January 1, 2013
Happy New Year to you all!
It’s the beginning of a new time, a New Year, and nearing the end of the Holidays. How are you feeling? I hope that you each found joy in something that warms your heart. My wish is that each of you can walk peacefully through this holiday season with a priceless treasure to hold on to for years to come.
I had that goal for myself too, and when I was asked what I wanted for Christmas, my answer was that I wanted an experience to remember. I didn’t have any specific gifts or presents in mind – I just wanted something to treasure in my heart.
And that’s exactly what happened.
A big part of my Christmas Day was spent in a beautiful outdoor setting, with dear friends, looking at photos, swapping stories and walking down Memory Lane. It was a precious time. A blast from the past, as they say it, only these were truly nice memories full of smiles and laughter. It warms the heart and lightens the soul to remember good memories.
All too often, trauma survivors equate the word “memories” with bad memories, filled with scenes of trauma and abuse, chaos, conflict, and other terrible experiences. Sometimes it seems that all the memories are bad memories. And fair enough, far far far too many of the memories remembered by dissociative trauma survivors are really not pleasant at all. That’s not your fault – your history was as it was, and genuine healing involves looking at so many of those horrible times. You are brave and courageous to face those past horrors. It’s enormously painful, but you are doing the right thing by remembering what was once dissociated away.
It just doesn’t have to stay that way.
You can have beautiful times in your life too.
It’s a nice change to remember something pleasant, fun, and enjoyable. For most of you, as your healing progresses, you will remember good moments as well.
But don’t wait for that.
Create good times, good memories, good experiences now. Today. This week. This year.
You really can have a happier New Year this year.
Finding and creating new, positive, valuable memories is so very important to the healing process. Having memories to cherish is a necessary part of making life feel valuable and worthwhile. Knowing there were good times in the past, experiencing the good times happening today, and having the assurance that more good times are ahead give us all the hope to live on. To move forward. To hold tight during the tough times.
To make this year a better year, how can you create more of those times to cherish within your heart?
- Can you take the raindrops in your life and create beautiful moments?
- Can you find ways to see beauty in your life, no matter what else is happening?
- Do you treasure the beauty of nature and the vibrant colors that surround you?
- What small moments can be nurtured into much bigger brighter spots in your life?
- Where can you go and what can you do to find something that brings a smile to your face?
This can be good year for you.
Get determined to be happier, and make it so.
You can do it. I know you can.
Copyright © 2008-2013 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation
April 26, 2009
Every now and then, Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne) from HBO’s series, “In Treatment” comes out with a good line, full of depth, and accurate to the therapy process.
In one of the episodes I saw this week, Dr. Weston says, “Is it easier to be angry with me than to look at your own pain?” His client was throwing all kinds of angry jabs at him when clearly she was angry, upset, and miserable about her own life.
Even though it was said on television, that line has a lot of truth in it.
Is it easier to be angry with me than to look at your own pain?
I realize that most of you reading this blog are not connected enough with me — Kathy — to make me a likely target for your anger. Frankly, I appreciate that. Believe me, I’m not “volunteering” to be the target.
But, have a think about the people that are closer to you — the people that are more visible in your life.
Is it easier to be angry with your therapist than to look at your own pain?
Is it easier to be angry with your spouse than to look at your own pain?
Is it easier to be angry with your friend than to look at your own pain?
Is it easier to be angry with your boss than to look at your own pain?
Is it easier to be angry with a stranger than to look at your own pain?
Is it easier to be angry with yourself than to look at your own pain?
So many people want to deflect their pain by pointing at other people, blaming other people, and being angry with other people. It’s often too hard to sit with your own pain without doing that.
What makes anger easier to express than pain?
How many times have you argued with or fussed at your therapist when you were in deep pain?
What makes your therapist a safe enough person to be the target of your anger?
For people with DID (dissociative identity disorder), it is even more complicated because there are often insiders with memories of pain that they want to talk about, and the host / front alter part may not want to hear about it. Host parts can get angry and upset with their therapists for listening to the inside ones. Why is this so often the case?
Are you getting angry at your therapist instead of looking at your own pain?
