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Archive for March 14th, 2012

Safe Passage to HealingToday’s topic will likely be most meaningful for people with dissociative identity disorder (DID) or other forms of being a multiple, but I hope it is helpful even without that diagnosis. I’d like to talk about how to process the same memory from different perspectives.

As an example, I recovered a memory of my mother sexually abusing me. My first pass at this memory was what happened in a linear fashion. It started with what I was doing right before the abuse, went through the event, and then continued through my reaction to what had happened. I viewed most of this from an out-of-body perspective. I later recovered memories of this same event from different perspectives. One memory held my anger, and another held the sensory stuff (smells, taste, etc.).

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this. I didn’t understand why this one memory was coming to me in pieces like that. I have since learned that children with DID (or other forms of being a multiple or dissociative disorders) split apart what they cannot handle at one time. That one event was simply too much for my two-year-old brain to process, so the one memory broke off into pieces.

In the book Safe Passage to Healing, Chrystine Oksana calls the process of putting all of the pieces back together “associating” the memories. I wrote about that topic here. Healing the one event might involve several passes and connecting back the different pieces.

Where it gets trickier is when you have/had conflicting feelings about what happened. For example, my father (the “good” parent) was coerced into abusing my sister while I watched. (It was part of ritual abuse. He was blindfolded and drugged.) A part of myself loved him and saw him as my “savior” because he stopped my mother from sexually abusing me once he found out about it. This part was in direct conflict with another part that was angry and hated him for abusing my sister. The adult me sees that he was a victim of evil people, which is reinforced by the fact that he never took a sip of alcohol again after that night for the rest of his life. The challenge is finding a way to honor all of those feelings, even the ones that directly conflict with each other.

Experience conflicting feelings is something that is foreign to many people with DID. It certainly was for me. If I felt conflict, I simply split it into two parts – problem solved. Healing and melding back into one core part has been challenging because I have had to learn to deal with conflicting feelings.

Friends without DID have assured me that everyone feels conflicted about something and that it is part of the human experience. It’s a new experience for me, though. Just knowing it is normal helps.

Image credit: Amazon.com

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