May 1, 2012
I hope you are doing well today.
This will be a short post, but I made an important update to the Discussing Dissociation blog and wanted to be sure that you all knew about it.
I have been asked repeatedly about my views on integration. I’ve written posts and comments about this topic, but unfortunately, I didn’t create a “category” for these posts. So now, with the 170+ articles on this blog, these posts and comments are difficult to find. Of course! This means it’s time to simplify this topic search for everyone, and to make it simpler for the Discussing Dissociation readers to find these blog articles.
If you look on the right side of this page, scroll down until you see the Categories drop-down box. I’ve added the category “Integration – yes or no” to this feature.
This drop-box will link you to here.
I’m assuming, in all my many blatherings on this blog that I’ve made more comments about integration than just what is written in these two blog articles. However, this link is a good start. If anyone finds comments about integration in other articles, please let me know, so I can be sure to add that article to the category list as well.
In case you don’t have time to read the other articles at the moment, I’ll give you a quick summary of what I think about integration right here in this post.
Quick Thoughts about Integration – Kathy Broady’s Opinions:
Is integration necessary?
Is integration beneficial?
I doubt it.
Is integration the ultimate peak / proof of healing for dissociative trauma survivors?
Not at all.
Does integration need to be your treatment goal?
Not unless you say so. I wouldn’t ever ever make it a treatment goal for any of my clients.
If integration is not the treatment goal, what is?
Team work. Lowering the dissociative walls between internal people. Internal communication. Talking together. Not hiding information from each other. Building trust and genuine relationships within your system. Learning to genuinely love and care for each other.
Do you, Kathy, think that integration is possible?
Honestly? Not really. Not complete and “total” integration. I have not yet met anyone who integrated in such a way that they stayed integrated permanently for the rest of their life. I have not even met anyone that I would say has been integrated successfully for years of time. I have heard the stories of many such claims, and met some of these people, but in my opinion, none of the “integrated” people that I have ever talked with were able to literally demonstrate true integration. They were still very multiple in oh so many ways.
I’m not convinced that a person who has lived most of their entire life as a multiple can literally change their brain in such ways to become a singleton. Besides, what would be the point anyway?
Do you think that blending is possible?
Yes, absolutely. To me, blending and coming closely connected together in a co-conscious ways are very different from integration. Blending does not imply a complete union of absolutely everyone. It is perfectly natural, normal, and healthy for some of the splits to become more blended together, especially those parts that are already very close to each other. If their blending happens naturally, that is great. You cannot force blending to happen, and it doesn’t happen instantly. It is a very gradual process that happens over years of excellent therapy, healing work, and genuine external safety. If there is any kind of “forcing” or demanded blending under duress or coercion or deception, you can bet that those insiders will step back and separate again in the not so distant future.
Do you think that integration keeps you safe?
Ummmm…. No. In fact, I think that claims of integration can lead to the very opposite of safety. Why? Because I think that real and genuine integration so very rarely happens (if ever), that when someone begins to believe that they are integrated, this is the beginning of some really dangerous times. This typically means, in my experience, that some of the top layers of the system may have blended together, and/or learned how to work well together, but the darker under-layers of the system have hidden behind very thick dissociative walls. This is extremely dangerous because the dark parts are able to function without being noticed, and the top layers of the system are too busy being proud or protective of their integration and/or completely absorbed in their outside lives that they don’t notice the dark rumblings behind the wall.
Do you think that integrated multiples are safe leaders for other dissociative survivors?
No. Not that I have seen. In my opinion, it is much more likely that the alleged “integrated multiple” has very neatly hidden or shoved away their dark sides, even if they do not realize this. All the claims in the world of being integrated do not actually make someone integrated.
In fact, following the leadership of someone who alleges to be an “integrated multiple” can be extremely dangerous for others, especially for those who are newer in their healing process. You would be safer to run 100 miles in the other direction than to assume that an integrated multiple is “automatically” a safe person.
I know many of you will not like these statements, and it is ok if you disagree. I am not meaning to offend you. We each have our own opinion and our own experiences in life. Let me repeat this, because it is so very important. In my years of experience, “integrated multiples” have more often than not been used as lures, and in reality, they are people who have not completed HUGE areas of work, and they are not automatically “safe” people. Going further into this topic is an entirely different blog post, but in my opinion, there is a whole whopping lot of danger in this area. PLEASE be careful when you meet an “integrated multiple”.
