December 31, 2010
Happy New Year!!
Hi Everyone –
How was 2010? Was it a good year for you? Was it a rough year for you? Hmmmm…. Do you remember what kind of year it was for you? (lol, teasing. That’s a joke for dissociative people, lol).
Everyone, quick – check inside. Do they know how your year was?
In all seriousness, if you are unsure or blank, try asking your inner people what the year (or any particular timeframe) was like. What do you hear when you ask them? Do you hear a bunch of responses? Are your insiders remembering things? Are they mentioning things that are different from what you remembered?
Your insiders will remember bits of history that you won’t remember. Incidents that occurred while they were out may very well be contained only in their memory instead of yours. This is why having good internal communication is important. The more you know your insiders, the more you are able to speak with them, or listen to them, the more you can know what has happened in the whole of your life. Talk to your insiders regularly (about the simple, everyday type things) so when you need to know something more specific, you will have the relationship and rapport needed for them to be able to share their history with you as well.
As for 2011…
I wish the best for you.
I wish you peace in your mind.
I wish you moments of quiet, and hours of genuine relaxation.
I hope you will build friendships with your insiders.
I hope that you will find the courage to look behind those blocks.
I hope that you have more kindness and acceptance than you have ever had before.
I challenge you to talk to each and every insider that you have.
I challenge you to reach out to others and help someone else in their healing journey.
I challenge you to improve your health mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
I encourage you to be gentle, and to remember the power of compassion and understanding.
I encourage you to make the world a better place, no matter where you are, or what you’re doing.
What eleven things do you wish and hope for?
I hope that 2011 is truly a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
And from Emma – she is sending the warmest of thoughts your way…
From Oliver – he’s celebrating the New Year with a straw, as only silly Oliver can do…
From the snuggly puppies, sleeping in a pile, when they were still about two weeks old.
Are you smiling yet?
Here’s hopes for the happiest of New Years!!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
August 8, 2010
In situations where dissociative survivors feel like they don’t lose time, it can be helpful to ask a lot of questions about how they experience life, time, recall, etc. There are a wide variety of reasons why systems get so tightly shut down from switching, (or from the appearance of switching), so it really depends on what else is going on. There could be other ways that the insiders are coming out, and for reasons that would take a lot of exploration, the inside parts could be hiding themselves from the host personalities.
Sleeping can mask a lot of switching.
Switching during your sleep is one way of losing time when you don’t know that you are losing time.
This is not sleep-walking. Certain parts of the dissociative system are sleeping deep inside, but the body of the dissociative person is actually awake and at least one part of the system is completely aware of what is happening. It may be that one layer of the system is awake while other layers of the system believe they are sleeping. While some parts sleep, other parts are awake and actively involved with activities.
If you have dissociative identity disorder, how many hours of the day do you sleep? Even though you assume you are sleeping, are you really asleep?
Sometimes dissociative survivors will tell me they sleep long hours everyday or they take frequent naps. With careful examination of that sleeping time, it is not unusual for the hosts to adamantly believe they are sleeping, while other parts of the system wake up, get up, and go about their own activities. When the insiders are finished with their tasks, they lay back down, go back to sleep. A few minutes (or hours) later, the host wakes back up, with absolutely no awareness that other parts were out and active during what felt like “sleep time”.
- The host can feel like they were just dreaming.
- Or they may wonder why they aren’t feeling rested after such a long sleep.
- Or certain inside parts truly blocked the loss of time from the other parts of the system.
- Or the host parts “thought” they were resting, and would say, yes, they were doing that, but when they actually think about it, they don’t remember actually doing it.
This type of sleep-hidden switching can also happen for DID survivors sleep in shorter chunks of time as well. If someone is “always tired”, it is easy enough to hide the additional hours of waking by the normal feeling of “I’m always tired”.
Sometimes, dissociative survivors just don’t think about how much time they are losing – it is a normal way of life, and calling attention to the time loss is what’s new and different. As far as they are concerned, they have always been dissociative, and they have always switched, they have always had missing chunks, they have always had to scramble or cover for missing information, and they have always slept weird hours. To think of life as a continuous state is completely foreign.
For treatment purposes, it is important for dissociative survivors to ask their systems why switching to other parts would need to be hidden and disguised through sleep.
- Why are these parts hiding so much from you?
- What are they doing?
- Are they going anywhere?
- What keeps them from doing whatever they need to do without having to make you “sleepy”?
- Why do you need to be asleep for them to be out?
- Is this a re-enactment from history or do they have their own lives going out completely outside of your awareness?
- What do they know that you don’t know?
- Who do they know that you don’t know?