Listening to all that a person says is an important part of therapy. Would you rather your therapist not listen to your inner parts? Isn’t that the same as asking your therapist to not listen to you as a whole person? Why should your therapist talk to some of you, but not all of you, especially if those others want to talk about the pain that they are feeling? Why should they be ignored, neglected, shunned?
What if your therapist listened and talked to them, but not to you? It probably wouldn’t go over so well if the shoe were on the other foot.
See, even though you are switching, and you feel very much like different people, your therapist will still see you as the same basic person. While there may be some parts of your system that are more involved with the current day / outside world than others, everyone in your system is still important, and everyone can have their say.
Of course, part of the difficulty here is that some of the insiders speak about things that the host is very very uncomfortable with. Sometimes the insiders speak of trauma memories that the host doesn’t want to hear about. Sometimes the insiders speak of ongoing abuse, or abuse by a loved one. Sometimes the very speaking about abuse at all is more than the host wants to hear.
Another common reason that dissociative trauma survivors express anger at their therapist is because expressing anger at their perpetrators is too complicated. Displacing and projecting anger at your therapists instead of your perpetrators may help to find some version of release of anger, but it isn’t really going to get to the root of the problem, so it’s not going to get the kind of resolution that you might be looking for.
Expressing anger at the people that hurt you — while one might think that should be easy — is actually very difficult for survivors with dissociative disorders. There are a number of different reasons for this:
- The violent, sadistic abuser is still alive and still poses a threat. If you are overwhelmed by your fear of this person, it is harder to feel safe enough to be angry with them.
- You may have been threatened with great harm and more violence if you expressed anger or irritation with your perpetrators. This “rule” is hard to overcome.
- You may be too dissociated from your trauma memories to really know who your perpetrators are. When this is the case, you are at risk of expressing your anger at the wrong people.
- Due to the complications of your family dynamics and trauma memories, you might feel too trapped by your own guilt, or shame, or humiliation to feel able to be angry at anyone else.
Emotions can be very complex and finding a way to safely and honestly express your pain and your anger may take a lot of work and practice.
The next time you are angry at your therapist, think about what Dr. Weston words, “Is it easier to be angry with me than to look at your own pain?”
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 10, 2009
For many dissociative trauma survivors, various holidays and times of year are more difficult than other days. Some survivors may know they typically have a difficult time at the change of seasons, or when Easter-time comes, for example, but they may not have the memories or internal information to understand why they consistently have a difficult time at that time of year.
- Are you struggling more now that Easter is here?
- Does Good Friday have any specific meaning for you?
- Does Passover have specific meaning for you?
- Do you consistently have trouble with functioning at this time of year?
- Do you remember anything that would make this hard time make sense?
When survivors with DID/MPD are sitting on unprocessed memories and their system is separated by strong dissociative walls, the host of the system may have absolutely no awareness of why certain times of year are more difficult than others. The host might know that there are consistently difficult times. They might have an acute awareness that they “hate this time of year” but they still might not have an answer for “why” certain times of year are more difficult than others. Host alters, fronts of the dissociative system, can be aware of the side effects of having a hard time, but still not have any explanation for what it’s about.
- Do you find yourself switching more than usual?
- Are you missing more time, even in small chunks? What about in big chunks?
- Are you experiencing more headaches, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks?
- Are you seeing flashes of images, or fleeting snippets of pictures that don’t quite make sense?
- Do you feel unsettled or jittery?
- Do you feel confusion and time distortion, as if it is another time than 2009?
- Are you extra sensitive to certain smells, sounds, lights, and movements?
- Is there more noise, commotion, chaos, and activity coming from deep within your system?
- Do you feel not quite like yourself, as if there are others standing nearby to you, affecting you?
- Do you feel more suicidal or more vulnerable to self-injury, self-harm, and self-destruction?
If you are experiencing these type of symptoms, and yet have no answer for why these things are happening, you really can do something to help solve the mystery.
Any guesses for what to do?
Do you want to know why you are having such a difficult time?
My answer to that is to ask inside. Listen to what your insiders are telling you. There will be someone inside your system that knows why this time of year is so difficult. You might have insiders that have been particularly split off to handle situations from this time of year, so if you can find who that is, you will get some answers for what is going on.
Frequently, my interpretation of the above listed symptoms is that the dissociative walls – amnesiac walls — that previously blocked you completely from an awareness of what happened, is now starting to crumble. What was once kept from you, is now starting to seep into your awareness. For whatever reason, the dissociative wall is starting to weaken, and you are getting bits of information passed to you from others deeper within your system. Maybe they want you to know? Maybe they need your help? Maybe they are ready to begin sharing their story with you?
- Are you willing to help the others in your system that have experienced such difficult times?
- Are you going to turn your back on those ones in your system that are hurting and struggling?
- Are you going to continue to deny their existence because their life story is so completely different than yours?
- Are you determined to strengthen your dissociative walls? Or are you willing to lower those dissociative walls?
Understanding your life, your symptoms, your history, your struggles, etc all go back to having good internal communication. As you talk to your inside people, and ask them what THEY know about what is going on, you will get the answers you are looking for.
Someone inside will know why this time of year is difficult.
Someone inside will be able to explain what those flashbacks and picture flashes are about.
Someone inside will know why you are so sensitive to certain smells, sounds, movements, voices, etc.
The majority of the answers for why you are struggling are contained within yourself, within your internal system. Talking to the people in your system that are on the other side of the dissociative wall will give you a ton of answers to what is happening. Whether you are willing to listen to them or not, or believe them or not, is a totally different issue, but if you want to know why you are struggling, you can find out.
Lots of times, it will be because certain insiders are struggling, and their depression, or their fear, or their anxiety, or their panic, or their PTSD flashbacks will be overflowing onto you.
If you are not sure why you are having a hard time at this holiday season, look inside to find the part / parts of you that have direct knowledge of those hard times, and go from there.
You can do it.
If your insiders are brave enough to start telling you about their struggles, be brave enough to listen to them.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 22, 2009
We’ve had some very interesting discussions on the “What do you think about Suicide?” blog article. Thank you to everyone who writes and comments on this blog – your participation is valued and appreciated.
One of the topics that surfaced on that thread is the idea that trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) may have child parts within their system that can be suicidal, and that the ability to control the suicidal behavior of these child parts seems overwhelmingly difficult, even for the adults of the dissociative system.
I’d like to write an official response to that.
Typically, one thinks of child parts as a permanently young child – an inside part that holds the trauma memories, feelings, rememberings, and experiences that happened when the body was of a young chronological age. These child parts act like children, think like children, reason like children. Their thinking is often very concrete and their grammar / spelling / speech is child-like as well.
So, how does a child part, who is likened after an actual child, have the ability to be suicidal when typically, children do not even understand what death is?
How can these child parts have the ability to act outside of the control of the adults in the system?
There is at least one possible answer for that.
For dissociative trauma survivors, their childhood was filled with abusive perpetrators. Some — not all — DID survivors have experienced an organized type of abuse by organized groups of perpetrators. These organized groups could have presented themselves as sex slavery groups, or cult groups, or governmental / mind control experimental groups. Any which way, the abuse was more than home-based, chaotic dysfunctional family-crisis abuse. With organized abuse, there would have been a goal, a purpose, and a long-term plan for ongoing and continued abuse and total control of the victim by the offenders.
Organized perpetrators very often purposefully split off child parts and attach suicidal programming to these children. Even while the children are at a very young age, these organized perpetrators demand complete control of the mind and behavior of the child. These perpetrators know they are committing horrendous crimes to their victims, and are invested in keeping the children silenced about these crimes. They instill these controls early in life, and then have every intention of keeping this level of control over the victim for as many years into adulthood as possible. Organized perpetrators actually want life-long control. They begin their domination during the victim’s childhood with the intention of being able to keep that child under their control for their entire life.
Using suicidal programming as a way to control and manipulate behavior is one of the most effective ways for abusers to protect their secrets. Perpetrators have a variety of horrific techniques that they use to accomplish this goal.
The result is that a child part can be cued or triggered into suicidal thinking, can have a suicidal plan, and could potentially follow the instructions planted in their brain with the same level of intensity as any other mind-controlled person. The child part does not have to understand what they are doing, nor do they have to understand what death is, nor do they have to understand the effects of their behavior. They just have to know what to do, step by step. These child parts have simply been taught clearly defined, specifically detailed behaviors to follow upon command, and they have been taught to follow those controls without thinking.
