January 3, 2010
Some days just feel too hard.
Those days feel like you just can’t make it through…
Those are the days when you wish you could curl up in a ball, and sleep or stare all day long…
Or hide away forever…
Ever had a day like that?
Ever felt like your problems were just toooooo big? Or tooooo never-ending? Or tooooo all-encompassing?
Ever felt overwhelmed with hopelessness?
When the pain is just too much, or the traps are too thick, or the future looks too bleak, or too many abusers snarl in your doorway…
What do you do then?
How do you not give yourself over to those deep dark days?
How do you hold onto hope when the fight seems to be bigger than you can fathom?
How do you find your strength when you feel exhausted to your very core?
Dissociative trauma survivors know these feelings all too well. Year after year of enduring the pain of trauma and abuse has demanded more from the inner self than can be put into words. DID survivors, overwhelmed by the attacks and betrayals by the people near them, create amnesiac walls and a wide variety of inside parts to get some relief from the overwhelming intensity of such painful experiences. These walls provide a much needed separation from the suffering, space from the heartbreak, a fresh start for a few simpler moments of time.
Separating into different people helps endure the abuse as it is happening.
Leaving the trauma by floating away or hiding within can allow for an escape for at least a few minutes.
The dissociative walls can ensure more separation from the details of what happened.
Box it up, contain it, push it away. That should work, right?
Sometimes it does. In lots of ways it works, but not completely.
Even with layers of separation, it still hurts in there.
Sometimes, trauma survivors use drugs, alcohol, self-injury, shopping, running, or any other form of addiction to help create even more distance from that black hole of pain that just never seems to leave or dissipate.
How does one ever move past such deep emotional pain? The body heals, bruises fade, the bleeding stops. But the heartbreak and sadness and emotional pain remain so long that hopelessness and despair can find a comfortable lodging place right up front on the front row of life.
What do you do, when you feel like you can’t go on anymore?
What do you do when it just seems to be more than you can bear?
Give yourself the permission to feel what you feel. It’s ok to acknowledge that pain, to feel that hopelessness, to sit in your despair. Stay there for awhile, if you need to. These are real feelings, and it really does hurt. You don’t have to pretend that it’s not there. Your heart is heavy, and it feels like there may just be no way out….
But there is a way out.
It will mean doing some new things, but there is a way out of that place of hopeless and despair.
In acknowledging the pain, you might finally give yourself permission to cry. Find a private, safe place, or sit with a trusted friend or therapist, just find a place far away from anyone that will hurt you because you have tears. Find a place where tears are allowed… and let the pain come out naturally… Don’t hold it in. Let your pain have an expression… Let your pain have its own voice.
Wrap yourself in things that are comforting. That might mean surrounding yourself in music that touches your soul, or in warm tight blankets that soothe the skin, or with pets and stuffies that are kind to you.
Self-soothing is important.
And as you can, one by one, tackle those things that have been too huge to touch. Look at the truth of what happened, find ways to separate yourself from those who have hurt you, let yourself have safety and distance from anyone that brings you harm, allow yourself to end the abuse. Your healing will be compromised if you stay involved with people that hurt you. You don’t need that anymore – enough hurt already! Your life will feel much more hopeful when you are safely away from abusers.
So be brave. And be honest. Look at the reality of who has hurt you in your life. Don’t blame people that just happen to be in the way. Look at the real source of your pain. If you blame the wrong target, just because it’s easier, you will still be missing the boat. And no matter how many false targets you take down, you will still hurt inside because you are still not being honest with yourself.
As you reconnect with the pain you once separated from, and as you allow yourself to find true safety and genuine comfort, your heartbreak will lessen. This is not easy, and while there are all kinds of complicated twists and turns in this journey, it is the way out. It’s hard to deal with it all, but little bit by little bit, you can move through it.
Look for something in the future that you might like. What would you like to be able to do that you haven’t been able to do because of all the muddy muck that entangled you? Maybe you’ll have to explore new things to know what else you could enjoy. Maybe you’ll have to be courageous enough to try something completely new. But you can. Have the courage to go there, because if you don’t break out and away from where you’ve been, you’ll only have more of that old stuff.
You don’t have to have the talents of Carrie Underwood or the smarts of Albert Einstein to be successful in your own life. You will have your own abilities. But be willing to try new things to get there. Who knows what talents that you have!
In all honesty, you’ll probably find that you have strengths, talents, and abilities that you never knew you had. You’ll be able to develop interests and skills that you could only dream of before. Your life can be filled with new activities, different priorities, and creative options that you never knew were possible.
