January 7, 2009
Posted in DID Education, DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Internal Communication, mental health tagged Acceptance, Belonging, Breaking, Communicate, Communication, Confidence, Denial, DID/MPD, Dissociated, dissociative, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Wall, Effective, Emotion, Family, Healing, Hear, Hidden, Hurt, Information, Inside Part, Insider, Internal Communication, Internal World, Intimidating, Journal, Kathy Broady, Landscape, Learn, Learning, Letter, Listen, mental health, Overwhelm, Painful, Panic, Potential, Private, Relationship, Safe, Skill, Social, System, Talk, Talked, Talking, therapy, Trauma, Trigger, Triggering, Understanding, Upset, Visual, Visualize, Wall, Worry at 3:48 pm by Kathy Broady
There are a variety of ways to develop basic, effective skills in internal communication with your dissociative system. Most of these skills are very similar, even the same, as the communication skills used with real people in the everyday world. There is no fancy trick to learning to talk to your inside people. Everyone can do this.
Have you spoken to people in your everyday world? I’m sure that every one of you has spoken to outside people before. If you can speak to real people and develop ongoing relationships with them, you can certainly develop the ability to communicate and build relationships with your insiders.
Don’t panic — I completely understand that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have difficulties with social situations and social relationships. I am fully aware that speaking with “real people” can be intimidating, challenging, difficult, disastrous, etc.
Here’s the good news. In some ways, it is actually easier to develop communication with your internal system because they are there with you more of the time. The opportunities available to you to speak with your internal system exist all day long, and frequently all night long as well. And because they are a part of you, they will already have some innate understanding of how you think and why you think it. The ability to connect with each other can happen more easily because you already have the foundation of literally belonging together.
One of the easiest ways to facilitate internal communication is using the internal worlds – the internal landscapes of your dissociative system. Simply said — step back and go inside, look around, see who is there, and then speak to them. If you see someone — anyone — say hello, and start a conversation with him or her. If you hear others inside, even if you can’t see them, speak in their general direction. Chances are, if you can hear them, they can hear you. You don’t have to know their names. You can easily begin a conversation with “Hi, what’s your name?” or “Hello, how are you?”
Looking inside is a natural skill for most DID/MPD folks, especially once the idea of having an internal dissociative system is accepted and denial is not clouding your willingness to interact with your other parts. Communicating with your other parts will be much easier if you are truly willing to see them and hear from them. Your genuine positive acceptance of their existence is a critical foundation to effective communication.
You don’t have to be comfortable with absolutely everyone in your system to begin working on internal communication skills. Start with who you know, who you can see, who you can hear, and then build that over time to include more insiders. If you can already see someone inside, that means there is significant potential to build that relationship. The folks that are the most dissociated from you will still be hidden, or further away. That is ok. Start with folks that are already closer and less intimidating to you.
Learning to communicate well with even one or two or three other inside parts will make a significant difference. Especially in the beginning while you are learning these skills, keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed by speaking with only a few others. Even in real life, we don’t have to talk to everyone we see. Start with the people that are the closest and feel the safest and the most comfortable to you. Build your confidence with them, and plan to meet others at a later point.
If visualizing your insiders is difficult or too scary for you, try putting your communication out on paper. The main point is to start somewhere — and the sooner, the better.
Create a handwritten journal or a document in your computer that can be specifically designated as a place for you and your insiders to communicate. This needs to be private, and not open for the world or your family members to see. In that space, write letters to each other. These letters don’t have to be long. Brief introductory comments and simple questions will work just as well, if not better, than long paragraphs.
You will be breaking through old, long-term dissociative walls by doing these communication exercises, and it is critically important to not flood yourself with too much emotion or too much information when first talking to the others inside. Do not start with trauma material. Do not ask about painful secrets. At these beginning stages, purposefully stay away from any triggering topics.
The following questions and comments are typically safe conversation starters:
- Hi, my name is …. What’s your name?
- Hi little one, how old are you?
- Hi little one, you look very scared. Is there something I can do to help you feel safer?
- Hi there. My name is …. Some of my favorite things to do are … What do you like to do?
- Hi. It’s nice to meet you. Have you seen me around here before? It’s great to get a chance to speak with you. I’m hoping that several of us can get together a little more often. Would you be willing to meet some of the other people in here?
- What kinds of things are worrying you today?
- Is there anything I can do to help you feel better? Would you like a drink of water? Or a nice soft blanket?
- Hi there. You look upset. I’m not here to hurt you. Can you tell me what’s bothering you today?
- Hi there, little one. Have you ever met the little girl over there? She is about your same age. Maybe the two of you can be friends. Would you like to meet her?
- Hi there. It’s nice to meet you. Have you talked with anyone before? Would you be willing to write in our journal and introduce yourself to the others that are in here?
These are some basic ideas. Communication gets much more complex than this, of course. This topic will be continued in future posts.
Kathy Broady LCSW