July 4, 2010
For us here in the US, it’s the July 4th holiday weekend. Barbecues, picnics, swimming parties, and fireworks are happening all over the country. Red, white, and blue stars and stripes are visible in every direction. It’s a fun holiday – most people are in festive moods.
The point of the Independence Day holiday is to celebrate freedom. It’s about being free, living in a land that is free, feeling free and all kinds of good stuff like that. Freedoms do exist in all kinds of ways – there’s no doubt about that. Life can be good. Most of us here in America have the freedom to live our lives in ways that we choose for ourselves.
But is everyone free?
People get trapped and stuck in a variety of ways. When this happens, their life feels anything but free. Sometimes the traps are made by the people themselves. Sometimes traps are made by societal views, racial hatred, poverty, language barriers, etc. Sometimes the traps are made by mental illness. Sometimes traps are set by other people, especially in situations involving chronic trauma and abuse. Sometimes traps are made with mind control.
This weekend, while I am enjoying the chance to make decisions for myself, I am thinking about people who are not feeling as free as I am.
1. Trapped within their Compulsive Hoarding
Have you seen any of the recent flurry of television shows about compulsive hoarding? Titles such as “Hoarding: Buried Alive” (shown on the TLC channel) describe exactly how trapped people become when they suffer from compulsive hoarding. Their own home becomes their jail, and far too many compulsive hoarders are stuck in their lifestyle, with no clue how to free themselves from such heaviness.
Hoarders do not feel free. They do not have a sense of freedom in their own homes. They are often laden down with many extreme obsessions, compulsions, anxieties that may not even be rational, but still claim total ownership to their mind and lives.
The more someone hoards, the less space they have to move. Eventually, even the freedom to walk around their own home becomes nonexistent. They become complete prisoners to the items they are hoarding.
2. Trapped with Fears and Phobias
Fears and phobias can imprison a person in a very extreme way. Fears of talking to people, fears of leaving the house, fears of trying new foods, fears of eating in public, fears of riding in cars, fears of the unknown, etc. can all keep a person stuck into a very limited life-space. When people are too frightened to venture out of their status quo, they are stuck and trapped in whatever place they are in. The more fears they have, the more traps they live in. Their living space can get smaller, and smaller, and smaller.
3. Trapped by Obesity and Eating Disorders
People that are obese are trapped within their own bodies. The lack of freedom to move, or walk, or bend, or stretch can feel very entrapping. Eating disorders, including anorexia and bulemia, can also create a prison with the body. When the body becomes the prison, every minute of the day feels trapped. There is no freedom since the prison goes everywhere.
4. Trapped with Ongoing Abuse and Trauma
Unfortunately, there are far too many survivors of trauma and abuse that are still current victims of trauma and abuse. This includes anything from child abuse,
domestic violence, incest, and date rape, to human trafficking, prostitution, sex slavery, cult groups, etc. When people are controlled by other people through violence and pain, they are often too beaten down to see a way out. They are not allowed to see or believe that they can escape from their abuse, and they are typically not given or allowed the resources to leave. Any efforts to leave require an incredible depth of personal strength since the external controls and risks of violence are excessive.
5. Trapped with Mind Control
Mind control is the invisible jail. Dissociative survivors of chronic, severe abuse have elements of mind control that effect every essence of their lives. Survivors of organized or ritual abuse will absolutely have parts within their internal dissociative systems that were purposefully made and created in order to contain elements of mind control and programming. DID survivors with mind control issues will have parts in their systems that have been expertly trained to do tasks that are opposite from what the host personality / day parts are willing to do. Amnesia and dissociative walls (blocking off the sharing of information) can mean that a dissociative survivor can have missing time and minimal (if any) awareness that certain events happened. DID survivors may have no awareness of what is going on in their own lives.
Mind control can dictate what dissociative survivors say, where they go, who they talk with, who they interact with, what they do, what they tolerate, what they feel, what they think, etc. Having internal system parts that are controlled by mind control means that there are certain elements of the life (and certain times of the day or night) that your life is being completely controlled and manipulated by someone else. Other parts of your system will take over the body and they do exactly what they have been told to do by the abusers who are using the mind control tactics. This can be very scary, and the people whose lives are “taken over” by mind control certainly do not feel free.
Creating Freedom within Your Own Life
When you are trapped by any of the above-mentioned areas of life, it will take a lot of hard work to get out of those traps. It is possible. Yes, in every single situation mentioned above it is absolutely possible for the enslaved people to get out of all the traps. But freedom for any of these people does not come easy. It takes a lot of consistent work, typically for years of time.
Do you want real freedom in your life?
Do you want the ability to walk, move, think, decide, and believe for yourself?
Do you want the freedom to be your real, authentic self and have a life completely under your own control?
Freedom is to be your true self is an absolutely wonderful thing.
And yes, that’s an option for you too.
Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.
You might have to fight for it, but yes, absolutely, you can have freedom too.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 20, 2010
This weekend is often a difficult weekend for trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder. First, there is Father’s Day (for those of us living in the USA), and secondly, it’s the Summer Solstice. Anytime the difficult days get stacked on top of each other, it’s going to make for a complicated time.
On days when the issues seem to surface in layers, what do you do to cope?
(**This blog article is about difficult topics so it could be triggering – please pace yourself carefully and keep yourself safe.)
