April 10, 2010
I’ve been wondering for awhile about what aspect to focus on with this week’s episode of United States of Tara. Then I remembered the last minute of the show.
And I thought more of how very painful and how very real that heartbreak is for Buck.
Throughout this season two, Tara has struggled with the fact that she is in fact multiple – that she does have dissociative identity disorder – that she is switching, or “transitioning” as she calls it – that she has other parts to herself that also want time and attention and a little bit of life space. Tara is upset about having to share her life with her insiders and she has convinced herself that she is the only one in the body who should have a life. She has decided that she “is” the life, and that no one else matters, just her.
Apparently she thinks that she, Tara, is the one and only important self. No one else matters –she is the only one that matters. Tara, Tara, Tara – it’s all about Tara.
Well. I’ve heard far too many hosts present with that kind of attitude, but to the dismay of far too many host personalities, I completely disagree with that concept.
I vote for the system.
Meaning, if I had a vote regarding Tara, I would support Buck.
Buck is as real as Tara.
Buck is every bit as much of a person as Tara is.
Buck has his own thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, wants, desires, etc. He is as important as Tara is.
Can Tara stake claim as the ONLY part of the system that gets to have time?
Is she really the only one that is important?
I don’t think so.
See – the way I see it – Tara is only a portion of the person. She is not THE person. She is part of the whole person, the same as Buck is part of the whole person. Tara may have the upfront, outwardly social wife and mother role of the person, but she is not the whole person.
Tara is important, there is no denying that. I would never ever say she isn’t important. And she can be considered the leader of the system – I’m all for that idea as well.
But to say she is the only one that matters???
That is taking it too far.
Buck and the others inside are also important. They are as important as Tara. They may have different roles, different abilities, different preferences, different histories, different memories, etc, but they are still part of the person as a whole, and they should get to have part of the life as well.
I’m not saying that I am supporting the idea that Buck has been having an affair outside of the marriage vows. An affair is an affair, and Buck is completely and fully aware of what he has been doing that would be so very hurtful to the husband. He is responsible for the pain he has caused in his family, and like it or not, he is actually already married. Buck has cheated on his husband, and he will have to face the music on that one.
Yes, Buck and Tara have a whopping lot of work to do in order to resolve this conflict but the fact of the matter is, Buck is his own person too.
And part of the current heartbreak for Buck is that Tara has staked a little more claim on how the outward life is managed, and that genuinely leaves Buck not knowing how to be or do what he wants to be or do in his own life right now. No, it really isn’t ok for Buck to go out and have his own affair. Yes, he really is his own person, but his actions still affect those around him. He will need to figure out a way to live happily and fulfilled as himself without hurting others. I don’t know how that will look for Buck, but that is the challenge he is facing right now.
The point I want to emphasize here is that the DID system insiders do count.
They are real, they do exist, they have their own wants and dreams, and they are as important as anyone else. So squashing them out of existence, or refusing to give them time or acknowledgement is not ok.
Cooperation, compromising and sharing are absolutely important – but refusing to let the insiders have their own life-space is bordering on creating a self-centered dictatorship, in my definition.
Buck’s heartbreak about not getting to have the life he wants on his very own is very real. Insiders can and do feel extreme sadness and emotional pain over not being able to have their own bodies, their own separate lives, their own complete freedom of choice. Buck really and truly wanted to have his own girlfriend, and to have his own relationship, and to have his own time in the body. He wants the freedom to be his real self, and to make the choices he would make if he had his very own body.
If it were only that easy….
Sharing a body with 5-10-20-30 or more different insiders is extremely difficult. There seems to never be enough time to do everything everyone wants to do.
It means that sharing the 24-hour day is essential. It means that giving each other time in the body needs to be a coordinated, cooperative, ongoing process.
Finding ways to meet the needs, wants, and preferences of each of the different insiders is really complicated, and it does take a whole lot of work to find acceptable compromises. The key word here, being compromise. Tara can no more take over the life as completely her own any more than Buck can. They have to find a way to work that out together.
Because they are both real.
And they both exist.
And they both can have a say in how life looks for them.
Because they are both important, and valuable, and necessary.
Buck really is as real as Tara. And if he has to prove that, he can.
So to all the hosts out there – be willing to share the life-space with your insiders. Because far too often, if you refuse to do that, your insiders could make a mutiny type decision like Buck did. And that really never works out very well for anyone.
Value everyone in your system.
Use interpersonal skills layered in cooperation, compromise and teamwork.
Be willing to share.
Treat each other with kindness and generosity.
Accept that there are differences between you and the others and find ways to make it work so that everyone can get some of what they need.
Everyone in your system has the right to be happy.
Their lives matter too.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
January 3, 2009
I have a question about stability. I accept that I need to be reliable, motivated, responsible and willing to delve into things I generally don’t want to delve into. As for stability – I can see how a stable client is easier to work with for a therapist. However, what if the beginning stages of therapy have resurfaced old issues or retraumatised the client to the extent that they are now “unstable”? How would this fit with your schema? And what should the therapist’s (and client’s) roles be in re-stabilising?
Typically trauma survivors, particularly those with Dissociative Identity Disorder and PTSD enter therapy because their life is already full of emotional complications, symptoms of depression, anxiety, self-injury, internal chaos, flashbacks, confusion, memory loss, time distortion, time loss, body numbing, nightmares, voices, etc. As a whole, people do not enter therapy because their life is already stable. They go to therapy because they have some awareness that they are starting to fall apart. There is something wrong, something very uncomfortable, and something very unmanageable about their life. They may not be able to define it, but they can feel it and see it in the way their life is unraveling.
