Archive for the ‘Integration’ Category

On my blog entry Survey for Child Abuse Survivors with More Than One Diagnosis, a reader posted the following question:

I have been officially diagnosed with D.I.D. Currently we are integrating, sometimes at an alarming rate. There is a question though…how can we integrate with the core when the core has been sleeping and protected for many years? The core is pre-verbal and while we feel her presence, her breathing, her innocence…she does not stir, she is very hidden and protected. – Holly

You can still integrate even in this situation. Full integration is going to take some time and patience, but you can do it.

I think that you have confused the core with the original child. They are not necessarily the same thing.

The best analogy I can think of is this … To assume that the original child is the core is to see fragmenting like a banana. The sleeping original child is like the banana itself, and the alter parts are the peels. Until the banana wakes up and integrates, there is no core to work with.

I see fragmentation and integration differently. My analogy is like an iced-over pond. There is only one pond, but it has frozen, and the ice has broken off into chunks. One chunk holds anger, another holds terror, and another holds the feelings of the original child. However, the one chunk of ice that holds the original child’s feelings, even if it is huge, is not the pond. All parts collectively make up the pond.

The healing process is like shining the warmth of the sun onto the pond and melting the chunks of ice back into one lake. The core is not the one big chunk of ice that holds the feelings of the original child. Instead, the core is the part of the pond that has been melted through self-love back into the pond. The core might or might not contain the feelings of the original child, but the core is still just as much a part of your spirit as that original child block of ice is.

As long as you are shining the warmth of self-love onto your parts, you are melting the ice. All will merge back into one pond, which is where they have always belonged. It does not matter if the original child block of ice melts first or last. In fact, it might be easier for you to absorb the feelings of the original child once the rest of the pond is more fluid.

I remember when my original child woke up. I never felt so “in my body” as I did in that moment. It was a powerful experience. You will experience this, too. Just keep loving yourself.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I received a question from a reader about healing from dissociative identity disorder (DID). She is reading a book about healing from DID, and that author recommends naming each alter part and holding “meetings” with the different alter parts to get them to work together. The reader asked if I agreed with this advice.

Before I answer the question, let me take a step back. As somebody over at the Isurvive message board once commented, DID is a “create your own disorder” disorder, so it manifests in different ways in different people. Some people might only have two or three personalities. In that case, each personality might have already named herself, and it would not be that complicated to “hold a meeting” that invites the input of all three.

However, DID can manifest in many different ways. In my situation, I had six layers of alter parts, most of whom were personality fragments but many of whom were full personalities. None of the layers knew about the other layers. I “guesstimate” that I had about 1,000 parts in all. I would have taken me forever to name each part and “hold meetings.” That simply would not have been feasible for me.

I am not saying that the author’s way is the “wrong way;” however, it is not the only way.

Because the traumatized child created the fragmentation, the fragmented adult intuitively knows the best way to heal. The key is figuring out how to listen to your intuition and learning how to trust it again. Severe abuse causes a person to doubt her own intuition. Learning how to hear and heed your intuition is a big part of healing from DID.

For me, naming the alter parts was not helpful. Healing from DID involved loving and accepting each part as “me.” Naming a part made it feel more separate. For example, the first part I “met” was named Irate. I integrated many other parts much more easily than Irate because Irate was my “friend,” and I didn’t want to “lose” her by integrating her. It took courage to follow my intuition and allow her to integrate, where she has become a part of me.

While I never held “formal meetings,” I did invite my alter parts to “come out” and express themselves. Once they expressed their memories and pain, there was no longer a need for them to stay separate, so they would integrate, and I would work through the memories and emotions.

When it comes to healing from DID, trust your own intuition. If another person’s advice sounds appealing at a heart level, then try it. If it does not, then try something else that feels like a better fit.

I know how scary it can sound to blaze your own trail with healing from DID, but try to remember that you blazed your own trail when you fragmented in the way that you did. Only you know the most effective way to put the pieces of the puzzle back together. You hold all of the answers inside of yourself.

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A reader asked me to talk about the challenges after integration from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). As she pointed out in her email, many people who are healing from DID see integration as the end goal, but really integration is only the beginning. Interacting with the world as an integrated person is very different from interacting with the world from the perspective of a “multiple.”

I was in the same place as this reader a couple of years ago. I went looking for resources for people who had successfully integrated from DID, and I could not find many on the market. I think I found three books in all, and I bought two of them. I started reading the one that sounded like the best resource, and it only wound up depressing me. While the woman who wrote the book had succeeded in integrating from DID, she had many limitations on her life. I did not want any limitations. So, I chose to stop reading that book, and I never picked up the other one.