Father’s Day has many of the same emotional complications as was written about on Mother’s Day. The days proceeding are often full of painful memories, heartbreaking loss, fear, conflict, and upset. The vast majority of DID survivors have had abusive fathers, so the idea of celebrating fathers typically stirs up great turmoil.
The first day of summer, like all season changes, has relevance to those who have experienced difference forms of Ritual Abuse (RA). Many of the dark church organizations celebrate the seasonal changes and these so-called “celebrations” are full of trauma, abuse, gross activities, icky messes, scary events, etc. Survivors of these ordeals are often flooded with flashbacks, emotional distress and internal conflict during the times of season changes.
When you put the two of these highly emotional events together, dissociative survivors experience a lot of overwhelm. Some of the difficulties can include PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, depersonalization, body memories, difficulties sleeping, irritability, feeling distant from others, etc.) and anxiety symptoms (panic attacks, excessive fears, heightened startle reflex, nausea, trembling, heart palpitations, headaches, obsessions, chest pain, etc), self-destructive thoughts, self-injury behaviors, suicidal ideation (pervasive thoughts about wanting to die), depression, tearfulness, or detached numbing. It’s probably been a miserable weekend for a lot of DID survivors.
Fathers that participate in dark church rituals are often not the kind of fathers that you find written about in Hallmark Cards. These are the kinds of fathers that prefer abusive activities, or that like sadistic pain, or have freaky and perverse sexual interests. They are difficult men who have caused a lot of hurt and pain for a lot of people, especially for their children.
And yet, even so, there are nearly always those parts within the DID system that feel loyalty and a deep bonding with the father figure. These parts are typically parts that have adopted some level of acceptance of the traumatic activities, and have long ago learned to tolerate the abuse or to even define it as anything but abuse.
DID survivors often manage abuse by their fathers by creating a father introject within the internal dissociative system. Father introjects are internal system parts that remember the father so well that they look-feel-sound-act-appear to the others inside as the same as the actual father. An internal introject may do the same kinds of abusive behaviors to the other parts of the system, recreating the same abusive patterns and feelings that the external father did. Since the internal world is so real to DID survivors, it can feel like the father is still there, still controlling things, still making all the decisions, still threatening harm, still causing harm.
And in many ways this can be true.
It can be difficult to separate who the external father is from the internal father introject. They can very much feel like mirror-images of each other, shadow replicas, and the child parts of the system will not be able to tell the difference between them.
But father introjects are NOT the actual father, no matter how much they may claim to be so. Father introjects actually belong to you. They split from you, they came from your mind, and they originated with you. They are actually part of you, and not part of the father. They may have been taught by the father, but they are actually yours.
However, they will be powerful parts of the internal system though so their power and influence is not to be ignored or minimized. It is more important to work with these parts, and reconnect their loyalty to the survivor person instead of to the father figure. This is an absolutely crucial part of the DID therapy process, and if you haven’t yet gained a safe working relationship with your father introject, you will need to do so.
Father Transference Issues
In the therapy process, male therapists will have many of the same kinds of transference issues regarding father issuesj as female therapists have with mother issues. In fact, it is often difficult for some female dissociative survivors to work with male therapists because of the kinds of trauma, abuse, and controls associated with their father. Male therapists often have to address transference issues of being seen as the abuser, controlling male, dominant owner, sexual pervert, etc. So many trauma survivors have issues with men — and even more have issues with their fathers — that it makes being a male therapist for female trauma survivors particularly difficult.
Other female trauma survivors are so used to be led by men or connected to men, especially their father, that they feel more at ease with men and less comfortable with “neglectful, abandoning mothers”. (Female therapists tend to get more of the abandonment transference issues, while male therapists tend to get more of the abuser-male dominance transference issues.) The relationship between survivors and their parents will very often dictate which gender of therapist is a better fit for them.
Typical Father Issues
Father issues are not easy to work through. They often take years of time to sort out, and they are very painful. Many survivors truly feel bonded to their fathers, even if some of their relationship involved sexual activities. Sometimes feeling sexually connected to the father felt better than being emotionally abandoned by the mother. When this is the case, there are numerous emotional complications to process during your healing.
Do you understand the role your father has played in your life?
Do you experience system switching, feelings of fear, or flashbacks when you are in the same room with your father?
What would your father do if you said no to him?
What would your father do if you chose a lifestyle very different from the one he chose for his life?
Are you allowed to live separately from him? Have you been allowed to move away from his neighborhood?
How much control or influence does your father have over you life in the current day?
Are you safe when you are in the same room as your father?
Does your father still abuse you or any of your younger parts? Does he still exert a level of sexual dominance over anyone in your system?
Would you be betraying your father if you refused to let him touch you in sexual ways?
If your father is an abuser, you can get distance and separation from him.
You don’t have to stay bonded to abusers.
You don’t have to stay connected to violent relationships.
You don’t have to be abused to be accepted.
You do not have to be sexual to be accepted.
All men are not abusers.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 10, 2010
Lots of trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder are just starting their healing process. Other dissociative survivors are not new to their healing process, but they might realize that they haven’t yet covered all the basics.
DID therapy can feel huge, daunting, difficult, and overwhelming. There is so much to do and so many areas of work. For a broader overview of the many areas of DID healing, please refer to the article, “50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder”.
