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
December 31, 2008
Posted in DID/MPD, Dissociative Identity Disorder, mental health, Self Injury, sexual abuse tagged Blanket, Breathe, Comfort, Comforting, Compulsion, Cry, Crying, Danger, DID/MPD, dissociative, Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Wall, Distance, Draw, Emotion, Emotional, Emotional Distance, Exercise, Feel, Feeling, Friend, Garden, Guitar, harming, Herbal Tea, Hurting, Imagine, Journal, Kathy Broady, Music, Numb, Numbness, pain, Paint, Pet, Piano, Picture, Safety, Self Destruction, Self Harm, Self Injury, Self-soothe, sexual abuse, Shut Down, SI, Sleep, Song, Soothe, Soothing, split, Split off, Stress, Support, Survivor, Trauma, Trauma Survivor, Urgency, Vacation, Visualize, Write at 6:17 am by Kathy Broady
Survivors of sexual abuse often struggle with self-injury (SI).
Survivors often use dissociative walls to contain and separate intense emotions from themselves. This allows them to stay numb, and to not feel. They can split off their unmanageable, uncomfortable, or conflicting feelings into other parts of themselves, as frequently seen in dissociative identity disorder (DID/MPD).
As those dissociative walls begin to crumble, allowing more emotions and feelings to emerge, survivors often want to maintain or regain that sense of numbness and emotional distance. They will use various forms of self-harm to re-create more distance from feelings.
However, purposeful self-injury and self-destruction creates a myriad of other complications. There are a number of reasons why trauma survivors hurt themselves, and hundreds of different ways to do it. I will discuss some of these topics in blogs to come.
For now, the following is a list of 25 ideas of activities to do when the urgency of self-harm is there. These ideas do not necessarily address the issues fueling the SI, but they can be a helpful distraction during an acute crisis point. If you complete a handful of these ideas when you start feeling compulsions to SI, you might find that you can work past the danger point and get yourself into a more stable place.
Remember — Safety First! (that includes safety from yourself as well)
When you are in the immediate danger of harming yourself, try at least five or six of the following ideas. However, do as many as you need to get past the urgency to self-harm.
- Call a friend or two and talk to them about anything – the weather, politics, the news, old times, new recipes, etc. Distract yourself, and enjoy the company.
- Watch a movie or two, or three, or however many it takes till you get past the urge to SI. Promise yourself that you will watch movies until you feel safe again.
- Write about your feelings in your journal. Write a poem out about your feelings.
- Scrub the house from top to bottom. Distracting yourself with tedious tasks, paying close attention to details can give you a different focus for the energy you are feeling.
- Get out the hottest jar of salsa and add jalapeno pepper or red chili peppers, and dig in. It might burn your mouth or make your eyes water and your nose run to eat this, but it won’t scar or cause actual harm.
- Draw or paint on paper what you want to do to yourself. Draw or paint a second picture showing why you want to do this. Draw or paint a third picture showing how you wish you were feeling.
- Play with, pet, hold, or hug your pet. Find comfort and soothe yourself with the company of your dog and cat instead turning to pain or injury.
- Take a walk or exercise. The physical release of energy is helpful.
- Plant a small garden. Creating something nice, making something pretty to look at, and tending to something alive can put you into a different frame of mind.
- Take a bath or shower. Let the water soothe you and help release your stress. Talking out loud or crying in the shower helps get the pain out that is locked inside you. Let the stress rinse off and send it “down the drain” away from you.
- Draw on yourself with a red marker instead of cutting.
- Put a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you think of hurting yourself.
- Hit a pillow over and over and over till you tire yourself out or the thoughts go away. Speak or cry while you are doing this, if you can.
- Listen to soothing music (or scream to angry music).
- Read your favorite book, or read a new book from your favorite author.
- Watch something really funny on TV – use comedy and laughter as a release.
- Play games online. Computer games can be monotonous, trancey-hypnotic, time-consuming, and calming.
- Work on web pages or any other big task that requires your attention.
- Sleep, just have to complete shut down. Let the time pass, and hopefully when you wake up, the intensity of the emotion will have subsided.
- For those with DID / MPD, go to the safe place you have created inside. Visualize nice things, comforting things, favorite things. Allow yourself to be surrounded by good things in life, even if it exists only in your internal world at that moment.
- Snuggle under your favorite blanket in a safe, private, secure place, and allow the feelings to surface. Cry, shake, feel, breathe. Let yourself experience and feel your feelings.
- Think of all the people who have ever had good, kind thoughts of you. Imagine each of them standing with you, holding hands and being with you. Allow them to offer comfort and support to you, even via your own thoughts. Write letters of appreciation to them.
- Play the guitar or piano and play out your feelings through the music. Write a song about your feelings. Sing out loud with your favorite CD’s. If you find a song that fits just right, play it over and over and over.
- Close your eyes and visualize yourself on vacation, far away from your stress. If you love the beach, for example, picture yourself walking at your favorite time of the day, barefoot along the shore, feeling the cool breeze across your face, listening to the waves coming and going, watching the sea gulls fly, picking up sea shells. Imagine yourself walking in the warm clear water, swimming with the dolphins, being totally safe.
- Eat a healthy snack (not too sugary), have a cup of herbal tea, or a glass of milk. Avoid caffeine. Nibble on saltine crackers. Challenge yourself to take 50 nibbles or more on each cracker
Kathy Broady LCSW