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Posts Tagged ‘integrating alter parts’

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:

  1. Stop talking about yourself in the third person.
  2. Allow yourself to experience internal conflict.
  3. Examine your trauma-based beliefs.
  4. Accept negative aspects of yourself.
  5. 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!

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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 her experiences in integrating various types of alter parts. My experiences were similar, and I was immensely grateful to have this article as my guide. Since I had found so few resources to explain how to integrate various types of alter parts, this article became a wonderful roadmap for how to interact with and heal various parts of myself.

Downing talks about a “cooking girl” alter part who had been spared from the abuse. My “innocent part” was my host personality, Faye. Choosing to integrate Faye into my core was challenging because I had to accept that no part of myself had been spared from the abuse. This was a painful reality that I had to grieve. However, most of myself already knew that the abuse had happened and that I hadn’t been spared, so once Faye was integrated, I actually did not need to spend much time grieving this loss.

Downing next talks about integrating “dangerous personalities,” such as those who are aggressive toward others. I actually struggled more with parts that were dangerous toward myself. I had multiple parts that were self-destructive, such as banging my head through self-injury or fantasizing about suicide.

I believe my experience was consistent with Downing’s that integrating “dangerous” parts was immensely healing. It was easy to love the wounded child parts but not as easy to love the self-persecuting parts that told me that I deserved to suffer. I accepted that every part was me and that, for this reason, all parts were “good.”

I chose to love and accept each part no matter how much it frightened me or how much it lashed out at me. As an example, I had parts that were filled self-loathing (I called them persecutor parts). They would flood my head with messages about how worthless I was. I would tell these parts thank you for the role they served in helping me survive my childhood. I would then tell them that their anger was actually toward my abusers rather than me. I would offer to let them “kill” whichever abuser they wished through visualization. I would scroll through a mental rolodex in my head of various abusers until that part of myself attacked one. I would let the visualizations get as graphic and disturbing as they needed to.

Once a persecutor part was given the freedom to direct its anger at the source and was reassured that I loved and accepted that part, I no longer had a need to keep that part separate, and it would integrate. Because these parts of myself were some of the most wounded, my choice to love and accept them as “me” resulted in amazing healing.

I am going to continue this series next week. I apologize to those who aren’t getting much out of the topic of integration from DID, but I hope that some are finding this series useful. I would have loved to have read something similar when I was trying to figure out how to integrate from DID.

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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.

The next part of Downing’s article talks about the phases of integration, which is too involved for me to summarize here. I agree with her that integration is not a single event but, instead, a gradual process of moving from being separate parts to being whole.

The metaphor I like is of melting ice. Before the abuse started, my spirit was like a pond where each part flowed into the next. The abuse caused the pond to ice over, and repeated abuse caused the ice to split off into separate chunks, which is what I experienced as alter parts. I was still one pond even though I felt like a bunch of separate chunks of ice. Integration happened by melting the ice back into water through the warmth of self-love. Nothing was lost – it was just experienced in a different way.

Downing talks about integrating and then losing that integration for a while (what she calls “disintegration”). I experienced this as well, but I think it was less stressful for me (perhaps because I had her article as a guide). When I am not dissociative, I experience the world around me differently, as if I have been beamed into my life and am really “here.” I will have moments of feelings extremely present like that, which I see as a guide for where I am heading. However, I don’t stay in that place for long periods of time.

Most of my progress is gradual. As an example, I will find myself getting overstimulated by sights, sounds, or smells as I move into a deeper level of integration because, thanks to living most of my life in a dissociated state, I haven’t had to deal with overstimulation. I would simply switch from one part to the next and avoid having see, hear, or smell whatever I didn’t want to process. Being integrated means experiencing the good and the bad – being present to enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass but also present to get the waft of a garbage can.

I love this perspective offered by Downing:

I could respect my choice as a child to dissociate and survive in the face of overwhelming and ongoing trauma. But I could, as an adult, choose how I wanted to cope now as I remembered the trauma and faced life as a free adult. I COULD CHOOSE AGAIN. ~ Understanding Integration

This has been my experience as well. As I continued to embraced the different parts as “me” and “mine,” I could process the traumas against the backdrop of all of my life experiences versus the limited views that these individual parts had based upon their own limited experiences. I could honor and heal the pain of individual parts while still choosing how to move forward from an adult perspective. The more I healed, the easier this process became.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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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.

