June 10, 2013
My father just got out of a six hour, six bypass heart surgery.
I am so very very thankful for him.
This beautiful picture was sent to me, and I sent it to him.
It all means a lot to me.
He means a lot to me.
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
March 6, 2010
Here is the next picture in the series about DID artwork.
Even the title of this painting indicates dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD).
Masks are a common metaphor used by the dissociative survivor. In this picture, where are the masks? What are the masks covering? What does the “real” person, or the rest of the person look like? Where are the others in the system? Are they hiding behind the mask too? If there was no mask, what would we see?
The dual nature of the picture is strong and complex.
I’ve purposefully picked this picture to follow the blog previous picture, as a further example of the left vs. right split within many dissociative trauma survivors.
The most obvious element in this picture about dissociative disorders is how the person is divided into at least two distinctly different people. The left side of the face is different from the right side of the face. It might be that this person feels divided down the center into two different parts, or two different systems with different internal worlds. This visible division is an important issue to discuss with the artist.
The hairstyle, while similar, is not the same on each side. Besides the color difference, notice how the red side is curlier, wilder, appears to be longer, and comes closer to the front. The red hair covers more of the face, specifically blocking the right cheek, part of the right eye and the right edge of the mouth. System-wise, who wears the red hair, versus who owns the yellow? In the places where the colors are little mixed, what does that indicate?
The red hair seems a little more unruly or wild than the blond. Are the ones on the red side more angry? Do they feel more intensely? Do they feel more out of control? Are they in more pain? Yet, the red hair side is the one that covers more of the face, so does that side have more to hide? Do they have more secrets? Or does this side control what is or isn’t said?
When you look at this person, which side do you notice first? To me, the red-hair side seems to be more prominent. The colors are brighter, and the hair is bigger, and it is more forward than the yellow side. What is that about? Are these red system parts more visible than the other parts? Which side is more active than the other?
The yellow is still strong. What does it mean? How does it feel differently than the red?
Does the light red / pinkish-colored hair on the top of the head have any significance? It is a blending / mix of the blond and red? Does that color represent a unique system group? Are these parts that bridge the red and blond in some ways? Can they communicate with both sides? Who can do that?
Notice the two different eye colors, along with the two differently angled eyebrows. The blue eye is noticeably darker and heavier in appearance than the green eye. What do the two different colors represent? Who looks out the green eye, and who looks out the blue eye?
These eyes have the appearance of black eyes. Are these eyes indicators of having been beaten up? Has this person experienced a lot of physical violence? Have there been other kinds of violence? What violence has she seen?
There are big white spots in the center of both eyes. They may look like normal reflection spots, but examine that further. What do they indicate? In some ways, these spots make the person look dissociated, or staring, or in a trance-state. How does this relate to the artist-survivor? How often do they switch? How often do they feel ungrounded?
If you look closely, the eyes have color on the right edge, and the white is more on the left side of the pupil area. What does this indicate? Does the person see half of what happens, and dissociate the other half of what happens? Do some parts remember what they see, while others white it out? Who knows, versus who doesn’t know? Explore these ideas.
There is a blank emptiness to the eyes, and in some ways, the eyes show sadness. What is this about? What emotion do you see connected to the eyes? What feelings does the survivor have?
The nose, while drawn like a normal nose, has the shadow on the same side as the darker eye and the darker hair. Is this shadow simply artistic? Possibly so, but it is worth including in as an element of the discussion of the left side vs. right side differences.
Look at the mouth. A significant portion of the mouth is covered and hidden, indicating there may be secrets being kept. The lips appear to be pretty tightly closed – maybe even tense – indicating silence, or just not talking, and little appearance of feeling comfortable with speaking. What is this mouth not allowed to say? Why is the hair covering that side of the mouth? What does that side of the DID system know about that they aren’t talking about?
Notice the subtle line drawn horizontally across the base of the neck. What is the purpose of that line? Is it the neckline of a shirt? Is it an indication of being choked or other neck-related trauma? Is it another indicator of how the head get dissociated away from the body? So many DID trauma survivors separate their heads from their bodies, or feel disconnected from their bodies, to this line could be an indicator of that. Explore that more, in case it is.
The background behind the face is also divided into two different designs. What do the two different backgrounds represent? One side is purple with small black lines, and the other is black with purple curvy lines. What do these colors and designs represent? Are they indicative of trauma or intense feelings? Ask a variety of questions about these designs. They are telling a story. I don’t know this survivor, but the background indicates that there is good reason to ask this survivor about having experienced shock trauma.
What is the overall emotion and feeling you see when you look at this picture? I see sadness, pain, some anger, a heaviness, and a lot of trauma. This dissociative survivor very likely has a lot of abuse stories yet to talk about.
I wish her the best in her healing journey.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 24, 2010
Here is yet another unique view of dissociative identity disorder.
“How I View My Head”
Isn’t this an interesting picture!
It almost looks three-dimensional. Very cool!
Once again, please remember, I’ll be writing out some of my thoughts without having conversations with the artist. I am presenting these thoughts for educational purposes only, and my guesses or impressions could be wrong. If I were speaking to the artist for real, I would certainly be asking questions instead of first voicing my comments. However, for the purposes of discussing elements of dissociation, I will be speaking openly even without knowing if my comments are accurate or not.
So if a trauma survivor with a dissociative disorder presented this artwork to me in a therapy session, my thoughts would include:
The first impression I see is the complicated twisting, turning, and complexity of issues. I can see that the journey has not been easy, and there have been many difficult points along the way. I see some smooth pathways, but the overlapping, tangled blocks and obstacles are prominent.
There’s a lot of movement and activity in this picture. What’s happening? Where’s everyone going? How chaotic does it feel inside your head? Everything except the one-inch strip on the right edge feels busy and intense. How did the area on the right become calmer? What can you say about these differences?
I am assuming that the bottom left, with the swirls of green and yellow is the front of the head, with the doors being like the beginning of the hairline. From this perspective, the doors and pathways back have the appearance of being like hair blowing in the wind. This is a cool layering of the picture as it gives of feel of the outer head as well as the inner head.
My first impression of the doors is that they represent different insiders with the big doors being adults and the little doors being younger child parts. The doors could also represent different struggles in life, or different events that created a set of parts in the overall system, with each group having their own life pathways and life experiences separate from the others. Maybe there are upstairs / downstairs layers to this system. The upper / lower doors could represent all kinds of things if that was the case. What do you think the sets of double doors represent?
When you open the doors, what do you see behind each of the doors? When can the doors be opened, and who can open them? Are the doors locked? Can anyone open them?
Is there significance to the number of doors? If so, how?
Do the pathways represent memories or the life events of particular system parts? When the pathways are separate and on their own, are those times when the life-events were not shared with others in the system? Does the information on these pathways get shared with others or not? Each pathway has splotches of darker color, or alternating light / dark colorings. What do these splotches of color represent? Does the light / dark coloring represent the conflict and struggles of your system? For example, do you have some system parts that are “light side” parts, vs. others that are “dark side” parts? How do these pathways demonstrate those internal conflicts?
Notice the various crossing points of the pathways. What is the significance of these points? These places where the pathways cross and overlap might represent times when life experiences, memories, and events were shared between the different parts of the system. The overlap could represent times of co-consciousness and shared communication or conflicts between internal parts. At each point of overlap, the colors turn black. What does this mean?
Of course, I am going to ask about the meaning of the colors. Colors are typically important, and different survivors will connect different feelings / beliefs with various colors. With this picture, I would ask about the colors of each door and pathway, but I would also ask about the combination of colors. For example, why does the mustard / yellow doors have a pink pathway? Why does the pink / salmon doors have a green pathway? These color combinations could be relevant in some way. What do they mean to you?
The blue pathway coming out of the purple doors is different from the other paths. It is thinner and straighter, and has few splotches. Is there any meaning to this? Who takes this path?
Do the doors represent more about the outer world, while the pathways represent more about the inner worlds? The doors are brighter than most of the rest of the picture. If the doors represent what is seen to the public world, are the brightly colored, cheerful doors trying to hide the amount of darkness and depression hidden behind the doors?
Do system parts come out from behind the doors? If so, who comes out of each of the different doorways? If I were to see you when a “yellow door person” was presenting, how would that be different from when a “green door person” was presenting, vs. when a “purple door person” was presenting, etc.?
What are the black splotches all over the inner areas? Are they unknown areas? Are they scary memories? Are they insiders that cause problems or self-sabotage? Notice the black inner lining around the area where the black splotches are located. What does this black line represent? Is it a barrier of some sort? Does it block out awareness? If the black splotches are something of a negative or stressful nature, it is good to see that they are contained within a particular area of the inner world. The ability to contain the scary things into one area could be considered a personal strength.
What is the significance of the light faint black background? Does this represent feelings of depression, or low self-esteem, or unworthiness, or shame? Do you feel surrounded by the dark? Does it feel like darkness permeates your life? If so, what does this mean?
What does the light green door at the top represent? All the pathways lead to this place. It is representative of internal connection, blending, cooperation, or integration? It is the place of healing, hope, and health? Is the light green door the goal or a destination?
The light green door is surrounded (protected?) by a similar layering of green and yellow squiggles as at the opposite corner of the picture. What do these repeated colors represent? How do these squiggles protect the green door?
This top corner looks safer, happier, and more peaceful than the rest of the picture. Does the light green door represent the way so many survivors describe a floating away, up to a corner of the room during times of abuse? Does it represent a state of dissociation? Does the light green door represent the part of your internal system who has been kept separate from the trauma? Often times, there are certain parts that are blocked off and separated from the trauma, amnesiac and unaware of the abuse. Who resides behind that door?
The light green door has a window. It is the only door with a window. What does the window represent? Does someone from the other side of the door look out the window? Is the window for people on this side to see past the door?
There are so many interesting complexities to this picture.
What else do you see?
How do you view YOUR head?
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 20, 2010
This picture is an example of an internal landscape for a trauma survivor with dissociative identity disorder. Internal worlds are very real, and they sometimes feel more real than the external world for certain parts. Internal worlds are more than having an imagination. They are interactive, busy, alive places.
Some survivors with DID have trouble looking inside. Many people say they can hear things, but it looks black inside. Even if you cannot see inside, there will be others in your system who can see your internal worlds. Try communicating with them, and as you build positive rapport with these other parts of your system, they may be willing to let you see what they see.
Becoming more familiar with your internal worlds is an important part of internal communication and getting to know the other parts inside. Internal worlds are like internal homes. They provide a type of internal community for your system insiders.
Think about how much harder it would be to get to know various people in a work office setting if you couldn’t see the different areas, the different cubicles, the different desk locations. If there were a dozen people in that area but the lights were off, or in curtains were drawn, it would be much more difficult to connect with the people that were there. Seeing each other helps. Seeing where each other is also helps.
Getting to know the internal locations of your insiders is equally important. When you see where someone lives, you learn a lot about them.
Please note: It is extremely important to keep the details of your internal world private to only the most trusted people in your life. This kind of information is personal, and if you give away too much info about your internal worlds to someone who has less than noble intentions, you could be putting your system at risk.
With cautions in mind, here is a picture that represents a portion of an internal landscape.
When I look at this picture, if I was speaking to the dissociative person, I would ask:
- Can you tell me about this place? And this place? And this place? I would ask the person to describe the different structures to help me understand the importance of each location. Since the inside worlds can be whatever you want it to be, it can be important to hear why you have those specific things.
- What is this yellow triangle thing? Where did you get the idea to build this kind of place in your internal world? What does it represent? What are those circle things and why are they connected together?
- Who lives here? And who lives here? And who lives here? Each separate location / building / structure can be the ‘home’ of someone in the system.
- Do the neighbors all get to speak and interact with each other? Why or why not? Can the people in these areas always hear what is going on in these other areas? Why or why not?
- I see the little worlds. Each of these circles looks like it could be its own little world of people. What groups of your insiders are connected to these areas? Can you tell me more about these?
- Do these colors have any specific meaning to you?
- Part of your internal world looks bright and cheery. Part of it looks dark and heavy. How does that match with your experience of what your internal worlds are like?
- Who in your system is allowed to go through these doors? What are the rules for who can go through them vs. who cannot? What does it look like on the other side of these doors?
- What is the purpose of having a lake in your internal world? How does it help you to feel better? What have lakes meant to you in your outside life?
- I see the clear blue sky in a distance. Why is the blue sky so far away? What is over there at the horizon point? What is making the rainbow so much heavier and prominent than the sky? What does that mean to you?
- The trees on the island appear to be separated from the other structures. Do the insiders that live on the island have to stay separate from the others? Are the people able to cross to the other section? Do these people know those people?
- What are the brown leaf-type shapes on the left edge? What do they represent?
- If this is a picture of your internal world, where are the people? What are they doing? Do you see other insiders when you look at these places?
- How has your internal world changed over time? What has remained constant? What has changed? Do you know what was going on in your life when the changes occurred? Are there any changes that you would like to make to your internal worlds at this point in time of your life?
- When your internal worlds look like this, how do you feel?
- How much time do you spend looking inside at these worlds? How easy is it for you to see this? Does anything ever block your view of these areas?
- How real do these internal worlds feel to you?
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 19, 2010
In a previous blog post, I made a request for artwork about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD). Sometimes it is easier to describe experiences through images than through words.
I send a special thank you to the different dissociative trauma survivors who have been willing to contribute to this project. I will add various pictures and related comments as I receive them.
For “Self Portrait”, notice the number of different parts. Clearly, this person is polyfragmented (they have lots of insiders!) and each part is completely unique and different from the others in the system. If I were speaking to this person about their picture, I would ask the following questions:
- I see over a dozen different colors. What do each of these colors represent to you? Which colors are you most comfortable with? Which colors are the most anxiety-provoking for you? Please explain why.