You’ll be able to build relationships built on respect, caring, and warmth. Being alone won’t be stifled in pain, but connecting with others won’t be paralyzed with fear. Your insiders can be your very best friends in the world, and effective teamwork can replace isolation. This doesn’t happen overnight, but you can get there.
As you experience true freedom and genuine safety from the chains of abuse, your life will be free to have hope, excitement, fun, and adventure. You can explore the beauty that life offers instead of being tied to the abuse and torment of perpetrators.
You won’t have to stay drowned in hopelessness and despair when you can see something creative and exciting and positive in your very own life that belongs to you.
When you like what is happening in your life, you can feel hope again.
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 4, 2009
I ended my last post with this paragraph:
Focus first on relationship building with your parts. Get to know them. Talk to them. Learn their names. Overcome your fears of who they are. Appreciate their strengths. Develop friendships with them. I guarantee that your overall stability will greatly improve as you are more connected with your internal system on a genuinely friendly, caring basis.
In my opinion, developing good internal communication is the core of the treatment work for Dissociative Identity Disorder. If you cannot or do not talk well with your other internal parts, you will not be able to complete your healing work effectively, thoroughly or sufficiently.
Imagine going to your place of employment and not being able to speak with any of your co-workers. How well would businesses work with that approach? Have you ever been to a big department store? Imagine if the employees couldn’t speak with each other for days-weeks-years at a time. That store as a whole would find it extremely difficult to manage busy days, or to handle simple, basic operations. It would crumble. Even if all the employees continued doing their own jobs perfectly — if they are not communicating with anyone else in the store, then the store as a whole would be less effective. It would likely go out of business sooner than later.
Dissociative systems cannot function without internal communication any better than large department stores can function without internal communication.
If you don’t talk to your inner people, and if your various insiders do not speak with each other, none of you are going to function as well as you could.
Also, if you run your system with an attitude similar to Hitler’s, that’s not going to work so well either. Approaching your insiders as inferiors or nuisances that you want to kill off, or dispose of, or get rid of in some way will not be helpful. As our real-life example has shown, this type of dictatorship and abuse leads to tragedies like genocide and world wars. Don’t go there with your internal world. Treat your inner people with kindness and respect.
I promise you that every single one of your insiders has value, importance, strengths, and significance. You might not understand who they are at this point in time. And when you don’t know the positive value held by each person inside, that’s a big clue that you have some therapy work to do.
Allowing your system to stay scattered, chaotic, disorganized, and messy will not help your stability or ability to function. Keeping with the store metaphor, who wants to shop in a cluttered, disorganized, messy store? Can you find anything? Does it take twice as long to find the things you need? And are some items just impossible to find without taking huge chunks of extra time?
Permanently blocking your internal system behind walls or curtains or an unexplored blackness is not helpful either. I realize that all DIDer’s have dissociative walls and barriers already — walls that could have easily been there for years. That is the nature of DID/MPD. It’s the initial point of having a dissociative disorder — surviving by using those same dissociative walls to separate yourself from yourself and from the situations and feelings that were too conflictual, too painful, too difficult, etc. In the here and now, the treatment goal is to gradually lower and remove those barriers between your system people, and certainly not to create more walls or to support more distance between everyone.
Internal communication is the key to doing this work.
Doing your system work — meeting each other, getting to know each other, will in itself create a greater sense of order and structure within. More of you will know who can do what, where the other parts are, and how they got there. It won’t feel so strange or unknown to you. Insiders can become friends with each other instead of being strangers separated from each other. Even though there are additional steps to take, start by encouraging everyone in your system to be willing to see, meet, and greet as many others as possible. You all need to know who you have in there.
My next post — Internal Communication, part 2 — will list specific ideas for how to develop communication within your system.
For today, in preparation to do this work, please think about the following:
- How willing are you to speak to your insiders?
- How willing are you to listen to your insiders?
- If you are afraid of some of your inside people, what are you willing to say to them?
- If some of your insiders have experienced a different life than you have, are you willing to listen to them?
- What will you do if someone says something you don’t want to hear?
- What will you do if your insiders squabble and argue with each other?
- How will you handle it if certain insiders hurt others within your system? What if they are hurting child parts? What if they attempt to hurt you?
- What if meeting the others folks inside means learning that you were more hurt and abused than you realized? How will you handle that?
- What are your thoughts and feelings about finding new insiders — ones that you didn’t realize you had?
- Do you know how to speak to child parts? How will your address them if you see that they are hurting emotionally or physically?
You can do this. Your healing depends on your talking with your internal system.
