March 29, 2013
It’s the Easter weekend — a complicated and conflictual weekend for most dissociative trauma survivors. So many layers of your inside levels will be awakened, aware, involved, wondering, waiting, going, sitting, thinking, watching, feeling, remembering, refusing, believing, fighting, crying, calling, hiding, etc. Its a time of being pulled in dozens of different directions all at once.
Lots of headaches, that’s what that means.
And lots of pain. Ouch, ouch, ouch.
So yes… I am thinking of you all, and wishing peace for you. I know it’s difficult. Really difficult.
The Easter season is typically overloaded with the triggers, external pulls, family complications, and spiritual battles. The inside battle within your system may be raging at full intensity.
As best you can, remember to sit with each other, and learn what you can about the others that you see nearby. What struggles are they having? What thoughts are in their mind? What feelings do they hold? What feelings do they avoid?
Is there anything you can do to help them? What can you do to give them comfort? What can you do to make the struggle less sharp? How can you keep your system safe, both on the inside and outside?
Intense weekends such as this are usually heavily overloaded with information, from your past and maybe in your present. These are things you need to know. It’s from your life, and you can know what you and your insiders have been through. You are allowed now. It’s ok to know. It’s good to know, even when it’s difficult to know.
For many of you, just making it through alive and well is the goal. Self-injury may seem like the “best option”, but it really doesn’t help in the long-run. Look for other options to handle this time of stress. Read through the bunches of articles here that give other options to consider. The intensity of what you are feeling will gradually subside… You don’t have to cut or purge it away. It’s ok to feel what you feel. Your feelings belong to you — you are allowed now to have them.
For others of you, you may feel solid enough to use this time to make headway in reaching others in your system who are struggling more than you. It can be painful to hear and connect with the trauma memories held by many in your system, but it really is ok to remember what has happened in your life, and you don’t have to be punished for that anymore. FInd ways to heal your wounds and comfort your heartaches. Be kind to each other. Kind, gentle, soothing. Come together. Be a team.
Some of you will be far enough in your healing journey that you can find the good things to enjoy about the holiday weekend. Maybe you can enjoy a warm walk outside in the sunshine, or a handful of the kids’ favorite candy. Something near you may smell really nice – where is that? Breathe deeply, bringing in things that are good. Yes, there will be beauty in this weekend — see if you can find it.
Speaking of finding things….
Can you see the two caterpillars in the picture?
In my personal way of thinking, good beats out evil, so …. do your best to hold on tight till the darkness passes, and as soon as you can, find ways to reach those places of goodness, peace, comfort, joy, and love. It’s ok to let go of that darkness. You don’t have to stay there any more. You can move over to a life of warmth now. You are allowed to do that.
You can do it, I know you can.
I am thinking of you all, and I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Happy Easter everyone.
Copyright (C) 2008 – 2013 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
April 8, 2012
Hello Everyone –
How are you?
I’ve had another few weeks of extremely limited internet time, but it is Easter weekend, and I wanted to come and say a quick hello to you all.
I am aware that this is a very difficult weekend for many of you…. “Happy Easter” is more of an oxymoron than a reality for all too many of you.
For those of you that relate to that, I want you to know that I am thinking of you, and remembering that you are having struggles. And flashbacks. And body memories. And fights against worlds full of darkness, experiencing that conflict from both inside and out.
Please remember: no matter what you’ve seen in your prior years of life, you don’t have to belong to or stay stuck in any of the dark worlds that you were shown or taken to by those who, at that time, had more power or authority than you. This includes those of you that have been more familiar with worlds of darkness, and have always believed that you belonged there, and only there.
Even if that has been true for years of time, that does not have to stay true.
You don’t have to stay connected to worlds of darkness. You can decide to do something different with your life. They didn’t (and won’t) tell you that you can do something different with your life, but you can. Even if they tell you that you can’t, that is not true. You actually can. Your life belongs to you, and only to you, and you can make decisions different from anything anyone else plans for you.
This time of year can be a time of new beginnings for you.
