February 16, 2009
I am not sure who wrote the following list of “Do’s and Don’ts for Singleton Friends of Multiples”. This list was e-mailed to me years ago by a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder, saying this list was comprised by an anonymous group of multiples. I have had it posted on AbuseConsultants, in the survivor poetry section of that website.
I am sure that there could be many other suggestions added to the list, but for today, I will post it in exactly the same format as I received it.
For anyone wanting to offer friendship and support to a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder, a group of multiples have suggested the following helpful guidelines:
Do’s and Don’ts for Singleton Friends of Multiples
- Do NOT ever touch us from behind.
- Do NOT ever touch our throat.
- Do NOT ever touch the back of our head.
- DO speak to our inner children like children.
- Do NOT ask “Who’s here now?” If we wanted you to know we would tell you.
- Do NOT tell an alter that you don’t know to “go get” the host…there could be several of the same name…different age groups.
- Do NOT expect consistency of feeling, thought, or action on any subject.
- Do NOT tell anyone to go inside because you do not like their views.
- DO set healthy boundaries.
- If you are uncomfortable with something said or done, say so, and do NOT avoid us in the future without an explanation.
- Be HONEST.
- Be understanding that we have many crisis situations in our lives of healing from our abuse, i.e.: flashbacks, panic attacks, body memories.
- Laugh, make jokes with us, really, it’s OK!
- Do NOT assume anything if you honestly want to know about our “disorder” please ask, we’ll tell you the truth.
- Do NOT treat us like “the freak you happen to know” around your singleton friends.
- Do NOT use our difficulties as a subject of conversation with your singleton friends.
- Sometimes we are paralyzed with depression, and cannot call you, clean our house, or get out of bed. Don’t take it personally.
- We will fight being hospitalized….. even though we actually show that we need it at the time. Hospitals are extremely frightening for us.
- DO be supportive of our healthy behaviors no matter how small the accomplishment may seem to you.
- DO be encouraging.
- When we ask to talk to you, we aren’t asking you to come up with answers to our problems. We don’t expect you to FIX it. Sometimes we just need someone to LISTEN… that is the greatest gift of all!!
- DON’T tell us that the abuse happened a long time ago and for us to “just get over it!” That is a HUGE insult!!
For those of you that are multiple, what other suggestions would you add to this list?
Do you agree or disagree with the suggestions as listed?
What have you needed your husband or wife to do – or not do — specific to your needs as a trauma survivor?
Your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are welcome.
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 24, 2009
Child parts come in all shapes and sizes – small, tall, skinny, short, chunky, pristine, messy, filthy, princess-like, raggedy, male, female, quiet, noisy, screaming, crying, silent, confused, dazed, sleepy, busy, playful, happy, sad, angry, fearful, bouncing, babyish, stiff, awkward, hurting, numb.
As different as they are, they all have similar qualities. They are typically some of the oldest, most knowledgeable members of your system.
But as the youngest parts, how can they be the oldest?
Let me explain.
For example, if you split off a 5-year-old child part when you (and the body) were a literal age 5, and you are now age 35, that child part has been around for 30 years. Even though that little one might not have aged during that time, they may very well have seen or participated in many of your life’s events over the past 30 years. Being around for 30 years means they are one of your oldest parts. They could contain 30 years worth of memories, information, emotions, relationships, etc.
Child-aged parts do not have to be split off when the body was young, but many of them were. They will be very much aware of many of your life’s events. They will remember who many of the people are, and they will know who else from your system was involved in activities of the time. They lived through all the various years, so their ability to know and remember can be impressive.
Child parts will also, of course, retain much of the trauma information from your early years of life. People are at their most natural dissociative ability when under age 7 – the same years when they are also the most physically vulnerable, small, and defenseless. For young children, almost every single person in the whole wide world is bigger, stronger, and smarter than they are. Children are at the mercy of the adults around them, and when those adults are sadistic – cruel – vicious, children have to find a way to cope. Being physically unable to defend themselves, and typically not given the option to literally leave abusive environments, children can “leave” in their minds, even if they can’t leave with their feet.
During the crisis moments of the actual trauma, dissociative splitting is incredibly helpful. Going far away inside when you cannot go far away outside at least gives most of the person a fighting chance to be in a place to be as far away from the trauma as possible.