I am very aware that there are many multiples who have had spiritually-based integrations. That is yet another complicated topic, to be discussed at another time.
Ok – this was going to be short (and of course, it’s not short!!), so I’ll stop at this point. I can feel the waters already getting stirred out there. Ah well. What is life without controversy, yes?
IF I thought integration was a great thing, I would certainly say so. I just haven’t seen it as such.
What about you?
Do you have any comments about integration?
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
July 31, 2010
One of the diagnostic criteria for dissociative identity disorder is experiencing amnesia or lost time. While losing time may seem like an obvious hole in your every day life, it really might not be as obvious as it seems it could be.
For dissociative trauma survivors, the sliding of time is a normal everyday way of life. It just is how it is, and time feels very different for DID survivors than it does for other people. Dissociative survivors may or may not pay attention to the minutes that are gone, or the hours that have slid quietly by. They are very used to the ebb and flow, and unless there is reason to pay specific attention to the idea of lost time, they may not really be genuinely aware of how much time they lose.
Every dissociative survivor I have met has recognized specific periods of lost time in his or her life. Sometimes, multiples think they do not lose much time, but with a few detailed questions, it can soon enough be shown that there are very clear gaps in memory and awareness of regular life events. There will be everyday type things that they know they should know, but they don’t.
Some multiples will notice big chunks of time that seem to be gone. It will be 2 pm, and then suddenly, it’s 9 pm, and the survivor has no awareness of what happened during those seven hours. Those hours are considered lost time because they feel completely lost and unaccounted for. The host parts don’t remember what happened. If they look around, they might get some clues about what may have happened, but for the most part, it feels like time completely jumped seven hours ahead. Time feels lost to them because there is basically no information and no awareness about what happened.
Other times, DID survivors will feel like they are mostly aware of everything that happens through their day, but their ability to remember what happened yesterday, or even to remember what happened this morning, or an hour ago is extremely limited. This is a different kind of lost time in that the recall is so nonexistent that it becomes the same as lost time since the survivor has next to no idea what happened.
In both of these situations, time is being quantified from the perspective of the front host personality. Time loss can include other parts of the system as well, but the questions about lost time are typically addressed towards the host. This is an important distinction to remember.
Because you see, even though time feels lost to the front host personality, in all reality, time is not lost at all.
Yes, you read that right. Time is actually not lost. Time has not actually gone away. The DID survivor’s day is not shorter than everyone else’s day. Time has not disappeared in the way that it feels.
While we use the term “lost time” all the time, that is actually not what happens. In fact, no one with DID actually loses any time at all.
So where does the time go?
Actually, what happens is that the dissociative trauma survivors have switched to another part.
Yep, they’ve just switched.
Switching. Shifting from one part or another. “Transitioning” as US of Tara called it.
That’s all that happened. You’ve switched!
The hours of time can be completely accounted for if you know who was out and what they were doing. Time itself isn’t missing. What is missing is having the awareness or knowledge about who in your system was out doing what.
So when the host or front personalities are completely unaware of life events, and there is no knowledge of what has happened, they have simply switched to someone else in their system who is out and doing all kinds of things. The body is likely up and active, and any number of things could be happening. Someone inside the system will know exactly what happened between 2 pm and 9 pm!
For there to be “lost time”, this switch occurs with parts that are so dissociated and separated from the host personalities that the host personalities are not aware of what happened.
Actually, this kind of time loss / lack of awareness can happen between any part of the system with any other part of the system. Many of the insiders may not be at all aware of what the host personalities are doing either. Part of the reason for time distortion, triggers, and flashbacks is connected to the insiders not being aware of the outside life in the current day, place, or time.
Sometimes the lost time between these parts are just from not paying attention. For example, one set of parts can simply be daydreaming or drifting off, and simply not concentrating enough to be aware. Maybe they were choosing to have an internal nap or be otherwise internally occupied. However, if they actually tried to be aware of what was happening in the outside world, they may fully well have known exactly what happened during that lost time. Or with a little effort, they may have been able to get close enough to the front of the body to be aware enough to see, or hear, or know.
Other times, the dissociative walls / amnesiac walls are much thicker and less penetrable. In these situations, one set of parts does not want the others inside to know what is happening, and the blocks put between them are strong and absolute. Parts from within the internal system are specifically dividing themselves away from everyone else so everyone inside is not aware. If you have parts that are specifically hiding their activities from the rest of everyone else, this is an important issue to address in your therapy.