Easter, to me, is full of new beginnings. Here in the USA, it is Spring – a time for new blossoms, new buds, new leaves, new grass, and baby animals are everywhere.
I know that it takes a whole lot of courage to do completely different things with your life, but doing something new can be the beginning of freedom. It can be something beautiful, and it can be something of your own making. It can be hard to change your life, but it can be wonderful and very much worth the effort it takes.
Instead of feeling trapped and weighed down by darkness, your life can be something you are happy about. You can be genuinely content and happy with the places you are going in your life. You can feel proud and pleased with your life.
If you are willing to do what it takes to make such big changes. Change can be scary, but you can do it. I know you can. Believe in yourself, and know that you are worth the effort.
So I wish you all a Happy Easter today.
If it’s not a Happy Easter just yet, have hope that one day, you too can have a happy day.
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
October 31, 2010
It’s Halloween weekend again.
This year, I’ve been reminded of the dichotomy our society lives in during times such as Halloween.
There are the many people of the world who are enjoying the weekend. They are having some version of fun, gathering candies, creating pumpkin-flavored foods, and dressing up in costumes as innocent as pretty Little Bo Peep with some Sheep walking along beside her. For many of us here in Dallas, Texas, Halloween weekend this year has been about watching the Texas Rangers Baseball team finally playing a good game in the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. Last night the Rangers won, and there were many joyous celebrations all over the state of Texas. For all of these people, Halloween weekend has been wonderful. It’s been a good time and no one and nothing was hurt (except the pride of the San Francisco Giants!)
But for dissociative trauma survivors with a ritual abuse background, this weekend – and the majority of this month of October – has been anything but fun. It is a time of darkness. It is a time where they were physically and emotionally forced into darkness, forced into worlds of violence, forced into worlds so hidden and evil that the happy candied people clapping and cheering in the baseball stadiums don’t even know the tiniest bit about it.
Ritual abuse and the horrors of ritual abuse have stayed secret from the surface layers of society for a few reasons – none the least being the idea that ritual abuse is so extremely sadistic that it is impossible for most people to fathom or acknowledge its existence. For those not raised in the worlds of hidden ritual abuse, it seems too incredulous to tolerate or believe. It’s too mind-blowing to think that such intense evil, violence, gore, and pain could exist in the real world. It’s even more impossible for them to believe that these horrors could be purposefully devastating the lives of our local children. Understanding that these atrocities can still be happening in the current-day lives of adult dissociative survivors is barely even recognized by trauma specialists in the mental health profession.
Besides, there are powerful dark organizations, most typically connected with the money-making sex slavery industries that help to provide massive cover-up’s for socially-complicated dicey issues such as ritual abuse. The phrase “money is the root of all evil” comes to mind as so much of the extreme abuse of trauma survivors is rooted in groupings of greedy soul-less sociopathic perpetrators making wads of dirty money while completely ignoring or insanely enjoying the suffering they are inflicting on survivors.
Trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) can experience a lifetime of pain and mental torment from the ordeals they suffered through on Halloween. They re-live these horrors year after year after year in their flashbacks, body memories, and internal worlds. They feel the tortures. They hear the screams. They are paralyzed in their terror. Healing feels next to impossible because the pain runs too deep.
How are trauma survivors supposed to come to terms with the fact that someone they loved and cherished (usually a parent) did the ultimate betrayal by subjecting them to the horrors of sadistic ritualized abuse?
How are trauma survivors supposed to overcome the fact they were forced to learn to hate with such intensity that they turn completely cold and dark from the inside out?
How are trauma survivors supposed to overcome their reality that they were forced to hurt others, even those they loved, and to relish the moment as if it was joyous and full of ecstasy?
How does anyone overcome these experiences and not let them ruin or tarnish or their lives forever?
Is it impossible to unthaw the effects of such hatred?
Is it impossible to heal from such deep soul-wrenching wounds?
It feels that way.
Many, many, many, many days, it feels too impossible to heal. Ask any trauma survivor that. I bet they will tell you, without a doubt, that they have wondered if it was ever possible for them to overcome the depths of pain and agony and torment that they experienced in their lives.
But it is possible.
It is possible because there is such thing as NOT being hated. There are such things as compassion, understanding, gentleness, kindness, forgiveness, and yes, even the ultimate word – genuine love. (I do not mean the creepy distortion of love – I’m referring to the actual genuine, true, God-filled love.)
Because as much as the hatred of violence and abuse of sadistic predators exist, the kindness and gentleness of true compassion and understanding exists as well.
And genuine kindness can trump violence.
After you’ve experienced true hatred, experiencing true kindness is a completely heart-reaching, life-changing, awe-inspiring experience.
Yes, when someone survived a lifetime full of hatred, it takes a LOT of kindness to overcome all that hatred. Occasional kindness helps, but for genuine healing, it takes experiencing a lot of kindness. Unfortunately, for many trauma survivors, the world just has not been that kind.
But don’t give up — there are kind people out here. They may be obliviously cheering in a baseball stadium at the moment, but they are out here, and they exist, and they can show you gentleness, acceptance, warmth, and love.
Years of hate can melt away with a listening ear, with cups of tea, with a soft smile, with a tender relationship, with a quiet conversation, with a safe hug. When someone feels genuinely cared for – even for moments of time – those moments can crack through the cold darkness created by hate and violence. They can allow other moments of warmth and sunshine to take hold, and the healing process can continue, one moment building upon other moments.
It’s not quick. And it’s not easy. The turning-over is gradual, slow, arduous, and painful. But it can happen.
Kindness can trump violence.
My wish is that one day, all trauma survivors could find themselves having moments of pure joy and light-hearted fun, clapping happily in innocent places like baseball stadiums, even if the date is Halloween.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 20, 2010
This weekend is often a difficult weekend for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder. First, there is Father’s Day (for those of us living in the USA), and secondly, it’s the Summer Solstice. Anytime the difficult days get stacked on top of each other, it’s going to make for a complicated time.
On days when the issues seem to surface in layers, what do you do to cope?
(**This blog article is about difficult topics so it could be triggering – please pace yourself carefully and keep yourself safe.)
Father’s Day has many of the same emotional complications as was written about on Mother’s Day. The days proceeding are often full of painful memories, heartbreaking loss, fear, conflict, and upset. The vast majority of DID survivors have had abusive fathers, so the idea of celebrating fathers typically stirs up great turmoil.
The first day of summer, like all season changes, has relevance to those who have experienced difference forms of Ritual Abuse (RA). Many of the dark church organizations celebrate the seasonal changes and these so-called “celebrations” are full of trauma, abuse, gross activities, icky messes, scary events, etc. Survivors of these ordeals are often flooded with flashbacks, emotional distress and internal conflict during the times of season changes.
When you put the two of these highly emotional events together, dissociative survivors experience a lot of overwhelm. Some of the difficulties can include PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, depersonalization, body memories, difficulties sleeping, irritability, feeling distant from others, etc.) and anxiety symptoms (panic attacks, excessive fears, heightened startle reflex, nausea, trembling, heart palpitations, headaches, obsessions, chest pain, etc), self-destructive thoughts, self-injury behaviors, suicidal ideation (pervasive thoughts about wanting to die), depression, tearfulness, or detached numbing. It’s probably been a miserable weekend for a lot of DID survivors.
Fathers that participate in dark church rituals are often not the kind of fathers that you find written about in Hallmark Cards. These are the kinds of fathers that prefer abusive activities, or that like sadistic pain, or have freaky and perverse sexual interests. They are difficult men who have caused a lot of hurt and pain for a lot of people, especially for their children.
And yet, even so, there are nearly always those parts within the DID system that feel loyalty and a deep bonding with the father figure. These parts are typically parts that have adopted some level of acceptance of the traumatic activities, and have long ago learned to tolerate the abuse or to even define it as anything but abuse.