Healing from DID is not the same thing as healing from child abuse, although there is definitely quite a bit of overlap. Healing from child abuse is healing from the underlying trauma: it is turning your emotional wounds into scars. Healing from DID is about changing your internal reaction to the trauma: it involves changing the way you interact with the world.

The woman in the book I read continued to have flashbacks after integration, so it sounds like she healed from the DID faster than the underlying trauma. My experience was different: I dealt with very few flashbacks after integration from DID. I really believe that they are two different processes that are being healed at the same time through self-love.

As for specific challenges – Every single relationship in my life changed after I integrated from DID. I had to learn how to manage frustrating situations instead of just dissociating – that is still a challenge for me. I had to learn to feel pain in the moment instead of just encapsulating the pain and tossing it aside.

Interacting with the world as a “singleton” instead of a “multiple” is very different, and I am still learning how to do it. It comes second nature to me to split off an alter part, but I can also bring that part right back in again when I want to.

This article from the Sidran Institute is the best resource I have found regarding challenges you face after you integrate from DID. I am still in the process of learning to give up dissociation as a coping tool. Even though I am not fragmenting into alter parts, I do continue to dissociate on occasion, which is true of many child abuse survivors, even those without a history of DID.

Dissociation runs on a continuum, so I do not have the expectation of going from polyfragmented DID to completely “normal” overnight. Any progress toward staying whole and present is a step in the right direction.

The reader also asked me to address issues with sex. I will get into that in my next blog entry.

Related Topic:

How to Stay Integrated After Healing Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID

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Rainbow (c) Lynda BernhardtWhen I watched the remake of the movie Sybil, I found it interesting that Sybil’s host personality became upset about one of her alter parts being very talented in playing the piano while the host personality did not have that talent. The same thing happened to me, only with me, it was singing.

Before integration from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I had an average singing voice. I could stay on key, but my voice was nothing to write home about. However, there were times in which I would sing, and my voice sounded beautiful. It was not some trained, professional-sounding voice, but it was very pretty. I did not know why my “pretty voice” would come and go.

The reason for this was that an alter part held my love and talent for singing. As part of protecting this beautiful part of myself from being destroyed by my abusers, I split this talent off into an alter part and buried it deep inside of myself. As I began to heal from my history of child abuse, that part of myself felt safe enough to come out on occasion.

What was interesting was that I would be able to access this part of myself easier when singing certain songs that made me happy. For example, if one of my favorite hymns was sung during a church service, my “pretty” singing voice would come out. However, it wouldn’t be there during the next hymn. I had no control over when it came or left.

After integration, I still had to “invite” that part of myself out and reassure myself that it was safe for me to sing with my “pretty voice.” Now, I have full access to that part of myself as long as I feel safe. If I am feeling anxious or upset about something, then I have trouble coaxing that part of myself out. However, as long as I am feeling safe and present, it comes out naturally.

The other interesting thing is that this part of myself “hides” to the left. I would often feel only my left vocal chords doing the singing. I had to be very relaxed for the “pretty voice” to make use of all of my vocal chords. After integration, my “pretty voice” mostly uses all of my vocal chords, but I still feel a tingling in the left side of my neck when I sing.

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Microscopic view (c) Lynda BernhardtIn my last couple of posts, I have been talking about my reaction to the remake of the movie Sybil, which aired on Saturday night on CBS. In this post, I am going to compare and contrast my integration experience with Sybil’s.

In the movie, Sybil’s healing really began when her various parts started talking about the abuse. Dr. Wilbur correctly recognized that Sybil’s awareness of the others’ existence was a huge step toward healing.

This was the case with me, too, although I did not need a third party to accomplish this. I had one part (“Irate”) who was badly triggered by an overnight stay at my mother’s house who stayed co-present for a while after that. She is the one who would “step into my face.” I could “feel” her presence and knew that her thoughts were “not mine.” This is what launched me on a quest to learn all I could about alter parts and understand what was going on with me.

In the movie, Dr. Wilbur hypnotized Sybil and then age-progressed all of the parts so that they would be one age. When Sybil came out of hypnosis, she remembered a lot more than she had (which, up until this point, had been nothing about the abuse). My experience was very different.