In my opinion, integration is not necessary for successful stable functioning. But, eliminating time loss and/or periods of unknown switching is important for exactly those reasons. It is ok that everyone within has their chance to do what they need to do, but it is also important to build the communication around what is happening. You all share the same life. Being more aware of what happens in that life is important.
So the next time you want to know what happened during that chunk of time that you don’t remember, ask inside. Ask who knows about it. Ask who was out, or who saw what happened. There will be someone inside that knows exactly what was happening during that chunk of “missing time”. You might need to work on increasing your internal communication with those parts, but once you know the others in your system, that time loss will decrease.
Even if the time loss is happens, but if you know who is out, that can help with knowing what happened. The more you know your whole system of insiders, the less unaccounted for time you will have.
Once again I’ll say, internal communication is the central core of treatment for dissociative identity disorder.
If you want to know what is going on, talk to each other!!!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
July 12, 2010
This article is written for the child parts of the DID survivors that read this blog.
Hey Kids, did you see the news yesterday? Hmmmm…. probably not, because most kids don’t watch the news. And because of that, I wanted to make sure to let you know about something I saw in the news that might interest you.
Look! Look! They found something that looks like a real unicorn!!
If you look here, you will find the video that talks more about it, and shows more pictures of it walking around in its natural forest home. This little unicorn guy was found in Italy, and I think he is being protected and tended to very carefully. That’s good, because there aren’t very many unicorns in the world!
What do you think it is?
Is it a real unicorn?
Is it a deericorn?
Maybe it’s a unideer.
Whatever it is, it is very cool!!!
Do you ever think about unicorns?
Do you have coloring books with unicorns in them?
What would you do if you saw a real unicorn?
And if you don’t like unicorns, what is your favorite animal?
Now I realize this little deer only looks like a unicorn, but so many kid parts talk about like unicorns that I just had to share it for everyone to see.
And for the older parts of the dissociative systems, it really is ok to let your child parts experience some of the positive wonders of the world. It is ok to let your child parts play, and to let them enjoy experiences. Simple pleasures like chocolate shakes, or yo-yo’s, or puzzle games, or teddy bears, or soccer balls can go a long ways in connecting with your child parts.
If you have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), your childhood was most likely interrupted by too much pain, grief, loss, trauma, betrayal, neglect, and hurt. As a child, your play times would have been few and far between, and you would have often felt too sad or hurt to play. Dissociative skills, dissociative walls, and dissociative amnesia could have separated some of the effects of the trauma from your awareness, but in all the years I have been working with multiples, I have never yet had any dissociative survivor tell me that she or he had lots of fun and play times as a child.
This is a very sad statement because having carefree playtime is a normal childhood need. It is actually important to proper growth and development. To miss out on playtime as a child means to have unmet needs.
To help meet some of those unmet needs, it is ok, and even therapeutically important to let your child parts have fun. Let them play. Let them enjoy some carefree activities. Let them learn how to have good times.
Even if you are an adult, it is not too late to let your kids have fun. Play is a normal part of growing up, and if this was stolen from you, letting your child parts play in the current day will help with your overall healing and sense of well being.
Giving your child parts the chance to play in the here and now is a corrective emotional experience for them. Corrective emotional experiences are experiences in the current day that help to correct the wrongs and fill the voids that were left after a childhood full of trauma and neglect. Corrective emotional experiences allow for healing, growth, and positive movement.
So go find a unicorn!
Go to a baseball game!
Watch a few cartoons!
Draw in your coloring books!
Play, have fun, and enjoy life for awhile!
Your whole system will feel better for it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 25, 2010
Last night I lost my keys in the office. It was a silly ordeal – they were hanging right where I last put them – but it took me awhile to remember where that was.
I had a little help finding them, and I am really thankful that Mr. Janitor Man was so very kind. He was patient with me, looking everywhere with me while I retraced my steps of the evening. We looked under couches, in between cushions, under pillows, through trash bins, in the fridge, in drawers, in cupboards, on shelves. I knew they had to be there – after all, I had just locked myself IN the building. I hadn’t gone anywhere because I needed my keys in order to unlock the door to get out of the building, so I knew they couldn’t be far.
But where were they?!
It took awhile, but I gradually got closer to the last place I left them, I remembered exactly where they were.
Success!! There they were – right where I left them.
And thank you, Mr. Janitor Man for your patience with me.
