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 talks about the challenges of learning to give up dissociation as a coping mechanism. This has been a challenge for me as well. For most of my life, if something really upset me, I could just dissociate it away and not worry about it anymore. Choosing integration means choosing to feel rather than shoving it all back down inside. For me, it felt like being asked to give up a superpower.
Downing viewed continuing to use dissociation as a coping mechanism as choosing to view the world as a hostile place. I don’t really think of it in those terms. Instead, I view choosing to continue using dissociation to get through my life as choosing to continue rejecting parts of myself, which I no longer want to do. Whatever I am feeling, whether I like it or not, is part of **me**, and I don’t want to reject any part of myself.
I have also learned that there is no way to shut down the “bad” feelings without also shutting down the “good” ones. This is one reason I am drinking less wine and taking less Xanax. Both help shut down the feelings I don’t want to deal with right now, but they also suppress my ability to experience joy and the beauty of being alive. Giving up the good is no longer worth it – I’ll just process the harder emotions. I also remind myself that I can deal with the pain today or stuff it down and then deal with it in spades later. I’d rather just get it over with now.
Downing listed the following changes in helping her give up dissociation:
- Stop talking about yourself in the third person.
- Allow yourself to experience internal conflict.
- Examine your trauma-based beliefs.
- Accept negative aspects of yourself.
- Realize that nothing is lost.
I never talked about myself in the third person (as a writer, I saw it as grammatically incorrect), but saying that it was **me** in the flashbacks was difficult at first. It took me a long to time wrap my mind around all of these memories actually happening **to me**.
Experiencing internal conflict was a huge change for me. I used to just dissociate away the conflicts, so different parts would hold different points of view. It took a lot of adjusting for me to become comfortable with having conflicted feelings about a topic.
The example of trauma-based beliefs that Downing uses is recognizing that having feelings isn’t “bad.” I had to work through this as well. My entire family was stoic other than my father’s anger. I thought I was so emotional because I would cry, which seemed quite demonstrative when compared to the rest of my family. I now embrace experiencing emotions.
I have already previously talked about accepting the negative aspects of myself, so I won’t cover that again. Bottom line – all parts of me are “good” because they are “me.”
I fully agree with Downing’s words here about nothing being lost through integration:
There is a kind of paradox with integration. One of the fears expressed by individuals with DID who choose not to integrate is that parts of the self will be lost, disappear, or die. The reality is that after integration the parts of the self are actually closer and more real than ever. The dissociative barrier is gone and the aspects of the self are now experienced directly. ~ Understanding Integration
That’s all I wanted to highlight from the article. Thanks for bearing with such a long series!
Photo credit: Hekatekris