DID survivors often manage abuse by their fathers by creating a father introject within the internal dissociative system. Father introjects are internal system parts that remember the father so well that they look-feel-sound-act-appear to the others inside as the same as the actual father. An internal introject may do the same kinds of abusive behaviors to the other parts of the system, recreating the same abusive patterns and feelings that the external father did. Since the internal world is so real to DID survivors, it can feel like the father is still there, still controlling things, still making all the decisions, still threatening harm, still causing harm.
And in many ways this can be true.
It can be difficult to separate who the external father is from the internal father introject. They can very much feel like mirror-images of each other, shadow replicas, and the child parts of the system will not be able to tell the difference between them.
But father introjects are NOT the actual father, no matter how much they may claim to be so. Father introjects actually belong to you. They split from you, they came from your mind, and they originated with you. They are actually part of you, and not part of the father. They may have been taught by the father, but they are actually yours.
However, they will be powerful parts of the internal system though so their power and influence is not to be ignored or minimized. It is more important to work with these parts, and reconnect their loyalty to the survivor person instead of to the father figure. This is an absolutely crucial part of the DID therapy process, and if you haven’t yet gained a safe working relationship with your father introject, you will need to do so.
Father Transference Issues
In the therapy process, male therapists will have many of the same kinds of transference issues regarding father issuesj as female therapists have with mother issues. In fact, it is often difficult for some female dissociative survivors to work with male therapists because of the kinds of trauma, abuse, and controls associated with their father. Male therapists often have to address transference issues of being seen as the abuser, controlling male, dominant owner, sexual pervert, etc. So many trauma survivors have issues with men — and even more have issues with their fathers — that it makes being a male therapist for female trauma survivors particularly difficult.
Other female trauma survivors are so used to be led by men or connected to men, especially their father, that they feel more at ease with men and less comfortable with “neglectful, abandoning mothers”. (Female therapists tend to get more of the abandonment transference issues, while male therapists tend to get more of the abuser-male dominance transference issues.) The relationship between survivors and their parents will very often dictate which gender of therapist is a better fit for them.
Typical Father Issues
Father issues are not easy to work through. They often take years of time to sort out, and they are very painful. Many survivors truly feel bonded to their fathers, even if some of their relationship involved sexual activities. Sometimes feeling sexually connected to the father felt better than being emotionally abandoned by the mother. When this is the case, there are numerous emotional complications to process during your healing.
Do you understand the role your father has played in your life?
Do you experience system switching, feelings of fear, or flashbacks when you are in the same room with your father?
What would your father do if you said no to him?
What would your father do if you chose a lifestyle very different from the one he chose for his life?
Are you allowed to live separately from him? Have you been allowed to move away from his neighborhood?
How much control or influence does your father have over you life in the current day?
Are you safe when you are in the same room as your father?
Does your father still abuse you or any of your younger parts? Does he still exert a level of sexual dominance over anyone in your system?
Would you be betraying your father if you refused to let him touch you in sexual ways?
If your father is an abuser, you can get distance and separation from him.
You don’t have to stay bonded to abusers.
You don’t have to stay connected to violent relationships.
You don’t have to be abused to be accepted.
You do not have to be sexual to be accepted.
All men are not abusers.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 10, 2010
Lots of trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder are just starting their healing process. Other dissociative survivors are not new to their healing process, but they might realize that they haven’t yet covered all the basics.
DID therapy can feel huge, daunting, difficult, and overwhelming. There is so much to do and so many areas of work. For a broader overview of the many areas of DID healing, please refer to the article, “50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder”.
For individuals building the foundation for their work with your dissociative system, here are some of the first things to do.
DID 101 involves:
1. Get to know your system. Build the courage to find and meet your insiders. Remember, they were formed and created to help you – even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are (or can be) on the same team. Who are your inside parts? What jobs do they have? What kinds of things are they able to do? It’s really ok for you to build positive relationships and actual friendships with your insiders. If this feels scary for you, explore those feelings. What makes it hard for you to get to know your insiders? What fears or resentments do you have? Understanding your resistance to these ideas is important.
2. Become more comfortable with your diagnosis. If you don’t understand what dissociative identity disorder (DID /MPD) is, be sure to speak more with your therapist or psychiatrist about what it means to be dissociative. There are lots of books, websites, blogs, articles, conferences, etc that can help to educate you about the basics about DID. Understanding DID will help take out some of the mystery and confusion for you.
