January 2, 2011
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2010. If it were an exhibit at The Louvre Museum, it would take 5 days for that many people to see it.
In 2010, there were 43 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 152 posts. There were 57 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 19mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was February 24th with 631 views. The most popular post that day was Pictures of DID – “How I View My Head”.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were healthdiaries.com, z3.invisionfree.com, twitter.com, mail.yahoo.com, and abuseconsultants.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for hoarding, discussing dissociation, sleeping, compulsive hoarding, and dissociative experiences scale.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Pictures of DID – “How I View My Head” February 2010
List of All Articles on this blog January 2009
Compulsive Hoarding and Dissociative Disorders December 2009
Scoring the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) June 2009
Switching in Your Sleep -– Are you Snoozing or Secretly Awake? August 2010
56 comments and 4 Likes on WordPress.com
October 11, 2010
The following drawing is a DID survivor’s response to my question: Can you picture dissociative identity disorder?
*** If you are a dissociative trauma survivor, please read the following article with caution. Some of the topics presented in this blog article could create an emotional reaction from your internal system as several difficult but important topics are mentioned. Please be sure to tend carefully to your own safety and stability. ***
This drawing is helpful to understand dissociation – the very picture itself portrays how it feels to have dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD). Assuming this drawing represents one actual person, the plural, divided-self experiences are visually obvious.
In addition to the whole of the picture, I’ve picked out a variety of elements that could be significant to the dissociative system being pictured. I will include some of the thoughts and questions that come to mind as I look at the different areas of this drawing. A lot of helpful therapeutic information can surface by asking the following questions to the survivor artist. Many of these questions could be asked to any other dissociative survivor in terms of exploring their own internal systems.
1. The blank face in the mirror
- Why is this a blank slate?
- Is there ever a time when “no one” is there? What is that like?
- Does the face place not belong to anyone in specific?
- How often does this person switch?
- Does anyone claim the face?
- Who does the actual face belong to?
- When you switch, are there visible differences in the face?
- Is there a specific leader to this dissociative system? If so, where is this person pictured?
- How often does this dissociative survivor feel like she is living outside of her body or separated from her body?
2. Notice that there are other inside system parts visible in the overall picture –
- Some parts are in the front
- Some parts are in the back – what is the significance of these different locations?
- Some parts are unknown (blank spots)
- Some parts are pictured standing alone
- Some parts are closely connected to someone else
- Some parts are older, likely adult in age
- Some parts pictured are very young
- Some parts pictured are middle-aged children
- Some parts pictures appear to be teenagers
- Can you identify any of these insiders as specific individuals?
- Who talks to who?
- Do the insiders on the back communicate with or know about the insiders located on the artist’s paint palette?
- Since we are seeing only a small portion of the actual body, are there other parts located elsewhere that are not pictured in this drawing?
- If there are other system insiders that are not pictured in this drawing, would you consider drawing another picture that does include them?
- Do the two main figures in this picture represent two distinctly different systems?
- Are you aware of what happens when the insiders “from the back” are out?
- Do you experience more time loss with the parts that are connected to the body but not visible because they are on the back or with the parts that you can see, but are more separate and pictured on the paint palette?
3. The hair and the clothes are different in the mirror — ever so slightly — but still different. Notice the different hairstyles / clothing for the different insiders – a clue for who is out might be related to the actual hairstyle / clothing they are wearing that day.
4. What is the thumb covering? I would need to ask the artist to know what this represents for sure, but several possibilities do come to mind.
- Is this a dark area of the internal system that is trying to hide?
- Is this an area that represents difficult feelings like shame, pain, anger, or any areas of life that may not be comfortable to look at?
- Using the metaphor of the paint palette, the dark spot might indicate a hole in the palette. Does it have any other significance than that? Are there “holes” in your system? To where does that hole lead?
As much as one figure appears to be the reflection in the mirror, is the mirror actually the doorway for an entirely different system than the parts outside of the mirror? It is not uncommon for mirrors to be part of the internal world / internal landscape of a dissociative survivor. These mirrors are very significant and will require specific therapeutic attention.
Some dissociative survivors speak about circles in their life, and circles can represent specific relationships, and / or being “in the circle” can have layers of meaning.
- Is there any significance or meaning to the circle designs included in this drawing?
- Do the insiders stay separated in their circle “bubbles” or are they allowed to mingle with each other?
Since the artist of this drawing used the paint palette metaphor to show their system, do colors have an important meaning to their system? Are certain parts associated with certain colors? For example, are there parts from the “green layer” or are there parts associated together as part of the “blue group”, etc. If so, what do the different colors mean, and what are the common characteristics or job roles of the insiders associated with each color?
8. Box Frame
What is the relevance of the square / rectangle mirror frame? Does seeing a main figure inside the box frame have any significance? Are any of your insiders tucked away in boxes? If your system insiders are not in boxes, do you have other issues boxed up?
9. Connection to the Body
One of the strongest themes in this picture relates to the way the different parts of the system appear to be very separate from the body.
- How often is this person in a numb, dissociated, depersonalized, or out-of-body state?
- When the parts from the paint palette are “in the body”, can the artist feel that they are present? Or do these parts continue to have a separated distance?
- Does the body feel the same or different when the mirror-reflection group of insiders is present in the body?
I have found this drawing to be rich in information that would be useful when discussing the dissociative issues experienced by this trauma survivor. There is much to learn about this survivor-system and asking these questions is just the beginning.
What do you see in this picture?
What else would you wonder about?
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
March 28, 2010
Isn’t this an interesting picture?!
Assuming the artist of this picture is a trauma survivor with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), this drawing shows many of the system insiders.
How many insiders do you find represented in this picture?
When I look at this picture, the different parts that I see could include the following.
The front girl, on the light side, is probably the one that presents the most to the world. She is neat, trim, clean, dressed nicely. Maybe she is the leader of the parts on that one side of the system. She probably is the one that goes to work or school, etc. She doesn’t seem to be too happy, but she has an air of strength to her. I see sadness in her eyes.
The dark, shadowy side of the face, with a wilder hairdo represents a different side of this person. It’s hard to know, without asking, if the left side represents one part, or a combination of different parts. I would assume that more than one part is represented. This side of the drawing appears to be male. My guess is that the male parts are quite dominant for this survivor.
The shoulder of armor and chest guard, along with the hand holding the sword shows a strong, determined, protector part. Notice that this part of the person comes out towards the front of their physical presentation. It could mean that these protector parts are very close to the surface, and they may be the first ones you meet when encountering this dissociative survivor. Even if you don’t meet them directly, they are right there, watching everything, and paying very close attention to what’s happening.
The strong protective hand and sword are out in bright light. I’d have to ask to be sure, but my guess is that this survivor fights strongly for the things that are good. Their heart doesn’t belong to the darkness. They fight for positive, for goodness, for safety, for healing.
The outer leg, dressed in jeans with running shoes implies a male part. I know that girls wear jeans and tennis shoes, but when trying to show the male parts, this clothing is different from the other more female items, so I would ask about the boys. In fact, that whole left side could be more about boy parts while the other side could be more female. (Or is that shoe a steel-toed boot? I can’t quite tell, so I would be asking about that.)
The mix of male-female clothing (male-female parts) is also emphasized through the waist area, with the draping of the skirt versus the leg of the jeans. It is extremely common for most dissociative survivors to have a mix of both genders in their systems.
The cat part is obviously a strong part of this system, holding a place of balance in the center of the system. This cat’s role in the system is important and significant. The cat is young, probably a child part. This part is one of the most obvious parts of the system, and yet still hides its identity from the outside world – we can see it’s there, but we can’t see who it is. Does this part hear more than it sees? Why is this the only part that is looking the other direction? What does that mean?
It appears that the cat-child is directing intense self-hatred to at the female host via self-injury and cutting. The self-injury is probably related to a number of different issues, but notice that it seems to be aimed towards one female part. Explore that further.
Does the woman feel pain? Is she capable of dissociating pain easily? Does she dissociate the pain involved in cutting and self-injury? The staring, flat expression in the woman’s face could indicate that she is dissociating and not feeling the cuts that are being made on her shoulder and leg. Is she aware that it’s happening? Is she amnesiac for times of self-injury? Why is she the one being hurt? What message is the cat-child trying to give her?
Since it appears that the woman does not feel the pain, maybe the cat-child is the one that feels the pain. The strong, dramatic striping on the cat could indicate intense feelings and waves of pain. It has the look of heated flames (and tiger-stripes), but the feel seems more painful than peaceful. How wild and out of control does this cat-child act? How many times this cat-child has been hurt? My guess is that this little part has endured a lot of the trauma.
Even though this young cat-child part appears to be angry, hurting, hurtful, and self-destructive, notice that the female leader has an open palm, a friendly, gentle acceptance of this troubled young cat-child. This is the only paw of the cat-child that does not have the claws sticking out. This is a good sign, and it shows some gentleness and compassion between system members.
The small hand of the cat-child could also indicate that there is a definite connection with feeling like a small child, and not just as a small animal. Maybe the child can come more forward during times of feeling safe and comforted, while the cat-side stays out at other times.
It is not uncommon for dissociative survivors to have animal parts within the system. There will be reasons for way these parts are presenting, and it will be important to understand the life-stories of these parts the same as with any other part.
While it’s a little hard to see, it looks like there is a small, crying child part (or two?) hiding under the blanket. These child parts appear to be scared, and deep in hiding. Even the teddy bear helps to hide them. These little parts can still see a lot, but they may not come out and interact with the world very often. They are probably kept inside and away from people for the most part.
There is a tiny small area of dark-purple with the child part and the teddy bear. This is the only area of color in the whole picture, and is an important topic for discussion. What does it mean? What does it represent? Why did the purple need to be colored while the rest of the drawing could stay in blacks and whites? What do these child parts know that is still a secret? What does the darkness around them represent in their life?
I would ask if the cat-child part is also a protector of the young children hiding under the blanket. Both the cat and the woman show gentleness on the side with the child parts, so maybe the woman and the cat both feel protective of the little ones.
The protective covering of the hidden child parts is full of mystery and warrants further questioning. There are layers of something, intertwined together, with a few straggling strings at the bottom of the blanket. What does all this mean? Does the DID survivor work extra hard to protect these parts? Do the adult parts of this system know the secrets that are held within the shadows of this blanket?
Overall, the insiders in this DID system seem to be close to each other. They sit near to each other, and have an obvious comfort with each other. The do not seem to be afraid of each other, and they appear to be close enough to be able to talk easily together.
My guess is that the switching between the woman host and the others that are represented on her personhood is not as obvious as it would be between the woman and the cat-child. Some switches are much less visibly different, and I would guess that the woman and her male parts are in close communication, and switch fluidly and easy between each other. They seem to have a good balance of sharing and cooperation, and while their roles are very different, there seems to be a strong level of comfort and familiarity with each other.
I would ask, in this case, if the necklace and female shirt area represent the sexual parts. While there is the obvious female statement, my guess is that the emphasis on the bright chest area indicates that some parts inside have a strong sense of sexuality. Or, the white color could mean the opposite – a numbing or lack of feeling. Either which way, this is an issue that should be explored with this dissociative system.
It is important to note that the kneeling knee and the bare foot are on the same side as the female / sexual parts of this system. Putting these indicators of submission together with the chain necklace could symbolize some history in sex slavery. This is a difficult topic, so ask questions gently.
As always, please remember that my guesses and interpretations of this DID artwork could be completely wrong. However, please take the ideas as presented, as use them in the ways that fit for you. Let these ideas create questions for you as you explore your own art, or the art of your clients.
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
February 24, 2010
Here is yet another unique view of dissociative identity disorder.
“How I View My Head”
Isn’t this an interesting picture!
It almost looks three-dimensional. Very cool!
Once again, please remember, I’ll be writing out some of my thoughts without having conversations with the artist. I am presenting these thoughts for educational purposes only, and my guesses or impressions could be wrong. If I were speaking to the artist for real, I would certainly be asking questions instead of first voicing my comments. However, for the purposes of discussing elements of dissociation, I will be speaking openly even without knowing if my comments are accurate or not.
So if a trauma survivor with a dissociative disorder presented this artwork to me in a therapy session, my thoughts would include:
The first impression I see is the complicated twisting, turning, and complexity of issues. I can see that the journey has not been easy, and there have been many difficult points along the way. I see some smooth pathways, but the overlapping, tangled blocks and obstacles are prominent.
There’s a lot of movement and activity in this picture. What’s happening? Where’s everyone going? How chaotic does it feel inside your head? Everything except the one-inch strip on the right edge feels busy and intense. How did the area on the right become calmer? What can you say about these differences?
I am assuming that the bottom left, with the swirls of green and yellow is the front of the head, with the doors being like the beginning of the hairline. From this perspective, the doors and pathways back have the appearance of being like hair blowing in the wind. This is a cool layering of the picture as it gives of feel of the outer head as well as the inner head.
My first impression of the doors is that they represent different insiders with the big doors being adults and the little doors being younger child parts. The doors could also represent different struggles in life, or different events that created a set of parts in the overall system, with each group having their own life pathways and life experiences separate from the others. Maybe there are upstairs / downstairs layers to this system. The upper / lower doors could represent all kinds of things if that was the case. What do you think the sets of double doors represent?
When you open the doors, what do you see behind each of the doors? When can the doors be opened, and who can open them? Are the doors locked? Can anyone open them?
Is there significance to the number of doors? If so, how?
Do the pathways represent memories or the life events of particular system parts? When the pathways are separate and on their own, are those times when the life-events were not shared with others in the system? Does the information on these pathways get shared with others or not? Each pathway has splotches of darker color, or alternating light / dark colorings. What do these splotches of color represent? Does the light / dark coloring represent the conflict and struggles of your system? For example, do you have some system parts that are “light side” parts, vs. others that are “dark side” parts? How do these pathways demonstrate those internal conflicts?
Notice the various crossing points of the pathways. What is the significance of these points? These places where the pathways cross and overlap might represent times when life experiences, memories, and events were shared between the different parts of the system. The overlap could represent times of co-consciousness and shared communication or conflicts between internal parts. At each point of overlap, the colors turn black. What does this mean?
Of course, I am going to ask about the meaning of the colors. Colors are typically important, and different survivors will connect different feelings / beliefs with various colors. With this picture, I would ask about the colors of each door and pathway, but I would also ask about the combination of colors. For example, why does the mustard / yellow doors have a pink pathway? Why does the pink / salmon doors have a green pathway? These color combinations could be relevant in some way. What do they mean to you?
The blue pathway coming out of the purple doors is different from the other paths. It is thinner and straighter, and has few splotches. Is there any meaning to this? Who takes this path?
Do the doors represent more about the outer world, while the pathways represent more about the inner worlds? The doors are brighter than most of the rest of the picture. If the doors represent what is seen to the public world, are the brightly colored, cheerful doors trying to hide the amount of darkness and depression hidden behind the doors?
Do system parts come out from behind the doors? If so, who comes out of each of the different doorways? If I were to see you when a “yellow door person” was presenting, how would that be different from when a “green door person” was presenting, vs. when a “purple door person” was presenting, etc.?
What are the black splotches all over the inner areas? Are they unknown areas? Are they scary memories? Are they insiders that cause problems or self-sabotage? Notice the black inner lining around the area where the black splotches are located. What does this black line represent? Is it a barrier of some sort? Does it block out awareness? If the black splotches are something of a negative or stressful nature, it is good to see that they are contained within a particular area of the inner world. The ability to contain the scary things into one area could be considered a personal strength.
What is the significance of the light faint black background? Does this represent feelings of depression, or low self-esteem, or unworthiness, or shame? Do you feel surrounded by the dark? Does it feel like darkness permeates your life? If so, what does this mean?
What does the light green door at the top represent? All the pathways lead to this place. It is representative of internal connection, blending, cooperation, or integration? It is the place of healing, hope, and health? Is the light green door the goal or a destination?
