March 6, 2010
Here is the next picture in the series about DID artwork.
Even the title of this painting indicates dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD).
Masks are a common metaphor used by the dissociative survivor. In this picture, where are the masks? What are the masks covering? What does the “real” person, or the rest of the person look like? Where are the others in the system? Are they hiding behind the mask too? If there was no mask, what would we see?
The dual nature of the picture is strong and complex.
I’ve purposefully picked this picture to follow the blog previous picture, as a further example of the left vs. right split within many dissociative trauma survivors.
The most obvious element in this picture about dissociative disorders is how the person is divided into at least two distinctly different people. The left side of the face is different from the right side of the face. It might be that this person feels divided down the center into two different parts, or two different systems with different internal worlds. This visible division is an important issue to discuss with the artist.
The hairstyle, while similar, is not the same on each side. Besides the color difference, notice how the red side is curlier, wilder, appears to be longer, and comes closer to the front. The red hair covers more of the face, specifically blocking the right cheek, part of the right eye and the right edge of the mouth. System-wise, who wears the red hair, versus who owns the yellow? In the places where the colors are little mixed, what does that indicate?
The red hair seems a little more unruly or wild than the blond. Are the ones on the red side more angry? Do they feel more intensely? Do they feel more out of control? Are they in more pain? Yet, the red hair side is the one that covers more of the face, so does that side have more to hide? Do they have more secrets? Or does this side control what is or isn’t said?
When you look at this person, which side do you notice first? To me, the red-hair side seems to be more prominent. The colors are brighter, and the hair is bigger, and it is more forward than the yellow side. What is that about? Are these red system parts more visible than the other parts? Which side is more active than the other?
The yellow is still strong. What does it mean? How does it feel differently than the red?
Does the light red / pinkish-colored hair on the top of the head have any significance? It is a blending / mix of the blond and red? Does that color represent a unique system group? Are these parts that bridge the red and blond in some ways? Can they communicate with both sides? Who can do that?
Notice the two different eye colors, along with the two differently angled eyebrows. The blue eye is noticeably darker and heavier in appearance than the green eye. What do the two different colors represent? Who looks out the green eye, and who looks out the blue eye?
These eyes have the appearance of black eyes. Are these eyes indicators of having been beaten up? Has this person experienced a lot of physical violence? Have there been other kinds of violence? What violence has she seen?
There are big white spots in the center of both eyes. They may look like normal reflection spots, but examine that further. What do they indicate? In some ways, these spots make the person look dissociated, or staring, or in a trance-state. How does this relate to the artist-survivor? How often do they switch? How often do they feel ungrounded?
If you look closely, the eyes have color on the right edge, and the white is more on the left side of the pupil area. What does this indicate? Does the person see half of what happens, and dissociate the other half of what happens? Do some parts remember what they see, while others white it out? Who knows, versus who doesn’t know? Explore these ideas.
There is a blank emptiness to the eyes, and in some ways, the eyes show sadness. What is this about? What emotion do you see connected to the eyes? What feelings does the survivor have?
The nose, while drawn like a normal nose, has the shadow on the same side as the darker eye and the darker hair. Is this shadow simply artistic? Possibly so, but it is worth including in as an element of the discussion of the left side vs. right side differences.
Look at the mouth. A significant portion of the mouth is covered and hidden, indicating there may be secrets being kept. The lips appear to be pretty tightly closed – maybe even tense – indicating silence, or just not talking, and little appearance of feeling comfortable with speaking. What is this mouth not allowed to say? Why is the hair covering that side of the mouth? What does that side of the DID system know about that they aren’t talking about?
Notice the subtle line drawn horizontally across the base of the neck. What is the purpose of that line? Is it the neckline of a shirt? Is it an indication of being choked or other neck-related trauma? Is it another indicator of how the head get dissociated away from the body? So many DID trauma survivors separate their heads from their bodies, or feel disconnected from their bodies, to this line could be an indicator of that. Explore that more, in case it is.
The background behind the face is also divided into two different designs. What do the two different backgrounds represent? One side is purple with small black lines, and the other is black with purple curvy lines. What do these colors and designs represent? Are they indicative of trauma or intense feelings? Ask a variety of questions about these designs. They are telling a story. I don’t know this survivor, but the background indicates that there is good reason to ask this survivor about having experienced shock trauma.
What is the overall emotion and feeling you see when you look at this picture? I see sadness, pain, some anger, a heaviness, and a lot of trauma. This dissociative survivor very likely has a lot of abuse stories yet to talk about.
I wish her the best in her healing journey.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
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