Kathy Broady, LCSW
December 27, 2008
Thanks for coming back and reading more of the Discussing Dissociation blog. It’s exciting to see the number of site viewers growing each week – I think you all must be spreading the news! I appreciate all of you who have already become regular readers, and thanks for telling your friends.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about giving- making- creating- providing new and positive experiences for your internal child parts, I want to encourage all the multiples here to expand that idea to include your whole system on an even wider scale. This idea applies to non-multiples too, of course, but since we are “discussing dissociation” here, I’m going to write about these idea within the context of DID / MPD.
I have found that most dissociative trauma survivors have a fair bit of trouble understanding how to be genuinely kind to their inside people. It is very similar to being nice, and kind, and accepting towards outside people, but the effort gets directed to your own insiders instead of outside people.
I could explore the many different reasons for this. Is it because your family treated you so poorly? Were you so hideously neglected that taking care of yourself is truly a skill you have yet to learn? Is it because you truly believe you don’t deserve anything nice? Is it that you are full of self-hatred that you won’t be kind to yourself? Is that you are so angry at anyone (everyone?) that it is easier or essential to take it out on yourself? I don’t know. I’ll leave those questions with you to think about.
For now, I want to focus on what kind things you actually do for your internal system.
- What do you do to be nice to your inside people? What did you do this week?
- What do you do to show the others in your system appreciation and kindness?
- What do you do to encourage them through the hard parts of therapy work?
Think about all the different kinds of things you can do for your people on the inside. Your internal world — your internal landscape — is totally your own world. It belongs to you and only you and your internal system. You and your insiders control that inner world. You all can truly make a huge impact by doing nice, kind, gentle, supportive, and comforting things for each other in there on that level. Even if you can’t afford to buy things in the external world, you can do things for free on the inside worlds. Your inner world can be a true haven and a place that is comfortable and “just right”.
When you can see the others inside, and when you listen to them, and pay attention to each other, you will be able to recognize their needs and then do something about it to make their day better. Taking better care of your insiders will have a huge impact on your life, your system work, your healing process, and your external world.
One of the biggest keys to your overall healing depends on how YOU all treat your own system and internal parts. Do you support each other inside? Do you take the time to be kind to each other inside? Do you comfort each other inside? What do you do to help each other inside? Do you treat each other with respect? Are you trustworthy with each other?
For those that are DID, I believe that one of the most significant therapy goals is doing INTERNAL self care. Look at your others inside — share blankets and stuffies with them. Give them hugs, sit quietly with them. Meet their needs, clean up the messes, give them clean clothes to wear, and a quiet safe place to rest. If your inside world stays chaotic and unkept, neglected or dangerous, then how on earth are you going to feel safe or ok in the outside world? Start by addressing things in your own world, and let it ripple out from there.
The more folks learn to be there for their own selves, the less they will depend on their therapist, or spouse, or any other outside person to “take care” of them. The more you can take care of your own selves, the less it matters if someone else is busy or away for a few days. The more you take care of your own selves, the more you will feel GOOD about yourself and your ability to handle life.
Here are more questions to think about:
- What is the nicest thing that someone in your system could do for you?
- What are some of the most meaningful things you could do for them?
- How do you show the hurting ones that you have compassion for them?
- How do you show your little ones that you will protect them and keep them safe?
- What kinds of things can you do for your insiders to show them that you will help to take care of them and tend to their needs?
- How does your system respond when you are kind and attentive to them vs. being neglectful and angry towards them?
This is an important topic — your thoughts and/or comments are welcome.
Kathy Broady LCSW
December 23, 2008
Hello to all my Readers,
I hope this day finds you doing well.
The first part of this article certainly caused a little stir, and maybe raised a few eyebrows along the way. Please know, my intention in posting these blogs is not to offend anyone. If you have any questions or concerns about anything I’ve posted, please comment and let me know what you’re thinking! And here’s a big Thank You! to the folks who did comment to the “Part 1″ post. I appreciate that.
Let me try framing the context of this article. In previous blog posts, we’ve been discussing questions to ask a new therapist. This article is, in some ways, a follow-up to that idea, because these are the kinds of things a therapist is going to be thinking about / assessing in new clients as they arrive at their door. These are also the strengths that you want to emphasize when you are meeting a new therapist.
If you approach your therapy keeping these qualities in mind, you will honestly find that more therapists will stay interested in working with you for the long haul. That is not to say you have to be perfect. Who is???! It means, work on these things. Be mindful of them. Developing these strengths will make you a better person overall, and that is very much the goal of therapy.
These qualities, in my opinion, have nothing to do with mental illness. I have worked with some very disturbed people with huge issues, and yet, they possessed these qualities, and they made huge progess in their healing. I’ve also seen some folks who appeared to be rather high-functioning, and yet, they did not, or could not grasp some of these basic ideas.
