January 26, 2012
Recently, my magpie visitors set a new record high for the size of the group gathering at my balcony waiting for treats.
At one single point in time, I had 18 pies there surrounding me, all squawking and squawling and calling and cheeping and chirping and whistling and warbling and garbling and gawking and flapping and hopping, each hoping to be the next in line for the little bits of bologna I was handing out to them. Eighteen pies! That’s a lot of birds, and they were making a whopping lot of noise!
There had been a number of rainy days in a row, and while pies surely know how to survive in the roughest of weather, they were all looking very raggedy in their sopping wet feathers. Oh, they were a sad sight, all droopy, and soggy, and drippy. Some of the pies were trying to fluff up more than usual to keep the rain off them. Others couldn’t even muster their feathers up anymore. The days of rain must have worn them out.
I know I wouldn’t want to be living outside in a rainy rainy thunderstorm that lasted for days and days. I don’t know where pies go to sleep and rest, but I can’t imagine it being fun at all. It seems to me that bug-chasing in the rain would be difficult, and sludging through deep puddles of muddy water would be more suited for ducks than for pies.
Yes, my big group of pies were a sad sight. A big soggy, soppy, sad sight.
And they were hungry. Really hungry.
Most of the time, the pies will take turns nicely when it comes to treat time. There are the more aggressive front runners, of course, but for the most part, everyone gets a share, and it’s easy enough to make sure that the treats are spread out rather evenly between everyone.
It’s a totally different story when they are hungry.
And it’s even more challenging when there are 18 hungry birds all at the same time.
The claws come out, literally. The pies will fight each other to be first in line, or to get that specific bite of food that they had their eyes on.
Of course, if they could understand that there was enough food for everyone, and that they didn’t need to fight to get their turn, it could have all happened peacefully. But these so-called wild birds didn’t understand that. They were still fighting out of their natural instincts.
The pretty little gray timid pie stayed in the background. She’s smaller and younger than the others, a newcomer to the group. She’s noticeably different in coloring from all the others, and the rest of the pies dominate her for the most part. She didn’t fight anyone for anything, and she would not have gotten a single bite of bologna had I not specifically made sure to directly give some to her. Even then, I had to take time to convince her that it was ok for her to have it. Then, after all that, I believe a more aggressive bird swooped in grabbing and snatching the pieces that fell to the ground, not even allowing little gray pie to finish her own serving.
Some of the more trusting-of-me pies would run up near to my feet, separating themselves from the crowd, willing to get as close to me as possible to ensure they would get hand-fed away from the others. That was the easiest way to make sure of getting something to munch on.
Some of the pies would charge in fast, demanding first dibs, and then fly away to enjoy their mini-feast in the privacy of some hidden corner of grass somewhere else.
Sometimes two or three pies would squabble over the same bite. These squabbles can become real fights where they are pulling each other’s feathers with their beaks, or digging their claws into the tummies of the other birds, pinning the unfortunate bird on its back. (Yikes! I sure don’t like that!) Sometimes they will click and snap their beaks at each other, making a loud scary noise, clearly meant to intimidate the other pie with a definite “Get back or I’ll poke you!” message. They will repeatedly screech and scream at each other, with their beaks open wide, making very loud protests and declarations of “Mine! Mine! Mine!”.
So much fighting!
It’s not like a tiding of wild birds will ever have to learn to get along with each other on a small balcony in one part of town. As these babies grow up, they will have to spread out into their own areas to live, and I assume, some of the birds I am pampering now will have to scoot on down the road to other areas. In nature, there is a very definite pecking order and lots and lots of space to move to. Maggies will argue and fight to survive, and to fight to claim their territory just like all wild animals have done for thousands of years. Survival of the fittest keeps the species alive and well.
And the tough times in life bring out the fighting responses.
But what about when the fighting occurs within a group that really does have to live together?
What happens when moving on down the road is not a legitimate option?
What about squabbles and fights within a dissociative system? For people with dissociative identity disorder, living with groups of people, and internal fights, and intense conflict is a common state of mind. There are ways to internally separate those that are fighting with each other, at least on a temporary basis, but really, everyone is always there. Until the conflicts are resolved peacefully, the fighting can continue to happen day after day.
That kind of ongoing conflict would be very difficult to live with. It would feel noisy, and stressful, and overwhelming. It could be scary for the more timid parts, and intense for the ones with extreme emotions. All too often, internal conflict leads to self-destructive behaviors.
Can you relate to that?
What do you do when your groups of insiders squabble?
How do you work out the conflicts and disagreements?
Do you know how to find ways to problem-solve by working the problem, instead of fighting each other?