And yes, Kerro, you are right. There are various stages of therapy that can be quite de-stabilizing, yet maintaining stabilization is a fundamental building block of therapy. Sometimes the path seems like two steps forward, one step back. And, yes, there are times when it feels more like one step forward, two steps back. It is a very fine balance. To do the healing work required for trauma survivors to gain overall life stability, these survivors have to address painful difficult issues that are potentially de-stabilizing.
So, not doing the work leaves people de-stabilized.
But doing the work also can cause people to be de-stabilized.
Some days, it feels like the line between the two is nonexistent.
Take it slowly, one step at a time. Look ahead, increase your self-awareness, try to maintain the stability that you have, and try to predict the areas of your stability are the shakiest and and prepare for them ahead of time. This is important.
What is stability?
Stability consists of a lot of different elements all at once. Some examples of stability are when survivors:
- Can manage intense emotions without using serious self-injury to cope.
- Can be challenged with something emotionally difficult without making it ”the end of the world” or some other dramatic crisis.
- Are willing to move forward by learning about new areas of life and using new coping skills, instead of self-destructing from the same old place and/or blaming others for their lack of progress.
- Do not consider suicide as a realistic problem-solving solution to difficult situations.
- Can manage feeling depressed, and even suicidal, but knowing they wouldn’t actually do anything lethal or harmful.
- Take their medication as prescribed, regularly and consistently.
- Eat regularly, without starving themselves or without bingeing repeatedly.
- Get a regular, sufficient amount of sleep, rest, and personal down time.
- Have a steady source of monthly income that meets their basic needs.
- Can incorporate painful trauma memory work into their lives without self-destructing or attacking others.
- Work cooperatively with their internal system without attacking each other from within.
- Maintain a safe and consistent distance from and/or can establish boundaries with people that repeatedly abuse them.
- Can keep their regular job/employment, even while working on therapy issues.
- Can use their dissociative skills to their advantage, instead of to their detriment.
Sometimes therapy is like walking through a minefield. If you know you have to get through the minefield to survive, but there is the potential that you will set off one of the mines on your way through, you would tread very carefully. You would check everything you do, in smaller and more detailed increments. You would listen and watch for clues every single step of the way.
In the therapy process, once you start feeling a little too de-stabilized in a particular direction, back off and stop pushing that issue at the moment. Give it a break for an hour, a day, a week, a month — depending on the circumstance. Get to know yourself and what you can handle. Learn your own red flags for when you are starting to fall apart and getting too overwhelmed. Give yourself the space and the time to do your work. There’s no need to rush headlong into things that particularly de-stabilize you.
Remember, when healing from trauma, there are usually many, many different areas of healing. Remember the list of 50 different treatment issues for DID/MPD? If you are finding one area too difficult to deal with right now, simply put that issue on hold, and work on a different area. They ALL have to be done. They ALL have to be addressed. You can decide when something is genuinely too difficult, or too tangled, or too emotional, or too destabilizing for right now.
As a general rule of thumb, put internal communication work and system work as the first steps to focus on. If you cannot even speak to your insiders, you certainly will not be able to tolerate their intense emotional trauma memories.
In years gone by, the mental health profession used to promote abreactive memory work as valid and necessary. I absolutely, unequivocally disagree with that. Abreactions are often hypnotically induced, and they are basically inducing a flashback — putting the person back in time and directly into the intensity of the trauma. Most survivors find they do not even recall abreactive work, so as far as I am concerned, it is an absolute waste of time, and just leaves the person feeling more traumatized than healed.
If you cannot speak, in your normal voice, discussing your trauma memories from the safety of the here-and-now while still connected in the present, then don’t even try to address your memories. It is too soon.
In my opinion, memory work is NOT the core of the healing from dissociative disorders. I believe that developing the internal communication, internal cooperation between parts, and system teamwork is a much more important element, as well as being crucial to a person’s stability. Decreasing the dissociation and separation between the inside people has many facets to it. The trauma is only one area of separation between insiders. Build strong connections with each other first and then, much further down the road, address the memory / trauma issues, and you will likely find that the memory work is much less de-stabilizing than it once was.
Memory work has its role, and yes, survivors do have to process their trauma. Please know that you are not getting a “free pass” on not addressing that. BUT, it is not the first goal of treatment, and it is certainly not the main focus of the therapy.
In your outside life, when you first walk up to someone new, as you are first meeting them, do you say, “Hi. You don’t know who I am. I don’t know who you are. But I want to know your most painful memories. Tell me all your deepest, darkest secrets RIGHT NOW.”
Hello??? Of course you don’t approach people like that. SO, don’t approach your insiders that way either. Get to know them as people first. Find out who they are, what they are like. Build a relationship, a connection, and a rapport with them first.
In fact, building connections in your internal system, building that teamwork approach, improving communication, and etc. is the main and most effective stabilizing factor that I know. Once you truly can connect with your insiders, and you care for them and have relationships with them, you can hear their trauma through an entirely different perspective. You will have compassion for your inner people, and that will help you to heal. Jerking their memories out of them before you even have a relationship with them isn’t good for anyone.
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.
Kathy Broady LCSW