I am working through a series on integration from dissociative identity disorder (DID), which begins here. I am using Rachel Downing’s article, Understanding Integration , as a starting point and then building upon what she says with my own experiences.
Downing shares that she had the following concerns about integration:
- Would she be able to deal with new trauma memories? She discovered (as did I) that trauma memories will continue to need to be processed even after integration. My experience has been that it is easier to process trauma from an integrated perspective than it was as an alter part because the memory is processed against the backdrop of a whole lifetime of experiences.
- Could she integrate hundreds of alter parts? Both she and I were successful in doing so. I did not keep a list of the number of alter parts I had to integrate, but it was definitely in the hundreds. The biggest part was my original child. Faye (the host personality) was a three-dimension part. Other parts were also “big,” such as Wolfie who came out at night to protect me while I slept. Most parts were smaller (personality fragments) that held only one emotion, memory, or part of a traumatizing memory.
- Would the extent of the abuse prevent integration? Like me, Downing suffered from ritual abuse, and she feared that perhaps she was too broken to be fixed because of the nature of the abuse. The extent of the abuse did not prevent either of us from integrating.
- Was she too old to integrate? Downing feared that being in her mid-forties made her too old to integrate. Thankfully, I didn’t worry about this in my mid-thirties since I had Downing’s experience of succeeding at an older age.
Interestingly, my biggest concern about integration was very different from Downing’s, perhaps because I had her article to allay the fears that she had already written about. My number one concern was who I would be at the end of the process. I was very passive (the world’s doormat) and structured before beginning the healing process. I could not fathom being anything other than what I had always been.
With each integration, I was different. After one integration, I was suddenly much more aware of the possibility of being harmed while walking in the park whereas I was always previously too dissociated for being hypervigilant about my safety in the park. After integrating Irate, I went from never getting angry about anything to popping off if someone was rude to me. In the early stages, it felt like who I was kept shifting, which was disorienting.
I have grown to realize that integration isn’t about becoming a new person but, instead, awakening to who I have always been. As an example, I have always had a backbone, but I dissociated this strength into alter parts because it was not safe for me to express my anger as a child. However, every few months, Irate would have enough and lash out, surprising Faye. I used to joke that I had a very long fuse that only went off about once a year. My reality is that I have always been a strong person – I just had dissociated away that strength. I now have access to that strength 24/7.
My other big concern was simply how to go about integrating. I learned that integration is a natural process, and I didn’t need a “how to” manual to accomplish it. As long as I loved and accepted each part as “me,” integration happened naturally a little at a time.
Photo credit: Hekatekris