In order to find them, I simply had to stop and think about where I was when I last remembered having them, and go from there. My keys were just a few inches from that place.
Today, I had to wonder how my thought processes were the same – or different – from survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) who have to search for their lost keys.
A few weeks back, I was on the other side of this equation.
A DID survivor had lost her car keys for several days. She had looked everywhere. She had the feeling that they were still in the house, and remembered where She had last set them. But the car keys were nowhere to be found.
To help her sort through the lost key issue, She and I had an entirely different process than I did with Mr. Janitor Man.
She had already re-traced her steps best She could. It was clear the keys were not anywhere She thought they should be.
Because of the dissociative issues and system conflict in her life, there were several additional issues to consider:
- Had anyone inside moved the keys after She put them on the table?
- Were the insiders purposefully hiding the keys from her?
- Was this an issue of self-sabotage, system conflict, or simple dissociation?
- If She didn’t remember where the keys were put last, which insider did remember?
- If someone inside remembered, were they going to tell her?
- How long were the insiders going to keep this secret? Did they think that was funny?
- Were the keys sitting right there in plain sight, and was someone within her system purposefully blocking She’s vision?
- Was She simply “not allowed” to see where the keys were?
- Was someone inside hiding the car keys to keep her from driving?
- Why did they not want her to be able to drive?
- Was this a safety issue (to prevent some self-harm options that required a car)?
- Was this a power and control issue (“we can do what we want, and She can’t stop us”)?
- Were the insiders trying to sabotage and ruin She’s plans for the weekend?
- Was this a system punishment of some sort?
- Were the keys genuinely lost, and were all our questions about insider involvement way off track?
It became obvious that She didn’t know where the keys were. There was no use wasting more time asking her to find them on her own.
Asking inside – asking the parts in She’s system – to tell her where they were wasn’t working either. Everyone was quiet inside, and no one was willing to say where the keys were.
The only feeling that She got in response to the questions was that the keys were still in the house. She had noticed She could feel a little rise in tension when She looked in the kitchen. She was guessing the keys were there, but She still had no idea. She had looked everywhere in the kitchen – a few times – and still couldn’t find them.
She asked her insiders again, and again – and still no one would cooperate with a direct answer. Where should She look in the kitchen? Should She keep looking in the kitchen? Now what?
It was beginning to get clearer that either someone was hiding the keys on purpose from She. It was also becoming clear that others inside were feeling too scared of Key-Hider to tell She where the keys were. The awkward silence was very telling.
We tried directly asking Key-Hider where the keys were. The only response to that question was a bit cheeky. “If I wanted the keys hidden from her, why would I tell you where they are?” Oh ok. Got that message loud and clear. So Key-Hider wasn’t going to cooperate.
Hmmmmm. Now what?
I asked She to go stand in the kitchen. Since it appeared that the insiders didn’t feel like they could show She where the keys were – She was clearly not supposed to see the hiding spot – we didn’t go against that rule. Instead, we respected that rule. I asked She to close her eyes. I spoke to the insiders through She. They were, of course, listening behind her. As a rule of thumb, when talking to any part of the DID system, expect that there will be others listening in the background, even if the part you are speaking with is not aware of anyone else being near.
I asked She to keep her eyes closed, and to put her hands out to feel around in the kitchen. With DID, one part can be in charge of the most of the body, while someone else can gain control of the hands (or any other part of the body). I reminded She that this was possible, and encouraged her to let someone pass through her to be in charge of the hands.
While She and her insiders were rummaging through kitchen areas, I continued to speak to the inside system. I reminded them that She was not looking, that She could not see anything, and that they would not be breaking the rule of showing She where the keys were located, but I asked them to work together as a team. Together, they were searching the kitchen for the car keys.
One of the things I mentioned to the Insiders was asking them if anyone else saw the Key-Hider hide the keys. By this time it was clear that Key-Hider wasn’t being supportive of She. Key-Hider was not going to say where the keys were hidden, and Key-Hider was acting more in direct opposition to She. I asked for those who were willing to be kind and helpful to She to think about what they saw from behind the scenes, fully expecting that someone inside could have seen where Key-Hider put the keys. I asked if any of the Helpers saw Key-Hider hide the keys, and if any of the Helpers could help She to find them. I continued to remind She to keep her eyes closed, and to let the Helpers find the keys through her hands with their hands.
Within about fifty seconds, She giggled. She could hear the keys, and once She was holding the keys, She was allowed to open her eyes.
