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On my blog entry entitled Recovery from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), a reader posted the following question:

Can you explain terms like ‘core host personality in more detail? ~ Jolson

I got the term host personality from Chrystine Okasana’s book Safe Passage to Healing. Here is an excerpt from that book (page 115):

Some survivors develop an alter to function more or less steadily in day-to-day life. This self typically has no awareness of the abuse and may be known as the host. The host, too, feels overwhelmed. In the November/December 1992 issue of The Sciences, Dr. Frank W. Putnam writes:

“Typically, the host is depressed, anxious, rigid, frigid, compulsively good, conscience-stricken…and suffers any number of physical symptoms, most often headaches. Host personalities usually feel overwhelmed by life, at the mercy of forces far beyond their control. In many cases a host is either unaware of the alter personalities or, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, strongly denies their existence.”

I was not overly wild about the term “host personality,” but since this is terminology known in some DID circles, I have adopted this label for Faye, who was my host personality.

The term “core” is all my own, and I used it because I have not yet found a label used in DID circles to describe what I mean by this. If anyone is familiar with a commonly used label for what I describe below, please let me know.

My experience is that I had numerous alter personalities and personality fragments (well into the hundreds) who “hid” behind the “mask” of the host personality. However, there was still a continuity within my spirit, which is what I call the core. My “switching” was always seamless with the appropriate alter part coming out at the appropriate time to handle any given situation. I believe my core was the glue that held all of these parts together.

As I began integrating these formerly “frozen” parts (which I define as loving and accepting each part as “me”), they “melted” back into one “body of water” inside. That body of water is what I refer to as my core. My host personality “melted” into this core, my inner child Annie awakened and melted into the core, and numerous other alter parts also “melted” into the core. Today, I feel like the majority of myself is in this core, with numerous formerly separate parts now interwoven and working together as one (like pouring a bucket of salt water back into the ocean). My core is now the part I view as “me.”

I still have alter parts that I need to “melt” through love and acceptance. They hold frozen memories and emotions that I have yet to process. As I heal them, those parts will join the core. If I live long enough to work through it all, then all that will be left inside is one core – nothing is lost, and all parts are now part of one big ocean.

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On my blog entry entitled Integrating from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Receiving the Host Personality Into the Core, a reader posted the following comment:

So I guess i did my job pretty good and when it was safe, i let them out… but now what..? the [multiple] system wants to learn to work together to have a good life. what role do i play now that my job is over? is my job really over? where do i go from here? ~ Obs J–host (Jolson)

Let me start by stating that there are two groups of multiples/people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) who have very different views of integration. One group believes that integration is the natural end result of healing (which is my own, personal view for myself) while the other group defines healing as finding ways for the alter parts to work together without integrating. I think the answer to this question is going to be different depending upon your own philosophy.

I am going to address this question from the perspective of seeing integration as a natural result of healing. I would very much appreciate anyone with a “no integration” philosophy to answer this question in the comments. In case this reader does not seek to integrate, I fear that my answer will not be particularly helpful.

One more disclaimer – Please note that I would never tell another child abuse survivor what is the “right” way to heal for him or her. Integration is right for me, but I respect that other child abuse survivors have found ways to feel “healed” (or “healing”) while continuing to stay a multiple.

My host personality’s name was Faye. I woke up one day at age 7 and did not know who I was, only that I was not Annie. (My birth name was Faye Anne, and everyone called me Annie. Annie was the original child who went to sleep.) Faye chose the name “Faye” because it was my first name, and Faye insisted that everyone call her that.

Faye’s job was to remain very innocent. Faye had no idea about the abuse and could have easily passed a lie detector test about it. She did her job very well. Faye is also the one who was open to receiving alter parts (when I was ready to begin healing) and got into therapy. Once Faye became aware of being raped by men (the memory I buried the deepest), I no longer had a need for Faye to remain separate, and I integrated her.

