The scent may help you ground, the smoke cleanses away negative energies and has a protective quality. Follow fire safety protocols unless using a "spray smudge" which is usually distilled water and essential oils — don't get it in your eyes.
Sensory stimulation
Rocking, swinging, weighted blankets, certain types of fabrics, hugging (stuffies, pets, pillows, yourself, or other people), taking a bath or shower, exercise, self-massage or self-touch, eating crunchy foods, chewing (a safe chewable object!) or a pacifier (adult versions are available at, etc.
Walking on the bare earth with bare feet. (Usually comes with a side order of sun exposure which can raise vitamin D levels and is also a great wellness support)
Holistic therapies
Yoga, massage, acupuncture, reiki, etc. can help you learn to ground. You may be able to find mindfulness instruction/classes in your area — sometimes even for free. Try your local library, or mental health non-profits for resources.
Five Senses Exercise or 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This intentionally turns the attention of the fronter to their physical surroundings, helping to ground them in the body as well as in the Here and Now. Combining this exercise with a walk in the neighborhood or a park can make it even more enjoyable and effective.
Any activity that fully engages a person's mental and sensory skills can be used as a grounding exercise. There are many intricate coloring books that help to engage focus and creativity through sight. Knitting or crocheting require attention and are also very tactile activities that help to focus the sense of touch. Cooking engages all of the senses, however, with the potential dangers of knives and heat, there must be a fairly strong connection to the Here and Now already established.
Note: avoid guided meditations/visualizations, past-life regression, and hypnosis. Folk who are on the strong end of the dissociative experiences scale are usually highly hypnotizable and open to suggestion, and need practitioners who are highly trusted and aware of how to interact with DID/OSDD systems before employing these techniques.


This page has contributions from The Sandhill Cranes, 2020.

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