After being missing for days, the keys were found!
She was thrilled, to say the least.
She mentioned that the most significant things I said were that She herself didn’t have to be told or shown where the keys were and that Key-Hider wasn’t put on the spot with demands for immediate answers or cooperation. The idea that we could completely obey the rules, respect the opposition, and yet go around the rules by working with the other Insiders made a huge difference. She said she would not have thought about asking her insiders for help, but it made all the difference.
So what’s the moral of the story?
- If you are DID, remember that there are many others in there, and some of them will be on your side.
- Even if you feel like others are against you, there will be some that will help you.
- Using system communication, talking together, approaching problem-solving as a team will be more effective than you trying to work out issues alone.
- Talk to each other!
- Work together!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
March 23, 2010
So here we go again.
The second season of the Showtime series “United States of Tara” starring the Emmy Award winner Toni Collette has begun.
The first season was full of controversial episodes, and most of the survivor population with dissociative identity disorder was disappointed and angered by the series. Even though some of the best-known trauma psychiatrists were allegedly acting as advisors for the show, there were still far too many inaccuracies and misrepresentations for the comfort level of real DID survivors. (Maybe next time, Showtime, executive producer Steven Speilberg, or writer Diablo Cody should speak more with clinical therapists that treat dissociative clients on a long-term basis. If you ask me, therapists know more about the clinical realities of DID than psychiatrists anyway, but that’s a whole different rant.)
The first episode starts with Tara tossing out the clothing and personal items that belonged to her formerly recognized four or five insiders. Tara had ended the first season in the hospital, and had apparently done so well in her brief hospital stay, that it had been three whole months since her insiders had surfaced. She was sure they were all gone. She was already saying goodbye to them – more like good riddance to them – and her family gathered around the charitable donations dumpster to make crass comments toward the inside parts.
Oh dear. What a way to start the season. Fifty-one seconds into the show and my eyes are popping out with enough material for a blog post. (Dare I even watch the rest of the episode?!) Yeeesh!
So this very first minute of the show brought up some of my very biggest complaints about the way some mental health professionals and hospital programs treat DID / MPD.
One of the most devastating techniques that treatment providers can use with dissociative survivors is to push the whole integration idea. To push the idea that insiders need to not be allowed out, or need to be silenced, or need to be pushed to the back, is damaging to the person as a whole. Integration is not anywhere near the cure-all or ideal goal it is professed to be, and frankly, expecting dissociative clients to having these “alleged integrations” too fast is absolutely harmful.
I have seen too this happen far too many times. This is not good treatment for dissociative identity disorder!!
You cannot go into a hospital program and walk back out, a few weeks later, as an integrated multiple. This is NOT possible. I don’t care how much this is advertised as possible, it is not. It is complete farce, and it will not work.
Sure, you can temporarily push your insiders back into hiding. Or, your insiders can push you out to the front and rebuild the dissociative wall behind you so that you are completely separated from your system. You might think you are alone. You might think you are “integrated”. But you are just separated from your insiders. In fact, you are more dissociated than ever because now you have a complete dissociative block between you and the rest of your selves.
This is not helpful.
Unfortunately, there are hospital programs or therapists that encourage this kind of treatment.
It doesn’t work. It won’t stick. Those inside parts are not gone. They might be hidden, but they absolutely are not gone. And this new or encouraged separation will just cause problems down the road. I’d bet money on that.
I realize that many of you may want to push your insiders back in, or make them shut up, or make them go away, because you believe that your life would be easier and more manageable if they were gone. I can understand the concept that having one personality is easier than having a dozen or two (or three) personalities. I get that.
But it’s still not a good idea.
The various parts of you were created for a reason, and they hold valuable pieces of your life, your history, your emotions, your skills, your abilities, your memories, your talents, your energy, etc. They represent years of your life, and it takes all of you together to make the whole picture – and as appealing as it might be to think that three weeks in the hospital can solve everything with a quick integration, this is an illusion and a lie. Genuine integration, if it is actually desired and if it is actually going to be successful, requires years of work. The various selves to work through all the things that caused them to be separated in the first place – and that just takes time.
It is a cruel trick for hospitals to sell this approach as something they can achieve for the client – because the hospital won’t be there six months or a year down the road, when the apparent “integration” falls apart and the devastated client is left feeling at fault. And it is compounding the wrong for Showtime to present this approach as something that actually happens.