For individuals building the foundation for their work with your dissociative system, here are some of the first things to do.
DID 101 involves:
1. Get to know your system. Build the courage to find and meet your insiders. Remember, they were formed and created to help you – even if it doesn’t feel like it, you are (or can be) on the same team. Who are your inside parts? What jobs do they have? What kinds of things are they able to do? It’s really ok for you to build positive relationships and actual friendships with your insiders. If this feels scary for you, explore those feelings. What makes it hard for you to get to know your insiders? What fears or resentments do you have? Understanding your resistance to these ideas is important.
2. Become more comfortable with your diagnosis. If you don’t understand what dissociative identity disorder (DID /MPD) is, be sure to speak more with your therapist or psychiatrist about what it means to be dissociative. There are lots of books, websites, blogs, articles, conferences, etc that can help to educate you about the basics about DID. Understanding DID will help take out some of the mystery and confusion for you.
3. Build a support system and capable treatment team. It is very helpful if you can surround yourself with a few other people that understand trauma dynamics, preferably at least one or two other people, besides your therapist and doctor that understand that you are working on healing from trauma. These support people don’t have to be experts in DID – if they are just willing to spend some time with you when you need a safe distraction from your healing work, that will be helpful. Please don’t lean on lay-support people for the heavy issues. Leave the complicated treatment issues for your therapist to work with – your support friends are not therapists, so be very careful about not pushing them too far or demanding too much of them.
4. Once you have recognized at least one or two other parts, work on building communication with these parts. Internal communication is one of the very most important factors in DID therapy, and the sooner you can interact cooperatively with your other parts, the better your healing progress will happen. Approximately twenty of the articles in the Discussing Dissociation blog reference tips for building internal communication. This link groups these articles together. Learning how to talk to your other parts is the most important factor in your healing.
5. Connecting with your internal landscape. What can you see inside? Can you see the other insiders? Do you have an internal safe place? Internal visualization work is an important skill as it builds a way to connect with your insiders. Even if you can’t see the others inside, there will likely be someone else who can. Maybe ask if that insider will draw a map of your system for you? The sooner you can see inside, the better. And of course, if you see insiders that are not in positive, healthy, clean living conditions, you and other helpers in your system will need to do something to help them.
6. Working on limiting or preventing self-destructive impulses and self-injurious behaviors. Learning how to address self-harm urges is particularly important for your stabilization and progression in therapy. You have already been hurt enough – adding more hurt may feel like it helps you to cope in the short-term, but using behaviors such as cutting or burning is not any more helpful than using a shot of whiskey or a hit of cocaine. Explore better ways to cope with your intense feelings, develop more grounding skills, build positive containment strategies, and methods to reconnect with the here-and-now. A grouping of articles about preventing self-injury can be found here.
7. Live in a safe place both inside and out. If you live in a violent environment, address this issue as quickly as you are able. If you are continuing to be abused or sexually assaulted in any way, your dissociative walls will stay strong, and your system will have greater trouble trusting you and your treatment team. Of course, when anyone is fearful of abusive repercussions, it is much harder to disclose the real issues. Dangerous environments can include everything from domestic violence, abusive parents, organized perpetrators, to internal system perpetrators and angry introjects. Building more and more current-day safety is vitally important for your overall healing process. If you aren’t safe, make this a priority in your therapy process. Building an internal safe place is also critically important. However, please remember that in order to build an internal safe place, you have to have a genuine belief that safety can happen, at least part of the time. Making an internal safe place for your insiders is much more difficult when you are still concerned about external safety.
8. Start building options for positive self-comfort, self-soothing activities. The therapy process can be so very painful and emotionally difficult. Having a variety of options to do that are comfortable, safe, gentle, soothing, and stabilizing is important. What can you do when you want to have a break from the hard work of therapy? What can you do when you need some quiet space to think – or to not think? When you are hurting, what can you do that will help you to feel better? Soothing your pain in ways that help your healing (vs. using self-destructive options) is an important skill to develop.
9. Create healthy options for expression of feeling and emotion – use art, music, journaling, collage, blogging, forum posting, sculpting, painting, poetry, play therapy, sand tray therapy, scrapbooking, etc. DID therapy involves processing a lot of flashbacks, violent images, intense feelings, overwhelming thoughts, body memories, body pain, etc. Building a repertoire of artistic avenues to describe your feelings and experiences will be very helpful. You might not always have words that you can use so it is important to find non-verbal ways to safely express what you feel.
10. Create your own personal space. In this space, let it be ok for your insiders to come out, to be themselves, to be out in the body, and to exist. Out in the world, and when you are around other people, most of your daily life will be about keeping your insiders tucked in and acting socially inappropriate. But somewhere in your private time, your insiders will need time to surface, to know that it is ok for them to come out. Having the freedom to switch without reprimand is important as each of your insiders will need to do some personalized healing work of their own.
Not 11. Please note: I am specifically not including memory work or skills to do memory work in my top then list of DID 101 skills. The reason for this is that if you are just beginning DID therapy, it can be very destabilizing to focus on heavy-duty memory work. Yes, of course, doing trauma work is an important part of your overall healing process, but in the beginning of this journey, you need to build these basic skills before you begin to put a lot of energy into memory work. It is much safer and more stabilizing to have these foundational therapy skills in place before focusing on the trauma content of DID therapy.
