January 10, 2009
I’m going to take a slight detour in the internal communication series and write a little about working with difficult alters. It is crucial to work with these internal parts, no matter how challenging and hopeless things seem in the beginning. Your therapy and healing will never be resolved unless you approach the issues connected with these difficult insiders.
And for that matter, the whole process of building a connection with these difficult, complicated insiders is based on building good communication skills with them, so in that sense, this post is still part of the internal communication series. System work, in whatever way it happens, is a critical part of internal communication and the overall healing journey for everyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD).
Insiders may first appear in your therapy process being difficult – obstinate, obnoxious, aggressive, scary – and they may maintain destructive behaviors for a long time, but regardless of where they start, any alter within your system can become a helper or a protector. If you as the person truly want to achieve healing, then the healing of your difficult insiders can and will happen as well. No matter how difficult they initially present, they can become productive, helpful, positive members of your system.
Remember, even as a multiple, you are still one whole person. If any of your insiders are left to behave obnoxiously, or if they maintain their destructive negative goals, their behaviors and feelings will affect you and the outside people that interact with you. You cannot block off your “problem parts” and pretend they don’t exist and still expect to achieve positive healing. ALL of your insiders have to have the chance to heal, including the people you are afraid of or the ones about whom you don’t immediately find anything likable.
Some difficult alters are destructive by their own choice and design. They do what they do because they purposefully want to be negative and interrupting. Other difficult situations are complicated simply because the issues at hand are very complex and emotionally challenging. Those internal parts may not want to be as much “trouble” as they are, but until their issues are more resolved, they may not know what else to do.
Who do I define as a difficult alters? Some examples are:
- Those that purposefully sabotage or terminate your therapy and your healing process.
- Those that are self-destructive, violent to the body, or harmful to the body in any variety of ways.
- Those that sabotage other people within the system, including hurting or negatively manipulating others, blinding them, locking them up, abusing them, etc.
- Those that are willing to hurt outside helpers – any of the people that are legitimately trying to promote healing. Any version of hurting the helpers – verbally, physically, emotionally, monetarily, violently, etc. – counts as being difficult and destructive to your treatment and to your system overall.
- Those that cannot contain the new learning and tend to repeat the same negative behaviors over and over.
- Whoever the system members themselves define as “difficult” or “challenging” because those parts hold issues or feelings that are particularly hard for them to work with.
- Those that have trouble connecting to the current day, time, place.
- Those that act out their trauma instead of talking about their trauma.
- Those that stay locked in trauma memories and do not see or interact with the current day, time, place, etc.
- Those that adamantly insist on staying hidden, separated, and amnesiac from the others inside.
The quick answer to address these complicated insiders is to speak to them. Talk to them. Get to know them. Try to understand them. Listen to their perspective on life. Even these insiders can be and should be approached in your therapy sessions. I can promise you, if you avoid talking to these insiders, they will continue to act out their issues. Ignoring them frequently means they will just act out more to get your attention.
It is essential to approach these insiders knowing they have had their job for a reason. You might not like the reason, or understand their reason, but the point is, they are doing what they do because they believe it is helping to achieve a goal that they want. Try to understand what it is that they are doing. Why are they acting out like that? What do they believe? What do they value? From their framework, does their behavior make sense?
Really listen closely to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Work hard to hear and listen to their perspective. You might be pleasantly surprised to hear that their goals are not as “bad” as you might have originally thought they were. The main difference is that you might not agree with the visible behaviors.
Once you have an understanding of why they are doing what they are doing, you can work with them to problem solve and find new ways – more positive and helpful ways – to get what they want. You can begin negotiations on what helpful and positive goals will be.