Getting to know the parts on the other side of the dissociative sleep wall is important. Trying to build a connection and establish some version of communication with these insiders is essential for your healing.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
July 31, 2010
One of the diagnostic criteria for dissociative identity disorder is experiencing amnesia or lost time. While losing time may seem like an obvious hole in your every day life, it really might not be as obvious as it seems it could be.
For dissociative trauma survivors, the sliding of time is a normal everyday way of life. It just is how it is, and time feels very different for DID survivors than it does for other people. Dissociative survivors may or may not pay attention to the minutes that are gone, or the hours that have slid quietly by. They are very used to the ebb and flow, and unless there is reason to pay specific attention to the idea of lost time, they may not really be genuinely aware of how much time they lose.
Every dissociative survivor I have met has recognized specific periods of lost time in his or her life. Sometimes, multiples think they do not lose much time, but with a few detailed questions, it can soon enough be shown that there are very clear gaps in memory and awareness of regular life events. There will be everyday type things that they know they should know, but they don’t.
Some multiples will notice big chunks of time that seem to be gone. It will be 2 pm, and then suddenly, it’s 9 pm, and the survivor has no awareness of what happened during those seven hours. Those hours are considered lost time because they feel completely lost and unaccounted for. The host parts don’t remember what happened. If they look around, they might get some clues about what may have happened, but for the most part, it feels like time completely jumped seven hours ahead. Time feels lost to them because there is basically no information and no awareness about what happened.
Other times, DID survivors will feel like they are mostly aware of everything that happens through their day, but their ability to remember what happened yesterday, or even to remember what happened this morning, or an hour ago is extremely limited. This is a different kind of lost time in that the recall is so nonexistent that it becomes the same as lost time since the survivor has next to no idea what happened.
In both of these situations, time is being quantified from the perspective of the front host personality. Time loss can include other parts of the system as well, but the questions about lost time are typically addressed towards the host. This is an important distinction to remember.
Because you see, even though time feels lost to the front host personality, in all reality, time is not lost at all.
Yes, you read that right. Time is actually not lost. Time has not actually gone away. The DID survivor’s day is not shorter than everyone else’s day. Time has not disappeared in the way that it feels.
While we use the term “lost time” all the time, that is actually not what happens. In fact, no one with DID actually loses any time at all.
So where does the time go?
Actually, what happens is that the dissociative trauma survivors have switched to another part.
Yep, they’ve just switched.
Switching. Shifting from one part or another. “Transitioning” as US of Tara called it.
That’s all that happened. You’ve switched!
The hours of time can be completely accounted for if you know who was out and what they were doing. Time itself isn’t missing. What is missing is having the awareness or knowledge about who in your system was out doing what.
So when the host or front personalities are completely unaware of life events, and there is no knowledge of what has happened, they have simply switched to someone else in their system who is out and doing all kinds of things. The body is likely up and active, and any number of things could be happening. Someone inside the system will know exactly what happened between 2 pm and 9 pm!
For there to be “lost time”, this switch occurs with parts that are so dissociated and separated from the host personalities that the host personalities are not aware of what happened.
Actually, this kind of time loss / lack of awareness can happen between any part of the system with any other part of the system. Many of the insiders may not be at all aware of what the host personalities are doing either. Part of the reason for time distortion, triggers, and flashbacks is connected to the insiders not being aware of the outside life in the current day, place, or time.
Sometimes the lost time between these parts are just from not paying attention. For example, one set of parts can simply be daydreaming or drifting off, and simply not concentrating enough to be aware. Maybe they were choosing to have an internal nap or be otherwise internally occupied. However, if they actually tried to be aware of what was happening in the outside world, they may fully well have known exactly what happened during that lost time. Or with a little effort, they may have been able to get close enough to the front of the body to be aware enough to see, or hear, or know.
Other times, the dissociative walls / amnesiac walls are much thicker and less penetrable. In these situations, one set of parts does not want the others inside to know what is happening, and the blocks put between them are strong and absolute. Parts from within the internal system are specifically dividing themselves away from everyone else so everyone inside is not aware. If you have parts that are specifically hiding their activities from the rest of everyone else, this is an important issue to address in your therapy.
In my opinion, integration is not necessary for successful stable functioning. But, eliminating time loss and/or periods of unknown switching is important for exactly those reasons. It is ok that everyone within has their chance to do what they need to do, but it is also important to build the communication around what is happening. You all share the same life. Being more aware of what happens in that life is important.
So the next time you want to know what happened during that chunk of time that you don’t remember, ask inside. Ask who knows about it. Ask who was out, or who saw what happened. There will be someone inside that knows exactly what was happening during that chunk of “missing time”. You might need to work on increasing your internal communication with those parts, but once you know the others in your system, that time loss will decrease.