What Faye felt was intense relief. The days after “learning” about the rapes but before integration were very hard for her. She was inconsolable. However, the moment my core “received” her through love, acceptance, and appreciation, her pain instantly ended. The reason is that the core always knew this truth – it was only Faye who had been kept in the dark. Once Faye could experience the “bigger picture” from the perspective of the core, there was nothing to grieve.

Faye is now a part of my core. The best analogy I have is pouring a bucket of salt water back into the ocean – it was once separate, but it is now back where it belongs as a part of a mighty ocean.

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See my blog entry posted yesterday for the first part of this.

The other part of Midge’s horror seems to be the cybersex, which goes against the values of the host personality. Keep in mind that women have sexual needs that your host personality might not be fulfilling. My host personality was pretty passionless and boring in bed, but I had an alter part named Sassy who held a lot of my sexual passion. I invited her out one time for sex with my husband, and that was easily the most passionate encounter that we ever shared. My host personality could not relate to Sassy’s passion, but Sassy simply held an encapsulated part of my sexuality that I had been repressing.

Again, remember that these three alter parts who had cybersex with their boyfriends were monogamous with their chosen partners, which does sound consistent with who you are. One reason for cybersex could have been an outlet for your passion that is not otherwise being expressed. Another reason (depending upon the direction that the cybersex went) might have been a way to make sense of your sexuality since, as a child, your opportunity to explore your sexuality at your own pace was taken from you. Keep in mind that cybersex is a “safer” way to do this – it is only words on a screen (or possibly a video if you used that technology) rather than actual physical contact.

Rather than judge these parts for not complying with your host personality’s morals, invite these parts out and ask them what needs they have that are not being met. Then, work with them to meet those needs. Perhaps the time is coming to read a book like The Sexual Healing Journey to begin to explore your sexual needs that you have repressed.

Believe me – if I had discovered this about myself, my host personality would have been appalled as well. My host personality truly believed that I was a virgin until my husband, and that fact that we had intercourse three weeks before the wedding night convinced her that I was a complete slut who deserved never to enjoy sex for the rest of my life. (Never mind the fact that we had dated for 2-1/2 YEARS without having sex!)

Rejecting these parts of yourself, being angry with them, and/or hating them is counterproductive. They are a part of you, and they are just trying to get their needs met just as your host personality is. The fact that you still have a host personality tells me that you do not, as of yet, know your full story, so cut your alter parts some slack – they have been dealing their entire lives with painful memories that you (from the host personality’s perspective) have yet to face.

The sooner you reach out to these other parts in love and acceptance, the sooner you will be able to integrate your host personality back into your core. Once you do, you will have a much better understanding of who you are. I was amazed at the depth of my spirit once I integrated my host personality, and certain things about me did change, such as some of my taste in music (and, alas!, much more potty-mouth). You take the good with the bad, but you no longer fear what your body is doing when you are not present. You also experience your emotions, feelings, and memories from the perspective of the whole rather than in encapsulated segments, which helps you make better choices that meet your own needs without bringing you possible harm.

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On my blog entry entitled DID: Is “Losing Time” a “Bad” Thing?, a reader posted the following comment:

Faith said: “Whether your host personality is “out” or not, you are always going to behave consistently with who you are.”

I must respectfully disagree with this statement. Here’s why . . . About ten years ago, back when I was just beginning to have flashbacks and slowly figuring out that I had DID, I made the startling discovery that I was dating five separate men at the same time. Four of them were online, and the fifth lived in my hometown. Of the four that were online, I later learned that I’d participated in cybersex with three of them.

I was horrified. The whole situation goes against the essence of my being; it crosses everything that I believe in, morally, ethically, and spiritually. It couldn’t be farther from who I am.

Each man was being dated by a different alter, but while I remained blissfully ignorant, they were aware of each other’s actions. They knew that I would find such behavior unacceptable and insulting to my beliefs, and they chose to indulge in it anyway. I am still ashamed of what they did and have found it hard to forgive them, but I am working on it.

