December 6, 2010
Hello to all the Readers of the Discussing Dissociation Blog –
Earlier this year, I set a personal goal of inviting at least 100,000 readers to this blog in the calendar year of 2010.
Thanks to each of you, the Discussing Dissociation Blog has surpassed that goal!!
I deeply appreciate each of you that have participated in this blog.
I appreciate the colors your have brought to this blog, and the depth you have added.
I appreciate the honesty and tenderness that each of you have shown in your comments.
I appreciate that you have openly shared your experiences in such a way that others can relate to what you’ve been through, and feel comforted in knowing that they are not alone.
I appreciate your kindness to me.
I appreciate your gentleness and support to each other.
I appreciate the courage that you have each shown in taking such a stand against the violence and ugliness in the world. You are each making the world a better place, and that is so very important.
I hope that you continue to find helpful information, a supportive environment, and encouraging motivation for your healing journey each time that you sit here in this place.
I’m glad you’re here!
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
February 15, 2010
The healing process for survivors of abuse and neglect is very difficult. While it is a rewarding journey, it is a painfully difficult process.
Trauma survivors with dissociative identity disorder typically have lots of child parts in their systems. Sometimes these child parts may seem to outnumber the adults!
Working with the kids is an important part of the healing process. Inside kids often know a lot about your internal system, family dynamics, and trauma memories.
But these inside kids, while very much connected to the rest of your adult self, also have real kid needs. They need to be cared for, kept safe (inside and out), allowed to have healthy daily provisions, given support, comfort, and compassion. These are the parts of you that were frozen in time when your needs were not properly meet during your actual childhood. They are the parts of you that just could not go on any further in life, and had to stay stuck where they were, back in that time. They are often the parts that lived through the horrors that you are remembering.
If you ask me, child parts are little heroes. If you think that working on your trauma issues is hard as an adult — with a therapist and all the current-day resources available to you — imagine how hard it was to be a little child living that trauma, completely on your own, with no help at all. Your little kids have had a rough go of it. It really is important for you to do what you can to soothe their wounds and heal their hurts.
One thing that helps child parts to move forward and to not stay stuck is to meet some of their unmet needs. Between years of abuse and neglect, and many incidents of trauma, your child parts will have oodles of experiences of not having their needs met appropriately. The sooner you and your system can treat your child parts in healthy ways, the sooner they will heal. Having corrective emotional experiences will allow your child parts to experience the positive things that were missing in their development.
If your child parts are not in a place where they can emotionally flourish, it will be important for you to help them reach a place where they can experience creative happy living.
Reading good children’s stories with your child parts are as helpful for your inner kids as they are for outside children.
The book, “I Knew You Could” by Craig Dorfman is a wonderful children’s story about encouragement, support, positive self-belief, and healthy determination. The story is about a little train that goes through different areas of life, questioning his train-abilities and wondering if he can make it through the various stops in life.
I am not a professional storyteller by any means, but through the years of working with DID / MPD clients, I have been asked by many a child part to read a story. It seemed to me that maybe other child parts out there in the world would also enjoy having a positive, encouraging story read to them.
Please use this story as a way to encourage yourself and comfort your inner kids. Your healing journey is difficult — filled with lots of stops and bumps along the way — but you have already survived the worst of it. You can heal from here, and create a much better life for yourself and your insiders.
When you hear “I Knew You Could”, what are your favorite lines in the story?
Which phrases fit your life right now?
What does this story mean to you?
And whatever difficult things are happening in your life… keep working at it!
You can do it.
I know you can!
Kathy Broady LCSW
August 2, 2009
It always amazes me when dissociative trauma survivors tell me that after they’ve met three or four of their inside alters (or maybe even a few more than that, but not many), that they think they’ve met everyone in their system. They think they are “done” meeting their insiders.
That never makes sense to me. Oh, I understand why the survivors would want to believe they have so few others inside, but that hope rarely matches with the actual amount of dissociative symptoms that they experience in their lives.
For example, if someone is still losing time, but they believe that have a good solid relationship with the parts that they know – then why are they losing time? Yes, it is possible that someone you know in your system can still block you out of awareness at certain times. Then again, if everyone you know in your system said they did not know what happened during a period of lost time, then it only makes sense to realize there are other parts of the system out and in charge during that missing time. If all of you are losing time, then there are more insiders yet to meet.
In my definition, meeting new insiders is a sign of progress. The survivor will not be creating new parts by meeting new parts – they are simply finding the parts that have been hiding from them all along behind strong dissociative walls. Any time you can reclaim more of the information that had been previously blocked from you via dissociation, you are making progress. Learning about your system and your history are always steps of progress.
So who should you look for or when will you know if there are more parts to meet?