Even if the time loss is happens, but if you know who is out, that can help with knowing what happened. The more you know your whole system of insiders, the less unaccounted for time you will have.
Once again I’ll say, internal communication is the central core of treatment for dissociative identity disorder.
If you want to know what is going on, talk to each other!!!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
July 12, 2010
This article is written for the child parts of the DID survivors that read this blog.
Hey Kids, did you see the news yesterday? Hmmmm…. probably not, because most kids don’t watch the news. And because of that, I wanted to make sure to let you know about something I saw in the news that might interest you.
Look! Look! They found something that looks like a real unicorn!!
If you look here, you will find the video that talks more about it, and shows more pictures of it walking around in its natural forest home. This little unicorn guy was found in Italy, and I think he is being protected and tended to very carefully. That’s good, because there aren’t very many unicorns in the world!
What do you think it is?
Is it a real unicorn?
Is it a deericorn?
Maybe it’s a unideer.
Whatever it is, it is very cool!!!
Do you ever think about unicorns?
Do you have coloring books with unicorns in them?
What would you do if you saw a real unicorn?
And if you don’t like unicorns, what is your favorite animal?
Now I realize this little deer only looks like a unicorn, but so many kid parts talk about like unicorns that I just had to share it for everyone to see.
And for the older parts of the dissociative systems, it really is ok to let your child parts experience some of the positive wonders of the world. It is ok to let your child parts play, and to let them enjoy experiences. Simple pleasures like chocolate shakes, or yo-yo’s, or puzzle games, or teddy bears, or soccer balls can go a long ways in connecting with your child parts.
If you have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), your childhood was most likely interrupted by too much pain, grief, loss, trauma, betrayal, neglect, and hurt. As a child, your play times would have been few and far between, and you would have often felt too sad or hurt to play. Dissociative skills, dissociative walls, and dissociative amnesia could have separated some of the effects of the trauma from your awareness, but in all the years I have been working with multiples, I have never yet had any dissociative survivor tell me that she or he had lots of fun and play times as a child.
This is a very sad statement because having carefree playtime is a normal childhood need. It is actually important to proper growth and development. To miss out on playtime as a child means to have unmet needs.
To help meet some of those unmet needs, it is ok, and even therapeutically important to let your child parts have fun. Let them play. Let them enjoy some carefree activities. Let them learn how to have good times.
Even if you are an adult, it is not too late to let your kids have fun. Play is a normal part of growing up, and if this was stolen from you, letting your child parts play in the current day will help with your overall healing and sense of well being.
Giving your child parts the chance to play in the here and now is a corrective emotional experience for them. Corrective emotional experiences are experiences in the current day that help to correct the wrongs and fill the voids that were left after a childhood full of trauma and neglect. Corrective emotional experiences allow for healing, growth, and positive movement.
So go find a unicorn!
Go to a baseball game!
Watch a few cartoons!
Draw in your coloring books!
Play, have fun, and enjoy life for awhile!
Your whole system will feel better for it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 25, 2010
Last night I lost my keys in the office. It was a silly ordeal – they were hanging right where I last put them – but it took me awhile to remember where that was.
I had a little help finding them, and I am really thankful that Mr. Janitor Man was so very kind. He was patient with me, looking everywhere with me while I retraced my steps of the evening. We looked under couches, in between cushions, under pillows, through trash bins, in the fridge, in drawers, in cupboards, on shelves. I knew they had to be there – after all, I had just locked myself IN the building. I hadn’t gone anywhere because I needed my keys in order to unlock the door to get out of the building, so I knew they couldn’t be far.
But where were they?!
It took awhile, but I gradually got closer to the last place I left them, I remembered exactly where they were.
Success!! There they were – right where I left them.
And thank you, Mr. Janitor Man for your patience with me.
In order to find them, I simply had to stop and think about where I was when I last remembered having them, and go from there. My keys were just a few inches from that place.
Today, I had to wonder how my thought processes were the same – or different – from survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) who have to search for their lost keys.
A few weeks back, I was on the other side of this equation.
A DID survivor had lost her car keys for several days. She had looked everywhere. She had the feeling that they were still in the house, and remembered where She had last set them. But the car keys were nowhere to be found.
To help her sort through the lost key issue, She and I had an entirely different process than I did with Mr. Janitor Man.
She had already re-traced her steps best She could. It was clear the keys were not anywhere She thought they should be.
Because of the dissociative issues and system conflict in her life, there were several additional issues to consider:
- Had anyone inside moved the keys after She put them on the table?
- Were the insiders purposefully hiding the keys from her?
- Was this an issue of self-sabotage, system conflict, or simple dissociation?
- If She didn’t remember where the keys were put last, which insider did remember?
- If someone inside remembered, were they going to tell her?
- How long were the insiders going to keep this secret? Did they think that was funny?
- Were the keys sitting right there in plain sight, and was someone within her system purposefully blocking She’s vision?
- Was She simply “not allowed” to see where the keys were?
- Was someone inside hiding the car keys to keep her from driving?
- Why did they not want her to be able to drive?
- Was this a safety issue (to prevent some self-harm options that required a car)?
- Was this a power and control issue (“we can do what we want, and She can’t stop us”)?
- Were the insiders trying to sabotage and ruin She’s plans for the weekend?
- Was this a system punishment of some sort?
- Were the keys genuinely lost, and were all our questions about insider involvement way off track?
It became obvious that She didn’t know where the keys were. There was no use wasting more time asking her to find them on her own.
Asking inside – asking the parts in She’s system – to tell her where they were wasn’t working either. Everyone was quiet inside, and no one was willing to say where the keys were.
The only feeling that She got in response to the questions was that the keys were still in the house. She had noticed She could feel a little rise in tension when She looked in the kitchen. She was guessing the keys were there, but She still had no idea. She had looked everywhere in the kitchen – a few times – and still couldn’t find them.
She asked her insiders again, and again – and still no one would cooperate with a direct answer. Where should She look in the kitchen? Should She keep looking in the kitchen? Now what?
It was beginning to get clearer that either someone was hiding the keys on purpose from She. It was also becoming clear that others inside were feeling too scared of Key-Hider to tell She where the keys were. The awkward silence was very telling.
We tried directly asking Key-Hider where the keys were. The only response to that question was a bit cheeky. “If I wanted the keys hidden from her, why would I tell you where they are?” Oh ok. Got that message loud and clear. So Key-Hider wasn’t going to cooperate.
Hmmmmm. Now what?
I asked She to go stand in the kitchen. Since it appeared that the insiders didn’t feel like they could show She where the keys were – She was clearly not supposed to see the hiding spot – we didn’t go against that rule. Instead, we respected that rule. I asked She to close her eyes. I spoke to the insiders through She. They were, of course, listening behind her. As a rule of thumb, when talking to any part of the DID system, expect that there will be others listening in the background, even if the part you are speaking with is not aware of anyone else being near.
I asked She to keep her eyes closed, and to put her hands out to feel around in the kitchen. With DID, one part can be in charge of the most of the body, while someone else can gain control of the hands (or any other part of the body). I reminded She that this was possible, and encouraged her to let someone pass through her to be in charge of the hands.
While She and her insiders were rummaging through kitchen areas, I continued to speak to the inside system. I reminded them that She was not looking, that She could not see anything, and that they would not be breaking the rule of showing She where the keys were located, but I asked them to work together as a team. Together, they were searching the kitchen for the car keys.
One of the things I mentioned to the Insiders was asking them if anyone else saw the Key-Hider hide the keys. By this time it was clear that Key-Hider wasn’t being supportive of She. Key-Hider was not going to say where the keys were hidden, and Key-Hider was acting more in direct opposition to She. I asked for those who were willing to be kind and helpful to She to think about what they saw from behind the scenes, fully expecting that someone inside could have seen where Key-Hider put the keys. I asked if any of the Helpers saw Key-Hider hide the keys, and if any of the Helpers could help She to find them. I continued to remind She to keep her eyes closed, and to let the Helpers find the keys through her hands with their hands.
Within about fifty seconds, She giggled. She could hear the keys, and once She was holding the keys, She was allowed to open her eyes.
After being missing for days, the keys were found!
She was thrilled, to say the least.
She mentioned that the most significant things I said were that She herself didn’t have to be told or shown where the keys were and that Key-Hider wasn’t put on the spot with demands for immediate answers or cooperation. The idea that we could completely obey the rules, respect the opposition, and yet go around the rules by working with the other Insiders made a huge difference. She said she would not have thought about asking her insiders for help, but it made all the difference.
So what’s the moral of the story?
- If you are DID, remember that there are many others in there, and some of them will be on your side.
- Even if you feel like others are against you, there will be some that will help you.
- Using system communication, talking together, approaching problem-solving as a team will be more effective than you trying to work out issues alone.
- Talk to each other!
- Work together!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
March 8, 2010
This set of picture-postcards demonstrates a passage through time for a trauma survivor with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD).
These pictures show different phases of the dissociative healing process, and illustrate how healing occurs. Notice that they move from a more shattered, painful, chaotic place to a calmer, structured, organized place. Where there is originally nothing but a fragmented sense of self, there later becomes a clear sense of personal identity.
The first picture-postcard has a mixture of colored pieces of all different shapes and sizes. Some pieces are more jagged, some are rounded. The mosaic nature of this design would automatically lead to many of the same questions as asked about the DID “Self Portrait” picture. For example, I would ask what the different colors represented, what the different shapes represented, if there was communication (or not) between the different pieces, if the black stitching between the colored blocks had a specific meaning, etc.
For this top picture, there are two specific shapes that I would ask more questions about. There is a definite triangle that points upward and spreads out down towards the bottom of the picture. Triangles can have a variety of meanings, and I would like to hear what this DID artist had in mind. The triangle also has layers to it. Does this have anything to do with the internal system layering?
For example, in the triangle shape that I see, the top two layers are yellow, followed by a green / blue layer, followed by a black layer, followed by a red layer. The placement of these colors could be purely metaphorical or accidental, but I could see this layering as representing important system functions and emotions.
A purely hypothetical system description could include the following ideas. The yellow layers are the happy front parts – the façade layers, the denial parts, the “I’m fine, nothing is wrong here” type of system parts. The blues and the greens could be parts of the system that know a lot of information, do a lot of the everyday work / functioning jobs of the system, etc. These parts know plenty of the historical trauma information but have to keep helping everyone manage life. They can feel some emotions, but work hard to not get overwhelmed or overloaded with emotions. The black layer could be a layer of depression, sadness, grief, anger, or amnesia, dissociated information, deeper internal controls, etc. The red layer could be more intense amounts of pain, anger, fury, trauma information, details about the abuse, etc.
The second shape that could have particular relevance is the large black shape with the blue tip. These pieces have an obvious phallic appearance to them. I would ask the artist if they intended this to be the case (chances are, they hadn’t even noticed that!), and then I would ask them questions pertaining to sexual abuse issues. If this symbol does specifically represent sexual abuse, it is clear how the abuse has been such a huge part of their lives. Just like this black piece is, in some ways, the foundational piece of the whole picture, it might feel like the sexual abuse has been the defining issue in this person’s life.
I see a lot of pain in this picture. The artist does not give the sense of happiness, of calmness peace of mind. The jagged pointy edges remind me of cutting, and I would be asking a lot of questions about self-injury.
There has been clear movement from the first picture to the second. Notice how the like colors are starting to get grouped closer together, creating a more cohesive look. There is much more green in this picture, and while the real meaning of that depends on how the artist interprets the colors, to me, it represents a lot of growth. I see a lot of progress being made in this picture. The trauma survivor has clearly been working on their healing issues, and they have been doing a lot of dissociative system work. Things are starting to come together for them.
In phase two, to me, the person is still feeling broken and dissociated, but she is not nearly as overwhelmed with the pain as before. The blue can seen as representing the teamwork efforts being accomplished by the internal system. There are still some missing chunks of time (as seen in the gaps of the blue), but the dissociative person is truly building good internal communication and has built solid connections between the internal parts. This dissociative person is starting to find herself, and she is building a sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-identity. As a system, they are definitely doing good work!
There are still several big jagged sharp points, possibly indicating a lot of pain, upset, questions, intense feelings, etc. The phallic shaped pieces in this picture are more obvious, which could be interpreted to mean that the DID artist is clearly addressing their sexual abuse issues. This survivor is aware of the sexual abuse issues, and the healing their sexual abuse trauma is the center of their healing work. While the trauma is still prominent, it is not overwhelming them as much as it used to. They aren’t finished with their healing, but they are making excellent progress. There is less black, and more brown, which feels to me like this person is becoming aware of more and more of the information related to their trauma. They “aren’t in the dark” as much as they used to be and life is feeling much more hopeful.
Even with all the progress, I would still ask this survivor about their suicidal feelings. The sharp points are very painful, and while the survivor may not be using self-injury behaviors as much, they may still have intense moments of suicidal ideation. It appears they are building good coping skills, and not in as high risk of following through with these suicidal thoughts, but the feelings are still there from time to time.
This third picture represents the final stages of healing from dissociative identity disorder and sexual abuse. It is hopeful, and shows how everything is coming together for this person. Notice the strength of the center of the picture. All of the colors connect with the other colors and the ability to share information is accomplished easily. Time loss, time distortion, memory gaps are not likely to be a problematic issue anymore.
The C appears to represents the host of the system, or the main “front” person, the leader of the system, or who the person wants to be as a whole. Notice how the front is a whole self, and is clearly and firmly planted in front of any of the others. This C person is now confident as the leader of her system, and presents well out in the external world.
The internal system behind the C is cooperative, quiet, calm, organized, peaceful, etc. The ability to work together, and provide information to the front C self, seems abundantly clear.