Perpetrators attach suicidal programming to young children not only at the earliest point of intervention, but also because it goes to their advantage that these child parts genuinely do not understand what death is. The children know what obedience is and the mind control trainers take advantage of that. Children cannot reason past the orders to understand that they are being told to do something that is harmful to them. They cannot grasp the concept of death enough to fear it the way an adult would, but they know what happens in they don’t obey, so the programming is attached to this level of thinking without any risk of interference by “fear of death”.
In effective trauma therapy, these controls can be removed safely, and the person — both the child parts and the adult parts — can reclaim their own power and control of their behavior. However, as long as the programmed responses are hidden secretly within the child part, the person is at risk for suicidal behavior.
If you are experiencing these kind of suicidal controls, please work with an experienced trauma therapist while addressing these issues. It is imperative that you handle suicidal programming with great caution, and do not assume that just any therapist can do this level of work.
Find a genuine trauma specialist to help you remove suicidal programming from your child parts.
Your safety matters. And yes, you can reclaim the control of your own life.
If you are considering individual therapy work to address these issues, please contact me through AbuseConsultants.com. Be very careful about exposing too much of this kind of personal information on a public blog site.
Your safety is important.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 7, 2009
Many dissociative trauma survivors have issues with time.
Sometimes the past sneaks up into the present. Sometimes the present disappears. Sometimes there are two time zones (or more) occurring at the same time. Sometimes there are huge gaps in time. Sometimes time stands still.
It can be confusing to say the least.
- Have you ever had a flashback from some year gone by overwhelm your current day?
- Have you ever been overwhelmed by such huge feelings that for them to make any sense, they must have roots in something much deeper than your current-day conflict?
- Have you ever woken up in the current day and wondered where you were?
- Have you ever lost hours of time, with no awareness of what happened, and no explanation of what you have been doing?
Losing time can be very difficult. Many folks with DID get understandably upset when this happens — struggling with the after effects of their behavior, left confused, bewildered, possibly angry, waking to their plans being destroyed, their relationships damaged, their money spent, their body feeling weird, their day interrupted. Most singletons cannot even begin to fathom what life would be like with so many missing gaps in time.
There is a huge sense of loss of control when there is lost time. Is the amnesia that is covering that lost time still important? Is it covering up some huge secret that the host of the system cannot know about? Or is it just an old habit – an old familiar way of life, and nothing to worry about? Either way, the not-knowing, and the apparent “not being allowed to know” what happened in one’s own life can understandably be very upsetting for many people.
Sometimes the effects of lost time are minimal, barely noticeable — maybe a small bruise, or scratch that came from nowhere, or a change of clothes, or maybe you’re simply sitting in a different place than you last were. Lots of people with dissociative disorders are so used to losing time that they don’t even notice it anymore. Switching and the coming and going are so normal for them, and the covering for a “bad memory” are just natural parts of the day. In fact, it can be so natural, that many people with DID/MPD are firmly convinced that they don’t lose any time at all. However, a close examination of that belief can usually prove otherwise, but that is not an uncommon initial assumption.
Sometimes lost time cause a lot of anxiety and panic, and sometimes the effects are quite devastating. The host of the system may have no awareness that one of the insiders participated in a sexual activity the night before, but the host might be able to feel body pain and stiffness, and just not have an explanation for that. The daytime alters may not have realized that “the body” is now pregnant, and they may not absolutely no idea who the father is. Or the host of the system may have no idea how the car got wrecked. The dayside people can see the damage done to the car, but might not have any awareness of what happened. Or maybe they have absolutely no idea why their spouse and children are so angry with them. Maybe they don’t remember being involved in a knockdown drag-out argument last night where the spouse and the children were repeatedly insulted, ridiculed, and denigrated.
Sometimes something good has happened – ie: where another part has had the courage to do something that you hadn’t been able to manage. The house may suddenly look cleaner and more organized, or the kids have been helped with their homework. “Good news” isn’t as frequently blocked from awareness, but it can certainly happen. And sometimes, inside system parts can purposefully block the awareness of someone else inside so they can give them a nice surprise. Insider parts can buy nice prezzies for each other, keeping the others unaware of what they are getting for Christmas or Hanukkah, for example.
However, for dissociative trauma survivors, the original foundational reasons for losing time were long ago based on avoiding or escaping the direct involvement in something terrible. While blocking out the awareness of events during their original occurrence was incredibly helpful at that initial traumatic point in time, as a person’s safety increases, and as their dissociative walls decrease, those hidden chunks of lost time often re-surface later in the form of PTSD, flashbacks, body memories, etc.
As repeated patterns of managing traumatic incidents become set and solidified within the dissociative splits, the amnesia between those alters and others inside just simply stay in place. In those original traumatic moments, those insiders were created with dissociative walls firmly intact, purposefully preventing the other system parts from knowing what happened. That same “missing time” protection stays in place until the dissociative person begins to address why it was necessary for them to have that chunk of time hidden from their life in the first place.
Think about the most recent incident or two where you lost time. Part of the healing process is getting more connected with those periods of lost time. Don’t just comfortably sail past the fact that you don’t know what happened in the middle of the afternoon, or that you have no earthly idea where you were last night. Work at that.
These missing gaps of time are pieces of your life that hold valuable information. I can promise you, your body didn’t just cease to exist while you were dissociatively “away” on a mental vacation. Something was happening with some of your parts, and someone was doing something. You might not been out and involved in life during that period of time, but I can guarantee that someone in your system knows exactly what was happening. They were there instead of you.
The terms “missing time” or “lost time” are actually misnomers. The time didn’t get lost. The time is not gone. The person dissociated away from time — someone else in your system was out instead of you. If you don’t know what happened, then you dissociated away and you have not yet talked to your internal system about who was out instead of you. By talking to the others in your dissociative system, you can find out exactly what happened in that “lost time”.
The question is whether or not you would like to know what happened while you were away. Do you want to remember what happened in those missing gaps of time in your childhood? Do you want to know what happened in those missing gaps of time last week? Are you willing to ask your insiders to tell you about their time in the body and their time out in the world?
Becoming less dissociative, less DID/MPD, more integrated, more whole means knowing about ALL the missing gaps of time – the good news, and the not so good news. If you cannot integrate what happened in your own life, you certainly cannot integrate with your other alters inside. If you cannot sit with the emotions and feelings that you had during the difficult times in your life, you certainly cannot integrate with the inside parts that contain those feelings.
Overcoming the amnesia and time loss means that you must communicate actively with the others in your system. Yep, we’re back to system communication once again. Talk to your internal people – they can tell you exactly what happened while you were away.
Work hard to figure out what has happened in your life. Be willing to remember what happened in those missing chunks of time. Don’t comfortably skip over the details that you conveniently dissociated away – go back and really work at learning what happened in your own life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your internal system after you notice some missing time:
- What happened? Do you have any guess or sense whatsoever of what happened? What was happening right before you lost time and what is the first thing you noticed when you got back, grounded and connected to the current day?
- How did you feel? How did you feel emotionally before you left? How do you emotionally feel now?
- How does the body feel now? What is different from before?
- What did you do to recover the information in the time that went “missing”? What clues did you find to help fill in the gaps for you? Look around the house or your car. Does anything look different?
- Did you know who in your system was “out” while you were not out? Who can you ask internally? Who saw what? Even if your insiders did not see what happened in the outside world, did they notice any internal movement? What changes and interactions were happening within the inside world while you were away? Did anyone see anyone else “walk by”?
- If you get a sense of who was out, can you talk to that part of yourself without losing time? Have you been able to work more with the others in your system to lesson the likelihood of this happening again??
- If someone else in your system was caught in a memory or a flashback, do you want to know about it? Are you willing to hear their story about their trauma? Are you willing to sit with them and deal with their pain?
Are you brave enough to know what happened while you were away?
Are you genuinely serious enough about your healing to want to know what happened while you were away?
Are you ready to claim all the different aspects of what has happened in your life?
You can get back all the information that was allegedly lost during that missing time.
You can truly know what happened.
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 24, 2009
In the typical process of trauma therapy, your therapist and the dissociative trauma survivor will spend a great deal of time talking about how difficult it is to be multiple — and it is difficult, no doubt about it. For the typical multiple, there were years and years of pain and horror and abuse requiring the need to split over and over into a number of different personalities just to survive the unthinkable.
But the point of this blog is to talk about what an outsider / singleton sees as the benefits of being multiple and having Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD). Yes, there really are some advantages to being split!
I see the following benefits in multiplicity:
- Being able to do more than one thing at the same time. Talk about having the ability to multi-task! I’ve known situations were one personality can be talking comfortably on the phone while another personality is busy doing the day’s work. How cool is that?!!!
- Always having someone to talk to. When you are friends with each other on the inside, you don’t ever have to be alone. Your best friends can be right there with you, any time of the day or night.
- Being able to maintain the joy of a child’s perspective. Children can be so innocently full of wonderment, and joy, and happiness. They know how to be carefree and happy and amazed at the simplest of life’s pleasures. Child parts, once safe from trauma, can keep that sense of joy near to them their whole lives long.
- Being able to take a break even when the outside body has to keep going. When you’re split, you can tuck back inside, and rest, or sleep, or think, and let someone else be out front managing whatever is going on in life. Having that ability to pull away and separate from the outside life can come in handy sometimes!
- Having the ability to remember so much more of life’s experiences. In my opinion, once a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder finds safety, and learns to connect with all their internal people, and lowers their dissociative walls, it seems to me that people with DID actually remember more of their life than “regular” singletons do. This includes remembering more of the good times as well as the bad.
- Having the ability to understand life and events from a variety of different perspectives. Those with DID don’t have to imagine what it would be like from a different perspective – they often have someone inside that already genuinely sees things that way!
- Blocking out pain. While blocking pain is not always a positive or helpful skill, there are times and places where having the ability to block out pain, both physically and mentally, can be a great benefit.
- Quite possibly needing less sleep? I can’t prove this, but it seems to me that a significant number of folks with DID can function quite effectively on less sleep than what the average singleton person needs. Maybe this is because the various parts can rest and sleep internally? By taking turns resting inside, does that make the overall physical need to sleep less? I have no real answers for this, but it’s not uncommon for this to appear to be the case.
- Looking younger. Again, I cannot prove this, but in my years of working with multiples, folks with DID look considerably younger even as they physically age. One would think that the years of trauma, abuse, and stress would have a negative effect on the physical appearance, and while there are obvious scars, there also seems to be a common ability to not age physically as quickly as singletons do. You all nearly always look younger than you actually are. How cool is that?!
- The ability to fit in with a variety of different people. While some system splits were formed as trauma-based ways of matching with various groups of people (and some not so good as others), the positive flip-side of that ability is that people with multiple personalities can literally find themselves fitting in easily with a wide variety of people in a variety of ages.
Sometimes I wish I could do some of those things too!
The point being, despite the difficult beginnings required in splitting into multiple personalities, there are many good and positive attributes to being multiple.
What do you enjoy about your multiplicity?
What strengths do you have?
How has multiplicity enhanced your life?
What qualities of being a multiple would you want to keep, and never lose?
Your thoughts and comments 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
January 23, 2009
As I am writing my longer post about working with child parts, I want to encourage you to think about this topic as well. Read the following questions, and be honest with yourself – think about them. Journal about them, and make these questions the topics of discussion in your internal meetings. Try the acronym exercises if you need a starting place.
- What are your beliefs about child parts? Who are they? What are they? Why do you have child parts?
- What are your healing and therapy goals for working with your child parts?
- Do you want your child parts to grow older? Or are you happy to incorporate them into your life at whatever age they are?
- Would you feel better if your child parts grew up? What would you lose if they got older? What would you gain?
- Do you remember the same things the child parts remember? If not, do you believe them? Why or why not? Do you understand why they might have different memories than you?
- Do you know how to comfort, soothe, and protect your child parts in safe and healthy ways? List out viable options. Examine various barriers causing complications and troubles for you.
- Can you sit near your child parts without hurting them, and without having any unhealthy or destructive internal struggles? If not, do you know what gets in the way of this happening or how to address the issues? If so, are you able to hold their hand or let them sit with you in a safe and comforting way?
- Do any of your child parts bring joy, laughter, and smiles to your life? How so?
- Do any of your child parts carry your pain? Your emotions? Your trauma memories? If so, what are you doing to address those issues?
- Are you actively involved in aggressively protecting your child parts from anyone inside or outside that will hurt them? Why or why not? What are you doing that is effective? Where do you need help?
Working with child parts is a complicated and critical part of the therapy for trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorders. Your approach to your kids, your values and your beliefs about the kids will affect how you do your work with them.
Is your approach effective?
If you were the child, would you want to interact with you?
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 12, 2009
Creating a collage is another way of allowing your internal system parts to tell more about themselves.
Pictures can be a powerful way of communicating. And a collage – a collection of pictures – can tell a lifetime of stories.
Most trauma survivors were repeatedly told by their abusers, “Do not tell”. Violence, threats, abuse, and pain often accompanied these rules. How many times did you hear “don’t say anything to anyone” or “don’t talk about this” or “you better stay quiet”? All of those directives involve restrictions on being able to talk. Years later, even in the safety of therapy, the intimidation of the no-talk rules can still feel as powerful and real as ever.
One important aspect of healing and therapy is learning to work around the negative, confining rules and those scary points that keep people stuck. If some of your parts are too scared to tell what happened, maybe they could show what happened instead. Pictures can be a way of communicating when talking is a hindrance.
A picture paints a thousand words!
Sometimes writing is too complicated and can also be “against the rules,” especially in the early days of treatment. Thinking creatively, you can work around these rules too. Typing, for example, is actually different from writing. Cutting out printed words is also different from writing. Using stencils, stickers, and rubber stamps are also ways to show wording without having to write.
Collage allows the artist to show a mixture of pictures and words to tell stories without officially breaking no-talk and no-write rules. Collages can be made with a specific topic in mind, or they can be another useful format for the system descriptions.
To create your collage, use a variety of magazines, newspapers, advertisements, and telephone books, etc. Look through these printed materials and cut or tear out any picture, word, or phrase that seems relevant.
If you are sufficiently computer savvy, you can also create a collage from computer pictures. The web certainly has a wide variety of images available for collage purposes. If you can copy-paste and arrange pictures on a document, you can create an incredible collage without so much as lifting a piece of paper.
Let your internal system help pick out these pictures and words, and pay close attention to their interest in selecting pictures, even if you are not sure why they want that particular one. It is very important to not edit or limit the choices of pictures made by your insiders – let them pick whatever pictures they relate to. Each of your parts will have their own things to say, and everyone inside will relate to pictures in a very different way.
Don’t be alarmed or hesitant if you don’t understand why some of the pictures are selected. Chances are, you won’t understand the meaning of all the items picked. That’s ok – that means your insiders are getting ready to tell more about life from their own perspective. Be open to this new information – getting new communication is a big part of why this exercise is helpful. Besides, as you get to know the insiders that selected those pictures, and as the time is right, they will tell you the relevance and meaning of all their selections. If your insiders are picking pictures they relate to, they are completing the assignment, and that is a good thing. Don’t interfere!
Even though you might want to know why the various collage pictures are being selected, be very careful not to push your insiders to talk about everything at once. Not only will that put the others on the spot, and potentially chase them away from the assignment, but you could also easily overload and overwhelm yourself if you start demanding explanations for every picture or phrase that is selected. Select the pictures from a comfortable emotional distance and save the “talking time” for later. There will be plenty enough time on different days for your system members to explain their choices to you.
If you find that lots of your parts are doing this exercise at once, you can either make different piles for the pictures that belong to different folks, or just cut out everything you see and separate the piles of pictures into themes at a later point. I have known people to be working on dozens of tiny collages all at the same time. I have also known people to assemble gigantic collages on huge poster boards. Use whatever style works for best for you! The important point is that your parts are creatively showing you what has deep meaning for them.
The purpose of the collage is to provide another way to tell without telling. Using groupings of pictures and cut out words or phrases can help to say things that you are not allowed to say directly. Any form of expression is helpful in the therapeutic process, even if some of it stays unclear for a long while.
Another added benefit to this exercise is that you will get to know your system parts better. You might recognize patterns for who leans towards what type of pictures. You might hear a new voice that you don’t recognize insisting on a picture that has absolutely no relevance to you.
Collage work can help with the processing of traumatic memories. You might see entire story-lines displayed right in front of you in the groupings of magazine pictures. You might develop a greater awareness for who in your system dealt with what types of abusive situations.
Tending to everyone, listening, and allowing everyone in your system to have an unedited say in picture selection is important. As with any exercise that includes your whole system, it can lead to greater trust, system cooperation, and internal connection.
Kathy Broady LCSW