Does your system take turns, sharing time and resources with each other?
Do your insiders help each other more than they hurt each other?
There are always going to be different opinions, and different perspectives, and opposing needs. There are going to be parts inside that are more aggressive than others. There will always be parts that are smaller, younger and quieter. Within the dissociative system, there will very often be many insiders that are still feeling wounded, hurt, distraught – insiders who need extra care, nurturing, and attention.
How do you tend to all the varying needs and wants without squabbling in ways that make the problems worse, instead of better?
Copyright © 2008-2012 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
June 20, 2010
This weekend is often a difficult weekend for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder. First, there is Father’s Day (for those of us living in the USA), and secondly, it’s the Summer Solstice. Anytime the difficult days get stacked on top of each other, it’s going to make for a complicated time.
On days when the issues seem to surface in layers, what do you do to cope?
(**This blog article is about difficult topics so it could be triggering – please pace yourself carefully and keep yourself safe.)
Father’s Day has many of the same emotional complications as was written about on Mother’s Day. The days proceeding are often full of painful memories, heartbreaking loss, fear, conflict, and upset. The vast majority of DID survivors have had abusive fathers, so the idea of celebrating fathers typically stirs up great turmoil.
The first day of summer, like all season changes, has relevance to those who have experienced difference forms of Ritual Abuse (RA). Many of the dark church organizations celebrate the seasonal changes and these so-called “celebrations” are full of trauma, abuse, gross activities, icky messes, scary events, etc. Survivors of these ordeals are often flooded with flashbacks, emotional distress and internal conflict during the times of season changes.
When you put the two of these highly emotional events together, dissociative survivors experience a lot of overwhelm. Some of the difficulties can include PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, depersonalization, body memories, difficulties sleeping, irritability, feeling distant from others, etc.) and anxiety symptoms (panic attacks, excessive fears, heightened startle reflex, nausea, trembling, heart palpitations, headaches, obsessions, chest pain, etc), self-destructive thoughts, self-injury behaviors, suicidal ideation (pervasive thoughts about wanting to die), depression, tearfulness, or detached numbing. It’s probably been a miserable weekend for a lot of DID survivors.
Fathers that participate in dark church rituals are often not the kind of fathers that you find written about in Hallmark Cards. These are the kinds of fathers that prefer abusive activities, or that like sadistic pain, or have freaky and perverse sexual interests. They are difficult men who have caused a lot of hurt and pain for a lot of people, especially for their children.
And yet, even so, there are nearly always those parts within the DID system that feel loyalty and a deep bonding with the father figure. These parts are typically parts that have adopted some level of acceptance of the traumatic activities, and have long ago learned to tolerate the abuse or to even define it as anything but abuse.
DID survivors often manage abuse by their fathers by creating a father introject within the internal dissociative system. Father introjects are internal system parts that remember the father so well that they look-feel-sound-act-appear to the others inside as the same as the actual father. An internal introject may do the same kinds of abusive behaviors to the other parts of the system, recreating the same abusive patterns and feelings that the external father did. Since the internal world is so real to DID survivors, it can feel like the father is still there, still controlling things, still making all the decisions, still threatening harm, still causing harm.
And in many ways this can be true.
It can be difficult to separate who the external father is from the internal father introject. They can very much feel like mirror-images of each other, shadow replicas, and the child parts of the system will not be able to tell the difference between them.
But father introjects are NOT the actual father, no matter how much they may claim to be so. Father introjects actually belong to you. They split from you, they came from your mind, and they originated with you. They are actually part of you, and not part of the father. They may have been taught by the father, but they are actually yours.
However, they will be powerful parts of the internal system though so their power and influence is not to be ignored or minimized. It is more important to work with these parts, and reconnect their loyalty to the survivor person instead of to the father figure. This is an absolutely crucial part of the DID therapy process, and if you haven’t yet gained a safe working relationship with your father introject, you will need to do so.
Father Transference Issues
In the therapy process, male therapists will have many of the same kinds of transference issues regarding father issuesj as female therapists have with mother issues. In fact, it is often difficult for some female dissociative survivors to work with male therapists because of the kinds of trauma, abuse, and controls associated with their father. Male therapists often have to address transference issues of being seen as the abuser, controlling male, dominant owner, sexual pervert, etc. So many trauma survivors have issues with men — and even more have issues with their fathers — that it makes being a male therapist for female trauma survivors particularly difficult.
Other female trauma survivors are so used to be led by men or connected to men, especially their father, that they feel more at ease with men and less comfortable with “neglectful, abandoning mothers”. (Female therapists tend to get more of the abandonment transference issues, while male therapists tend to get more of the abuser-male dominance transference issues.) The relationship between survivors and their parents will very often dictate which gender of therapist is a better fit for them.