I would ask this survivor if the colors still represent the same things as they did in the earlier pictures. The meanings may or may not have changed at this point.
What I see is that the survivor is more aware of all the things she feels. C doesn’t dissociate like she used to anymore. For example, if the red still represents her pain or anger, C is aware of having those feelings, and she can acknowledge their existence, sitting with them, without letting them overtake her, or without having to dissociate them away. C has built the ability to connect with her intense feelings, and this is an incredible accomplishment. C might have times of dark depression or sadness, for example, but again, these moments do not overtake her ability to live her life as she wants it to be.
Notice that there is no obvious phallic shaped symbol in this picture-postcard. The trauma issues are resolved in a much more quiet way, and while C knows about her past, the idea of being a sexual abuse survivor doesn’t have to be the center of her life anymore. She has been able to resolve many of her trauma issues, and lay these to rest, moving on with her life.
The front of the C is facing the yellow and greens, indicating growth, progress, healing, movement, happiness, and enjoying life. C is moving forward into better times! The darkness and pain are more behind her (the black, red and brown are towards the back of the C). While life is probably never going to be perfect for this person, she is hopeful, and she is doing well.
The Moral of the Story
Will C create a fourth picture-postcard?
We’ll have to ask her!
The point of these wonderful hand-made picture postcards is obvious. The healing process for dissociative identity disorders works. It helps. Trauma survivors lives can become better. Healing does happen. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of time, but you really can feel better, and have an improved quality of life.
Take the point from C – if she can do it, you can too!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
October 10, 2009
Are you a leader?
Do you know what it takes to be a leader?
Multiples – trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder – experience life as plural. Dissociative systems may be internal sets of people, but they are still groups of people nonetheless.
All groups of people need a leader they can look up to – someone they can trust, someone they can depend on, someone with their best interests in mind even when times get tough. These leaders help to make decisions that affect everyone else. They hopefully will decide things on that are the best for the majority of the people within their group. And these leaders need to care enough about what their people want and need in order to make good decisions.
Dissociative systems need leaders too.
Who is the leader of your system?
And what does it take to be a good leader?
A leader is someone who knows enough about a wide variety of the important issues that they can make truly informed decisions on behalf of the others. These leaders know that they have the responsibility to know. They can’t pretend or ignore reality. They have to actually be aware of what happens now (and what happened then) so the decisions they make will be relevant and wise.
If you are the leader of your dissociative system, it is important that you understand all the different opinions-thoughts-feelings of your various internal system parts.
We expect the political leaders to listen to the people. All the people.
Dissociative system leaders also need to listen to the people – all their internal people.
Being a good leader does not mean that you get to block out the rest of your system and have a dictatorship. That might work if you value selfishness, but not if you are going to be an effective group leader.
Being a good leader means being willing to not use your dissociative skills to distance yourself from everyone else. While you might have the ability to block out your insiders from time to time, this can’t be your primary state of existence if you are going to actually be the system leader.
System leaders aren’t necessarily the host alter. That host / front part of you may be who people from the outside (“in real life”) world believe to be your leader, but daytime hosts that deal only (or mostly) with the outside world will probably not be the internal system leader. If your daytime host cannot interact frequently and easily with various layers of your internal system, then my guess is that they are not actually the system leader. They might be the leader of their “department”, but without having the ability to communicate with various groups of your internal people, this host part will not be the overall “store manager”.
There will be someone else in your group that has more overall say-so. They may be willing to let the “day people” deal with the outside world while they very specifically manage the leadership of the internal worlds.
Remember, to be a leader, one has to be able to communicate with the people they lead.
Dissociative system leaders truly listen to their insiders. They don’t hide behind amnesiac walls. They aren’t afraid to know what happened in the past. They are willing to know the truth – to know the reality – to know how it feels to be there, in that spot….
Do you know the life-stories of your various insiders?
Can you relate with compassion, gentleness, and caring for the people you represent?
Can you identify with their struggles? With their pain? With their fears?
Are you willing to help them? To problem-solve with them? To address their concerns?
Can you withstand the pressure of making decisions that could affect everyone else?
To lead effectively, you must know who your people are.
Kathy Broady, LCSW
July 14, 2009
When you have dissociative identity disorder (DID/MPD), and you’re thinking as a multiple personality — thus having a multitude of different thoughts at once time — it can be very difficult to make decisions.
How do survivors with DID ever make up their minds?
How do survivors with DID decide whose opinion to follow?
How do survivors with DID ever decide what is best for them?
How do survivors with DID sort out having a dozen different opinions at once?
It is complicated to think like a multiple.