I agree with the brave soul who commented that these qualities are an important part of everyday life. The more that survivors strive to incorporate these strengths into their approach to everything, the better. Your self esteem will improve, your self-dignity will be solid, and people around you will appreciate you more.
I don’t expect every trauma survivor to have a solid grasp on these qualities, but I do hope every trauma survivor strives to.
Intermingle these strengths into your life everywhere that you can. You’ll be glad you did!
And here is part 2 of the article, “10 Qualities Therapists Recognize in Good Clients”:
6. Honesty and Trustworthiness
- Are you willing to be honest with yourself?
- Are you willing to lie to your therapist, or hide information, or lie by omission?
- Do you gossip and tell lies behind people’s backs?
- Do you gossip about your therapist?
- Do you lie to your inside parts? Does anyone in your system try to trick or deceive the others in your system?
Therapeutic relationships are built on honesty and trust. Your therapist will need to know you possess these qualities as well.
- Will you treat your friends and family members with kindness and respect even if they have done things you do not like?
- Will you loyally protect your internal system from predators and perpetrators, putting the safety of your inside parts as a priority?
- Are you loyal to your therapeutic process and will you keep clear boundaries around the therapeutic process?
- Will you respect your therapist’s trust in you to the same degree that you expect your therapist to respect your trust in them?
- If you and your therapist experience a conflict, where do you look to resolve that? Do you expect to resolve the conflict within the context of therapy, or will you spread the conflict outside the therapeutic relationship and draw others into it?
Your therapist and support team can be your greatest allies in your healing journey. However, a deep level of mutual respect is expected and needed in order to progress in therapy. It is crucial that you thoroughly differentiate the “good guys” from the “bad guys”. Therapists understand the concepts of transference and projection, and they will work with you in those tender moments, but there will be limits to that. I can promise you, your helpers do not want to be thrown under the bus any more than anyone else.
- Are you determined to do the same things over and over again?
- Are you open to trying new options?
- Can you think outside of the box instead of being boxed in?
- Do you help to problem-solve the various dilemmas that surface?
- Will you work on ways to reach even the most difficult of insiders? Even if this involves several failed attempts before you successfully connect with these parts?
We’ve all heard the saying, “the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again, expecting to get different results.” A huge part of the healing process is learning new things and doing different things.
9. Gratitude and Appreciation
- Do you appreciate what people do for you?
- Do you recognize when someone is doing something for you?
- Do you thank them for helping you?
- In relationships, do you overlook smaller imperfections in appreciation of bigger strengths?
- Do you thank others in your dissociative internal system for the ways they have helped you to survive through the years? Do you recognize their strengths and talents in the current day?
Gratitude and appreciation are key elements of any healthy relationship. Don’t take the goodness of others for granted. Be thankful for what you receive from others.
- Are you a safe person?
- Do you use threats of violence, or threats of harm to others, or threats of emotional blackmail, or threats of any kind to destroy or control other people or to get your own way?
- Do you threaten self-harm or suicide as a way to manipulate others or to get your own way?
- Are you willing to hurt yourself or someone else in order to get your way, including others in your internal system?
- How far is “too far” to go to get what you want or prove you are “right”? Do you think there is such a thing as “too far”?
Therapists will model safe behavior. If you are acting in ways that are unsafe for yourself or manipulative of those around you, your therapist will set boundaries with you — just as you should set boundaries with someone who is unsafe in your direction.
If you follow these guidelines, you will have a much better relationship with your therapist and others around you. If you are looking for a new therapist, remember that the more you can genuinely offer in the areas listed above, the more those therapists will view you as a client with potential — and the more positive potential you demonstrate in these areas of your life, the greater interest more therapists will have in working with you. It goes to your advantage, your healing, your self-respect, and the amount of respect others will feel toward you to learn these things.
All people, including trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD), can claim these strengths as their own. Work hard to be a “good person” in your therapy, and you’ll be amazed at how much difference this can make in your relationship with your therapist and with your system. Remember:
Maintain your stability the best you can.
Be dependable in what you do, and do what you say you will do.
Maintain your motivation and your willingness to work hard.
Be courageous, even when it is scary.
Stay clear and upfront about your personal responsibilities.
Be honest and trustworthy at all times.
Stay loyal to your helpers.
Be creative in the hard times.
Have gratitude and appreciation for the good things and good people.
And be a safe person. Be safe for yourself, and be safe for others.
You can do it. I’m just sure of it.
Kathy Broady LCSW