The other problem in this first minute of United States of Tara is the negative way that Tara and her family are speaking about her insiders. Where is their kindness and compassion? Why such blatant disrespect? Where is the appreciation for what those insiders did for her?
EVEN IF I believed in sudden or quick integration as a general theory (which I most definitely do not), I would still say to Tara and her family members that their “good riddance, you big pains in the butt” attitude was an obvious indication of why this particular attempt at integration was not going to work.
Clearly, there were still plenty of issues left unresolved. Clearly, Tara and her family harbored resentment, irritation, and bitterness toward her insiders. The insiders did not integrate because there was acceptance, understanding, and blending of their roles. These insiders were clearly not wanted, not liked, not understood, not appreciated. They were hated. And if Tara is still hating on her insiders, then she is still hating herself. This is not the kind of foundation from which any kind of healthy progress is made.
You cannot integrate your insiders if you hate them.
You cannot make them go away, just because you hate them.
I suppose you can pretend they do not exist because you don’t like what they did. But that will not help you to get better.
I suppose you can act like they are not real because you don’t want them. But that will not help you to get better.
Hating on your insiders, in any way, shape, or form, is not conducive to good treatment.
Hating your yourself, in any way, shape, or form, is not conducive to good treatment.
Your insiders are still parts of you, now and for always.
As far as I am concerned, neglecting your insiders is a form of self-abuse. Neglect is neglect, and if you are not working hard to appropriately meet the needs of your insiders, you are carrying out of form of neglect.
It is so very important to develop positive acceptance and understanding with your insiders. It is imperative to the success of your healing, and one of foundations of your treatment, to be kind, gentle, and compassionate to your inside parts. Build positive teamwork. Build good cooperation. Build good internal communication skills. Become friends with each other. You and your insiders really have to be able to get along and work things out together in order for your healing to progress.
Somehow Tara forgot to do this, and somehow her hospital program forgot it as well.
She can pretend that shoving her insiders away, or pretending they don’t exist, is a wonderful option for her.
But it really will not work.
Later in the previews, it becomes clear that Tara starts realizing she is switching again. (She calls in transitioning. What a bulky word, but ok – it’s a transition from one self to another.) So yes, she clearly switches from one part to another. That’s no surprise.
Someone on her treatment team should have told her months ago that that her “they are gone” approach wasn’t going to work.
Because it didn’t.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
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
October 10, 2009
Are you a leader?
Do you know what it takes to be a leader?
Multiples – trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder – experience life as plural. Dissociative systems may be internal sets of people, but they are still groups of people nonetheless.
All groups of people need a leader they can look up to – someone they can trust, someone they can depend on, someone with their best interests in mind even when times get tough. These leaders help to make decisions that affect everyone else. They hopefully will decide things on that are the best for the majority of the people within their group. And these leaders need to care enough about what their people want and need in order to make good decisions.
Dissociative systems need leaders too.
Who is the leader of your system?
And what does it take to be a good leader?
A leader is someone who knows enough about a wide variety of the important issues that they can make truly informed decisions on behalf of the others. These leaders know that they have the responsibility to know. They can’t pretend or ignore reality. They have to actually be aware of what happens now (and what happened then) so the decisions they make will be relevant and wise.
If you are the leader of your dissociative system, it is important that you understand all the different opinions-thoughts-feelings of your various internal system parts.
We expect the political leaders to listen to the people. All the people.
Dissociative system leaders also need to listen to the people – all their internal people.
Being a good leader does not mean that you get to block out the rest of your system and have a dictatorship. That might work if you value selfishness, but not if you are going to be an effective group leader.
Being a good leader means being willing to not use your dissociative skills to distance yourself from everyone else. While you might have the ability to block out your insiders from time to time, this can’t be your primary state of existence if you are going to actually be the system leader.
System leaders aren’t necessarily the host alter. That host / front part of you may be who people from the outside (“in real life”) world believe to be your leader, but daytime hosts that deal only (or mostly) with the outside world will probably not be the internal system leader. If your daytime host cannot interact frequently and easily with various layers of your internal system, then my guess is that they are not actually the system leader. They might be the leader of their “department”, but without having the ability to communicate with various groups of your internal people, this host part will not be the overall “store manager”.
There will be someone else in your group that has more overall say-so. They may be willing to let the “day people” deal with the outside world while they very specifically manage the leadership of the internal worlds.
Remember, to be a leader, one has to be able to communicate with the people they lead.