There are gaps of missing time, non-sequential pieces of information, jumbled feelings and emotions, snippets of conflicting facts, confusion, voices from the past, fears of more punishment, flashbacks, internal arguing, programmed thoughts, insistent introjects, personal insecurities, etc. The chaotic internal workings of a dissociative trauma survivor can make it very difficult to think clearly.
Non-dissociative “singletons” (people who do not have multiple personality disorder) can experience simultaneous mixed feelings, opposing thoughts and conflicting perspectives on specific situations as well. Singletons can write out extensive lists of “pros vs. cons” on any number of situations. Non-dissociative singletons do not experience just one thought or one feeling at a time either. They see the big conflicting picture all at once.
So what makes decision making even more difficult for survivors with DID?
All too often, dissociative trauma survivors functioned through the difficult times of their life by separating their thoughts and feelings into individual compartments and using dissociative, amnesiac walls to keep these compartments separated. Having mixed emotions and conflicting beliefs at the same time was often too much to manage in the middle of a traumatic event. Dissociative survivors learned to split the different feelings and the different perspectives into different parts of themselves, blocking one perspective away from the other. It is easier to separate and contain overwhelming conflicting emotions when the two opposing emotions did not have to directly collide with each other.
For example, all children love their parents. But if a young girl has a father who is sexually abusing her, and a mother that is either pretending not to see that or is helping the father to abuse her, then huge conflicting emotions are going to occur. The child will want to please her parents, even in this painful abusive situation. But in order to do that, the child will have to find ways to separate her experience of the parents she loves from the parents who are hurting her. Dissociating the conflicts into separate parts help this to happen.
- The child can split off a part of herself that is willing to obey her father even to the point of acting like a passive or promiscuous young child that appears to want to be sexual with the father.
- She can split off a part of her that feels the physical pain and injury of the assault.
- She can split off a part of her that contains the intense betrayal by the mother.
- She can split off a part that holds the emotional pain, deep wounding, and heartbreak of the assault.
- She can split off a part that holds the anger and rage at having been assaulted by both of her parents.
- She can split off a part that holds the fear of being violently assaulted by her parents again and again.
- She can split off a part that is the happy little girl who goes to school the next day, blocking out all the pain, acting very connected to her parents, not showing any sign of having been through a horrendous assault the night before.
The person as a whole sees the situation as a whole. But if a dissociative trauma survivor has separated the different feelings and perspectives and kept that information separated locked and blocked behind various dissociative walls, then the survivor is aware of only some of the information at any given point in time. She is not aware of the whole picture, because she has it dissociated parts of it away from herself.
Dissociative people are accustomed to separating the intense conflicting emotions and managing only one or two at a time. This might help in the short-run, but it does not help in the long-run.
So how do dissociative trauma survivors make good decisions if they are used to looking at situations from the constraints of one limited perspective at a time? What happens when they cannot see the situation as a whole? How can they make a good decision if they cannot put the entire picture together at the same time?
This is a common problem for survivors with DID. The part of them that sees and recognizes the dangers cannot always communicate with the happy naïve part who is determined to believe she is safe and unharmed. The ones that believe they are out of harm’s way (and who wouldn’t want to hold tight to that belief?) refuse to connect with the fear, anger, pain of the trauma (because who would want to feel that?!)
The problem is that by not seeing the whole picture at one time, dissociative trauma survivors find themselves tangled into a variety of dangerous situations. For example, they can bond to dangerous people without recognizing the danger. They see only as much as the current perspective allows them to see, and they don’t even realize that there is trouble looming in the near future. By dissociating the perceptions and experiences that might better recognize the danger, dissociative survivors can put themselves in high-risk situations over and over and over again.
Building the strength, the courage, and the willingness to talk to all the other internal parts in your system is key to getting past the dissociative walls and being able to make decisions from a more complete perspective. Face your difficult emotions, confront the truth of your trauma, listen to all of your inner selves, and recognize that other internal parts have valid information. No one can make a good decision based on partial information. Be willing to look at the whole picture.
As you learn to trust your internal parts to give you the rest of the story, you will be less vulnerable to people who aggressively or suggestively tell you what to think. The more you can trust yourself, the less vulnerable you are to people who would manipulate your thinking by maneuvering behind your dissociative walls. Predators and perpetrators will have less ammunition to use against you when you can trust your own selves. They will not be able to abuse you as much if you are aware that it is happening. The less you dissociate time and information, the more you can appropriately handle life’s current day conflicts.
If you truly know the whole story of what happens in your life, both in the past and in the present, then you are less vulnerable to feeling or thinking or believing something just because someone else more aggressive tells you that you do. You can learn to connect to and trust in your own thoughts or feelings or beliefs, and to make your own assessment of a situation based on that.
Look at the whole picture and think for yourself.
