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
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
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
May 15, 2009
This week I helped my son move into his own place.
It was a lot of work. There were boxes upon boxes to haul, big pieces of furniture to carry, bags of fresh groceries to buy, cabinets to stock.
My son, a big ol’ tall galloot of a guy, was thrilled with the idea of having his own place, and I’ll admit, he did a great job in looking around to find a really good location that works just right for him. It’s a beautiful property, with great landscaping, lots of privacy, good neighbors, and plenty of room for that big ol’ dog to go too.
My son has been preparing for this week for a long time now. He was eager to get out on his own, and couldn’t be more proud of himself.
I’m very happy for him. He really did well picking a great place. He’s determined to “man up” to the job of having his very own place, all to himself.
And that’s good, very good. He’s the right age to be doing so, he’s got a good job, he’ll be completing his education at an excellent university. Living out on his own is exactly what he should be doing right now.
I’ll just miss him.
A lot, and a lot, and a lot.
He’s very precious to me. He always has been, and always will be.
It’s times like these… when it’s hard to speak out loud because of that lump in my throat — when all I can feel is that deep heart-connection I have with my son and my grief at his moving on — that makes it so incredibly unfathomable for me to actually understand how any mother can be so emotionally removed from her children that she hands them over to be hurt. I’m not referring to the mothers whose children get hurt when the mother isn’t able to prevent that from happening. I’m speaking about the mothers who are capable of preventing the abuse, and just don’t. They let it happen. They make it happen.
How do they do that?
How can they be ok with the fact that their children are hurting?
How can they be ok with the idea of hurting their own children?
When it comes right down to it, these abuser-mothers are a mystery to me. I can understand some “head knowledge”, and I can give you some intellectual explanations, yada, yada, yada.
But do I emotionally understand it?
Nope. Not for one second.
My heart does not understand the heartlessness of mother-perpetrators. My heart absolutely does not understand that.
Who are these women?
What keeps those mothers from attaching to their children?
What prevents them from bonding to them?
How can they not have a pull in their hearts when their children are hurting?
I just don’t get it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 13, 2009
How many of you have been watching the award-winning HBO Series, “In Treatment” with Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, and John Mahoney? This HBO series is currently near the beginning of its second season, centered around how Dr. Paul Weston (Byrne) conducts therapy sessions with four different clients, and then his own individual therapy process with his own therapist, Dr. Gina Toll (Wiest).
In my opinion, the “In Treatment” series is more accurate about the layered complications of the therapy process than the brief bits of therapy shown in Showtime’s “United States of Tara”. The snippets shown of Tara’s therapy were with an overwhelmed, under-trained, uneducated wimp of a therapist. I suppose it is true that all too many therapists are overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with the healing process for trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Hopefully a referral to a more specialized trauma therapist in season two of Tara will lead to deeper, more meaningful presentations of her therapy process.
With the “In Treatment” series, the clients present with relateable issues, and the therapists become real people – likeable, emotional, genuine, flaws and all.
“In Treatment” shows how therapy is different from person to person. While staying the same, the room “changes” and feels different and unique to each client. The therapists and their rooms are the same from session to session and client to client, and yet they become totally different places as each individual client comes in, exposing his or her own life, pain, feelings, energy, thoughts, and emotion.
It shows how the therapy process challenges therapists to be their best selves at all times, as impossible as that might be.
It shows how much people actually say about themselves when someone is listening closely to what is being said. And it shows how much people do not listen to their own selves, and how they don’t hear the words that come out of their own mouths.
It shows how families speak to each other – or not. And how helpful family members can be to each other – or not. And how loving, kind, supportive, and caring family members can be to each other – or not.
It shows how people wrestle with their emotions, their feelings, their realities, and the denial of those realities. It shows their emotional conflict, turmoil, grief, depression, anxiety, suicidal actions, passive suicidal feelings, anger, panic, fear, dismay, agony, self-harm motives, struggles with life and death.
It shows how the therapy process, while focused around the expression of words and feelings, can be enhanced by paying close attention to the communication from the physical body itself, which sometimes says more than clients can put into words.
It shows how therapists get invested in their clients, and how they build connections and bonds with their clients. The caring can be a real thing.
It shows how important it is for clients to make their own life-decisions, how much people wrestle with their own life decisions, and how quickly therapists get blamed when these decisions do not work out as hoped.
It shows how tender and fragile people can be, even when they outwardly appear to be strong, powerful, and in control.
It shows the importance of being heard, understood, listened to, and recognized as a worthwhile person, first by others, and then by yourself.
These television shows can lead to a lot of personal thinking and reassessment about your own therapy process, your relationship with your therapist, and how your life is changing and progressing. How do you relate to what you are seeing “In Treatment”?
* What is your therapy process like?
* How is your therapy impacting your life?
* Do you see your therapist as human as Dr. Weston presents in “In Treatment”?
* Do you blame your therapist when your life plans do not work out as hoped?
* Is your therapist as central to your life as presented in these series?
* Are you more attached to your therapist or to your therapy process?
* What would you do if you realized how human and flawed your therapist is?
* Do you expect your therapist to be something more than a real person?
Kathy Broady LCSW