The light green door is surrounded (protected?) by a similar layering of green and yellow squiggles as at the opposite corner of the picture. What do these repeated colors represent? How do these squiggles protect the green door?
This top corner looks safer, happier, and more peaceful than the rest of the picture. Does the light green door represent the way so many survivors describe a floating away, up to a corner of the room during times of abuse? Does it represent a state of dissociation? Does the light green door represent the part of your internal system who has been kept separate from the trauma? Often times, there are certain parts that are blocked off and separated from the trauma, amnesiac and unaware of the abuse. Who resides behind that door?
The light green door has a window. It is the only door with a window. What does the window represent? Does someone from the other side of the door look out the window? Is the window for people on this side to see past the door?
There are so many interesting complexities to this picture.
What else do you see?
How do you view YOUR head?
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 21, 2010
This series showing different ways that dissociative trauma survivors picture themselves is proving to be very interesting. This current picture is no exception.
Besides being a wonderful picture showing incredible artistic talent, “From_Ashes” says a lot about being dissociative and having a dissociative disorder.
Please know that I do not personally know this artist nor am I familiar with her system or how things work for her. In this blog, I will ask questions and interpret some DID system issues by the way things were drawn, but not because I am familiar with this person in real life. My guesses might be wrong! I am simply looking at this picture and presenting some of my thought about how DID can be seen and more deeply understood by paying attention to this drawing.
In a therapeutic setting, I would of course, ask the survivor to explain her drawing before I began presenting some of my own interpretations. However, for the purposes of this blog, I will present some of my thoughts without having had the opportunity to speak with the artist directly. Some of my thoughts, when looking at this picture, include:
WOW! This girl can draw! (ok, just had to say that again, lol)
Notice the three different ages of the three different people. The physical resemblance between them speak of how the three different people are one and the same outside person, and yet the ages, emotions, experiences and roles are clearly unique and different from each other. Notice the distinctly different child part, teenager part, and adult front part.
While the adult part is the closest to the front of the picture, she is not who you notice first. The child part stands out the strongest, followed by the teenager. I would wander if this survivor’s child parts are the most visible or prominent in real life.
The adult part is present, yet the lightness of her features is significant. Sometimes adult hosts parts feel like shells or fronts or outer facades. I would explore with this survivor to see if the adults of her system feel faint, as in not strong enough to have a dominant presence. Does the adult need help to become more in charge of her system? Does the adult feel insignificant, or unimportant, or too unsure to be in charge?
On a different level, I would spend a lot of time checking to see if the opaque, clear coloring of the adult front (which may very well represent the body’s actual age) is a clear “mask” by which the others inside hide behind. For some survivors, the external face / host face provides a thin covering that stays in front of the actual insider that is present. The outer “shell” face is what the outside world is supposed to see while who is actually there from the inner world is constantly changing and evolving.
Exploring the meaning of the various colors is important.
The child part has a lot of red near her. Red can often symbolize pain or hurt. It might represent a lot of injury, as in having blood-related injuries. However, this child part doesn’t look particularly sad. She may be a little more connected to some of the happier moments in time, keeping the pain / red at a little further distance from herself. This child part has more true-to-life colors in her skin tones, etc. She might very well feel more alive and well than many of the others inside.
If the red color does represent pain or injury, the red lips can indicate a number of oral injuries. Red on the head might indicate a lot of headaches or head injuries.
Around the child part, there are a variety of puzzle pieces. There is a mix of assembled, connected puzzle pieces and empty holes without a puzzle piece. My first thought is that each of the different puzzle pieces could represent a memory or pieces of life-story information. It appears that the child part has put together quite a few of her experiences. Maybe she already knows a lot of trauma memories and has been working on her healing. The gaps in time (as shown by the missing puzzle pieces) could represent memories and emotions not yet addressed.
The puzzle pieces could also represent other internal system parts. Maybe the number of puzzle pieces by the child part means there are a lot of other kid parts. The puzzle piece by the teenager could represent others near her age-group as well.