All dissociative trauma survivors have their own unique system, of course. No one’s system is exactly like anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong for how big or how elaborate your system is. You would have split as many times as you had to, and you will have as many parts as you needed.
However, there are some common types of alters that exist in most DID survivors. This is a non-exhaustive list:
(Please note: alters may start off in these categories, but their roles can change.)
1. Host parts – check to see who was the host at various times in your life. This role can change and be assigned from part to part to part through time.
2. Child parts – your dissociative splitting would have started prior to age 7, so you will definitely have at least one child part, however, most DID survivors have bunches of child parts.
3. Parts that are relatively happy and trauma-free. These parts do not remember any trauma whatsoever. They can be of any age, but they believe they had a completely safe and happy childhood / adult life. Some parts might believe there was childhood abuse, but they can be blocked from the awareness of abuse happening in the adult years.
4. Parts that are created to manage the outside world. These parts may be the ones that went to school, or go to work, or handle social situations. They are typically quite separate from the trauma-holders or those that hold intense emotions. These parts may not be aware of a lot of trauma, they may hold a lot of denial, and they have the job to look as normal as possible. They will help the person get through life by doing normal things.
5. Parts that don’t remember anything “good” happening. If there are parts that only remember good things, there will absolutely be parts that only remember painful, not-so-good things. They contain the information that the normal daytime “happy” parts were not allowed to know, experience, or remember.
6. Parts that know a lot of memory information. These are the parts that either experienced or witnessed the trauma, abuse, neglect, etc. Getting to know these parts will involve listening to stories about the trauma, body memories about the trauma, flashbacks of the trauma, etc. It is common for there to be numerous parts to handle various types of abuses by various perpetrators. For example, one part may have managed a specific kind of abuse by perpetrator A. Another part may have handled a different kind of abuse by perpetrator A. Another part may have handled the abuse by perpetrator B. Yet another part handled the abuse by perpetrator C. And so forth.
7. Parts that contain a specific emotion. Many people split off various emotions into certain parts to contain those intense overwhelming emotions. If you believe, for example, that you never feel anger, you will likely have other parts in your system that do contain those emotions for you. These parts often have names such as “the sad little girl”, or “the angry one”, or “the scared one”. Getting to know these parts will mean starting to accept and experience these emotions.
8. Parts that split off at particularly traumatic years of life. These parts could also be memory-holders, but during years when there was more stress in the external life, there will likely be more parts. Years of more extreme abuse can lead to more parts being created of a similar age simply because more selves were needed to manage the overwhelming abuse.
9. Parts that are loyal to the mother. All children love their mother, even abusive, neglectful mothers. However, this emotion might need to be contained within certain parts, especially in the case of abusive mothers. Some parts are created to agree with the mother’s abuse (defining it as anything but abuse), and others are created to be obedient to the mother, even if they are terrified or in pain.
10. Parts that are loyal to the father. Just as with the mother, the father may have a variety of parts that are loyal to him, his beliefs, his ways, etc. They may learn that it is safer to align with the perpetrator and to separate themselves from the child-survivor.
11. Parts that contain loyalty to the perpetrators. These parts are often rewarded by the abuser-perpetrators and are encouraged to view themselves as separate from the rest of the system. It will take a lot of work to bring their loyalty back to the person they were created from.
12. Introjects created from external people. System introjects are internalized parts of the system that act – think- feel – believe themselves to be a mirror image of the external person that they are replicating, except they often believe they are the actual person (and not the replication). They may adamantly believe that they are a different person from the survivor-self, complete with a different body from the survivor. These parts contain a lot of memories, factual information, emotional realities for how it was like to be near the outside person.
13. Parts that contain the programming / mind controlled messages. These parts are often created by design and on purpose by organized abusers. These parts are given specific learnings that function as “rules” to control the survivor’s overall behavior. They are often separate from the host parts, and quite hidden within the depths of the system. The other system parts will experience their influence, but have trouble recognizing them as specific alters.
14. Parts that hate the mother or father. Hating the parents may be a difficult dilemma to address, especially since there will be parts of the person that naturally love their parents. However, years of repeated abuse and neglect can create the need for parts to contain the hatred felt towards parents who would allow such atrocities to happen to their child.
15. Parts that are created along the lines of family dynamics. Some survivors will internalize their family into their own DID system. You might find internal replicas of the sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. The family dynamics will be played out in a variety of ways but will most obviously be noted in the way the survivor splits off their system.
16. Floaters and other parts that separated themselves from the body during times of trauma. These parts may have risen above the body, and from the out-of-body experience position, may have specific information to share with the survivor about the kinds of things that happened.
17. Internal self-helpers. These parts would have been created by the system themselves and not necessarily during a state of trauma. They are typically leaders of the system that are considered to be holders of wisdom, or gentle peace, or spiritual guidance. They are devoted to the survivor system as a whole and work towards maintaining safety, stabilization, balance, etc. They typically do very little with the outside world, and focus most all of their energies towards helping the system to survive.