And the whole process starts by talking to them. Communicate with them. Let them talk to your therapist. Let them get involved in the healing process. Remember, if they aren’t helping the healing process, they’ll continue to hurt it.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
January 4, 2009
I ended my last post with this paragraph:
Focus first on relationship building with your parts. Get to know them. Talk to them. Learn their names. Overcome your fears of who they are. Appreciate their strengths. Develop friendships with them. I guarantee that your overall stability will greatly improve as you are more connected with your internal system on a genuinely friendly, caring basis.
In my opinion, developing good internal communication is the core of the treatment work for Dissociative Identity Disorder. If you cannot or do not talk well with your other internal parts, you will not be able to complete your healing work effectively, thoroughly or sufficiently.
Imagine going to your place of employment and not being able to speak with any of your co-workers. How well would businesses work with that approach? Have you ever been to a big department store? Imagine if the employees couldn’t speak with each other for days-weeks-years at a time. That store as a whole would find it extremely difficult to manage busy days, or to handle simple, basic operations. It would crumble. Even if all the employees continued doing their own jobs perfectly — if they are not communicating with anyone else in the store, then the store as a whole would be less effective. It would likely go out of business sooner than later.
Dissociative systems cannot function without internal communication any better than large department stores can function without internal communication.
If you don’t talk to your inner people, and if your various insiders do not speak with each other, none of you are going to function as well as you could.
Also, if you run your system with an attitude similar to Hitler’s, that’s not going to work so well either. Approaching your insiders as inferiors or nuisances that you want to kill off, or dispose of, or get rid of in some way will not be helpful. As our real-life example has shown, this type of dictatorship and abuse leads to tragedies like genocide and world wars. Don’t go there with your internal world. Treat your inner people with kindness and respect.
I promise you that every single one of your insiders has value, importance, strengths, and significance. You might not understand who they are at this point in time. And when you don’t know the positive value held by each person inside, that’s a big clue that you have some therapy work to do.
Allowing your system to stay scattered, chaotic, disorganized, and messy will not help your stability or ability to function. Keeping with the store metaphor, who wants to shop in a cluttered, disorganized, messy store? Can you find anything? Does it take twice as long to find the things you need? And are some items just impossible to find without taking huge chunks of extra time?
Permanently blocking your internal system behind walls or curtains or an unexplored blackness is not helpful either. I realize that all DIDer’s have dissociative walls and barriers already — walls that could have easily been there for years. That is the nature of DID/MPD. It’s the initial point of having a dissociative disorder — surviving by using those same dissociative walls to separate yourself from yourself and from the situations and feelings that were too conflictual, too painful, too difficult, etc. In the here and now, the treatment goal is to gradually lower and remove those barriers between your system people, and certainly not to create more walls or to support more distance between everyone.
Internal communication is the key to doing this work.
Doing your system work — meeting each other, getting to know each other, will in itself create a greater sense of order and structure within. More of you will know who can do what, where the other parts are, and how they got there. It won’t feel so strange or unknown to you. Insiders can become friends with each other instead of being strangers separated from each other. Even though there are additional steps to take, start by encouraging everyone in your system to be willing to see, meet, and greet as many others as possible. You all need to know who you have in there.
My next post — Internal Communication, part 2 — will list specific ideas for how to develop communication within your system.
For today, in preparation to do this work, please think about the following:
- How willing are you to speak to your insiders?
- How willing are you to listen to your insiders?
- If you are afraid of some of your inside people, what are you willing to say to them?
- If some of your insiders have experienced a different life than you have, are you willing to listen to them?
- What will you do if someone says something you don’t want to hear?
- What will you do if your insiders squabble and argue with each other?
- How will you handle it if certain insiders hurt others within your system? What if they are hurting child parts? What if they attempt to hurt you?
- What if meeting the others folks inside means learning that you were more hurt and abused than you realized? How will you handle that?
- What are your thoughts and feelings about finding new insiders — ones that you didn’t realize you had?
- Do you know how to speak to child parts? How will your address them if you see that they are hurting emotionally or physically?
You can do this. Your healing depends on your talking with your internal system.
Kathy Broady, LCSW