• Mary Anderson

How Dissociation Is Like Ice Cream

By Mary Anderson

Many people refer to different aspects of themselves as parts: “Some part of me didn’t want to do that,” for example. Yet how different this is from my dissociative parts.

In trying to explain the difference between the parts that we all seem to have inside of us and the parts that I have due to dissociation from childhood abuse, I came up with this analogy:

Many people’s “parts” are like vanilla and chocolate ice cream that has been slightly melted and swirled together, all in one box. Despite the obvious distinction between the two, it is difficult to separate them. They are entwined.

For others, their “parts” are like a vanilla/chocolate creamy: a bit separate but swirled together on one cone.

Others are like Neapolitan ice cream: all very separate in the same box.

Then there is dissociation like mine, My ice cream is not even in the same box. And some of the boxes get shipped to different stores. Some of us live in 1960 New Jersey. Some boxes hold crying babies. Others have cutoff emotions, and still others have small children, such as a five-year-old boy or a young girl. Getting them all together in one bowl is a challenge.


Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she undertook in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2021 and will undertake the northern half this year. Read more of Mary's story.

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