3. Build a support system and capable treatment team. It is very helpful if you can surround yourself with a few other people that understand trauma dynamics, preferably at least one or two other people, besides your therapist and doctor that understand that you are working on healing from trauma. These support people don’t have to be experts in DID – if they are just willing to spend some time with you when you need a safe distraction from your healing work, that will be helpful. Please don’t lean on lay-support people for the heavy issues. Leave the complicated treatment issues for your therapist to work with – your support friends are not therapists, so be very careful about not pushing them too far or demanding too much of them.
4. Once you have recognized at least one or two other parts, work on building communication with these parts. Internal communication is one of the very most important factors in DID therapy, and the sooner you can interact cooperatively with your other parts, the better your healing progress will happen. Approximately twenty of the articles in the Discussing Dissociation blog reference tips for building internal communication. This link groups these articles together. Learning how to talk to your other parts is the most important factor in your healing.
5. Connecting with your internal landscape. What can you see inside? Can you see the other insiders? Do you have an internal safe place? Internal visualization work is an important skill as it builds a way to connect with your insiders. Even if you can’t see the others inside, there will likely be someone else who can. Maybe ask if that insider will draw a map of your system for you? The sooner you can see inside, the better. And of course, if you see insiders that are not in positive, healthy, clean living conditions, you and other helpers in your system will need to do something to help them.
6. Working on limiting or preventing self-destructive impulses and self-injurious behaviors. Learning how to address self-harm urges is particularly important for your stabilization and progression in therapy. You have already been hurt enough – adding more hurt may feel like it helps you to cope in the short-term, but using behaviors such as cutting or burning is not any more helpful than using a shot of whiskey or a hit of cocaine. Explore better ways to cope with your intense feelings, develop more grounding skills, build positive containment strategies, and methods to reconnect with the here-and-now. A grouping of articles about preventing self-injury can be found here.
7. Live in a safe place both inside and out. If you live in a violent environment, address this issue as quickly as you are able. If you are continuing to be abused or sexually assaulted in any way, your dissociative walls will stay strong, and your system will have greater trouble trusting you and your treatment team. Of course, when anyone is fearful of abusive repercussions, it is much harder to disclose the real issues. Dangerous environments can include everything from domestic violence, abusive parents, organized perpetrators, to internal system perpetrators and angry introjects. Building more and more current-day safety is vitally important for your overall healing process. If you aren’t safe, make this a priority in your therapy process. Building an internal safe place is also critically important. However, please remember that in order to build an internal safe place, you have to have a genuine belief that safety can happen, at least part of the time. Making an internal safe place for your insiders is much more difficult when you are still concerned about external safety.
8. Start building options for positive self-comfort, self-soothing activities. The therapy process can be so very painful and emotionally difficult. Having a variety of options to do that are comfortable, safe, gentle, soothing, and stabilizing is important. What can you do when you want to have a break from the hard work of therapy? What can you do when you need some quiet space to think – or to not think? When you are hurting, what can you do that will help you to feel better? Soothing your pain in ways that help your healing (vs. using self-destructive options) is an important skill to develop.
9. Create healthy options for expression of feeling and emotion – use art, music, journaling, collage, blogging, forum posting, sculpting, painting, poetry, play therapy, sand tray therapy, scrapbooking, etc. DID therapy involves processing a lot of flashbacks, violent images, intense feelings, overwhelming thoughts, body memories, body pain, etc. Building a repertoire of artistic avenues to describe your feelings and experiences will be very helpful. You might not always have words that you can use so it is important to find non-verbal ways to safely express what you feel.
10. Create your own personal space. In this space, let it be ok for your insiders to come out, to be themselves, to be out in the body, and to exist. Out in the world, and when you are around other people, most of your daily life will be about keeping your insiders tucked in and acting socially inappropriate. But somewhere in your private time, your insiders will need time to surface, to know that it is ok for them to come out. Having the freedom to switch without reprimand is important as each of your insiders will need to do some personalized healing work of their own.
Not 11. Please note: I am specifically not including memory work or skills to do memory work in my top then list of DID 101 skills. The reason for this is that if you are just beginning DID therapy, it can be very destabilizing to focus on heavy-duty memory work. Yes, of course, doing trauma work is an important part of your overall healing process, but in the beginning of this journey, you need to build these basic skills before you begin to put a lot of energy into memory work. It is much safer and more stabilizing to have these foundational therapy skills in place before focusing on the trauma content of DID therapy.
DID therapy is intense, long-term, exhausting, and difficult. But your healing is worth it. As you truly address the painful conflicts, unmet needs, and internal confusion caused by your years of trauma, abuse, and neglect, you will feel better within your own self.
I wish you the very best in your healing journey –
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 13, 2009
In the television show “One Life To Live” — Bess tried to rescue Jessica one more time by taking baby Chloe and going on the run. Their secret had gotten out — baby Chloe belonged to someone else and the dear little one was not Jessica’s baby at all.
Tess was angry with Bess for trying this last stunt. Every time Bess looked in the mirror, she would see Tess’s angry face making comments to her. Tess had plenty to say — she was not at all impressed with Bess.
Meanwhile, Jessica was tucked way down inside. She had no awareness that she had driven hundreds of miles away from her home. She didn’t know she was in trouble or that she was about to lose her baby. She wasn’t aware of much of anything.
Despite Tess’s protests, Bess was determined to do what she defined as protection of Jessica. It was Bess’s mastermind plan to switch the babies so that Jessica would never know that her own baby had died at birth. She was determined to never let Jessica feel the pain of having lost her baby. She really believed she was helping by hiding out of town.
But they were found. Their safe person, Broady, found them. (That’s quite an appropriate name for the safe person, don’t you think?!!!)
With the secret out, Bess had no other option but to let Jessica remember the truth of what had happened. Bess did not know if Jessica was strong enough to handle the emotional pain, but there was no more blocking out the reality or dissociating away the truth. Jessica was going to remember.
And Jessica did remember.
Painfully, reliving minute by minute, even having body memories of giving birth to her child, Jessica remembered detail after detail of the incident that had previously been totally dissociated from her awareness. For months, Bess had completely held those memories from Jessica, but the dissociative walls between the two of them were no longer necessary. Bess was letting Jess remember.
Jessica remembered going into labor, birthing the child, and seeing that her child had been stillborn. She recalled the plan of switching her baby for another newly born baby, and she knew that she had to return baby Chloe to her rightful mother.
Jessica was addressing her pain. She was remembering in an emotional and physical way. She felt the labor pains, and recalled the birth of her baby as if it was happening all over again. She felt the emotional agony of losing her child. She remembered all that had been dissociated from her awareness.
And she was strong enough to handle the pain. And by doing so, she will be able to heal.
The writers of “One Life to Live” provided a fairly accurate portrayal of this process, for sexual abuse survivors with dissociative identity disorder even if it was fast-forwarded in typical soap opera fashion. But for a television show, they did pretty good.
In real life, body memories are a common occurrence for trauma survivors.
For most survivors, the body memories are much more involved, and occur as a much longer process. They will happen more frequently, and not come in such a neat package. But the point is, the body will remember the trauma, and the body will feel the same physical sensations all over again as it “tells the story” of what happened.
Body memories are the body’s way of remembering, storing, and telling the trauma. The survivor’s mind may have blocked out the pain and created dissociative walls around the traumatic experience, but the physical body itself can remember the trauma through cellular memory.
Sometimes survivors experience the body memories separately from intellectual understanding or emotional remembrance of what happened during the trauma. Dissociative survivors will feel intense body pain and have no idea why they are hurting. When the body remembers the traumatic incident at a different time from when the mind remembers the incident, it can feel very crazy making. The therapeutic goal is to put the various pieces together so that the survivor can work through, process, and heal from the memory as a whole.