18. Parts that are specifically parental figures to the outside children. It is not uncommon for a survivor to split off “parental parts” just to be focused on raising the outside children as well as possible. These parts very often work hard at being different from their own outside parents, and strive to be the best parent they can be.
19. Parts that were involved in abusing others. This is a very difficult area for survivors to reach, but it is more common than not. Especially for those people who have been abused by organized perpetrators (ie: cults, sex slavery groups, etc) there will be parts who were forced to have the perpetrator role and required to do things that harmed other people.
20. Parts that contain a specific skill or talent. Certain parts can be created to develop positive talents and abilities, often as a way to help manage or express or avoid the pain that is felt so deeply by the others in the system. Maybe one part is better at playing a musical instrument than anyone else. Maybe someone else learned how to write poetry. Or maybe someone was created to be an athlete and to run, jump, excel at sports, etc.
As you can see, there can be a large system just by having parts to fulfill the different roles that are often needed to get through the abuse. Some parts may have a variety of these jobs, overlapping from a variety of categories.
But don’t be surprised if you have a variety of parts in each of the categories listed above.
Many survivors do.
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 7, 2009
One of the hardest areas of healing work in trauma disorders is dealing with shame.
For many survivors of sexual abuse, healing work involves learning about a lot of intense memories that leave them feeling a great deal of shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. These are difficult emotions to process, and the memory material is typically very overwhelming.
Some survivors feel immersed in shame from the very beginning of their abuse. They are appalled at what is happening for them and hate every minute of it, even if they can’t get away from the predators. With every incident that happens, they feel worse, and worse, and worse. The more degraded the survivors are during the abuse, the greater shame they feel.
Shame can become all consuming. It drowns any feelings of self worth and erodes at self-esteem. It leads to self-injury, increased dissociation, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior, depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions, etc. Shame, at its most intense, can destroy lives.
Survivors will internalize the harsh destructive words of their abusers, and if they hear those messages with enough repetition and intensity, they will believe the negativity as truth.
For the host alters of the dissociative systems, there could be nothing further from the truth than hearing what the other alters in the system are saying about abuse. The fronting, daily-life dealing alters are typically not at all aware of the depths of the abuse, and the horrors expressed by the parts much further behind them does not feel real.
However, the alter parts hidden deeper in the dissociative system often have a very different experience than the front alters. Dissociative walls and consistent amnesia keep their two worlds apart from each other.
Sometimes the abuse-laden parts have become so entrenched in their abusive worlds and so blocked from any kind of participation in the outside world that they do not understand the extremity of the worlds they know. For dissociative survivors who have been sold into sex slavery or prostitution or pornography, this dynamic can be all too true.
System parts that are taught by their perpetrators to feel pride in being used as sex slaves know that to be their world, their truth, their reality. They own that pride, and do not think twice about it being a difficult or questionable lifestyle. They have been encouraged to handle the pain, they learn to believe they like the pain, pain becomes associated with pleasure, and they have a sense of accomplishment for completing various sexual tasks, no matter how extreme.
These alters strive to make accomplishments in that world. They may feel quite successful at their “jobs” and have few feelings of shame.
Reclaiming those parts from their abusive worlds means that these parts will eventually connect with the horror and shame that they pushed away years ago. The parts that have been sexually passed around from person to person to person will start realizing how much that trauma actually affected them. What once gave them pride, will lead to painful agony, shame, and distress. They will realize how much they have been hurt.
However, once they realize they are being abused (or have been abused), they can make decisions to stop the abuse.
They can work with their therapists and the host parts of their system to get away from the abusers, inside and out. This is done through internal system work, freeing each part from the ways they have been trapped in their memories. (Remember, people with DID tend to keep internalized realities, dynamic re-enactments of the abuse with introjects of abusers in what feels like the current day timeframe.) This work can also happen in freeing the dissociative person from a real-life, current day abuser.
Once survivors feel more distance between themselves and the abuse, they can begin to heal from the barrage of shame-inducing, horrific traumas that happened. They can gradually begin to understand what things belong to the perpetrators vs. which things are truly about them. They can begin to develop a separation between themselves and the world of sexual abuse.
Healing from that internalized sense of badness is a big part of the therapy work. As survivors learn they are truly victims of crimes, and that they are not to blame, they can begin to let go of the sense of shame that has surrounded their lives for years.
As survivors remove the overwhelming trauma from their lives, they can then, in turn, fill their lives with positive activities from their own unique preferences. They can begin to feel better about their lives. They can feel healthy pride in what they are doing, and feel pleased in their accomplishments. They can replace the feelings of deep dark shame with a sense of happiness and self-worth.
Overcoming shame is not easy. It is hard, grueling, intense emotional work.
The intensity of the shame felt by a trauma survivor can be a type of emotional barometer for the amount of healing work that needs to happen. The more that shame overwhelms the survivor, the more healing work is still needed. As the depth of this shame lightens, the more the survivors have progressed in their healing journey.
1. As a trauma survivor, know and understand that you are not a bad person.
2. Come to terms with how the abuse was not your fault.
3. Be brave enough to look honestly at the trauma that happened in your life.
4. Find the strength you need to get away from your abusers.
5. Work hard to be safe and to end any and all abusive relationships in the current day.
6. Realize that you will be able to build a happy life that you are proud to have.
7. Believe that you don’t have to let your shame destroy you.
8. Recognize the perpetrators for what they are – nasty violent sex offender criminals.
9. Let the perpetrators keep the responsibility for their own behavior. Don’t take on what belongs to them.
10. Do your healing work – process your trauma, grieve the way it has affected your life.
11. As you heal, be willing to let the resolved issues settle into the past.
12. Fill your life with activities and people that you genuinely like.
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 6, 2009
I am happy to announce that the first group chat for readers of the Discussing Dissociation blog will be held tomorrow night, Saturday June 6 at 7 PM Central Standard Time, with Daylight Savings.
To participate in this group chat, you will need to sign up through www.AbuseConsultants.com using the $5 email consultation form. Click the $5 email icon on the home page of AbuseConsultants.com. That will take you to the Business Office / Services page. Click the Consultation Email link on the left, click the Order Here link, and follow the procedures for ordering a $5 email consultation.
I have been doing online therapy since 2001. The risks and benefits on online therapy consultations are explained on the AbuseConsultants.com website. The legalities of having therapeutic interaction with me are also detailed on the AbuseConsultants website. Please refer there for additional information, especially in the Business Office pages of the site.
The chat will last a minimum of one hour, and could last up to two hours, depending on how many people participate in the chat.
Here are some guidelines to follow:
Have a specific and private MSN messenger screen name ahead of time. DO NOT USE YOUR REAL NAME when signing up for this MSN screen name. Be sure to use a nickname, preferably something similar to your screen name that you post with at this blog. It is best that you do not use the MSN screen name that you use with your friends and family members. It is much better to have a brand new screen name that is not associated with anyone else in your personal life. This new and anonymous screen name will help to protect your privacy – that is very important.
Yes, by signing up through AbuseConsultants.com, I will see the name / address from your credit card. I will not see any of your banking information. No one from the group will see your personal information and it is as equally private giving that information to me as it is when you give your name and address to your own therapist.
Please remember that I am a licensed mental health professional, and I am required by law to keep your personal information confidential. I will keep your info confidential the same as I keep my other client’s information confidential.
The topic for this first group chat will be a question and answer format. I would like each participant to prepare ahead of time at least five questions to have on hand that you would like to ask me about DID therapy and DID treatment issues. Have your questions typed up and ready so that you can copy-paste your questions into the IM chat when it is your turn.
I cannot guarantee that there will be sufficient time to have all five questions answered in this group chat, but I will do my best! Having a minimum of five questions prepared ahead of time will allow for duplicate questions (in case someone else wants to know some similar as to what you want to know), and it will keep you from having to figure things out “on the spot”.
This group chat will be geared towards adult parts. Since this is the first group chat, it will be particularly important for you to stay adult for this chat. You may ask questions on behalf of your child parts, but I really suggest that you do your best to stay as old as you can. It is a matter of safety to not let your child parts out with a group of people that you do not know very well. Let’s work on practicing safety first by keeping the littles tucked in for this initial chat.
This group chat is not designed as an appropriate place for crisis material. If you are acutely suicidal or acutely struggling with self-injury, this group setting is not an appropriate place for you. Contact your personal therapist or your local 911 emergency services. This group chat is for educational purposes, for discussing dissociative disorders, and will not be used as a dumping ground for crisis work.
If someone pushes that boundary, your local 911 police will most likely be called. I will be doing group work, so I will not be able to attend to your individual crisis.
During the chat, everyone will be expected to use proper social manners, including appropriate language. Be sure to share the IM time with others, but please speak up comfortably when it is your turn. I will lead the group discussion as effectively as I can, and if things get too hectic during the chat, I will ask everyone to stop and let me help get the group re-grounded again. Please follow my lead. It’s not as easy to get people to be quiet for a bit over an IM as it is in person, so please be sure to read what I type, and please respect my leadership.
I have led a lot of group chats with the members at SurvivorForum.com, and these group chats have been very helpful and positive. However, the group chat is as beneficial as the group members will allow it to be. Your positive, active, polite participation will make all the difference.
If you decide that you want to join the group chat scheduled for June 6 at 7 PM CST, please sign up now. After you have submitted your $5 consultation fee, please add me to your contact list as KathyBfromAC at yahoo.com .
I’m looking forward to chatting with you soon!
March 22, 2009
We’ve had some very interesting discussions on the “What do you think about Suicide?” blog article. Thank you to everyone who writes and comments on this blog – your participation is valued and appreciated.
One of the topics that surfaced on that thread is the idea that trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) may have child parts within their system that can be suicidal, and that the ability to control the suicidal behavior of these child parts seems overwhelmingly difficult, even for the adults of the dissociative system.
I’d like to write an official response to that.
Typically, one thinks of child parts as a permanently young child – an inside part that holds the trauma memories, feelings, rememberings, and experiences that happened when the body was of a young chronological age. These child parts act like children, think like children, reason like children. Their thinking is often very concrete and their grammar / spelling / speech is child-like as well.
So, how does a child part, who is likened after an actual child, have the ability to be suicidal when typically, children do not even understand what death is?
How can these child parts have the ability to act outside of the control of the adults in the system?
There is at least one possible answer for that.
For dissociative trauma survivors, their childhood was filled with abusive perpetrators. Some — not all — DID survivors have experienced an organized type of abuse by organized groups of perpetrators. These organized groups could have presented themselves as sex slavery groups, or cult groups, or governmental / mind control experimental groups. Any which way, the abuse was more than home-based, chaotic dysfunctional family-crisis abuse. With organized abuse, there would have been a goal, a purpose, and a long-term plan for ongoing and continued abuse and total control of the victim by the offenders.
Organized perpetrators very often purposefully split off child parts and attach suicidal programming to these children. Even while the children are at a very young age, these organized perpetrators demand complete control of the mind and behavior of the child. These perpetrators know they are committing horrendous crimes to their victims, and are invested in keeping the children silenced about these crimes. They instill these controls early in life, and then have every intention of keeping this level of control over the victim for as many years into adulthood as possible. Organized perpetrators actually want life-long control. They begin their domination during the victim’s childhood with the intention of being able to keep that child under their control for their entire life.
Using suicidal programming as a way to control and manipulate behavior is one of the most effective ways for abusers to protect their secrets. Perpetrators have a variety of horrific techniques that they use to accomplish this goal.
The result is that a child part can be cued or triggered into suicidal thinking, can have a suicidal plan, and could potentially follow the instructions planted in their brain with the same level of intensity as any other mind-controlled person. The child part does not have to understand what they are doing, nor do they have to understand what death is, nor do they have to understand the effects of their behavior. They just have to know what to do, step by step. These child parts have simply been taught clearly defined, specifically detailed behaviors to follow upon command, and they have been taught to follow those controls without thinking.
Perpetrators attach suicidal programming to young children not only at the earliest point of intervention, but also because it goes to their advantage that these child parts genuinely do not understand what death is. The children know what obedience is and the mind control trainers take advantage of that. Children cannot reason past the orders to understand that they are being told to do something that is harmful to them. They cannot grasp the concept of death enough to fear it the way an adult would, but they know what happens in they don’t obey, so the programming is attached to this level of thinking without any risk of interference by “fear of death”.
In effective trauma therapy, these controls can be removed safely, and the person — both the child parts and the adult parts — can reclaim their own power and control of their behavior. However, as long as the programmed responses are hidden secretly within the child part, the person is at risk for suicidal behavior.
If you are experiencing these kind of suicidal controls, please work with an experienced trauma therapist while addressing these issues. It is imperative that you handle suicidal programming with great caution, and do not assume that just any therapist can do this level of work.
Find a genuine trauma specialist to help you remove suicidal programming from your child parts.
Your safety matters. And yes, you can reclaim the control of your own life.
If you are considering individual therapy work to address these issues, please contact me through AbuseConsultants.com. Be very careful about exposing too much of this kind of personal information on a public blog site.
Your safety is important.
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
January 24, 2009
Child parts come in all shapes and sizes – small, tall, skinny, short, chunky, pristine, messy, filthy, princess-like, raggedy, male, female, quiet, noisy, screaming, crying, silent, confused, dazed, sleepy, busy, playful, happy, sad, angry, fearful, bouncing, babyish, stiff, awkward, hurting, numb.
As different as they are, they all have similar qualities. They are typically some of the oldest, most knowledgeable members of your system.
But as the youngest parts, how can they be the oldest?
Let me explain.
For example, if you split off a 5-year-old child part when you (and the body) were a literal age 5, and you are now age 35, that child part has been around for 30 years. Even though that little one might not have aged during that time, they may very well have seen or participated in many of your life’s events over the past 30 years. Being around for 30 years means they are one of your oldest parts. They could contain 30 years worth of memories, information, emotions, relationships, etc.
Child-aged parts do not have to be split off when the body was young, but many of them were. They will be very much aware of many of your life’s events. They will remember who many of the people are, and they will know who else from your system was involved in activities of the time. They lived through all the various years, so their ability to know and remember can be impressive.
Child parts will also, of course, retain much of the trauma information from your early years of life. People are at their most natural dissociative ability when under age 7 – the same years when they are also the most physically vulnerable, small, and defenseless. For young children, almost every single person in the whole wide world is bigger, stronger, and smarter than they are. Children are at the mercy of the adults around them, and when those adults are sadistic – cruel – vicious, children have to find a way to cope. Being physically unable to defend themselves, and typically not given the option to literally leave abusive environments, children can “leave” in their minds, even if they can’t leave with their feet.
During the crisis moments of the actual trauma, dissociative splitting is incredibly helpful. Going far away inside when you cannot go far away outside at least gives most of the person a fighting chance to be in a place to be as far away from the trauma as possible.
But it is sad, massively sad. These child parts were split off because there was no other help for them. There was no other way out for them. There was no other safety for them. There was no other protection, no other escape for their pain, and all too often, there was no other comfort for their heartbreak and emotional conflict.
The very first time you see your child parts, they may very well be locked into the same state where they were split off. They may still be trapped in that “time zone” of the original trauma, and they may or may not know that years of time have gone by. They may present with the same injuries, messiness, blood, and gore that they experienced at the time of their trauma. Or they may manifest in metaphorical pictures of what they felt like during their trauma, or in the aftermath. Most of a dissociative survivor’s internal kid parts were split off to deal with trauma-based situations, so unless you had a happy childhood, don’t expect to find bunches of happy child parts.
Because these little young ones are the foundation of your multiplicity, it is very important for the older leaders and hosts of the system to understand that so much of your healing revolves around meeting the needs of these children frozen in time.
Each time a little part of you had to split off and stay stuck in that their trauma, a piece of you – the overall person – was unable to grow up in a healthy, safe, productive manner. And honestly, until their young needs are met in a safe manner, the inner kids will stay there, exactly as their abusers left them.
The good news is that as you meet the needs of these child parts, they will naturally progress on their own.
Many mental health professionals use age progression techniques to “make the kids grow up quickly.” I have a different perspective on that. First of all, I do not think that snapping the fingers and magically saying (or hypnotically suggesting) that kids parts grow older means that the kids can actually get older. I am sure they will try their darndest to do that. But I doubt that they will be able to maintain that kind of suggested aging.
In my opinion, the child parts are frozen in these young ages for a reason. They were not safe enough to move forward in life, and their entire development was arrested on the spot. Pay attention to that. Listen to them. Look at their appearance. Have empathy for their emotional state. All this information means something. They are telling you exactly where they were, what was happening, and why they are stuck there.
If a real child, in the outside world, was standing in front of you, and looked like that, what would you do for that child?
How would you help an outside child to overcome a current-day trauma?
Use those same exact skills to help your inner children.
As you tend to all their unmet needs, and give your child parts the healthy, positive, comforting response they needed at the time of their splitting, they will be allowed to move forward from the place they were stuck. If they need safety, protect them from whatever they are afraid of. If they need food, feed them. If they need a drink, give them something safe to drink. If they need a chance to play, let them have fun. If they need to learn and develop their intellect, let them try new things and develop more skills. Figure out what they have been lacking for genuine growth and development, and give it to them.
Create positive, healing experiences for your child parts. As you give them what they were missing in the first place, they will automatically, naturally grow older. They won’t stay “stuck” as they are once their needs are being met. They will progress. They will learn. They will expand their vocabulary. They will find new skills and develop greater mastery.
This creates natural age progression. Your internal child parts can mature the same as any outside child would. It is a much more realistic way of helping your inner kids to grow up. It is real. Genuine. It’s not going to fall apart at the first hint of stress.
Magical answers are unrealistic. If you want your child parts to progress into healthier parts of you, then let them experience life in such a way that they can naturally grow up on their own.
However, growing up and maturing doesn’t automatically mean your child parts will get older!!
More about that and ideas about how, where, when to do all this will be presented in future writings.
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 19, 2009
Trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder can see an internal world. Step back, turn around an look inside – it will be there.
What happens if you have looked inside and all you see is a lot of darkness, or desolation, and not so many people with welcome arms?
First of all, think about what internal darkness means to you as an individual. There are a variety of options. For example:
- It could have metaphorical meaning – what does darkness mean to you?
- It could represent how your life history feels emotionally to you.
- It could represent how barren, empty, starved, and deprived you feel in terms of getting your basic human needs met.
- It could represent the lack of emotional connection between you and your insiders at the moment.
- It could mean that you are feeling too scared to know.
- It could represent the way you were told or instructed to make your internal worlds look (ie: some survivors have had abusers that controlled what to make and create on the inside).
- It could mean denial – that you really don’t want to know what is happening in your internal worlds.
- It could be a cover or a façade or a front area that blocks off the rest of the internal worlds.
- It could mean that some little ones hid in the dark and therefore their internal world is also dark. Those parts of you might feel safer and more hidden in the dark, and they might like it that way.
- It could mean that some of your parts were put into a deprivation sort of situation where their trauma itself kept them locked in a dark space. They may not know anything but darkness, so their internal areas will be representative of what they lived through.
- It could mean that there are others deeper within your system making your world dark on purpose.
There is no one answer to explain why you see what you see. The goal of your therapy work is for you to understand your internal worlds as they apply to you, the individual.
Desolation very often represents neglect. Think about what land or households look like when they are ignored for years. Would the grass be green and trimmed? Would there be any grass at all? Would the buildings be in good condition? Would the area be clean and well-kept? Would it look like a tornado has spun through it?
Has your internal system been neglected? If you were to picture the way their feelings of neglect would look, what would it look like?
When you look at your insiders, do they look similar to neglected or abused children? Do they have clean, fitted clothing? Stylish haircuts? Plenty of food and water? What do you see in their eyes? What can you feel from their souls?
Think about the actual devastation caused by hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and floods. The damage and destruction is enormous – totally overwhelming, requiring years of rebuilding and repair. Personal tragedies, loss, neglect, and chronic severe trauma have a similar effect on survivors’ emotional lives. With DID survivors, when there is no one around to help clean up the mess after the years of severe trauma occurs, or to offer comfort and consolation or ongoing protection, their internal worlds can become as chaotic and destroyed as a hurricane site.
Without ongoing care and attention, your internal worlds can become similar to such landscapes.
But remember – these internal worlds belong to you. You can make changes in them, and as you incorporate more positive steps, your internal system will feel better. Think about it: if you lived in there, would you feel better sitting for days in a deserted, dark, barren, rocky desert? Or would you feel better sitting in a comfortable warm house, full of basic necessities, surrounded by a grassy field with pretty flowers and shade trees?
When you see that your internal world needs some attention in order to make it comfortable, start where you can. Some starting places are:
- Build a new area, totally separate from the desolate area, and create it as a safe place, that is very pleasing to the eye, and comfortable in every way you can think of. Invite the members of your system to come there. You can make community rules such as, in this living space, no one is allowed to hurt anyone else, everyone gets to their own possessions, and everyone gets their own private living space, etc.
- Take a corner of the dark and desolate area. Try making it a more pleasant living space by making necessary changes. Invite others to visit, and to talk about the kinds of things they’d like to see in your internal worlds.
- Specifically make an effort to speak to the others that you see inside. If you don’t see anyone, leave written messages in visible places. Come back and check to see if you’ve gotten any response from anyone.
- Leave packets of food, drinks, soap, clothing, and other basics that would come in handy for others that are in need. Watch to see if anyone inside is willing to claim these items.
- Listen closely. Do you hear others? Where is the sound coming from? Walk in that general direction. As you get closer, call out and introduce yourself as a friend that is approaching.
- As much as possible, be sure to also nurture yourself in your outside world the same as you are doing in your internal world. For example, if you see that your inner children are starving, give them something to eat. And if you are hungry and starving on the outside, nurture yourself by getting something healthy to eat as well.
- Speak to the ones you see. Approach them gently. Find a way to reach them without scaring them more. Pay close attention, and match what each person needs – it will vary from person to person. Treat them as kindly as you would treat an outside person that looked scared or hurting. Comfort them, and do what needs to be done to help them feel safe.
- Ask the insiders what they need or want to feel safe and protected. You might see things on your own, but get their opinion as well. They will know more about who / what they are afraid of, and listening to what they need will help you to be more precise and accurate in terms of giving to them.
One of the most critical points to remember is this. No matter what you do, do not leave the barren dark areas of your internal worlds neglected and without care or attention. Don’t turn your back on your insiders that need your time and nurturing. Give all your insiders the safety, protection, and caring that they have so desperately needed. Help each of them to heal by giving them the things they (and you) have been missing in their life. It’s ok for you to take the time you need to figure out how to do that but please don’t be guilty of neglecting your own system.
Kathy Broady LCSW
January 18, 2009
Trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder have an internal world – an internal landscape that is visible, tangible, and very real for the different internal parts. No one on the outside can see this internal world – it is within the mind of the DID person and it belongs totally and completely to them.
Many times, this internal landscape is an internalized replica of what happened in the outside world. For example, you might see a house that looks just like the place where you grew up. Or you might see rooms that appear to be the same as rooms where you were hurt. When you first look within your internal world, it is not uncommon for most of the landscape to parallel your trauma history. It is, in fact, during the traumatic times that your various parts were split off.
