January 16, 2009
This is an excellent journaling exercise that can be adapted to any topic at any time. The entirety of the exercise is to find a difficult or complicated topic. Ask yourself a question about that topic and then write out 100 responses to that question.
For lots of people, one hundred sounds like a huge number for a writing exercise, but once you start thinking about the issue in smaller increments, you might be pleasantly surprised with how many thoughts come to mind so quickly. Most people find this exercise easier to do than they realize. On really big or complex topics, one hundred might not be enough. If you want to keep going past one hundred, please do so.
This exercise is good when you do not have an immediate or direct answer for your struggle. Start with listing the peripheral, simple reasons, and as you write more and more, you will likely reach more specific and complex answers to your concern.
Or this exercise is good to use when you feel like you are flooded with too many answers. Writing out every option that comes to mind can help to organize your thoughts and validate your big feelings.
Any of the following questions could be your starting point:
- What are 100 things that are on my mind right now?
- When I am feeling overwhelmed what 100 things are bothering me?
- What are 100 things that frighten me?
- What are 100 things that I am angry about?
- What are 100 positive things that happened when I was a child? (100 negative things? 100 harmful things? 100 helpful things?)
- What are 100 things that I like and enjoy?
- What are 100 things I wish I could say to my mother (father) but can’t or won’t?
- What are 100 things I wish my parents had handled better for me?
You can pick the topic and make the question relative to whatever you are experiencing at the time. Pick an issue that you are addressing in therapy now. Use this process to help sort through your thoughts and feelings.
The purpose of such a long list is to take sufficient time to get past the surface obvious answers to your question and to get into the deeper more subconscious answers to your question. Plus, the self-expression and self revelation required to do this exercise make it an interesting task. Breaking down any huge emotion, or any complex situation, or any frightening topic into smaller chunks will help you to develop a sense of mastery and control over the issue. Smaller items are easier to manage than the overwhelming whole. You might be able to fine-tune your struggle into more specific areas by doing this exercise than how it felt ahead of time.
For example, “I’m scared of everything” – a vague, over-whelming, sweeping out-of-control feeling – could become “I’m afraid of specific item A, specific item B, and specific situation C.” By definition, you can start to consciously realize and remember that there are lots of “everythings” in the world that are not specifically A, B, or C. Pinpointing troubled areas helps you to know there are other areas that are not a problem. That’s a good thing. Finding safety somewhere is better than feeling afraid “everywhere”.
It is best to complete the list in one sitting, if at all possible. Write your answers as quickly as possible, and don’t worry if an answer gets repeated more than once. The repetition of an answer can imply that that particular issue is truly bigger than many of the other issues listed.
Remember to pay attention to your own emotional saturation point. While this journaling exercise is intended to help you gain mastery over difficult topics, if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed from pulling up too much at once, immediately step back for a few minutes and take a breather. Get grounded again before you start to work on it more. You might consider dividing your topic into an even smaller focus area, or you might purposefully start and stop a few times, just to keep more stabilized.
Once you have completed your lists of reasons, be sure to read over it a few times. When you are looking at it from a whole, you might see different things than when you were inching through the individual points. You might find several repeating themes, or whole new areas of thought that you hadn’t expected to surface. Be sure to discuss your findings with your therapist, especially when you learn new bits of information.
To make this an exercise in system communication, allow and encourage the other parts of your system to participate in the making of the list of 100 things. Individual parts can each have their own lists, or they can put their name / initials beside their contributions to the group lists. Or use this exercise to focus questions more in the directions of system work. For example:
- What are 100 kind things I can say or do for my inner kid parts this week?
- What are 100 areas of conversation that we as a system can talk about?
- What are 100 activities I want to do with my inner people?
- What are 100 things we can do in our internal world to make our internal landscape more pleasing and comfortable for us?
- What are 100 things that I hear from inside today?
These kinds of exercises, whether done on paper, or within your internal committee meetings can give you a format, a method, or a starting place to help you hear and understand your other system members.
Remember, developing good, effective internal communication is the key to your healing.
Kathy Broady LCSW
December 27, 2008
Thanks for coming back and reading more of the Discussing Dissociation blog. It’s exciting to see the number of site viewers growing each week – I think you all must be spreading the news! I appreciate all of you who have already become regular readers, and thanks for telling your friends.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about giving- making- creating- providing new and positive experiences for your internal child parts, I want to encourage all the multiples here to expand that idea to include your whole system on an even wider scale. This idea applies to non-multiples too, of course, but since we are “discussing dissociation” here, I’m going to write about these idea within the context of DID / MPD.
I have found that most dissociative trauma survivors have a fair bit of trouble understanding how to be genuinely kind to their inside people. It is very similar to being nice, and kind, and accepting towards outside people, but the effort gets directed to your own insiders instead of outside people.
I could explore the many different reasons for this. Is it because your family treated you so poorly? Were you so hideously neglected that taking care of yourself is truly a skill you have yet to learn? Is it because you truly believe you don’t deserve anything nice? Is it that you are full of self-hatred that you won’t be kind to yourself? Is that you are so angry at anyone (everyone?) that it is easier or essential to take it out on yourself? I don’t know. I’ll leave those questions with you to think about.
For now, I want to focus on what kind things you actually do for your internal system.
- What do you do to be nice to your inside people? What did you do this week?
- What do you do to show the others in your system appreciation and kindness?
- What do you do to encourage them through the hard parts of therapy work?
Think about all the different kinds of things you can do for your people on the inside. Your internal world — your internal landscape — is totally your own world. It belongs to you and only you and your internal system. You and your insiders control that inner world. You all can truly make a huge impact by doing nice, kind, gentle, supportive, and comforting things for each other in there on that level. Even if you can’t afford to buy things in the external world, you can do things for free on the inside worlds. Your inner world can be a true haven and a place that is comfortable and “just right”.
When you can see the others inside, and when you listen to them, and pay attention to each other, you will be able to recognize their needs and then do something about it to make their day better. Taking better care of your insiders will have a huge impact on your life, your system work, your healing process, and your external world.
One of the biggest keys to your overall healing depends on how YOU all treat your own system and internal parts. Do you support each other inside? Do you take the time to be kind to each other inside? Do you comfort each other inside? What do you do to help each other inside? Do you treat each other with respect? Are you trustworthy with each other?
For those that are DID, I believe that one of the most significant therapy goals is doing INTERNAL self care. Look at your others inside — share blankets and stuffies with them. Give them hugs, sit quietly with them. Meet their needs, clean up the messes, give them clean clothes to wear, and a quiet safe place to rest. If your inside world stays chaotic and unkept, neglected or dangerous, then how on earth are you going to feel safe or ok in the outside world? Start by addressing things in your own world, and let it ripple out from there.
The more folks learn to be there for their own selves, the less they will depend on their therapist, or spouse, or any other outside person to “take care” of them. The more you can take care of your own selves, the less it matters if someone else is busy or away for a few days. The more you take care of your own selves, the more you will feel GOOD about yourself and your ability to handle life.
Here are more questions to think about:
- What is the nicest thing that someone in your system could do for you?
- What are some of the most meaningful things you could do for them?
- How do you show the hurting ones that you have compassion for them?
- How do you show your little ones that you will protect them and keep them safe?
- What kinds of things can you do for your insiders to show them that you will help to take care of them and tend to their needs?
- How does your system respond when you are kind and attentive to them vs. being neglectful and angry towards them?
This is an important topic — your thoughts and/or comments are welcome.
Kathy Broady LCSW