DID therapy is intense, long-term, exhausting, and difficult. But your healing is worth it. As you truly address the painful conflicts, unmet needs, and internal confusion caused by your years of trauma, abuse, and neglect, you will feel better within your own self.
I wish you the very best in your healing journey –
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 11, 2009
I hope everyone has already recorded his or her score for the DES before reading this follow-up blog.
If you haven’t yet taken the DES, please do so before reading any further.
To explain the scoring of the DES, I’m going to quote some material from Dr. Colin Ross’s book “Dissociative Identity Disorder”. This information can also be found online at http://www.rossinst.com/dissociative_experiences_scale.html . Dr. Ross also provides a lengthy discussion about dissociation in the general population, charts, graphs, and comparative information with the DDIS, SCID-D, SCL-90, and MCMI.
The Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES) is a 28-item self-report instrument that can be completed in 10 minutes, and scored in less than 5 minutes. It is easy to understand, and the questions are framed in a normative way that does not stigmatize the respondent for positive responses. A typical DES question is, “Some people have the experience of finding new things among their belongings that they do not remember buying. Mark the line to show what percentage of the time this happens to you.” The respondent then slashes the line, which is anchored at 0% on the left and 100% on the right, to show how often he or she has this experience. The DES contains a variety of dissociative experiences, many of which are normal experiences.
The DES has very good validity and reliability, and good overall psychometric properties, as reviewed by its original developers (Carlson, 1994; Carlson & Armstrong, 1994; Carlson & Putnam, 1993; Carlson et al., 1993). It has excellent construct validity, which means it is internally consistent and hangs together well, as reflected in highly significant Spearman correlations of all items with the overall DES score. The scale is derived from extensive clinical experience with an understanding of DID. In the initial studies during its development and in all subsequent studies, the DES has discriminated DID from other diagnostic groups and controls at high levels of significance, based on either group mean or group median scores. In most samples, the mean and median DES scores for DID subjects are within 5 points of each other.
…The higher the DES score, the more likely it is that the person has DID. In a sample of 1,051 clinical subjects, however, only 17% of those scoring above 30 on the DES actually had DID (Carlson et al., 1993). The DES is not a diagnostic instrument. It is a screening instrument. High scores on the DES do not prove that a person has a dissociative disorder, they only suggest that clinical assessment for dissociation is warranted. This is how we report DES scores in our consults, as within or not within the range for DID, and as consistent or not consistent with the clinical and DDIS diagnosis of DID. DID subjects sometimes have low scores, so a low score does not rule out DID. In fact, given that in most studies the average DES score for a DID patient is in the 40s, and the standard deviation about 20, roughly about 15% of clinically diagnosed DID patients score below 20 on the DES…..
The DES is the only dissociative instrument that has been subjected to a number of replication studies by independent investigators. We found in our original replication (Ross, Norton, & Anderson, 1988) that it discriminated DID from other groups very well, with scores similar to those found by Bernstein and Putnam (1986), and this pattern has persisted in all subsequent research….
The DES can predict who will not, and who may have a dissociative disorder with high accuracy. As well, the DES taps into the dissociative component of general psychopathology… The DES is not just picking out a dissociative anomaly that is unconnected to anything else.
Because of the properties of the DES, and its extensive research base, It is the best self-report instrument for measuring dissociation available….
In other words, most trauma survivors that are clinically diagnosed with DID score in the 40’s on the DES, but survivors with DID can certainly score lower than 20 and higher than 69. Scores over 30 will indicate a high likelihood of the person having dissociative identity disorder.
Basically, the higher the score, the more likely the person has DID. The DES is not an official diagnostic tool, but it can certainly help to screen for people with dissociative disorders.
In my personal opinion, for dissociative people, the DES score will be somewhat dependent on who in the system takes the test. The parts that have more denial and dissociation from the rest of the system will likely score lower than others in the system that are more aware of the others inside. Also, I would guess that the DES score might vary with the different stages of therapy and treatment.
In any which way, the DES can be very helpful in your therapy process, and I strongly encourage you to discuss your scores in detail with your therapist. Various questions may have specific personal importance for you and can provide good foundational material for processing the ways your dissociation affects your life. The DES can give you an excellent starting place for talking about how life is for you as a dissociative person.
It can be helpful to take repeated DES tests over the course of your treatment, so you can record the changes over time. Hopefully, your dissociative scores will decrease as you progress through your therapy process.
- Which questions do you most relate to?
- If you have scored higher than 60% on any question, does your therapist understand that this experience is so common for you?
- Did you hear or sense internal arguing about how to answer any of the questions?
- Were you surprised to see any of the questions?
- Which questions asked you about dissociative experiences that you have not yet told other people that you experience?
- Do you find the DES to be upsetting? Comforting? Frightening? Confusing? …..? (fill in the blank)
Kathy Broady LCSW
April 13, 2009
How many of you have been watching the award-winning HBO Series, “In Treatment” with Gabriel Byrne, Dianne Wiest, and John Mahoney? This HBO series is currently near the beginning of its second season, centered around how Dr. Paul Weston (Byrne) conducts therapy sessions with four different clients, and then his own individual therapy process with his own therapist, Dr. Gina Toll (Wiest).
In my opinion, the “In Treatment” series is more accurate about the layered complications of the therapy process than the brief bits of therapy shown in Showtime’s “United States of Tara”. The snippets shown of Tara’s therapy were with an overwhelmed, under-trained, uneducated wimp of a therapist. I suppose it is true that all too many therapists are overwhelmed and unprepared to deal with the healing process for trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Hopefully a referral to a more specialized trauma therapist in season two of Tara will lead to deeper, more meaningful presentations of her therapy process.
With the “In Treatment” series, the clients present with relateable issues, and the therapists become real people – likeable, emotional, genuine, flaws and all.
“In Treatment” shows how therapy is different from person to person. While staying the same, the room “changes” and feels different and unique to each client. The therapists and their rooms are the same from session to session and client to client, and yet they become totally different places as each individual client comes in, exposing his or her own life, pain, feelings, energy, thoughts, and emotion.
It shows how the therapy process challenges therapists to be their best selves at all times, as impossible as that might be.
It shows how much people actually say about themselves when someone is listening closely to what is being said. And it shows how much people do not listen to their own selves, and how they don’t hear the words that come out of their own mouths.
It shows how families speak to each other – or not. And how helpful family members can be to each other – or not. And how loving, kind, supportive, and caring family members can be to each other – or not.
It shows how people wrestle with their emotions, their feelings, their realities, and the denial of those realities. It shows their emotional conflict, turmoil, grief, depression, anxiety, suicidal actions, passive suicidal feelings, anger, panic, fear, dismay, agony, self-harm motives, struggles with life and death.
It shows how the therapy process, while focused around the expression of words and feelings, can be enhanced by paying close attention to the communication from the physical body itself, which sometimes says more than clients can put into words.
It shows how therapists get invested in their clients, and how they build connections and bonds with their clients. The caring can be a real thing.
It shows how important it is for clients to make their own life-decisions, how much people wrestle with their own life decisions, and how quickly therapists get blamed when these decisions do not work out as hoped.
It shows how tender and fragile people can be, even when they outwardly appear to be strong, powerful, and in control.
It shows the importance of being heard, understood, listened to, and recognized as a worthwhile person, first by others, and then by yourself.
These television shows can lead to a lot of personal thinking and reassessment about your own therapy process, your relationship with your therapist, and how your life is changing and progressing. How do you relate to what you are seeing “In Treatment”?
* What is your therapy process like?
* How is your therapy impacting your life?
* Do you see your therapist as human as Dr. Weston presents in “In Treatment”?
* Do you blame your therapist when your life plans do not work out as hoped?
* Is your therapist as central to your life as presented in these series?
* Are you more attached to your therapist or to your therapy process?
* What would you do if you realized how human and flawed your therapist is?
* Do you expect your therapist to be something more than a real person?
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 21, 2009
The healing process for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) is very long, involved and complex. The article, 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder, lists out many of the steps involved in trauma therapy. While that list is comprehensive, it still only covers the surface steps. What tasks do you need to tackle next?
It takes years of time to work through all the issues and complications created from severe trauma and dissociative splitting, and while that length of time may feel discouraging in the beginning, let me assure you that progress truly is possible. You really can heal from your hurt and traumas and lead productive happy, healthy lives.
Therapy is somewhat like the progression through years of school. Therapy work builds upon itself through time to involve a lot of additional steps – the basics needing to be accomplished and mastered first. If the basics are neglected or not learned well, then therapy will get stuck — and if someone goes to school and gets stuck in the fifth grade for three years, they are going to feel very frustrated, especially if the goal is to graduate from high school.
So what keeps a person stuck and unable to progress further in their healing? What blocks their therapy from moving forward?
Sometimes people get comfortable addressing only the surface layers of their trauma. Sometimes they get too afraid to address the deeper layers of their system. Therapeutic resistance can be normal for various periods of time. But will avoiding those areas of your healing bring you the peace of mind that you want?
What if you have been in therapy for years already and are still struggling desperately? Blocks and stalemates in the therapy process usually lead to increased depression, ongoing anxiety, more self-injury, not to mention the added frustration and wasted time and resources. While it is important to tackle the healing process at your own pace, it is also good to make significant treatment gains at every step of the way.
What is missing in your therapy process?
What is interfering with your therapy process?
Where are you resistant to change?
Here are some of the common reasons that people get stuck in their healing process:
- A fear of seeing the abuse – wanting to keep those dissociative walls in place
- A lack of resources, and financial constraints to being able to get sufficient help
- A refusal to accept that loving family members were also abusive monsters
- An adamant refusal to look at who the abusers were
- Anger – wanting a “safe target” to fight with instead of a therapist for assistance and guidance
- Being too busy testing everyone over and over instead of getting to the actual therapy work
- Clinging to denial, clinging to denial, clinging to denial
- Comfort Clingers – wanting to stay hurting, even on purpose, to get comforting responses from other people
- Creating distractions from therapy work
- Current-day abusers actively sabotaging the progress you are making in therapy
- Current-day control by external abusers reinforcing the fear of telling
- External life issues become too overwhelming, ie: kids, school, work, finances,
- Fatigue, frustration, and just being tired of trauma issues being the center of your life
- Fear of learning more, of future consequences, of any number of things.
- Fear of other loved ones being hurt or abused if certain secrets are exposed
- Finger-pointing blame at others instead of being self-responsible for movement and changes
- Genuinely incompetent therapy or working with an uninformed therapist
- Interference of addictions – any form of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sex addition, etc
- Internal programming is running interference and not being removed or addressed
- Laziness – thinking that healing happens magically without having to put in the hard work required
- Not really and truly wanting to do the therapy work – simply going through the motions instead
- Outgrowing the therapeutic knowledge and assistance that your current therapist can offer
- Putting more effort into helping / rescuing others than addressing personal issues
- Refusal to speak with the others in your system
- Refusing to acknowledge, admit, or address your own negative behavior
- Sabotage – of self, of relationships, of therapy
- Self-injury, self-destructive behaviors, suicidal behavior
- The front host refusing to speak with the inside system
- The Ostrich Syndrome — denial or blindness to seeing the reality of the problem
- Threats of ongoing abuse if certain secrets are exposed
What is blocking your therapy and healing?
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 7, 2009
Many dissociative trauma survivors have issues with time.
Sometimes the past sneaks up into the present. Sometimes the present disappears. Sometimes there are two time zones (or more) occurring at the same time. Sometimes there are huge gaps in time. Sometimes time stands still.
It can be confusing to say the least.
- Have you ever had a flashback from some year gone by overwhelm your current day?
- Have you ever been overwhelmed by such huge feelings that for them to make any sense, they must have roots in something much deeper than your current-day conflict?
- Have you ever woken up in the current day and wondered where you were?
- Have you ever lost hours of time, with no awareness of what happened, and no explanation of what you have been doing?
Losing time can be very difficult. Many folks with DID get understandably upset when this happens — struggling with the after effects of their behavior, left confused, bewildered, possibly angry, waking to their plans being destroyed, their relationships damaged, their money spent, their body feeling weird, their day interrupted. Most singletons cannot even begin to fathom what life would be like with so many missing gaps in time.
There is a huge sense of loss of control when there is lost time. Is the amnesia that is covering that lost time still important? Is it covering up some huge secret that the host of the system cannot know about? Or is it just an old habit – an old familiar way of life, and nothing to worry about? Either way, the not-knowing, and the apparent “not being allowed to know” what happened in one’s own life can understandably be very upsetting for many people.
Sometimes the effects of lost time are minimal, barely noticeable — maybe a small bruise, or scratch that came from nowhere, or a change of clothes, or maybe you’re simply sitting in a different place than you last were. Lots of people with dissociative disorders are so used to losing time that they don’t even notice it anymore. Switching and the coming and going are so normal for them, and the covering for a “bad memory” are just natural parts of the day. In fact, it can be so natural, that many people with DID/MPD are firmly convinced that they don’t lose any time at all. However, a close examination of that belief can usually prove otherwise, but that is not an uncommon initial assumption.
Sometimes lost time cause a lot of anxiety and panic, and sometimes the effects are quite devastating. The host of the system may have no awareness that one of the insiders participated in a sexual activity the night before, but the host might be able to feel body pain and stiffness, and just not have an explanation for that. The daytime alters may not have realized that “the body” is now pregnant, and they may not absolutely no idea who the father is. Or the host of the system may have no idea how the car got wrecked. The dayside people can see the damage done to the car, but might not have any awareness of what happened. Or maybe they have absolutely no idea why their spouse and children are so angry with them. Maybe they don’t remember being involved in a knockdown drag-out argument last night where the spouse and the children were repeatedly insulted, ridiculed, and denigrated.
Sometimes something good has happened – ie: where another part has had the courage to do something that you hadn’t been able to manage. The house may suddenly look cleaner and more organized, or the kids have been helped with their homework. “Good news” isn’t as frequently blocked from awareness, but it can certainly happen. And sometimes, inside system parts can purposefully block the awareness of someone else inside so they can give them a nice surprise. Insider parts can buy nice prezzies for each other, keeping the others unaware of what they are getting for Christmas or Hanukkah, for example.
However, for dissociative trauma survivors, the original foundational reasons for losing time were long ago based on avoiding or escaping the direct involvement in something terrible. While blocking out the awareness of events during their original occurrence was incredibly helpful at that initial traumatic point in time, as a person’s safety increases, and as their dissociative walls decrease, those hidden chunks of lost time often re-surface later in the form of PTSD, flashbacks, body memories, etc.
As repeated patterns of managing traumatic incidents become set and solidified within the dissociative splits, the amnesia between those alters and others inside just simply stay in place. In those original traumatic moments, those insiders were created with dissociative walls firmly intact, purposefully preventing the other system parts from knowing what happened. That same “missing time” protection stays in place until the dissociative person begins to address why it was necessary for them to have that chunk of time hidden from their life in the first place.
Think about the most recent incident or two where you lost time. Part of the healing process is getting more connected with those periods of lost time. Don’t just comfortably sail past the fact that you don’t know what happened in the middle of the afternoon, or that you have no earthly idea where you were last night. Work at that.
These missing gaps of time are pieces of your life that hold valuable information. I can promise you, your body didn’t just cease to exist while you were dissociatively “away” on a mental vacation. Something was happening with some of your parts, and someone was doing something. You might not been out and involved in life during that period of time, but I can guarantee that someone in your system knows exactly what was happening. They were there instead of you.
The terms “missing time” or “lost time” are actually misnomers. The time didn’t get lost. The time is not gone. The person dissociated away from time — someone else in your system was out instead of you. If you don’t know what happened, then you dissociated away and you have not yet talked to your internal system about who was out instead of you. By talking to the others in your dissociative system, you can find out exactly what happened in that “lost time”.
The question is whether or not you would like to know what happened while you were away. Do you want to remember what happened in those missing gaps of time in your childhood? Do you want to know what happened in those missing gaps of time last week? Are you willing to ask your insiders to tell you about their time in the body and their time out in the world?
Becoming less dissociative, less DID/MPD, more integrated, more whole means knowing about ALL the missing gaps of time – the good news, and the not so good news. If you cannot integrate what happened in your own life, you certainly cannot integrate with your other alters inside. If you cannot sit with the emotions and feelings that you had during the difficult times in your life, you certainly cannot integrate with the inside parts that contain those feelings.
Overcoming the amnesia and time loss means that you must communicate actively with the others in your system. Yep, we’re back to system communication once again. Talk to your internal people – they can tell you exactly what happened while you were away.
Work hard to figure out what has happened in your life. Be willing to remember what happened in those missing chunks of time. Don’t comfortably skip over the details that you conveniently dissociated away – go back and really work at learning what happened in your own life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your internal system after you notice some missing time:
- What happened? Do you have any guess or sense whatsoever of what happened? What was happening right before you lost time and what is the first thing you noticed when you got back, grounded and connected to the current day?
- How did you feel? How did you feel emotionally before you left? How do you emotionally feel now?
- How does the body feel now? What is different from before?
- What did you do to recover the information in the time that went “missing”? What clues did you find to help fill in the gaps for you? Look around the house or your car. Does anything look different?
- Did you know who in your system was “out” while you were not out? Who can you ask internally? Who saw what? Even if your insiders did not see what happened in the outside world, did they notice any internal movement? What changes and interactions were happening within the inside world while you were away? Did anyone see anyone else “walk by”?
- If you get a sense of who was out, can you talk to that part of yourself without losing time? Have you been able to work more with the others in your system to lesson the likelihood of this happening again??
- If someone else in your system was caught in a memory or a flashback, do you want to know about it? Are you willing to hear their story about their trauma? Are you willing to sit with them and deal with their pain?
Are you brave enough to know what happened while you were away?
Are you genuinely serious enough about your healing to want to know what happened while you were away?
Are you ready to claim all the different aspects of what has happened in your life?
You can get back all the information that was allegedly lost during that missing time.
You can truly know what happened.
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 28, 2009
This week, the readers here have posted a wide variety of reactions to the idea that being multiple could have benefits. If you haven’t yet read all the comments on that blog, please do so. They are very interesting.
When people have DID/MPD, they have experienced life as a multiple since their childhood. It is their norm – basically the only way of life they know. Multiples typically have not experienced life any other way other than being multiple, even if they didn’t realize they were as split as they are. Sure, one or two of the host personalities may not have a strong personal connection to what it’s like to be multiple, and many of them can deny the existence of the internal others to some degree, but the internal system as a whole would have been there for nearly your whole life.
And frankly, many DID’ers that are newly diagnosed just haven’t realized how much they have been switching their whole lives long. But just because they haven’t recognized their dissociative abilities doesn’t mean that they haven’t been living their life as a very active multiple, switching, possibly losing time, and putting amnesiac walls around anything that is too uncomfortable for them.
So what if you are dissociative and you really really detest being a multiple personality? What if you can’t stand being DID/MPD, and you hate it, and you despise it, and you make sure that everyone in your system knows it, and that everyone in your treatment support team knows it too?
- How does that affect how your internal system views you?
- Will they feel loved and accepted?
- Will you feel good about yourself?
For sake of argument here, let’s be sure to separate the fact of being dissociative as being very different from being traumatized and abused. I will clearly and adamantly acknowledge that no young child likes the trauma and abuse that happens as the first step in the process of creating various alter personalities. I am not proposing that the road to becoming DID is a pleasant one. It clearly is not. The very idea of being forced to become a multiple is horrifically tragic in itself. Any trauma, abuse, neglect, violence, horror, pain, that you’ve gone through is too high a price for anyone to pay.
Often the fact of being multiple becomes inextricably entangled with the fact of having been abused. The multiplicity comes to represent all the pain and fear and wrongness of the abuse, and rejection of the multiplicity is part and parcel of rejecting the reality of the painful past that caused it.
But how do those feelings of adamant rejection affect your healing?
One of the ways to treat and understand multiplicity is to join in, to some degree, with the idea that the alter personalities are their own individual people. Of course they are all connected to the same one person, but you can balance that out with also seeing each of the insiders as their own unique person. How would an outside person feel if they were treated the same way your insiders are being treated?
If your internal parts know that you hate the fact that you are multiple, might they begin to internalize that feeling as if you hate them? I would think so.
How would you feel if you were repeatedly told that you were disliked and unwanted and despised? Remember, your insiders don’t have to be told these things in actual words. They are connected to you, and they will know how you genuinely feel about them, whether or not you make a point of telling them. They will be able to feel how much you don’t like them. You will not be able to hide this fact from them.
How would you feel, if day after day after day, the people that you lived with refused to speak to you? Or to acknowledge you? Or to care about you? Would you feel cooperative? Would you want to be friendly and helpful? At what point would you lose your patience and tolerance? How might you act when that happened?
In this context, if you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, and you also firmly believe that multiplicity in itself is a horrible way of life, that strong pervasive belief will negatively affect your treatment progress and your healing. How could it not? Your insiders are aching for acceptance and kindness and comfort no less than you are – and constant rejection can and will make them continue to act out in resentment and anger and desperation. Nobody else’s acceptance will ever mean as much to them as the acceptance of their own group – their own self – and if that is perpetually withheld from them, then both they and you will be at a self-created stalemate in your healing.
Because the flip side of treating your insiders like individual people is remembering that they are the same person as you.
If you are repeatedly telling yourself that you hate the way you are, what does that do for your self-image and self worth?
If you believe that the way you are is not ok, not good enough, not right, not acceptable, not normal, then you are reinforcing a lot of negative beliefs of yourself – and it is a short road from having a low self-esteem to have a ton of self-hatred.
- What if hating your multiplicity is a version of hating yourself?
- What if accepting your multiplicity is a version of accepting yourself?
Multiplicity is simply what it is – the fact of having more than one personality / “person” in your head. In my opinion, it does not have to be a bad thing. The trauma and the abuse were devastatingly bad – absolutely. The dissociative walls can really cause problems in the current day, even if they were initially helpful. The PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other emotional fallout can be debilitating at times.
But the multiplicity – just the multiplicity… does it have to be bad to share your life with others?
Again I ask….
Is accepting your multiplicity “as is” a version of accepting yourself?
Kathy Broady LCSW
February 11, 2009
As I’ve said over and over in this blog, internal communication – people within the DID system talking to each other – is absolutely central and crucial to the healing process. The inside parts need to hear each other, talk to each other, see each other, write to each other, etc. The more you all talk amongst yourselves, the better your healing journey will progress.
Addressing and finding problem issues as they surface via the internal landscape is another key element in the healing process. This involves an intense level of system interaction that can feel very real and be very powerful. Looking inside and finding the visual manifestations of the problem issues makes for a quick way to understand what is happening for you.
For example, if you have a strong urge to self-injure, and yet you don’t quite know where that is coming from or how to control the compulsions, look inside to your internal world and see who is demonstrating that pull towards self-harm.
Do you see someone inside that is holding a weapon? Do you see someone inside who is internally doing harm to her inside body or threatening to hurt someone else within the system?
When you can see who it is in your system that is containing the feelings, urges, and beliefs about doing self-harm and internally acting it out at that precise moment in time, you can address the problem more specifically. Problem-solve with those specific insiders about the their desires to self-injure, and find other ways to meet their specific needs.
Or, as a second example, if you are feeling an overwhelming sadness and you do not know why, look inside and see who it is in your inside world that is demonstrating and expressing that sadness and despair. If you feel like you need to cry (and yet those feelings really aren’t “yours” to claim), look around in your system and see who is crying. When you can visually see who is feeling so sad, you can then make some decisions about how to comfort the one that is crying.
Do you see a little girl crying in the corner? Is she hiding in a closet or under the bed? Do you know why she is crying? Do you know who she is? Look around till you find where she is, talk gently to her, give her a teddy bear or a blanket or a hug, and find out what the problem is. As you learn more about what is bothering her, reassure her that you will do something to help fix the problem, comfort her and address her needs the same as you would if you saw a real child crying.
Here’s another for instance. If you are having the kind of week where you find that you are really really having trouble eating, and you really don’t know what that is about but you know you feel like starving yourself, look inside for clues. Who do you see close to you that is in full agreement with actively starving themselves? Is your anorexic part pulled near the front? Is your anorexic part having a bigger struggle than usual during that week for some reason? What is going on with her? If you approach her, and speak to her, you might be able to understand what is bothering her so much at the current time. Once you start talking with her, you can probably find a solution to the issue that is more effective than self-starvation.
Any time you feel something prominent happening in your external everyday life and you can’t quite figure out what it’s about, look inside for clues. Literally, look. Go inside and look. What do you see? Chances are, someone within your inside world will be intensely feeling those very same things and will be visually showing that when you look in their general direction.
The intensity of internal feelings or desired behaviors will be rippling out to the front of the system from the insiders deeper within your system. They may or may not be literally presenting in the outside worlds, but the intensity of their issues can still strongly affect how you present-behave-feel in the outside world. In essence, their issues can overflow onto you, and you end up feeling what they are feeling, even when the issue actually belongs to them.
Become familiar enough with your internal worlds and friendly enough with your insiders to make checking in with them an easy process on a regular basis. Check with them frequently, repeatedly, in an ongoing kind of way. As you are familiar with the “norm”, you will more quickly recognize the changes that happen along the way.
Learn to identify problems by what you can see from your system, instead of staying stuck in the outside world being clueless as to why a certain emotion or behavior has suddenly become so prominent for you. If you can feel it, but you can’t claim it as “yours”, then it’s coming from someone within your system. Even if they can’t tell you what is happening, they can often show you. So — the more you look inside, and the more you can see of your internal people and see what they are doing, the better you can understand the source of any problems. An accurate assessment of the problem is necessary before you can accurately problem-solve.
Looking closely at your internal world will provide a wealth of information for you.
What is your internal world telling you today?
What are your insiders showing you?
By: Kathy Broady LCSW