But it is sad, massively sad. These child parts were split off because there was no other help for them. There was no other way out for them. There was no other safety for them. There was no other protection, no other escape for their pain, and all too often, there was no other comfort for their heartbreak and emotional conflict.
The very first time you see your child parts, they may very well be locked into the same state where they were split off. They may still be trapped in that “time zone” of the original trauma, and they may or may not know that years of time have gone by. They may present with the same injuries, messiness, blood, and gore that they experienced at the time of their trauma. Or they may manifest in metaphorical pictures of what they felt like during their trauma, or in the aftermath. Most of a dissociative survivor’s internal kid parts were split off to deal with trauma-based situations, so unless you had a happy childhood, don’t expect to find bunches of happy child parts.
Because these little young ones are the foundation of your multiplicity, it is very important for the older leaders and hosts of the system to understand that so much of your healing revolves around meeting the needs of these children frozen in time.
Each time a little part of you had to split off and stay stuck in that their trauma, a piece of you – the overall person – was unable to grow up in a healthy, safe, productive manner. And honestly, until their young needs are met in a safe manner, the inner kids will stay there, exactly as their abusers left them.
The good news is that as you meet the needs of these child parts, they will naturally progress on their own.
Many mental health professionals use age progression techniques to “make the kids grow up quickly.” I have a different perspective on that. First of all, I do not think that snapping the fingers and magically saying (or hypnotically suggesting) that kids parts grow older means that the kids can actually get older. I am sure they will try their darndest to do that. But I doubt that they will be able to maintain that kind of suggested aging.
In my opinion, the child parts are frozen in these young ages for a reason. They were not safe enough to move forward in life, and their entire development was arrested on the spot. Pay attention to that. Listen to them. Look at their appearance. Have empathy for their emotional state. All this information means something. They are telling you exactly where they were, what was happening, and why they are stuck there.
If a real child, in the outside world, was standing in front of you, and looked like that, what would you do for that child?
How would you help an outside child to overcome a current-day trauma?
Use those same exact skills to help your inner children.
As you tend to all their unmet needs, and give your child parts the healthy, positive, comforting response they needed at the time of their splitting, they will be allowed to move forward from the place they were stuck. If they need safety, protect them from whatever they are afraid of. If they need food, feed them. If they need a drink, give them something safe to drink. If they need a chance to play, let them have fun. If they need to learn and develop their intellect, let them try new things and develop more skills. Figure out what they have been lacking for genuine growth and development, and give it to them.
Create positive, healing experiences for your child parts. As you give them what they were missing in the first place, they will automatically, naturally grow older. They won’t stay “stuck” as they are once their needs are being met. They will progress. They will learn. They will expand their vocabulary. They will find new skills and develop greater mastery.
This creates natural age progression. Your internal child parts can mature the same as any outside child would. It is a much more realistic way of helping your inner kids to grow up. It is real. Genuine. It’s not going to fall apart at the first hint of stress.
Magical answers are unrealistic. If you want your child parts to progress into healthier parts of you, then let them experience life in such a way that they can naturally grow up on their own.
However, growing up and maturing doesn’t automatically mean your child parts will get older!!
More about that and ideas about how, where, when to do all this will be presented in future writings.
Kathy Broady LCSW
December 8, 2008
Do you feel like you can be very different people?
Do you have trouble remembering what happened through your week?
Do you have minimal memories of your childhood?
Do you feel a lot of conflict within yourself, and have unexplainable extremes in your behavior, thoughts, or attitudes?
Do you have conversations in your head, and do the voices in your head talk about you?
Read on…. This article is for you. And no, you are not crazy.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD) is an adaptive response to a very maladaptive environment. It develops in response to trauma severe enough that people can only handle the experience by mentally splitting themselves off from it. A common thought becomes, “that’s not happening to me – it’s happening to somebody else.” By forming other selves to handle traumatic situations, the person compartmentalizes the experiences and dissociates themselves from their occurrence. This allows the person to maintain a separated sense of self, safely secluded away from danger. even when their physical body is obviously forced to participate in intolerable activities.
