May 23, 2009
Multiplicity has made it into the Soap Opera world.
On the soap opera, “One Life to Live”, the character named Jessica Buchanan has Dissociative Identity Disorder. In earlier episodes, Jessica spent a fair bit of time in an inpatient hospital unit addressing her trauma, her grief, etc. According to Jessica, she resolved her difficult emotional issues and dealt with her internal system conflicts so sufficiently that she was able to integrate. Her small internal system agreed that it was time for them to tuck back inside, and even though the viewing audience knew that Jessica had at least one more huge unresolved traumatic secret, Jess went about enjoying her life as if she was completely healed.
For what appeared to be months of time, Jessica looked and acted as if she was integrated. Bess and Tess were nowhere to be found – she was only Jess. She felt like she was completely integrated. She believed it. Her family believed it. Her best friends believed it.
Did you believe it?
Anyone that knows anything about real multiplicity and dissociation should not have believed it.
Why was it inevitable that Jessica’s alleged integration would fail?
Because she had unresolved trauma, and she was still holding a secret from herself. This wasn’t a small secret – it was a huge secret involving the death of a child and criminal behavior.
Jess was still unaware of what Bess did. Tess knew a portion of the story, but not the whole thing. Both Tess and Bess knew they hadn’t told Jess. Jess didn’t know that she didn’t know.
Frankly, Jess-Tess-Bess are still a big mess. But it’s a soap opera, so I wouldn’t expect anything less.
The point is this. When the parts of the system hold important, traumatic, and/or emotionally distressful information from each other, and from the host personality, there is no way that a genuine integration can occur. Holding this kind of secret from yourself means that you are keeping dissociative barriers and amnesiac walls.
Maintaining dissociative walls is not possible in real integration. The very definition of integration means there are no more dissociative walls holding back secret information.
So of course, for Jessica, Bess and Tess would return. They couldn’t not return. If they could have kept anything and everything totally controlled and not let any kind of trigger or reminder occur, they might have been able to stay hidden inside, but that is unrealistic. Unresolved, unprocessed trauma is much more likely to get triggered repeatedly until those memories are resolved.
In your healing journey, there will be trauma issues to sort out and address, but remember, until the whole of your system is aware of what happened to everyone else, you will still have dissociative walls. As long as you have dissociative walls, you cannot be considered integrated.
Questions to think about:
- If you could talk to Jessica, what would you say to her? What would you recommend to her?
- Do you relate to Jessica’s desire to be integrated, and yet still not want to know what has happened in your past?
- Have you heard the stories and life experiences of every one of your internal parts?
- Have your insiders listened to the stories and life experiences of each other?
- Are you refusing to listen to certain parts? Why or why not?
- While there are obviously important reasons to pace your healing work, are you intending to listen to every memory that your insiders remember and need to talk about?
- Would you prefer to continue to “not know”? If so, how do you define what is necessary for your healing?
Kathy Broady LCSW