However, the internal world belongs to you, it was created by you, and it does not have to stay “as is”. If you can visualize something new, you can change your internal world. If you want to create and develop nice internal homes, you can do that. It is your world, and you can surround yourself with whatever you choose.
This internal world can be changed and affected by work done with external people with the internal parts. Like any other situation, if the interactions are with a safe person, the changes to the internal world will lead to greater healing and stability. If those interactions are with a not-safe person, the changes in the internal world will be done to serve the offender / abuser, and will not benefit the DID survivor.
The internal landscape comes naturally with the concept of dissociating because the other people that are split off from the natural born child have to have a place to be, to exist, to live. They have internal homes – their own place be – when they are not out presenting in the body.
When the host person is in a lot of denial about the DID system, it is not unusual for that host part to not be able to see much of the internal world. Hosts with denial very often say, “It’s dark inside”, or “It’s all black”, or “I can’t see anything.” When this is the case, it is a very clear indicator that there is work to be done.
The host person of your system may not be the best person to go to when you are trying to work with your internal worlds. The host typically has the job of dealing with the outside world. Hosts are great for that, but someone else in your system could be better prepared to work with internal worlds. For that matter, if the host person has a great deal of trouble accepting that there are internal worlds, you might have to side-step that debate, and work on the issue separately as an internal group. Invite your host to join in with you, but don’t stop doing this work if the host personality finds this too difficult.
You will have internal leaders as well – they may or may not be the same leaders that deal with the external worlds. These leaders will likely be aware of who is in their area. They even be aware of other areas that are separate from their own “world”.
Those of you that can see each other can create an internal meeting place – a neutral area, much the same as a living room or den of a house. Create this place as an area that belongs to everyone and is created to be shared between whoever shows up. This makes for a good place to practice overall group communication.
Use this room to have general group meetings, to talk about daily events, to discuss decisions, to make plans. Check in with each other – ask how the others are, how they are feeling today, and what’s going on for them. The more your group as a whole participates in life issues, and becomes aware of each other, listening to each other, the more cohesion and cooperation you will get. Developing a group consensus – where insiders can agree to do various issues, will significantly improve your overall stabilization and ability to function.
Besides group meetings, make it abundantly clear that it is also ok for everyone to speak with everyone else. This is important, as breaking the “no-talk rules” is critical in your overall healing. Encourage each other to spend time together, to get to know each other, to talk on a regular basis. Do not base these kinds of communications on trauma material – base these on typical outside interactions, where you get to know the person, what they do, what they like, who they are before you start asking about crisis or traumatic material.
When you look around your internal world, you will get clues from the actual landscape that is there. If you see a locked door or a walled off area – there could be someone else on the other side, specifically separated from the rest of you. If you see black fuzzy shadowy areas, there are very likely groups of other people hidden inside of those. If you see a house or a building, there will likely be people inside those areas as well.
Explore. Walk around. Look deeper into areas that you haven’t gone into before. Look in the hidden areas – you’ll find all kinds of internalized parts if you look for them. Think about where you used to hide as a child. If you look in those same kinds of places on the inside, you’ll find some of your internal kids hiding there in your internal worlds. These hidden kids may also know where other hidden children are. Be sure to ask.
If you are leery about doing these walk-arounds on your own, take someone with you. The buddy system works well and be sure to inform the others inside that you are exploring, and ask them to come check for you if you’re not back in a certain amount of time.
Your inside world will be a mini-version of what your life has been like. What happened externally will have been internalized. In many ways, your internal world will be a version of your life story, and all the insiders needed to get through the different events. The places will be the same. The stories will be the same. It’s you and your life – just on the inside.
Remember, as you find someone inside, approach them the same as if you were looking at an outside person in that situation. If they look hungry, give them something simple to eat. If they look thirsty, share a favorite drink with them. Give them clean clothes, warm blankets, a warm wash cloth, and small teddy bear for comfort if they are young. First meet their physical needs. Your first priority is to help them feel safe and protected.
Once these parts feel safer with you, they will begin to talk with you a little more. Do not push for memory content. This will overwhelm too many people too fast, and it’s not necessary. If the hidden ones you find will move to a new area closer to the safe common ground, that is great. It might take a lot of work, before they are comfortable enough to do that, but let them know the option is available whenever they are ready for that.
Start with getting everyone connected more in the here and now. Let them peek at the external life to see that they live in a new place and time. Many of these insiders will have been locked in their traumatic worlds all their lives. They need time to see that it is now (2009), and that it will be news to them that they can live in a safer place. Build nice areas for them to stay, so they don’t have to go back to their traumatized “homes”. The longer they can stay in safe neutral areas, the better.
(To be continued…..)
Kathy Broady LCSW