Typical Father Issues
Father issues are not easy to work through. They often take years of time to sort out, and they are very painful. Many survivors truly feel bonded to their fathers, even if some of their relationship involved sexual activities. Sometimes feeling sexually connected to the father felt better than being emotionally abandoned by the mother. When this is the case, there are numerous emotional complications to process during your healing.
Do you understand the role your father has played in your life?
Do you experience system switching, feelings of fear, or flashbacks when you are in the same room with your father?
What would your father do if you said no to him?
What would your father do if you chose a lifestyle very different from the one he chose for his life?
Are you allowed to live separately from him? Have you been allowed to move away from his neighborhood?
How much control or influence does your father have over you life in the current day?
Are you safe when you are in the same room as your father?
Does your father still abuse you or any of your younger parts? Does he still exert a level of sexual dominance over anyone in your system?
Would you be betraying your father if you refused to let him touch you in sexual ways?
If your father is an abuser, you can get distance and separation from him.
You don’t have to stay bonded to abusers.
You don’t have to stay connected to violent relationships.
You don’t have to be abused to be accepted.
You do not have to be sexual to be accepted.
All men are not abusers.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
April 10, 2010
I’ve been wondering for awhile about what aspect to focus on with this week’s episode of United States of Tara. Then I remembered the last minute of the show.
And I thought more of how very painful and how very real that heartbreak is for Buck.
Throughout this season two, Tara has struggled with the fact that she is in fact multiple – that she does have dissociative identity disorder – that she is switching, or “transitioning” as she calls it – that she has other parts to herself that also want time and attention and a little bit of life space. Tara is upset about having to share her life with her insiders and she has convinced herself that she is the only one in the body who should have a life. She has decided that she “is” the life, and that no one else matters, just her.
Apparently she thinks that she, Tara, is the one and only important self. No one else matters –she is the only one that matters. Tara, Tara, Tara – it’s all about Tara.
Well. I’ve heard far too many hosts present with that kind of attitude, but to the dismay of far too many host personalities, I completely disagree with that concept.
I vote for the system.
Meaning, if I had a vote regarding Tara, I would support Buck.
Buck is as real as Tara.
Buck is every bit as much of a person as Tara is.
Buck has his own thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, wants, desires, etc. He is as important as Tara is.
Can Tara stake claim as the ONLY part of the system that gets to have time?
Is she really the only one that is important?
I don’t think so.
See – the way I see it – Tara is only a portion of the person. She is not THE person. She is part of the whole person, the same as Buck is part of the whole person. Tara may have the upfront, outwardly social wife and mother role of the person, but she is not the whole person.
Tara is important, there is no denying that. I would never ever say she isn’t important. And she can be considered the leader of the system – I’m all for that idea as well.
But to say she is the only one that matters???
That is taking it too far.
Buck and the others inside are also important. They are as important as Tara. They may have different roles, different abilities, different preferences, different histories, different memories, etc, but they are still part of the person as a whole, and they should get to have part of the life as well.
I’m not saying that I am supporting the idea that Buck has been having an affair outside of the marriage vows. An affair is an affair, and Buck is completely and fully aware of what he has been doing that would be so very hurtful to the husband. He is responsible for the pain he has caused in his family, and like it or not, he is actually already married. Buck has cheated on his husband, and he will have to face the music on that one.
Yes, Buck and Tara have a whopping lot of work to do in order to resolve this conflict but the fact of the matter is, Buck is his own person too.
And part of the current heartbreak for Buck is that Tara has staked a little more claim on how the outward life is managed, and that genuinely leaves Buck not knowing how to be or do what he wants to be or do in his own life right now. No, it really isn’t ok for Buck to go out and have his own affair. Yes, he really is his own person, but his actions still affect those around him. He will need to figure out a way to live happily and fulfilled as himself without hurting others. I don’t know how that will look for Buck, but that is the challenge he is facing right now.
The point I want to emphasize here is that the DID system insiders do count.
They are real, they do exist, they have their own wants and dreams, and they are as important as anyone else. So squashing them out of existence, or refusing to give them time or acknowledgement is not ok.
Cooperation, compromising and sharing are absolutely important – but refusing to let the insiders have their own life-space is bordering on creating a self-centered dictatorship, in my definition.
