August 2, 2009
It always amazes me when dissociative trauma survivors tell me that after they’ve met three or four of their inside alters (or maybe even a few more than that, but not many), that they think they’ve met everyone in their system. They think they are “done” meeting their insiders.
That never makes sense to me. Oh, I understand why the survivors would want to believe they have so few others inside, but that hope rarely matches with the actual amount of dissociative symptoms that they experience in their lives.
For example, if someone is still losing time, but they believe that have a good solid relationship with the parts that they know – then why are they losing time? Yes, it is possible that someone you know in your system can still block you out of awareness at certain times. Then again, if everyone you know in your system said they did not know what happened during a period of lost time, then it only makes sense to realize there are other parts of the system out and in charge during that missing time. If all of you are losing time, then there are more insiders yet to meet.
In my definition, meeting new insiders is a sign of progress. The survivor will not be creating new parts by meeting new parts – they are simply finding the parts that have been hiding from them all along behind strong dissociative walls. Any time you can reclaim more of the information that had been previously blocked from you via dissociation, you are making progress. Learning about your system and your history are always steps of progress.
So who should you look for or when will you know if there are more parts to meet?
All dissociative trauma survivors have their own unique system, of course. No one’s system is exactly like anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong for how big or how elaborate your system is. You would have split as many times as you had to, and you will have as many parts as you needed.
However, there are some common types of alters that exist in most DID survivors. This is a non-exhaustive list:
(Please note: alters may start off in these categories, but their roles can change.)
1. Host parts – check to see who was the host at various times in your life. This role can change and be assigned from part to part to part through time.
2. Child parts – your dissociative splitting would have started prior to age 7, so you will definitely have at least one child part, however, most DID survivors have bunches of child parts.
3. Parts that are relatively happy and trauma-free. These parts do not remember any trauma whatsoever. They can be of any age, but they believe they had a completely safe and happy childhood / adult life. Some parts might believe there was childhood abuse, but they can be blocked from the awareness of abuse happening in the adult years.
4. Parts that are created to manage the outside world. These parts may be the ones that went to school, or go to work, or handle social situations. They are typically quite separate from the trauma-holders or those that hold intense emotions. These parts may not be aware of a lot of trauma, they may hold a lot of denial, and they have the job to look as normal as possible. They will help the person get through life by doing normal things.
5. Parts that don’t remember anything “good” happening. If there are parts that only remember good things, there will absolutely be parts that only remember painful, not-so-good things. They contain the information that the normal daytime “happy” parts were not allowed to know, experience, or remember.
6. Parts that know a lot of memory information. These are the parts that either experienced or witnessed the trauma, abuse, neglect, etc. Getting to know these parts will involve listening to stories about the trauma, body memories about the trauma, flashbacks of the trauma, etc. It is common for there to be numerous parts to handle various types of abuses by various perpetrators. For example, one part may have managed a specific kind of abuse by perpetrator A. Another part may have handled a different kind of abuse by perpetrator A. Another part may have handled the abuse by perpetrator B. Yet another part handled the abuse by perpetrator C. And so forth.
7. Parts that contain a specific emotion. Many people split off various emotions into certain parts to contain those intense overwhelming emotions. If you believe, for example, that you never feel anger, you will likely have other parts in your system that do contain those emotions for you. These parts often have names such as “the sad little girl”, or “the angry one”, or “the scared one”. Getting to know these parts will mean starting to accept and experience these emotions.
8. Parts that split off at particularly traumatic years of life. These parts could also be memory-holders, but during years when there was more stress in the external life, there will likely be more parts. Years of more extreme abuse can lead to more parts being created of a similar age simply because more selves were needed to manage the overwhelming abuse.
9. Parts that are loyal to the mother. All children love their mother, even abusive, neglectful mothers. However, this emotion might need to be contained within certain parts, especially in the case of abusive mothers. Some parts are created to agree with the mother’s abuse (defining it as anything but abuse), and others are created to be obedient to the mother, even if they are terrified or in pain.
10. Parts that are loyal to the father. Just as with the mother, the father may have a variety of parts that are loyal to him, his beliefs, his ways, etc. They may learn that it is safer to align with the perpetrator and to separate themselves from the child-survivor.
11. Parts that contain loyalty to the perpetrators. These parts are often rewarded by the abuser-perpetrators and are encouraged to view themselves as separate from the rest of the system. It will take a lot of work to bring their loyalty back to the person they were created from.
12. Introjects created from external people. System introjects are internalized parts of the system that act – think- feel – believe themselves to be a mirror image of the external person that they are replicating, except they often believe they are the actual person (and not the replication). They may adamantly believe that they are a different person from the survivor-self, complete with a different body from the survivor. These parts contain a lot of memories, factual information, emotional realities for how it was like to be near the outside person.
13. Parts that contain the programming / mind controlled messages. These parts are often created by design and on purpose by organized abusers. These parts are given specific learnings that function as “rules” to control the survivor’s overall behavior. They are often separate from the host parts, and quite hidden within the depths of the system. The other system parts will experience their influence, but have trouble recognizing them as specific alters.
14. Parts that hate the mother or father. Hating the parents may be a difficult dilemma to address, especially since there will be parts of the person that naturally love their parents. However, years of repeated abuse and neglect can create the need for parts to contain the hatred felt towards parents who would allow such atrocities to happen to their child.
15. Parts that are created along the lines of family dynamics. Some survivors will internalize their family into their own DID system. You might find internal replicas of the sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. The family dynamics will be played out in a variety of ways but will most obviously be noted in the way the survivor splits off their system.
16. Floaters and other parts that separated themselves from the body during times of trauma. These parts may have risen above the body, and from the out-of-body experience position, may have specific information to share with the survivor about the kinds of things that happened.
17. Internal self-helpers. These parts would have been created by the system themselves and not necessarily during a state of trauma. They are typically leaders of the system that are considered to be holders of wisdom, or gentle peace, or spiritual guidance. They are devoted to the survivor system as a whole and work towards maintaining safety, stabilization, balance, etc. They typically do very little with the outside world, and focus most all of their energies towards helping the system to survive.
18. Parts that are specifically parental figures to the outside children. It is not uncommon for a survivor to split off “parental parts” just to be focused on raising the outside children as well as possible. These parts very often work hard at being different from their own outside parents, and strive to be the best parent they can be.
19. Parts that were involved in abusing others. This is a very difficult area for survivors to reach, but it is more common than not. Especially for those people who have been abused by organized perpetrators (ie: cults, sex slavery groups, etc) there will be parts who were forced to have the perpetrator role and required to do things that harmed other people.
20. Parts that contain a specific skill or talent. Certain parts can be created to develop positive talents and abilities, often as a way to help manage or express or avoid the pain that is felt so deeply by the others in the system. Maybe one part is better at playing a musical instrument than anyone else. Maybe someone else learned how to write poetry. Or maybe someone was created to be an athlete and to run, jump, excel at sports, etc.
As you can see, there can be a large system just by having parts to fulfill the different roles that are often needed to get through the abuse. Some parts may have a variety of these jobs, overlapping from a variety of categories.
But don’t be surprised if you have a variety of parts in each of the categories listed above.
Many survivors do.
Kathy Broady LCSW
July 19, 2009
Something about heartbreak totally changes a person.
Changes your life.
I’m not sure I can put words to it yet, but I know it happens.
It consumes your thoughts, your mind, your time.
What hurts the most? Abandonment? Abuse? Neglect? Betrayal? Dishonesty? Physical pain? Sexual trauma? Aloneness?
I suppose there is no way to say what hurts the most. It’s probably different for different people anyway.
When there is heartbreak, the heart breaks.
The sadness lingers.
You breathe it in with every breath. It’s all around you at all times.
It sits with you. Next to you. Beside you. On you. Behind you. In you.
The heart hurts.
You can feel it. It’s a physical pain. It’s an emotional pain.
Sad, slow music can express it oh so very well.
It’s just hard to find the words.
Sometimes heartbreak cannot be soothed. There are no words to comfort or reach or soften the depth of the break.
Sometimes sitting with is helpful.
Sometimes aloneness is all that can be tolerated.
Sometimes someone else’s heart can hear the heartbreak, even without the words.
It’s in the emotion. Or in the feeling of the person.
Or in the feeling around the person.
Real heartbreak is palpable.
Anyone listening or paying attention can see it, and feel it, and sense it – if they will.
Maybe that’s why heartbreak changes life.
It creates profound crossroads in a person’s life.
The road chosen changes after heartbreak.
Life changes after heartbreak.
It’s never the same.
The heart breaks.
Kathy Broady LCSW
July 14, 2009
When you have dissociative identity disorder (DID/MPD), and you’re thinking as a multiple personality — thus having a multitude of different thoughts at once time — it can be very difficult to make decisions.
How do survivors with DID ever make up their minds?
How do survivors with DID decide whose opinion to follow?
How do survivors with DID ever decide what is best for them?
How do survivors with DID sort out having a dozen different opinions at once?
It is complicated to think like a multiple.
There are gaps of missing time, non-sequential pieces of information, jumbled feelings and emotions, snippets of conflicting facts, confusion, voices from the past, fears of more punishment, flashbacks, internal arguing, programmed thoughts, insistent introjects, personal insecurities, etc. The chaotic internal workings of a dissociative trauma survivor can make it very difficult to think clearly.
Non-dissociative “singletons” (people who do not have multiple personality disorder) can experience simultaneous mixed feelings, opposing thoughts and conflicting perspectives on specific situations as well. Singletons can write out extensive lists of “pros vs. cons” on any number of situations. Non-dissociative singletons do not experience just one thought or one feeling at a time either. They see the big conflicting picture all at once.
So what makes decision making even more difficult for survivors with DID?
All too often, dissociative trauma survivors functioned through the difficult times of their life by separating their thoughts and feelings into individual compartments and using dissociative, amnesiac walls to keep these compartments separated. Having mixed emotions and conflicting beliefs at the same time was often too much to manage in the middle of a traumatic event. Dissociative survivors learned to split the different feelings and the different perspectives into different parts of themselves, blocking one perspective away from the other. It is easier to separate and contain overwhelming conflicting emotions when the two opposing emotions did not have to directly collide with each other.
For example, all children love their parents. But if a young girl has a father who is sexually abusing her, and a mother that is either pretending not to see that or is helping the father to abuse her, then huge conflicting emotions are going to occur. The child will want to please her parents, even in this painful abusive situation. But in order to do that, the child will have to find ways to separate her experience of the parents she loves from the parents who are hurting her. Dissociating the conflicts into separate parts help this to happen.
- The child can split off a part of herself that is willing to obey her father even to the point of acting like a passive or promiscuous young child that appears to want to be sexual with the father.
- She can split off a part of her that feels the physical pain and injury of the assault.
- She can split off a part of her that contains the intense betrayal by the mother.
- She can split off a part that holds the emotional pain, deep wounding, and heartbreak of the assault.
- She can split off a part that holds the anger and rage at having been assaulted by both of her parents.
- She can split off a part that holds the fear of being violently assaulted by her parents again and again.
- She can split off a part that is the happy little girl who goes to school the next day, blocking out all the pain, acting very connected to her parents, not showing any sign of having been through a horrendous assault the night before.
The person as a whole sees the situation as a whole. But if a dissociative trauma survivor has separated the different feelings and perspectives and kept that information separated locked and blocked behind various dissociative walls, then the survivor is aware of only some of the information at any given point in time. She is not aware of the whole picture, because she has it dissociated parts of it away from herself.
Dissociative people are accustomed to separating the intense conflicting emotions and managing only one or two at a time. This might help in the short-run, but it does not help in the long-run.
So how do dissociative trauma survivors make good decisions if they are used to looking at situations from the constraints of one limited perspective at a time? What happens when they cannot see the situation as a whole? How can they make a good decision if they cannot put the entire picture together at the same time?
This is a common problem for survivors with DID. The part of them that sees and recognizes the dangers cannot always communicate with the happy naïve part who is determined to believe she is safe and unharmed. The ones that believe they are out of harm’s way (and who wouldn’t want to hold tight to that belief?) refuse to connect with the fear, anger, pain of the trauma (because who would want to feel that?!)
The problem is that by not seeing the whole picture at one time, dissociative trauma survivors find themselves tangled into a variety of dangerous situations. For example, they can bond to dangerous people without recognizing the danger. They see only as much as the current perspective allows them to see, and they don’t even realize that there is trouble looming in the near future. By dissociating the perceptions and experiences that might better recognize the danger, dissociative survivors can put themselves in high-risk situations over and over and over again.
Building the strength, the courage, and the willingness to talk to all the other internal parts in your system is key to getting past the dissociative walls and being able to make decisions from a more complete perspective. Face your difficult emotions, confront the truth of your trauma, listen to all of your inner selves, and recognize that other internal parts have valid information. No one can make a good decision based on partial information. Be willing to look at the whole picture.
As you learn to trust your internal parts to give you the rest of the story, you will be less vulnerable to people who aggressively or suggestively tell you what to think. The more you can trust yourself, the less vulnerable you are to people who would manipulate your thinking by maneuvering behind your dissociative walls. Predators and perpetrators will have less ammunition to use against you when you can trust your own selves. They will not be able to abuse you as much if you are aware that it is happening. The less you dissociate time and information, the more you can appropriately handle life’s current day conflicts.
If you truly know the whole story of what happens in your life, both in the past and in the present, then you are less vulnerable to feeling or thinking or believing something just because someone else more aggressive tells you that you do. You can learn to connect to and trust in your own thoughts or feelings or beliefs, and to make your own assessment of a situation based on that.
Look at the whole picture and think for yourself.
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 28, 2009
Trauma survivors know all about perpetrators. Dissociative trauma survivors know all about sadistic perpetrators. Dissociative trauma survivors with a background in ritual abuse, or mind control, or sex slavery organizations know all about truly evil perpetrators.
Those of us in the world who were not directly exposed to such darkness have a hard time grasping its depth. It seems surreal to us. Unfathomable. While many therapists may truly believe “in their heads” that abuse and evil exist in this world, having that head knowledge is still a far cry from truly knowing and experiencing yourself as the target of evil.
I’ve been working almost exclusively with dissociative trauma survivors for over 20 years, and I have listened to and believed what my clients have told me. I know the politically correct answer is to say that I can neither confirm nor deny the abuse of others, but let’s face it. Either trauma therapists believe their clients were genuinely abused or they need to get out of the field and go work somewhere else.
But do therapists really know what evil is? I dare to say, no, most do not.
They have head knowledge, but most mental health therapists have not experienced evil. They haven’t been the target of a predator. They haven’t had their soul ravaged or clawed into. They haven’t had their body destroyed or ripped apart. Of course, there are some wounded healers that have truly been able to rise above their own traumas and actually do have a genuine sense of how deeply evil can wound, but these are a rare find.
(But be careful, there are far too many wounded who should spend more time on their own healing before jumping into the helping profession. If you happen to find a therapist that truly has done their own healing, then you are very fortunate – that person will be able to help you. But please watch out for the professionals who are still mid-process. They can cause a lot more harm than they might mean to cause.)
Despite my sheltered upbringing, in the past few years, I have been getting a deeper grasp on how cold and evil people can be. I’ve had a closer look at the destructive handiwork of predators. Initially it took me off-guard, because I really believed in the goodness of people. I was raised to trust, to forgive, to love, and to see the best in others, and I do that easily.
So being targeted by the calculated coldness of predators has been quite an eye-opening experience. I still shake my head in surprise, completely amazed at how vicious people can be. The lies, the twists, the deception – the depths to which people will sink when they have no conscience to guide them – it’s totally mind boggling to someone raised by a family who truly believed in goodness.
How does someone protect themselves from blatant attacks by a predator trying to destroy them? When someone is trying to rip at your very core, how do you stay safe and solid within yourself?
First, know that they don’t know you. They know what they want you to be, but they don’t know who you truly are apart from them. As a result, they don’t speak the truth about you, or about anyone. They speak through the tools of their trade. They tells lies, they create deception, because these are the things they know. They know darkness, and they know cold, calculated, purposeful destruction of people. Yes, they purposefully work to destroy good people. But they are not you. And they are not me.
You don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to believe them. You don’t have to be who or what they say you are. You don’t have to do what they say to do or think what they tell you to think. They are flat wrong in their words, their actions, and their motives. Learn who you truly are, apart from their lies and their manipulations and their tricks. Learn to think for yourself, neither in obedience to them nor in reaction to them, and that will help you to separate yourself from them.
And believe in your true self. Your life, your beliefs, your heart, and your soul belong to what you are willing to fight for and to what you stand for when there is nobody but you yourself telling you where to stand. You don’t have to give any of yourself away to the dark, cold emptiness of a predator. If you know and connect to your true self, that alone can be a protection against any predatory attack on your self. Knowing who you truly are is an armor against the lies and tricks intended to destroy you or hurt you by telling you who and what you are.
And learn how to compassionately love. Hold onto that gentle love you feel, and never let it go. Evil does not love. If you can genuinely love and care for others, you are not one of them. Stand solid in the knowledge of your own goodness, your spiritual faith, your strengths, and your ability to think and to feel and to love. Let that repel the evil away from you.
Separate yourself from them. Know who you are apart from them.
And stay far away from them. The best protection you can have is not to give them the opportunity to say or do anything to you. Protect yourself. If you know that somebody is a predator or a perpetrator, stay away from them.
Because you are not them. And they are not you.
You do not belong to them, no matter how much they come after you.
You do not belong to them, no matter what they did to you or what they said to you or what they made you do.
Stay true to yourself, and be who you are. Be who you truly are. And let the power of compassionate love overcome any darkness that tries to change you.
If you forget, remember the beauty and simplicity in an opening quote from the movie, “The Notebook”:
“I am no one special – just a common man, with common thoughts. I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me, and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I’ve succeeded as gloriously as anyone who has ever lived.
I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that is always good enough.“
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 14, 2009
I’m trying something new today — a blog poll.
I’m not quite sure how they work yet, so other than asking people to click their answers… I can’t really explain it yet. This will be new for me too!
However, I am very interested in knowing whether or not you all have found therapists to be effective in understanding dissociative disorders, and whether or not you have met any therapists that could appropriately treat dissociative identity disorder.
Part of my clinical work as a trauma therapist is to teach other therapists about how to work with DID / dissociative identity disorder. Your opinion matters to me in that it helps me to give appropriate feedback to other therapists. Your opinions can be included in my presentations to other therapists.
We have spoken about the importance of trauma specialists in other Discussing Dissociation blog posts. Please refer to that article for more detailed information about my own personal opinion on the topic.
Also, if you are interested in providing a more detailed opinion about therapists, AbuseConsultants.com has a survey titled “Do Therapists Actually Help?” Your responses there can be completely anonymous. To participate in this survey, please go to AbuseConsultants.com, enter the site, and then click on the Survey 2 icon near the top of the home page.
Please feel free to add additional comments here in the blog as well, especially if you’d like to explain something further in response to the survey questions.
Thank you so much for your participation. I appreciate it!
Kathy Broady LCSW