- What does the one white piece near the center mean to you? Why is it placed there?
- What does the grouping of red pieces in the center mean to you? Why are they placed there?
- Why are the three red parts able to sit closely together when most of the other colors do not sit next to each other? How does this relate to your inner system?
- What does the outer pinkish border represent? Does this color represent your external host? What keeps this part of you from mingling more with the others inside?
- I see black outlines separating most of the different pieces from each other. What kind of barriers do these represent in your system? Which barriers represent complete separation / time loss from the other parts?
- Can the parts next to each other communicate together? Who can talk to who?
- Can the parts on opposite sides of this portrait communicate together? Do they know each other exists when they are so far apart?
- When you look at this picture, who do you know? How many of the other insiders are you familiar with?
- Do the various parts of the same coloring, even if scattered throughout your system portrait, have the ability to communicate with each other?
- Some parts are larger in size than others. What does that represent to you? Does the size of the part represent age? Power? Presence?
- What do you feel when you look at this picture? What do you hear from inside when you are looking at this picture?
- What can you say about the bigger black spots? Do they represent a “black group”? Does the black represent a not-knowing who or what is there?
- Are these parts fluid? Do they move from place to place? Do they stay exactly where they are? Please explain more about that.
- Is that brown heart an on-purpose heart shape? What does that particular piece mean to you? Are there reasons for any of the other specific shapes of the different pieces?
- What kind of system cooperation / internal communication did you experience while you were making this picture?
- What are you hearing from inside as I ask you all these questions? (lol, one can safely assume that the inside will have plenty to say by this point!)
So much system work can be accomplished through just this one picture.
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 18, 2010
What is it like to live with dissociative identity disorder?
How does it feel to have dissociative identity disorder?
What do you wish others could understand about DID?
Have you found it hard to put the experience of dissociative identity disorder into words?
Sometimes pictures say a thousand words.
Dissociative Identity Disorder can be hard to explain in words, but a visual image can show what is hard to explain otherwise. Have you drawn or created some pictures that show how DID / MPD feels?
If you have a picture — a drawing, a painting, a collage — that represents DID as you relate to it, and if you are willing to share your picture, I would like to show some of those images here in this blog as a way to help describe DID.
What to do:
If you have some appropriate images that you would like to share, please send them to my email address: Info @ AbuseConsultants.com (remove the spaces). If there are words or a story that goes along with your image about dissociation, please include that as well. You can request that your submission be posted with or without an identifying name / title, etc.
Please do not submit any copyrighted material from other sources or any other material that is not your own.
Please do not send the only copy or the original copy of your pictures or artwork to my mailing address. Send scans or photos of the pictures only. Please note: anything that is submitted for consideration in this project will not be returned.
Personal details regarding internal system information or system maps will not be posted, in order to protect individuals and their system from the potential risk of making that information public.
When you are considering which pictures to submit, please remember that you are responsible for determining what you are comfortable sharing and what is too personal for you to share. Please listen to and respect your own feelings in this regard.
Keep in mind that the Discussing Dissociation blog is an online environment, and you are submitting your pictures or images for consideration as part of a public post. Please understand that once a picture is posted on a blog, it is publically visible to anyone in the world with internet and could potentially be copied by anyone that views it. If you choose to submit a picture, you are accepting all responsibility for what happens with your picture as a public item. Kathy Broady / AbuseConsultants.com are not responsible.
The Purpose of this Project
Please know that I will not personally know these artists nor will I be familiar with their systems or how things work for them. In the blog articles, I will ask questions and interpret some DID system issues by the way things were drawn, but not because I am familiar with the people in real life. My guesses might be wrong! I am simply looking at these pictures and presenting some of my thought about how DID can be seen and more deeply understood by paying attention to artwork and drawings.
In a therapeutic setting, I would of course, ask the survivors to explain their art before I began presenting some of my own interpretations. However, for the purposes of this blog, I will present some of my thoughts without having had the opportunity to speak with the artist directly.
The intention is to provide education information for those working with dissociative disorders – to point out possibilities of dissociative issues within artwork – to explore options about system interpretation, etc.
My interpretations may or may not be correct — only the artist will know that. The artists are not required to nor expected to provide the “correct” interpretation of their work to me or to the readers of this blog as their privacy is important.
However, for the purposes of discussing elements of dissociation, I will be speaking openly even without knowing if my comments are accurate or not.
Thank you for your willingness to participate in this project!
I look forward to seeing what DID looks like to you!
Kathy Broady LCSW