The teenager clearly feels a lot of emotional pain. The heaviness in her eyes is obvious, and this part knows about a lot of hurts. This part struggles with self-esteem issues, as noted by the way she is pulling back and hiding more. However, she has started in her healing journey to and some of the connected, organized puzzle pieces are touching her as well. She has lots of stories yet to tell, however, as so much open space surrounds her. There is still a lot of unknown about this part. She keeps a lot of secrets tucked away in her silence.
Why is the teenager in black and white? Her skin tones are not yet “real”, so maybe she feels more disconnected and distanced from certain areas of life. Does she not feel real? Does her body not feel real? Does this part know about self-injury issues?
The wings around the front adult part might indicate dissociation. This front adult part doesn’t give the impression of being strongly grounded. She might be one of the parts that floats, or that leaves frequently. Maybe her ability to stay connected to the current day, or intense emotion gets compromised by being too easily able to dissociate.
As with every system picture, I would ask about the communication that happens between these different parts. Each of them are walled off from each other in the picture, so they may not be able to speak with each other as easily as they will be able to once they complete more of their healing. The adult front part probably hears more from the others behind her, but may very well have difficulty feeling heard by them.
The adult front part probably has a trouble staying connected to the painful memories as the red and orange part of the wings (flames?) are further from her. Also, she needs to keep up a public appearance of being ok, including dressing nicely, and looking good. To stay cool, she cannot get too close to the hot topics / intense emotions.
I would explore the title of this picture. What does the title of this picture mean? Are each of these parts named “Ashes”? Did someone named “Ashes” create it? Was this picture a gift from someone? Do these parts feel like they have risen above the ashes and overcome their tragedy?
Are these thoughts accurate?
As I mentioned above, if I were speaking to the creator of this drawing, I would be asking questions instead of assuming answers. However, many of my questions would be about the topics that I have mentioned above.
If you would like to see more incredible artwork by this artist, please look here.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 19, 2010
In a previous blog post, I made a request for artwork about Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD). Sometimes it is easier to describe experiences through images than through words.
I send a special thank you to the different dissociative trauma survivors who have been willing to contribute to this project. I will add various pictures and related comments as I receive them.
For “Self Portrait”, notice the number of different parts. Clearly, this person is polyfragmented (they have lots of insiders!) and each part is completely unique and different from the others in the system. If I were speaking to this person about their picture, I would ask the following questions:
- I see over a dozen different colors. What do each of these colors represent to you? Which colors are you most comfortable with? Which colors are the most anxiety-provoking for you? Please explain why.
- What does the one white piece near the center mean to you? Why is it placed there?
- What does the grouping of red pieces in the center mean to you? Why are they placed there?
- Why are the three red parts able to sit closely together when most of the other colors do not sit next to each other? How does this relate to your inner system?
- What does the outer pinkish border represent? Does this color represent your external host? What keeps this part of you from mingling more with the others inside?
- I see black outlines separating most of the different pieces from each other. What kind of barriers do these represent in your system? Which barriers represent complete separation / time loss from the other parts?
- Can the parts next to each other communicate together? Who can talk to who?
- Can the parts on opposite sides of this portrait communicate together? Do they know each other exists when they are so far apart?
- When you look at this picture, who do you know? How many of the other insiders are you familiar with?
- Do the various parts of the same coloring, even if scattered throughout your system portrait, have the ability to communicate with each other?
- Some parts are larger in size than others. What does that represent to you? Does the size of the part represent age? Power? Presence?
- What do you feel when you look at this picture? What do you hear from inside when you are looking at this picture?
- What can you say about the bigger black spots? Do they represent a “black group”? Does the black represent a not-knowing who or what is there?
- Are these parts fluid? Do they move from place to place? Do they stay exactly where they are? Please explain more about that.
- Is that brown heart an on-purpose heart shape? What does that particular piece mean to you? Are there reasons for any of the other specific shapes of the different pieces?
- What kind of system cooperation / internal communication did you experience while you were making this picture?
- What are you hearing from inside as I ask you all these questions? (lol, one can safely assume that the inside will have plenty to say by this point!)
So much system work can be accomplished through just this one picture.
Kathy Broady LCSW