Forgive me for disagreeing with you, Faith, but this is what happened to me. ~ Midge

I have included this long quote in its entirety because of its importance in following along in my response.

It is important to distinguish between what is consistent with “you” versus your host personality. For most people with DID, the host personality is an “innocent” alter part that has been shielded from all (or most) of the abuse. The whole point of having a host personality is to protect the child and enable the child to interact with the world as if she truly was that innocent (and often naïve) child.

You are not your host personality. Your host personality is just one tiny part of who you are, and your host personality is likely to take issue with lots of behaviors by alter parts, such expressing anger, sexuality, etc. … anything that is inconsistent with the morals and values of the host personality. Just because an alter’s behavior is inconsistent with what the host personality might do does not make that behavior inconsistent with what you might do.

Stay with me here…

I had a self-destructive alter part that had a strong need to slash my wrists and “watch the lifeblood flow out of me” when triggered. Committing suicide in this fashion goes completely against the grain of any part of me. Nevertheless, my cult abusers manipulated this part of myself to believe that self-destruction in this manner was the only way to save my little sister (who would be killed if I ever remembered or told about the ritual abuse), and sacrificing myself to save her is completely consistent with who I am. So, at a surface level, it might appear that this alter part taking over and trying to slash my wrists with a knife would be inconsistent with who I am, but the motivation behind why I would do this is completely consistent. If I believed that I could spare my sister’s life (or my son’s life) by killing myself, I absolutely would do it.

Let’s circle back to Midge’s alter parts. The fact that each alter part dated a different man makes me suspect that different needs were being met by each man. Midge’s host personality’s objection does not seem to be toward dating at all but in the fact that five different men were dated at the same time. Keep in mind that these are five separate parts whose needs were not being met, and these five separate parts were only dating one man each. Dating one man who meets your needs does not sound like it goes against your character, which makes each part consistent with who you are.

I strongly suggest telling each part that you are sorry for not meeting their needs and for being so angry with them for trying to find ways to meet those needs. I would also invite them to share their needs with you so you can help them meet those needs yourself rather than having to go outside to other men to do so.

I will address the cybersex issue tomorrow because this blog entry has gotten way too long.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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My blog entries last week on losing time generated a lot of discussion, so I thought I would revisit the topic from another angle. You can read last week’s blog entries here and here.

In the comments, we talked a little bit about whether losing time was a “bad” thing, and I would like to elaborate further here. From the perspective of the host personality (the part that most people with dissociative identity disorder–DID view as “me”), losing time is terrifying. You have memory holes that feel like you “blacked out,” and you have absolutely no idea what your body was doing while you were “out.”

I experienced this terror myself when I viewed myself from the perspective of the host personality. I was terrified that I could be harming my then-three-year-old child while I lost time and would have no idea that I was doing it. I told my therapist that if I recovered any memories of harming my child, I would commit suicide immediately to protect him from me. My therapist assured me that I would never do this to my child, even when I lost time, because to do so would run contrary to who I am. He helped me to see that I would be behave consistently with who I am because, regardless of which part is “out,” I am always “me.”

The way to push past the terror is to recognize that all of your parts are you. Whether your host personality is “out” or not, you are always going to behave consistently with who you are. That is not to say that you won’t do anything that might upset the host personality because each alter part is experiencing one view of yourself in a “pure” version – pure anger, pure terror, etc. Each of these parts needs healing, and in order for healing to happen, they need to come out. The sooner you embrace each part as “you,” the sooner you can stop losing time and keep your host personality present when these other parts come out. Once you no longer have a need for the host personality, the part will integrate back into your core, you will stop losing time, and you will technically stop having a diagnosis of DID since you no longer meet that criterion in the diagnosis.

I have heard people lament losing time during therapy sessions, and I always tell them that they got their money’s worth out of the session whether they remember it or not. By enabling another part to come out, that part of yourself is receiving the therapy it needs. Those parts are typically much more wounded than the host personality is, so you can experience immense healing even after “losing” an entire therapy session from the perspective of the host.

