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NLP FAQ's / Help Center

Related Questions

What does Association vs. Dissociation mean?

Association and dissociation are fundamentally perceptual positions.

People generally have a default preference for associating or disassociating, as well as context dependent preferences. Like other skills, the ones we use most often are the strongest.


Association represents the shift of the attentional focus inward (to somatic sensations)

Association is useful for getting "into" experiences fully, feeling the feelings, seeing the sights, hearing the sounds, etc. It is important both for relationships and internal congruency.

Problems arise in the overuse of association when a person gets "stuck" in a perceptual position which is unpleasant, painful, inappropriate, confused, or in some other way negative. People with strong skills in associating, but relatively weak skills in disassociating, may be more likely to use external substances, ritualized behaviors or excessive means to help them disassociate from their experience -- rather than internal skills in moving between perceptual positions.

In a sense, it can be said that a person is always associated with one perceptual position or another. Dissociation would be, then, being associated into a 3rd or 4th perceptual position -- that of "standing off from" or "out of" an experience as an observer.


Dissociation represents the shift of the attentional focus outward (away from somatic  sensations).

Dissociation is useful for such things as perspective, meditation, pain management, and behaving effectively in certain kinds of difficult or dangerous situations.

As with any skill, learning a brand new one often involves effort and some level of discomfort or frustration before the skill gets to the point of easy competence. Whether a person is more adept at associating or disassociating, learning the other skill may feel unfamiliar or awkward at first precisely because moving between perceptual positions is not something most of us were taught at an earlier age at home or in school.

Problems which arise in the overuse of disassociation may include lack of empathy, "inability" to connect well in relationships, limited awareness of one's own emotions, or a loss of joy and passion for life. In the extreme, disassociation is a feature of sociopathy.

The ability to move with intention between association and dissociation is sometimes described as "a doorway" to a world of rich learning and new capabilities.

Other Types of Meta Programs include:

  • Options and Procedures: Some people like to make up things as they go along, while others prefer a routine.

  • In-Time and Thru-Time: Some people prefer to be “in the moment” and fully engaged, while others are planning their next moves and future.

  • Detail and Global: Some people prefer the details, while others prefer a map of the bigger picture.

  • Feeling and Thinking: Some people prefer to feel their way through things and rely on intuition, while others prefer to think their way through things.

  • Sameness and Difference: Some people easily see how things are the same, while others more easily see how things are different.

  • Convincer Strategy: This meta-program involves what it takes to convince someone of something.

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