The treatment for DID is based on reversing and repairing this splitting and separating. This amazing coping skill, once highly adaptive in traumatic situations and originally a life- and sanity-saving strategy, eventually causes great disturbances in a person’s life. Over the course of time, the depth of pain, the volume of emotionally laden memories and experiences, the constant conflict between too many opposing needs, the hidden loss of original self, and the chaos of having many separate selves all become too overwhelming to manage. The dissociative walls that once neatly separated these areas begin to crumble — complications, confusion, disarray ensues.
By this time, therapeutic treatment for dissociative disorders can be highly beneficial.
As these survivors gain safety from any ongoing abuse and any ongoing reason to dissociate, they can begin the process of healing and re-associating themselves with their parts. This occurs gradually, as they connect with the painful, emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual experiences that forced them to split and separate in the first place. Only as they re-learn about their traumatic history, meet the needs that went unmet at the time, find comfort for their pain, and develop a safe life without trauma, can they heal the emotional wounds that have been left unattended for so many years.
The dissociative treatment process is long and complex because of the depth of the issues involved. Typically for those with DID, the abuse occurred for years, with a wide variety of offenders, and a significant lack of comfort or assurance of safety. Pain, crisis and trauma became an “everyday normal reality” and no area of life was unaffected by such extreme trauma. Healing from this depth of injury takes time because there is so much healing to do.
If you are dissociative and you’ve carried your hidden pain within your hidden selves for too long, healing through the reconnection process is beautiful. It is not easy, but it is very much worth the effort.
Kathy Broady, LCSW
December 7, 2008
Current safety is a building block of therapy for clients who have been sexually abused.
It is a known fact that children are being abused and exploited on a daily basis by sexual predators. Any child trapped in an abusive situation will naturally continue to use trauma-based coping strategies. They need safety in order to develop healthier strategies. If children are not given safety, they often do not learn how to find it on their own, no matter how old they become. Often a childhood filled with abuse continues into a lifetime filled with abuse. Sometimes it even continues right into the next generation of children.
An important part of working with adults who have been severely abused is to check thoroughly about their current safety. People who have been severely abused as children are often still deeply tangled in abusive relationships as an adult. This comes in many different forms.
People who have not resolved their childhood trauma issues are at high risk for adult relationships full of abusive dynamics, many of which parallel their childhood abuse. These include physically or sexually violent partners, sexual compulsivity, using sex as a weapon, promiscuity, and sexual repression. Due to the power of dissociation, some people continue to be victimized by perpetrators well into adulthood.
Some people continue to act out their childhood sexual abuse, with or without their conscious awareness, by repeating the patterns of the original trauma bonds. Survivors may find that their adult relationships mimic the dynamics of the original perpetrator relationship. People might harm themselves in the same manner that they were abused, or a child who was raped by a variety of offenders might become extremely promiscuous as an adult.
Due to this reenactment process, it is not uncommon for adult survivors to be involved with prostitution, sadism, masochism, or pornography. Dissociative survivors may have whole other lives involving these activities of which they are unaware. Such involvement is not universal, but the frequency with which the issue occurs means it must be thoroughly and repeatedly checked out. It is absolutely essential that any repeated patterns of violence be addressed thoroughly in the therapy process.
Self-injury, self-induced abuse, and self-directed violence also undermine safety and stability. “Self-injury” ranges from cutting and burning, to breaking bones, to crashing cars, to refusing appropriate medication. When people are actively hurting themselves, they are undermining their healing process. However, self-harm is a very common issue in the treatment of severe sexual abuse and dissociative disorders.
No child or adult will be able to make significant progress in their emotional growth, stability, and healing if they have frequent contact with a perpetrator. The constant anxiety, extreme stress, emotional paralysis or emotional chaos, and hypervigilence of being perpetually on alert for the next abusive incident interferes with the ability to make treatment gains.
Each violent episode causes medical and emotional crises, detachment, and destabilization, so it is imperative that therapists and support people pay consistent attention to the safety of the abused person.
People of all ages need to feel safe in order to talk about and heal from abuse. Ensuring a person’s safety is the first step in the therapeutic process. It may be a very long step, but it is absolutely essential.
Kathy Broady, LCSW