My therapist’s advice was to stop fighting these others parts of myself. Instead, invite them out and start a “dialogue” with them. The more communication you have going among your parts, the closer you are to ceasing losing time forever!

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have already shared the two events that caused my inner child, “Annie,” to go to sleep. You can read about them here and here.  Both stories are very triggering.

After Annie went to sleep, I woke up, and I did not know who I was. I just knew that I was not Annie, and it bothered me to no end that people kept calling me Annie. I hated Annie and everything about her, including her name. I did not want to be called Annie any longer. However, I did not know who “I” was.

I now recognize that my new self-perception was through a newly created “host personality” who had not yet been named. I had a multiple system in place to drive me through my day, but this nameless part of myself was very confused. I had to take a standardized test at school, and I was told to write my “full name.” That was when the host personality first learned that my full name was “Faye Anne Allen.” “Annie” was just a nickname. I decided that, from that moment on, I would be called Faye, and I refused to respond to any other name.

The weirdest thing was that there was not one part of myself that related to the name “Annie.” It wasn’t like I had to retrain myself to embrace this new name. There was not one ounce of Faye that felt like an Annie.

As you can imagine, announcing my refusal to respond to the name Annie did not go over well with my second grade teacher in the middle of the school year. She did eventually relent because I was simply that stubborn. My mother’s name is also “Faye,” so my father flat refused to call me that. I succeeded in getting everyone in my life other than my father and his parents to call me Faye instead of Annie, and I cringed whenever my father would call me that vile name.

When I became a multiple, I endured numerous severe headaches. I complained about them so frequently, both at school and at home, that my parents took me to a doctor. The doctor could find nothing wrong with me. He referred me to an allergist. I was tested for numerous allergens in my back, but I was completely allergy-free. The doctor’s diagnosis was that these were “stress headaches,” and all of the adults in my life seemed completely okay with the fact that a seven-year-old child was having multiple severe “stress headaches.”

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): What is Integration?, a reader posted the following comment:

I am scared to integrate, will I have all the memories and feelings? I am scared of the feelings as the other parts of me have been writing what happened to them, but for the first time they have been writing about there feelings. I see the parts and feel there feelings and it makes me cry, I never feel I am like a robot and I definately don’t cry. I still say it happened to them and not to me. ~ Maureen

One of the biggest hurdles of healing from DID or any other type of dissociative disorder is accepting the reality that these terrible things happened “to me.” I went around and around in my head over this issue. I had separated my host personality (the part I saw as “me”) so completely from the memories of the abuse that I had a very difficult time accepting the reality that it wasn’t “her” who was hurt – it was “me.” It was my body that was harmed, and “her” memories are “my” memories.

The reason for splitting into DID (or other dissociative disorders) in the first place is to “escape” from the abuse. As a young child, I did not have the power to flee from the abuse, but I could (and did) flee in my own head. Until I chose to heal, the abuse seemed so foreign to me. I was stoic and rarely felt anything deeply other than an underlying current of sadness and lots of anxiety. I rarely experienced anger or joy.

You are “them,” and “they” are you. The abuse happened to one person in one body, not to 10 or 50 people “sharing a body.” Having an “army” in your head helped you feel less alone when the abuse was happening, but the reality is that you were one little girl being tortured by your abusers. You did the only thing you could to survive it – you split your consciousness so you could pretend like the abuse never happened to you…but it did.

When you integrate from DID, you accept all of the memories, experiences, flashbacks, and emotions as “mine.” They are already all yours, but you have chosen (for good reason) to keep each part feeling separate inside of yourself. Healing from any form of trauma involves learning how to love and accept each memory and emotion as “mine.” As you do this, you integrate as a natural part of the healing process.

Your natural state is as a whole person who loves and accepts herself as she is. This acceptance includes all of the emotions and pain you have experienced.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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