Below is a summary of Downing’s reasons for integration:

  1. Relationship to Myself – Integration is a statement of self-love, providing access to a full range of feelings.
  2. Relationship to Others – Integration resulted in Downing being able to be consistently available to her loved ones.
  3. Relationship to Life – Integration enables a person to be fully present in life with a full range of coping skills to deal with life.
  4. Relationship to Death – Integration enabled Downing to reach of a place of accepting her life history and eventual death.
  5. Children with DID naturally move toward integration – Downing addresses this point later in the article, but I think it fits here. According to Downing, children with DID naturally move toward integration once they are placed in a safe environment, and no debating about whether to stay dissociative or integrate takes place as part of children’s therapy. ~ Understanding Integration

While Downing and I both chose integration, our reasons were somewhat different. One of my reasons for choosing integration was as an “up yours” to my abusers. I was angry that my abusers caused me to split inside to survive their abuse, and I wanted what they had taken from me back – a unified sense of self. I was unwilling to rest until I was a “me” again, in part, to prove that I was stronger than my abusers and that my ability to heal myself had more power than their ability to break me.

I also very much liked the concept I shared in my last blog entry about integration being the ultimate statement of self-love. By claiming each and every part as “me” and “mine,” including those parts’ feelings, emotions, memories, and experiences, I was reclaiming myself. I was making both an internal and external statement (or proclamation!) that I loved and accepted every single part of myself – that there were no “throwaway” parts or parts that were not “good enough” to be me. I loved each part of myself for the same reason I love my child – because he (and they) are mine.

Just like with my child, I wasn’t always happy with the feelings or behaviors of particular parts, and I certainly wasn’t thrilled with many of the memories I had to claim as “mine” to integrate. However, my choice to love and accept each part as “me” wasn’t something to be “earned,” just as my child cannot “earn” my love. My love for my child, and for all of myself, is simply because they are mine … period.

Finally, I wanted to know what it was like to be a “normal” person, although many people assure me that I will never really be “normal.” I might not be “normal,” but I have experienced life as a multiple and as a “singleton,” and I much prefer having full access to myself.

Releasing the splits and integrating had an added benefit that I don’t hear people talk about much. To me, integrating a part feels like getting to put my arms down after having to hold them up over my head for a very long time. Staying split takes an enormous amount of energy that has been freed up to be used in other ways.

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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 defines integration as follows:

At the most basic level, integration simply means acceptance/ownership of all thoughts, feelings, fears, beliefs, experiences and memories (often labeled as personalities) as me/mine. It means giving up the split(s) that says something is “not me.” Integration is more than about personalities. It is about full acceptance of all dissociated aspects of oneself. ~ Understanding Integration

When I first read this definition of integration, it reinforced my desire to integrate from DID. I loved the thought of finding a way to accept all of my thoughts, feelings, and experiences as “mine” even though they did not feel that way at the time. I saw the choice of accepting all of these aspects of myself as “me” or “mine” to be a very deep statement of self-love – that even those parts of myself that I abhorred (such as parts that I viewed as “bad” or harmful) were worthy of love and acceptance.

I fully agree with Downing’s observation here:

Integration occurs when I accept a dissociated personality, part, or aspect of myself and bring it into normal awareness. It is not about getting rid of or killing off a part of myself. When I maintain the split and say it is “not me,” I am implicitly rejecting that part of myself. Essentially, integration is fully embracing each and every part/aspect of myself …With DID, when I deny/reject a part of myself that wants to cut/hurt me, I can’t control that part of myself. When I incorporate that part of myself I gain control and choices. ~ Understanding Integration

When I “met” the first alter part I became aware of — “Irate,” I didn’t want her to “go away.” However, because I wanted to integrate and be whole, I feared this was part of the process. I was surprised to discover that integrating Irate meant that I had 24/7 access to her in a different way. Instead of interacting with the world without the ability to express anger and needing Irate to come out “defend” me, Irate became an ever-present part of me. Since she integrated, I have the ability to feel anger and choose whether or not to act upon it or how to express it. This was something I had been unable to experience before Irate integrated.

By integrating Irate, I did not “kill her off.” Instead, I freed her to experience life from more than just the perspective of someone who is angry. I did not have to choose between never feeling angry or feeling “pure” anger. Once Irate integrated, I could experience the emotion of anger against the backdrop of all of my other emotions, which has been a much richer way to experience the world and enables me to balance out my anger with my other emotions.

