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Posts Tagged ‘integrating alter parts’

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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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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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.

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How to Stay Integrated After Healing Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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A reader asked me how to reach alter parts that are not interested in integrating as part of healing from dissociative identity disorder (DID). This is a very common occurrence when somebody is healing from DID. The alter parts split off from the core for a reason, and they are not always ready to integrate back into the core just because you (from the perspective of the host personality or from the core) want them to.

Also, when an alter part integrates, you must deal with the aftermath. You must face the memories and emotions that the alter part holds. Sometimes a part of yourself knows that you are not yet ready to heal from that particular trauma, so that alter part refuses to integrate.

In the early stages of integration, I had lots of alter parts who were not ready to integrate. I created “rooms” over my heart and invited the alter parts to live there instead. I was “meeting” them as they “thawed” from the “ice” in my spirit that I was “melting” through self-love. I did not want them to go back to being cold.

So, I created a warm and cozy place over my heart. I offered each alter part her own room. The door had a doorknob on the inside only, so the alter part was in complete control over when the door was opened. Inside was a canopy bed (something I wanted as a child but never got) that the alter part could change to any color she wanted. The room also had a toy box that held any toy the alter part wanted. One of the standard toys was a castle that was popular when I was a child. I always wanted one, and all of my friends had it, but my parents never bought it for me.

Most of the time, the alter part would agree to relocate to the room over my heart. Before the alter part entered the room, I would tell the alter part that I loved her and that I appreciated all that she did to help me survive the abuse. Then, the alter part would lock herself inside the room. Later, as I was ready to heal that part of myself, that part would integrate spontaneously.

Also, when I would invite alter parts to integrate into the core, I would tell them that the core would absorb all of the bad feelings. For some alter parts, this was enough to choose to integrate. I would have to deal with the painful emotions, but it was against the backdrop of all of my experiences, which made it much easier to do. This was something that I did much more frequently in the later stages of healing.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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