I never needed to use hypnosis, nor did I involve a third party in order to remember or integrate. I did all of these things alone in my bed at night. I did have a therapist for two plus years, but he served more of a “check-in” role, reassuring me that I was not “crazy” and helping direct me along the healing path. While I told him about the alter parts eventually, the focus of my therapy was on learning to love myself and talking about what happened, not on the specific parts.

I had no need to age progress any of my parts, although I have read that this is still part of the healing that many therapists recommend for people with DID. I needed to love each part and accept each part’s experiences, feelings, and emotions as “mine.” Then, they would integrate, regardless of the part’s age.

One other big difference is that Dr. Wilbur sought to integrate each part back into Sybil. Sybil was a host personality, not the original child. What I found was that I had to integrate my host (Faye) back into the original child, not back into the others. I also integrated the others back into the original child. Dr. Wilbur was correct that there were no “deaths.” All are still present inside of myself. I just experience them in a different way – parts of myself that are always “present” as a part of who I am.

One key part of healing that the movie did not get into (possibly because Dr. Wilbur was a pioneer and did not know this herself) was that I found the key to healing to be loving and accepting each part as “me.” I would reach out in love to each part, thanking each part for the role he or she played in keeping me safe and then inviting each part into the core so it could be “out” forever. When I integrated my host personality, I stopped being separate from the other parts and was forever always “out” after that – no more lost time.

I would not think that Sybil suddenly having access to a whole bunch of memories at one time would have been a good thing. The reason for splitting in the first place is to distance yourself from the event and accompanying emotions. Even today, as an integrated person who has dealt with the big picture view of each form of abuse, it is hard to look over my entire abuse history in one sitting. To do this at one time – to take in all of the horror in one view – without having healed each piece as you went along would be overwhelming. It might be that they did this in the movie to give you an idea of where the next several years of therapy were going. The caption at the end said that it took Sybil a long time to become whole.

Related Topics:

Integration posts

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Tree by river (c) Lynda BernhardtAfter I integrated from dissociative identity disorder (DID), I had access to all of my memories. To this day, I still have issues that I do not want to face, such as the memories I shared in this post. I could look, but I choose not to, so in a sense, those memories are still “separate,” but I have access if I want it.

The reason I fragmented in the first place is because it was too much trauma for one person to endure. Having access to all of those memories again can be hard. It is not often that I choose to look at many of them at one time. However, if I do, I can feel sick to my stomach because there was so much abuse. Most of the memories no longer sting like they once did because I have processed the memories. However, when I view so much abuse from the perspective of being one lone child who had no hope of escape, it can be hard.

Now that I have access to so much painful information about my past, I have to work through what to do with that information. Do I choose never to look? Do I look on occasion when there is a need? It like inheriting a ghastly library and not being sure quite what to do with it.

I am still happy to have the access, even though I generally choose not to look. Now I get to choose my own pace in what I need to heal instead of having it explode out of me through different alter parts

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Seashore (c) Lynda BernhardtWhile many people who are diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) view the disorder as a curse, it is really a gift. DID is a superpower that enabled me to survive extreme and ongoing trauma from a very young age. Without this superpower, I have no idea how I would have survived such extreme torture. DID enabled me to be tortured by night and be a compliant straight A student by day. Without DID, I do not believe I would have been able to manage this.

DID is an amazing superpower than only becomes dysfunctional when the abuse stops. If soldiers could learn how to fragment and compartmentalize themselves as prisoners of war, I have no doubt that the army would include this skill as part of basic training. Imagine a soldier being able to “lock away” national security secrets into an alter part that are inaccessible to their torturers. The person who could teach this skill could become a millionaire.

I do not believe that this superpower is accessible to people after the age of six. I have yet to meet a person with DID whose abuse started after age six. I believe that DID is a gift from God that enables a young child to survive severe trauma.

So, when viewed from this perspective, letting going of this superpower can be hard. I had the illusion of never being alone throughout my entire life. Giving up DID meant accepting that I was alone. There was no army of kids standing up to my abusers. There was only me, a little girl alone, being tortured by people who were four times her size.

I grieved having to let go of some of my alter parts that had been my companions for most of my life. I was not even aware that they were alter parts. I would soothe myself to sleep at night by running “stories” through my head, and I thoroughly enjoyed those stories. I did not realize that the “characters” were alter parts until they were gone after integration. Of course, they were not “gone” because they are a part of me. However, I continue to grieve their loss and have yet to figure out a good replacement to falling asleep at night.

To this day, I have the ability to split off new (or old) alter parts whenever I want. I have to choose consciously not to do so because splitting them off is second nature. Being whole comes at the cost of losing my superpower.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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