The body feels the trauma in much the same as in the original incident and the various physical attitudes occur as if the trauma was happening all over again. The physical pain, shaking, trembling, jerking, physical reactions, intensity, and various body responses happen in a similar fashion as in the original trauma.
For most sexual abuse survivors, body memories will also involve feelings of pleasure or physical response. This creates a particularly difficult emotional dilemma for the survivors, as it is difficult to reconcile the pleasure responses that occurred during the middle of an abusive event. But the body, being a biological entity, cannot distinguish safe touch from abuse, and if stimulated correctly, it will naturally respond. Survivors often feel a great deal of shame about this reality, and will need to discuss this situation in their therapy.
Body memories are an important piece of the healing work. The body can say a lot about the incidents of abuse, and it really is impossible to re-create a body memory when there was no memory in the first place.
Because of that, body memories are often helpful in breaking through the denial layers of dissociation. The body may remember moments of the abuse that were too emotionally difficult for the survivors to manage, but by truly listening to their bodies, survivors can learn a great deal about their histories.
What is your body saying to you?
What does your body remember that your mind refuses to think about?
What does your body remember that you don’t want to hear?
What will it take for you to listen to your body? Your body was there for the abuse too. Maybe it knows more than you think it does.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 7, 2009
Many dissociative trauma survivors have issues with time.
Sometimes the past sneaks up into the present. Sometimes the present disappears. Sometimes there are two time zones (or more) occurring at the same time. Sometimes there are huge gaps in time. Sometimes time stands still.
It can be confusing to say the least.
- Have you ever had a flashback from some year gone by overwhelm your current day?
- Have you ever been overwhelmed by such huge feelings that for them to make any sense, they must have roots in something much deeper than your current-day conflict?
- Have you ever woken up in the current day and wondered where you were?
- Have you ever lost hours of time, with no awareness of what happened, and no explanation of what you have been doing?
Losing time can be very difficult. Many folks with DID get understandably upset when this happens — struggling with the after effects of their behavior, left confused, bewildered, possibly angry, waking to their plans being destroyed, their relationships damaged, their money spent, their body feeling weird, their day interrupted. Most singletons cannot even begin to fathom what life would be like with so many missing gaps in time.
There is a huge sense of loss of control when there is lost time. Is the amnesia that is covering that lost time still important? Is it covering up some huge secret that the host of the system cannot know about? Or is it just an old habit – an old familiar way of life, and nothing to worry about? Either way, the not-knowing, and the apparent “not being allowed to know” what happened in one’s own life can understandably be very upsetting for many people.
Sometimes the effects of lost time are minimal, barely noticeable — maybe a small bruise, or scratch that came from nowhere, or a change of clothes, or maybe you’re simply sitting in a different place than you last were. Lots of people with dissociative disorders are so used to losing time that they don’t even notice it anymore. Switching and the coming and going are so normal for them, and the covering for a “bad memory” are just natural parts of the day. In fact, it can be so natural, that many people with DID/MPD are firmly convinced that they don’t lose any time at all. However, a close examination of that belief can usually prove otherwise, but that is not an uncommon initial assumption.
Sometimes lost time cause a lot of anxiety and panic, and sometimes the effects are quite devastating. The host of the system may have no awareness that one of the insiders participated in a sexual activity the night before, but the host might be able to feel body pain and stiffness, and just not have an explanation for that. The daytime alters may not have realized that “the body” is now pregnant, and they may not absolutely no idea who the father is. Or the host of the system may have no idea how the car got wrecked. The dayside people can see the damage done to the car, but might not have any awareness of what happened. Or maybe they have absolutely no idea why their spouse and children are so angry with them. Maybe they don’t remember being involved in a knockdown drag-out argument last night where the spouse and the children were repeatedly insulted, ridiculed, and denigrated.
Sometimes something good has happened – ie: where another part has had the courage to do something that you hadn’t been able to manage. The house may suddenly look cleaner and more organized, or the kids have been helped with their homework. “Good news” isn’t as frequently blocked from awareness, but it can certainly happen. And sometimes, inside system parts can purposefully block the awareness of someone else inside so they can give them a nice surprise. Insider parts can buy nice prezzies for each other, keeping the others unaware of what they are getting for Christmas or Hanukkah, for example.