Buck’s heartbreak about not getting to have the life he wants on his very own is very real. Insiders can and do feel extreme sadness and emotional pain over not being able to have their own bodies, their own separate lives, their own complete freedom of choice. Buck really and truly wanted to have his own girlfriend, and to have his own relationship, and to have his own time in the body. He wants the freedom to be his real self, and to make the choices he would make if he had his very own body.
If it were only that easy….
Sharing a body with 5-10-20-30 or more different insiders is extremely difficult. There seems to never be enough time to do everything everyone wants to do.
It means that sharing the 24-hour day is essential. It means that giving each other time in the body needs to be a coordinated, cooperative, ongoing process.
Finding ways to meet the needs, wants, and preferences of each of the different insiders is really complicated, and it does take a whole lot of work to find acceptable compromises. The key word here, being compromise. Tara can no more take over the life as completely her own any more than Buck can. They have to find a way to work that out together.
Because they are both real.
And they both exist.
And they both can have a say in how life looks for them.
Because they are both important, and valuable, and necessary.
Buck really is as real as Tara. And if he has to prove that, he can.
So to all the hosts out there – be willing to share the life-space with your insiders. Because far too often, if you refuse to do that, your insiders could make a mutiny type decision like Buck did. And that really never works out very well for anyone.
Value everyone in your system.
Use interpersonal skills layered in cooperation, compromise and teamwork.
Be willing to share.
Treat each other with kindness and generosity.
Accept that there are differences between you and the others and find ways to make it work so that everyone can get some of what they need.
Everyone in your system has the right to be happy.
Their lives matter too.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
April 5, 2010
I didn’t have a chance to watch or write about last week’s episode of Showtime’s United States of Tara, so before the series got too much further, I thought I’d bring up the topic.
First of all – it’s now really clear to me what people were referring to as triggering about episode two. The sudden sexual explicitness would be triggering to a lot of trauma survivors. If you haven’t yet seen this episode, beware of the last five minutes of the show.
Tara’s male alter, Buck, sneaks out in the middle of the night, goes to a bar, and develops a sexual relationship with a woman that works at the bar. Tara is completely amnesiac for the hours Buck spends with the other woman, but she gradually notices some clues that she is missing time. Tara runs into the bartender while grocery shopping, initially does not recognize her at all, and is embarrassed by the bartender’s flirty familiarity. Tara eventually has vague recall of who the woman is, but reassures her that they will not be continuing that relationship, whatever it was. Tara and Buck argue about this situation, and Tara says “Absolutely not!” but Buck seems to be winning. He is able to continue his relationship with his new girlfriend despite Tara’s best efforts to squash it from happening.
There are layers of internal system conflicts demonstrated in the situation with Tara, Buck, and the bartender. Specifically from this week’s show, I want to bring up the topics of sexual preferences and sexual acting-out.
Here are some questions I have been asked dozens of times:
If a male alter in a female body is attracted to women, is that a homosexual interest? Or is that a heterosexual interest?
If you had an insider sneaking out of the house to have a sexual relationship with another person, how would you handle that? If this relationship was happening behind amnesiac walls, how long would it take for you to figure it out?
You might think that this story line is dramatic twist, but I have to admit, I have seen something very similar happen several different times during my years of working as a trauma therapist with dissociative survivors.
Sexual relationship issues do surface during the therapy treatment years. Not only does this issue provide conflicting feelings for external relationships, it also can create significant tension, anxiety and conflict between system parts. For example, it is not unusual for male insiders express a very different sexual preference than female insiders. It is not unusual for male insiders to feel like they should have their own options instead of being “stuck” with whomever the girls have chosen. The child parts may have a strong vote as well, meaning that they often want complete abstinence in order to feel safe. This may or may not be acceptable to the adult parts, (or to the adult partners / spouses). The subsequent arguments that can develop between system parts can be intense. Learning to work out conflicts and find suitable compromises can be very difficult in these situations.
Re-enactments of sexual trauma have an impact on sexual interests and preferences. As sexual trauma issues surface, survivors can respond in all kinds of ways. Some of the ways include finding an external relationship that either imitates the traumatic relationship, or finding an external relationship to use as avoidance of sexual trauma issues. Sometimes sexual addictions flare up rapidly, and the sexually interested insiders may feel intensely pulled towards sexual activities, including self-focused activities. Or most commonly, survivors completely lose interest in participating in a sexual relationship, and if a spouse or partner requests ongoing participation, there is a high-risk of the original traumatized child parts being pulled out.
It’s a difficult dilemma.
Most survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) will have insiders that express all of the above views.
Finding the best balance varies from person to person, relationship to relationship.
How do you address all of this?
How do you sort out all the different layers of conflict?
How do you meet all the varying needs?
It’s certainly not easy.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation