April 10, 2010
I’ve been wondering for awhile about what aspect to focus on with this week’s episode of United States of Tara. Then I remembered the last minute of the show.
And I thought more of how very painful and how very real that heartbreak is for Buck.
Throughout this season two, Tara has struggled with the fact that she is in fact multiple – that she does have dissociative identity disorder – that she is switching, or “transitioning” as she calls it – that she has other parts to herself that also want time and attention and a little bit of life space. Tara is upset about having to share her life with her insiders and she has convinced herself that she is the only one in the body who should have a life. She has decided that she “is” the life, and that no one else matters, just her.
Apparently she thinks that she, Tara, is the one and only important self. No one else matters –she is the only one that matters. Tara, Tara, Tara – it’s all about Tara.
Well. I’ve heard far too many hosts present with that kind of attitude, but to the dismay of far too many host personalities, I completely disagree with that concept.
I vote for the system.
Meaning, if I had a vote regarding Tara, I would support Buck.
Buck is as real as Tara.
Buck is every bit as much of a person as Tara is.
Buck has his own thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, wants, desires, etc. He is as important as Tara is.
Can Tara stake claim as the ONLY part of the system that gets to have time?
Is she really the only one that is important?
I don’t think so.
See – the way I see it – Tara is only a portion of the person. She is not THE person. She is part of the whole person, the same as Buck is part of the whole person. Tara may have the upfront, outwardly social wife and mother role of the person, but she is not the whole person.
Tara is important, there is no denying that. I would never ever say she isn’t important. And she can be considered the leader of the system – I’m all for that idea as well.
But to say she is the only one that matters???
That is taking it too far.
Buck and the others inside are also important. They are as important as Tara. They may have different roles, different abilities, different preferences, different histories, different memories, etc, but they are still part of the person as a whole, and they should get to have part of the life as well.
I’m not saying that I am supporting the idea that Buck has been having an affair outside of the marriage vows. An affair is an affair, and Buck is completely and fully aware of what he has been doing that would be so very hurtful to the husband. He is responsible for the pain he has caused in his family, and like it or not, he is actually already married. Buck has cheated on his husband, and he will have to face the music on that one.
Yes, Buck and Tara have a whopping lot of work to do in order to resolve this conflict but the fact of the matter is, Buck is his own person too.
And part of the current heartbreak for Buck is that Tara has staked a little more claim on how the outward life is managed, and that genuinely leaves Buck not knowing how to be or do what he wants to be or do in his own life right now. No, it really isn’t ok for Buck to go out and have his own affair. Yes, he really is his own person, but his actions still affect those around him. He will need to figure out a way to live happily and fulfilled as himself without hurting others. I don’t know how that will look for Buck, but that is the challenge he is facing right now.
The point I want to emphasize here is that the DID system insiders do count.
They are real, they do exist, they have their own wants and dreams, and they are as important as anyone else. So squashing them out of existence, or refusing to give them time or acknowledgement is not ok.
Cooperation, compromising and sharing are absolutely important – but refusing to let the insiders have their own life-space is bordering on creating a self-centered dictatorship, in my definition.
Buck’s heartbreak about not getting to have the life he wants on his very own is very real. Insiders can and do feel extreme sadness and emotional pain over not being able to have their own bodies, their own separate lives, their own complete freedom of choice. Buck really and truly wanted to have his own girlfriend, and to have his own relationship, and to have his own time in the body. He wants the freedom to be his real self, and to make the choices he would make if he had his very own body.
If it were only that easy….
Sharing a body with 5-10-20-30 or more different insiders is extremely difficult. There seems to never be enough time to do everything everyone wants to do.
It means that sharing the 24-hour day is essential. It means that giving each other time in the body needs to be a coordinated, cooperative, ongoing process.
Finding ways to meet the needs, wants, and preferences of each of the different insiders is really complicated, and it does take a whole lot of work to find acceptable compromises. The key word here, being compromise. Tara can no more take over the life as completely her own any more than Buck can. They have to find a way to work that out together.