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I recently came across an article on integration from dissociative identity disorder (DID) that was immensely helpful for me after I recognized that I had alter parts. For me, integration was always the goal, but at the time I was looking for resources on how to integrate from DID (in 2004-2005), I found very few helpful resources. I was thrilled to find this article — Understanding Integration by Rachel Downing, L.C.S.W.-C.– and used it as my personal guide in moving toward integration.

Before I continue, I want to add the disclaimer that I am not saying that integration needs to be the goal for everyone with DID or other forms of multiplicity — I am saying that it was always right for me. I am not writing this series to persuade anyone that he or she needs to integrate, nor I am meaning to imply that not integrating, whether by choice or not, is some sort of “failure.” Instead, my goal is to provide another resource for those who do want to integrate or for those who want a better understanding of what integration from DID entails.

When I was looking for resources on integration in 2004 and 2005, I became extremely frustrated by the lack of resources available to me. Most of what I found were books written by people with DID who had integrated and whose stories contained so many “limitations.” What I mean by this is that most of the stories I found talked about how integration was helpful but… The “buts” focused on all of the issues that still remained and had to be accepted and grieved. While I am sure this was an honest accounting of these people’s experiences, I wasn’t willing to settle for “integration but’s.”

From the time I recognized that I had alter parts, my goal was to become one or “whole” again. I was angry that my abusers took so much away from me, even my ability to be a “me” instead of a “we.” I was determined to reclaim my sense of self in having ONE identity, and I was not willing to settle for “healing BUT.”

That was when I found this article through the Sidran Institute. I sobbed in relief at finding some sort of resource to offer me hope that my goal really was attainable. It also provided me with practical steps I could take to help move me toward my goal, such as always referring to myself as “me” rather than “us,” even when what “I” was feeling seemed foreign and belonging to “her” instead of “me.”

I haven’t researched what newer resources are available for integrating from DID, but my hope is to add this series to the list. That way, when others are looking for positive resources on integration from DID, one more will be available to them.

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Last night, I integrated a big part of myself. This was the wounded little girl who had such a fit this week, but she is so much more than that. This is HUGE. This is Annie, the part that “went to sleep” when I was in the height of the abuse. This was the original child.

Here’s the really disorienting part – From the time I was a baby, I was called Annie. My name on my birth certificate is Faye Anne, and my mother/abuser’s name is Faye. So, my parents (and everyone else) called me Annie. After experiencing some particularly severe trauma, Annie went to sleep, and I woke up as “not Annie.”

Everyone kept calling me Annie, and I could not figure out why. Not one ounce of me related to this name, and I HATED this name. I took a standardized test and learned that my full name was actually Faye Anne, so I insisted upon being called Faye from that moment on. I have related to the name Faye with no internal connection whatsoever to the name Annie ever since … well, until therapy when I came to realize that Faye was a host alter part. Since she integrated, I have related to Faith more than anything else but have people continue to call me Faye to avoid widespread social confusion and explanations.

So, last night, Annie integrated, and it will be interesting to see what the day brings. I already feel different, the biggest difference being my first connection with the name Annie since I was a little kid. If I ask myself, “Who am I?,” there’s a connection to the name Annie again. Not a 100% connection, but that’s OK – there’s some connection now where there was none before. My belief in reincarnation has helped me not to get too disoriented based upon a name. My name changes with each incarnation.

Here’s the really cool part – I now have access to a bunch of childhood memories that I had “forgotten.” I took a mental tour of my childhood house last night and remembered things with vivid detail that I have not remembered in decades, such as where the closets where, the weird décor by the front door, etc. I remember where we put the Christmas tree and that my room was yellow before it was pink. I even remember some happy times with my father and even my mother, which was a real blessing. Apparently, when Annie went to sleep, she repressed the happy stuff along with the bad.

I am going to take it easy today because this is a huge step in healing for me. I have been through other integrations before, and it’s disorienting. I am no longer the “me” I thought I was. I am more truly “me,” but I have to adjust to who that is exactly. What gets interesting is that other people will have to adjust as well, but it will probably be a while before I talk with anyone about it. One or two friends read my blog sometimes, so they might learn about it here, which is fine. If they do, I hope they mention it to me offline so I have someone to talk with about it face to face. If I feel the need, I’ll schedule an appointment with my therapist, too.

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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.

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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.

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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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