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 7, 2009
One of the hardest areas of healing work in trauma disorders is dealing with shame.
For many survivors of sexual abuse, healing work involves learning about a lot of intense memories that leave them feeling a great deal of shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. These are difficult emotions to process, and the memory material is typically very overwhelming.
Some survivors feel immersed in shame from the very beginning of their abuse. They are appalled at what is happening for them and hate every minute of it, even if they can’t get away from the predators. With every incident that happens, they feel worse, and worse, and worse. The more degraded the survivors are during the abuse, the greater shame they feel.
Shame can become all consuming. It drowns any feelings of self worth and erodes at self-esteem. It leads to self-injury, increased dissociation, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior, depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions, etc. Shame, at its most intense, can destroy lives.
Survivors will internalize the harsh destructive words of their abusers, and if they hear those messages with enough repetition and intensity, they will believe the negativity as truth.
For the host alters of the dissociative systems, there could be nothing further from the truth than hearing what the other alters in the system are saying about abuse. The fronting, daily-life dealing alters are typically not at all aware of the depths of the abuse, and the horrors expressed by the parts much further behind them does not feel real.
However, the alter parts hidden deeper in the dissociative system often have a very different experience than the front alters. Dissociative walls and consistent amnesia keep their two worlds apart from each other.
Sometimes the abuse-laden parts have become so entrenched in their abusive worlds and so blocked from any kind of participation in the outside world that they do not understand the extremity of the worlds they know. For dissociative survivors who have been sold into sex slavery or prostitution or pornography, this dynamic can be all too true.
System parts that are taught by their perpetrators to feel pride in being used as sex slaves know that to be their world, their truth, their reality. They own that pride, and do not think twice about it being a difficult or questionable lifestyle. They have been encouraged to handle the pain, they learn to believe they like the pain, pain becomes associated with pleasure, and they have a sense of accomplishment for completing various sexual tasks, no matter how extreme.
These alters strive to make accomplishments in that world. They may feel quite successful at their “jobs” and have few feelings of shame.
Reclaiming those parts from their abusive worlds means that these parts will eventually connect with the horror and shame that they pushed away years ago. The parts that have been sexually passed around from person to person to person will start realizing how much that trauma actually affected them. What once gave them pride, will lead to painful agony, shame, and distress. They will realize how much they have been hurt.
However, once they realize they are being abused (or have been abused), they can make decisions to stop the abuse.
They can work with their therapists and the host parts of their system to get away from the abusers, inside and out. This is done through internal system work, freeing each part from the ways they have been trapped in their memories. (Remember, people with DID tend to keep internalized realities, dynamic re-enactments of the abuse with introjects of abusers in what feels like the current day timeframe.) This work can also happen in freeing the dissociative person from a real-life, current day abuser.
Once survivors feel more distance between themselves and the abuse, they can begin to heal from the barrage of shame-inducing, horrific traumas that happened. They can gradually begin to understand what things belong to the perpetrators vs. which things are truly about them. They can begin to develop a separation between themselves and the world of sexual abuse.
Healing from that internalized sense of badness is a big part of the therapy work. As survivors learn they are truly victims of crimes, and that they are not to blame, they can begin to let go of the sense of shame that has surrounded their lives for years.
As survivors remove the overwhelming trauma from their lives, they can then, in turn, fill their lives with positive activities from their own unique preferences. They can begin to feel better about their lives. They can feel healthy pride in what they are doing, and feel pleased in their accomplishments. They can replace the feelings of deep dark shame with a sense of happiness and self-worth.
Overcoming shame is not easy. It is hard, grueling, intense emotional work.
The intensity of the shame felt by a trauma survivor can be a type of emotional barometer for the amount of healing work that needs to happen. The more that shame overwhelms the survivor, the more healing work is still needed. As the depth of this shame lightens, the more the survivors have progressed in their healing journey.
1. As a trauma survivor, know and understand that you are not a bad person.
2. Come to terms with how the abuse was not your fault.
3. Be brave enough to look honestly at the trauma that happened in your life.
4. Find the strength you need to get away from your abusers.
5. Work hard to be safe and to end any and all abusive relationships in the current day.
6. Realize that you will be able to build a happy life that you are proud to have.
7. Believe that you don’t have to let your shame destroy you.
8. Recognize the perpetrators for what they are – nasty violent sex offender criminals.
9. Let the perpetrators keep the responsibility for their own behavior. Don’t take on what belongs to them.
10. Do your healing work – process your trauma, grieve the way it has affected your life.
11. As you heal, be willing to let the resolved issues settle into the past.
12. Fill your life with activities and people that you genuinely like.
Kathy Broady LCSW