Because they are both real.
And they both exist.
And they both can have a say in how life looks for them.
Because they are both important, and valuable, and necessary.
Buck really is as real as Tara. And if he has to prove that, he can.
So to all the hosts out there – be willing to share the life-space with your insiders. Because far too often, if you refuse to do that, your insiders could make a mutiny type decision like Buck did. And that really never works out very well for anyone.
Value everyone in your system.
Use interpersonal skills layered in cooperation, compromise and teamwork.
Be willing to share.
Treat each other with kindness and generosity.
Accept that there are differences between you and the others and find ways to make it work so that everyone can get some of what they need.
Everyone in your system has the right to be happy.
Their lives matter too.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
April 5, 2010
I didn’t have a chance to watch or write about last week’s episode of Showtime’s United States of Tara, so before the series got too much further, I thought I’d bring up the topic.
First of all – it’s now really clear to me what people were referring to as triggering about episode two. The sudden sexual explicitness would be triggering to a lot of trauma survivors. If you haven’t yet seen this episode, beware of the last five minutes of the show.
Tara’s male alter, Buck, sneaks out in the middle of the night, goes to a bar, and develops a sexual relationship with a woman that works at the bar. Tara is completely amnesiac for the hours Buck spends with the other woman, but she gradually notices some clues that she is missing time. Tara runs into the bartender while grocery shopping, initially does not recognize her at all, and is embarrassed by the bartender’s flirty familiarity. Tara eventually has vague recall of who the woman is, but reassures her that they will not be continuing that relationship, whatever it was. Tara and Buck argue about this situation, and Tara says “Absolutely not!” but Buck seems to be winning. He is able to continue his relationship with his new girlfriend despite Tara’s best efforts to squash it from happening.
There are layers of internal system conflicts demonstrated in the situation with Tara, Buck, and the bartender. Specifically from this week’s show, I want to bring up the topics of sexual preferences and sexual acting-out.
Here are some questions I have been asked dozens of times:
If a male alter in a female body is attracted to women, is that a homosexual interest? Or is that a heterosexual interest?
If you had an insider sneaking out of the house to have a sexual relationship with another person, how would you handle that? If this relationship was happening behind amnesiac walls, how long would it take for you to figure it out?
You might think that this story line is dramatic twist, but I have to admit, I have seen something very similar happen several different times during my years of working as a trauma therapist with dissociative survivors.
Sexual relationship issues do surface during the therapy treatment years. Not only does this issue provide conflicting feelings for external relationships, it also can create significant tension, anxiety and conflict between system parts. For example, it is not unusual for male insiders express a very different sexual preference than female insiders. It is not unusual for male insiders to feel like they should have their own options instead of being “stuck” with whomever the girls have chosen. The child parts may have a strong vote as well, meaning that they often want complete abstinence in order to feel safe. This may or may not be acceptable to the adult parts, (or to the adult partners / spouses). The subsequent arguments that can develop between system parts can be intense. Learning to work out conflicts and find suitable compromises can be very difficult in these situations.
Re-enactments of sexual trauma have an impact on sexual interests and preferences. As sexual trauma issues surface, survivors can respond in all kinds of ways. Some of the ways include finding an external relationship that either imitates the traumatic relationship, or finding an external relationship to use as avoidance of sexual trauma issues. Sometimes sexual addictions flare up rapidly, and the sexually interested insiders may feel intensely pulled towards sexual activities, including self-focused activities. Or most commonly, survivors completely lose interest in participating in a sexual relationship, and if a spouse or partner requests ongoing participation, there is a high-risk of the original traumatized child parts being pulled out.
It’s a difficult dilemma.
Most survivors with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD) will have insiders that express all of the above views.
Finding the best balance varies from person to person, relationship to relationship.
How do you address all of this?
How do you sort out all the different layers of conflict?
How do you meet all the varying needs?
It’s certainly not easy.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation