January 10, 2009
I’m going to take a slight detour in the internal communication series and write a little about working with difficult alters. It is crucial to work with these internal parts, no matter how challenging and hopeless things seem in the beginning. Your therapy and healing will never be resolved unless you approach the issues connected with these difficult insiders.
And for that matter, the whole process of building a connection with these difficult, complicated insiders is based on building good communication skills with them, so in that sense, this post is still part of the internal communication series. System work, in whatever way it happens, is a critical part of internal communication and the overall healing journey for everyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD).
Insiders may first appear in your therapy process being difficult – obstinate, obnoxious, aggressive, scary – and they may maintain destructive behaviors for a long time, but regardless of where they start, any alter within your system can become a helper or a protector. If you as the person truly want to achieve healing, then the healing of your difficult insiders can and will happen as well. No matter how difficult they initially present, they can become productive, helpful, positive members of your system.
Remember, even as a multiple, you are still one whole person. If any of your insiders are left to behave obnoxiously, or if they maintain their destructive negative goals, their behaviors and feelings will affect you and the outside people that interact with you. You cannot block off your “problem parts” and pretend they don’t exist and still expect to achieve positive healing. ALL of your insiders have to have the chance to heal, including the people you are afraid of or the ones about whom you don’t immediately find anything likable.
Some difficult alters are destructive by their own choice and design. They do what they do because they purposefully want to be negative and interrupting. Other difficult situations are complicated simply because the issues at hand are very complex and emotionally challenging. Those internal parts may not want to be as much “trouble” as they are, but until their issues are more resolved, they may not know what else to do.
Who do I define as a difficult alters? Some examples are:
- Those that purposefully sabotage or terminate your therapy and your healing process.
- Those that are self-destructive, violent to the body, or harmful to the body in any variety of ways.
- Those that sabotage other people within the system, including hurting or negatively manipulating others, blinding them, locking them up, abusing them, etc.
- Those that are willing to hurt outside helpers – any of the people that are legitimately trying to promote healing. Any version of hurting the helpers – verbally, physically, emotionally, monetarily, violently, etc. – counts as being difficult and destructive to your treatment and to your system overall.
- Those that cannot contain the new learning and tend to repeat the same negative behaviors over and over.
- Whoever the system members themselves define as “difficult” or “challenging” because those parts hold issues or feelings that are particularly hard for them to work with.
- Those that have trouble connecting to the current day, time, place.
- Those that act out their trauma instead of talking about their trauma.
- Those that stay locked in trauma memories and do not see or interact with the current day, time, place, etc.
- Those that adamantly insist on staying hidden, separated, and amnesiac from the others inside.
The quick answer to address these complicated insiders is to speak to them. Talk to them. Get to know them. Try to understand them. Listen to their perspective on life. Even these insiders can be and should be approached in your therapy sessions. I can promise you, if you avoid talking to these insiders, they will continue to act out their issues. Ignoring them frequently means they will just act out more to get your attention.
It is essential to approach these insiders knowing they have had their job for a reason. You might not like the reason, or understand their reason, but the point is, they are doing what they do because they believe it is helping to achieve a goal that they want. Try to understand what it is that they are doing. Why are they acting out like that? What do they believe? What do they value? From their framework, does their behavior make sense?
Really listen closely to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Work hard to hear and listen to their perspective. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear that their goals are not as “bad” as you might have originally thought they were. The main difference is that you might not agree with the visible behaviors.
Once you have an understanding of why they are doing what they are doing, you can work with them to problem solve and find new ways – more positive and helpful ways – to get what they want. You can begin negotiations on what helpful and positive goals will be.
And the whole process starts by talking to them. Communicate with them. Let them talk to your therapist. Let them get involved in the healing process. Remember, if they aren’t helping the healing process, they’ll continue to hurt it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
December 22, 2008
Most clients quickly think of the many qualities they want in their therapists. However, are those clients also thinking about whether or not they are presenting themselves as the type of client someone would want to work with? As an experienced psychotherapist, I am proposing that there are many criteria for clients to consider about themselves as well as about their prospective therapists.
Many of the following issues pertain specifically to trauma survivors and those with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD).
Please consider the following concepts as important guidelines.
- Are you in a constant or repeated state of crisis?
- Are you looking for someone to rescue you immediately?
- Are you repeatedly in a suicidal or self-injurious panic?
- Do you make more than one emergency call every few months?
- Are you frequently in drunken states, or on the verge of over-dosing, or on the verge of self-injury or suicide?
Most therapists are not as interested in taking on heavily crisis-laden clients. The more stable you are, the more therapeutic options you will find.
- Do you show up for every appointment?
- Do you cancel at the last minute?
- Do you pay for your sessions up-front and without issue, irritation, or complication?
- Do you do you keep your word, and follow through with the things you say you will do?
- Do you regularly pass important information between the leaders of your internal system, and not hide behind dissociative amnesia as an excuse?
The same as employers, babysitters, and doctors, therapists want to be able to count on you. They don’t want scheduling nightmares, and they don’t want to have to beg or fight for their pay. Remember, there are a lot of other people involved in each weekly schedule, so keep your time spot precious to you. Show your therapist that your therapy work matters to you.
3. Motivation and Willingness
- Are you willing to do what it takes to get through your healing process?
- Are you open to new ideas?
- Are you resistant to change? Do you react with irritation, anger, frustration, or refusals when you are expected or encouraged to change?
- Do you complete your homework each week?
- Do you bring new issues of needed work to the table? Are you presenting topics that need to be addressed? Or are you waiting for someone else to point the trouble spots out to you?
Coming to therapy typically means you are looking for some type of change in your life. If you are happy with the way things are, or you do not see any areas that need work, or you do not see any changes that you are willing to make, why are you going to therapy in the first place?
- Change and healing require taking new steps – both little steps and big steps. Can you do that? Will you do that?
- Are you too scared or too anxious or too depressed to try anything new?
- Are you willing to venture into difficult, complicated, painful areas of therapy work?
- Are you willing to look at painful memories when it’s therapeutically needed or recommended?
- Are you willing to look at the reality of toxic, abusive, or dangerous relationships, even those with your loved ones or family members?
Therapists can help you address your fears, your problems, and your issues, but only if you are willing to allow that to happen.
5. Personal Responsibility
- Are you willing to look at what you are doing to contribute to the problems you are experiencing?
- Are you willing to face your part of the problem, rather than focusing exclusively on blaming others?
- Are you genuinely open to hearing feedback about your issues?
- Do you retain the things you have learned from session to session, month after month? Will you be able to apply what you learn over time, or will you continue to use dysfunctional responses over and over?
- Even if you are dissociative, are your adult parts in charge of and responsible for your child parts? Are you able to maintain an adult presence when necessary?
The more responsibility you take for your own healing, your feelings, your behavior, etc, the further you will go in your healing process.
(Please come back — the second half of this article will be posted tomorrow.)
Kathy Broady LCSW