However, for dissociative trauma survivors, the original foundational reasons for losing time were long ago based on avoiding or escaping the direct involvement in something terrible. While blocking out the awareness of events during their original occurrence was incredibly helpful at that initial traumatic point in time, as a person’s safety increases, and as their dissociative walls decrease, those hidden chunks of lost time often re-surface later in the form of PTSD, flashbacks, body memories, etc.
As repeated patterns of managing traumatic incidents become set and solidified within the dissociative splits, the amnesia between those alters and others inside just simply stay in place. In those original traumatic moments, those insiders were created with dissociative walls firmly intact, purposefully preventing the other system parts from knowing what happened. That same “missing time” protection stays in place until the dissociative person begins to address why it was necessary for them to have that chunk of time hidden from their life in the first place.
Think about the most recent incident or two where you lost time. Part of the healing process is getting more connected with those periods of lost time. Don’t just comfortably sail past the fact that you don’t know what happened in the middle of the afternoon, or that you have no earthly idea where you were last night. Work at that.
These missing gaps of time are pieces of your life that hold valuable information. I can promise you, your body didn’t just cease to exist while you were dissociatively “away” on a mental vacation. Something was happening with some of your parts, and someone was doing something. You might not been out and involved in life during that period of time, but I can guarantee that someone in your system knows exactly what was happening. They were there instead of you.
The terms “missing time” or “lost time” are actually misnomers. The time didn’t get lost. The time is not gone. The person dissociated away from time — someone else in your system was out instead of you. If you don’t know what happened, then you dissociated away and you have not yet talked to your internal system about who was out instead of you. By talking to the others in your dissociative system, you can find out exactly what happened in that “lost time”.
The question is whether or not you would like to know what happened while you were away. Do you want to remember what happened in those missing gaps of time in your childhood? Do you want to know what happened in those missing gaps of time last week? Are you willing to ask your insiders to tell you about their time in the body and their time out in the world?
Becoming less dissociative, less DID/MPD, more integrated, more whole means knowing about ALL the missing gaps of time – the good news, and the not so good news. If you cannot integrate what happened in your own life, you certainly cannot integrate with your other alters inside. If you cannot sit with the emotions and feelings that you had during the difficult times in your life, you certainly cannot integrate with the inside parts that contain those feelings.
Overcoming the amnesia and time loss means that you must communicate actively with the others in your system. Yep, we’re back to system communication once again. Talk to your internal people – they can tell you exactly what happened while you were away.
Work hard to figure out what has happened in your life. Be willing to remember what happened in those missing chunks of time. Don’t comfortably skip over the details that you conveniently dissociated away – go back and really work at learning what happened in your own life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your internal system after you notice some missing time:
- What happened? Do you have any guess or sense whatsoever of what happened? What was happening right before you lost time and what is the first thing you noticed when you got back, grounded and connected to the current day?
- How did you feel? How did you feel emotionally before you left? How do you emotionally feel now?
- How does the body feel now? What is different from before?
- What did you do to recover the information in the time that went “missing”? What clues did you find to help fill in the gaps for you? Look around the house or your car. Does anything look different?
- Did you know who in your system was “out” while you were not out? Who can you ask internally? Who saw what? Even if your insiders did not see what happened in the outside world, did they notice any internal movement? What changes and interactions were happening within the inside world while you were away? Did anyone see anyone else “walk by”?
- If you get a sense of who was out, can you talk to that part of yourself without losing time? Have you been able to work more with the others in your system to lesson the likelihood of this happening again??
- If someone else in your system was caught in a memory or a flashback, do you want to know about it? Are you willing to hear their story about their trauma? Are you willing to sit with them and deal with their pain?
Are you brave enough to know what happened while you were away?
Are you genuinely serious enough about your healing to want to know what happened while you were away?
Are you ready to claim all the different aspects of what has happened in your life?
You can get back all the information that was allegedly lost during that missing time.
You can truly know what happened.
Kathy Broady LCSW