Dissociative system leaders truly listen to their insiders. They don’t hide behind amnesiac walls. They aren’t afraid to know what happened in the past. They are willing to know the truth – to know the reality – to know how it feels to be there, in that spot….
Do you know the life-stories of your various insiders?
Can you relate with compassion, gentleness, and caring for the people you represent?
Can you identify with their struggles? With their pain? With their fears?
Are you willing to help them? To problem-solve with them? To address their concerns?
Can you withstand the pressure of making decisions that could affect everyone else?
To lead effectively, you must know who your people are.
Kathy Broady, LCSW
August 17, 2009
So you’re depressed, and you’re DID. That feels like a double whammy already, so what do you do now?
Depression and DID go hand in hand for many trauma survivors. They are not the same diagnosis, but can be closely knitted together.
When you are DID, you might have some parts that are depressed, while simultaneously having other parts that are not depressed. Dissociative walls and amnesiac barriers can separate the feelings / emotions / information that the depressed parts have, so that is different from what is known or felt by the non-depressed parts.
Survivors with DID can feel nearly crippled by the intensity of their depression. It follows them around like a warm blanket and a lifelong friend. Sometimes it’s hard for survivors to imagine life not depressed. The idea of being genuinely happy is a foreign concept that seems out of reach.
All too many survivors struggle with self-injury, suicidal feelings, suicidal thoughts, and suicidal behavior on a regular basis. The desire to die, or go away, or cease to exist, or quit, or sleep forever are common feelings for those that are depressed.
What to Do
Many depressive symptoms can be alleviated, or at least helped, with proper medication. If your depression feels too huge for you to manage on your own, or if your life is at risk by the severity of your depression, please make a doctor appointment at your very earliest convenience to discuss this option. At times, inpatient treatment may be warranted.
Various versions of talk therapy can be immensely helpful as well. Talking about your problems and expressing your feelings are important steps in healing, especially since depression is synonymous with emotions being pushed down and numbed into near non-existence. Addressing the traps in your life by problem-solving the double binds (where something looks like a lose-lose situation) and the things that feel impossible will help. Feeling stuck and helpless will only exacerbate your depression.
One of the key feelings to explore during depression therapy is anger. It’s commonly said that depression is anger turned inwards. Learning how to safely express your anger is essential to moving through the overwhelm of depression.
How This Applies to Those with DID / MPD
Many DID survivors have been depressed more years of their life than not. The overwhelming pain of severe trauma and the years of crushing family abuse create fertile breeding grounds for chronic depression.
There are a variety of specific tasks in treating depression for survivors with DID:
1. Find the parts in your system that hold the most intense depression feelings. You may or may not already know these parts. Some of the parts who hold the deepest depression may be tucked away deeply within your system.
2. Check about current day plans for self-injury and/or suicidal ideation. Be sure to know if you are at risk. It is important to have a solid awareness of how volatile these parts will be in acting out their feelings of depression and self-hatred. Create safety plans as necessary.
3. Ask questions about the preferred method of self-injury being used by these parts. There are hundreds of different ways to cause self-injury. The preferred methods used by various internal parts will very likely hold pertinent information about the life stories of these parts.
4. Pay attention to the patterns of increased depression through time. Are there certain times of year or certain days that are trigger points? What significance do these periods of time have? Are these dates or times anniversaries of particular traumas or difficult events? Explore these timeframes until you thoroughly understand what happened.
5. Learn more about the time when these depressed parts were originally split off and created. Ask about the starting point of these parts. Chances are, they were created during a very difficult time. The creation point will provide a great amount of information about who these parts are and why they are like they are.
6. Addressing the underlying trauma issues will be crucial in healing the depression. These parts will need to talk about what happened to them, what they saw, what they experienced, what they felt, what they believed, etc. Holding this kind of intense information deep within most certainly adds to and creates more depression. Find the courage to talk about your trauma. While it is enormously painful to address the cruelty you experienced during those traumatic times, letting this material surface and processing it effectively will help to alleviate your depression in the long run.
7. As these parts begin talking about what has been kept frozen and tucked inside, that will create movement, life, and energy. As painful as it is to address the trauma issues, it will also allow for new experiences to begin. With that comes the opportunity for something positive and healing to replace what has been stuck for years of time as traumatic and devastating.
*** Due to the length of this article, the second half of this list will be continued in my next blog post. Please come back soon to see the rest!
Do you have any comments or questions so far?
Kathy Broady LCSW