Posts Tagged ‘integration’

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 DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and Accountability, I said:

I have always maintained that a person with DID is responsible for all behaviors and actions taken regardless of which alter part made the choice to act in a particular way. This is because each alter part is you. While each alter part might “feel” completely foreign to you (from the perspective of the host personality), each part is you. ~ Faith

A reader posted the following comment:

I’m sorry, but that’s just not true.

A) DID (or any serious mental or behavior disorder) effects different people in different ways -and to a wide variety of degrees. Blanket statements simply do not apply.

B) Furthermore, you can’t say that “all these parts are still YOU” when it’s impossible to define the nature/concept of Identity. There is no agreed upon, scientific definition for “Identity”
Ever study the field of A.I.? The biggest problem in creating an A.I., (and the reason we haven’t) is that we can’t really define “intelligence” -we need to know what the goal is in order to reach the goal. This is an example of, and the same point re “identity”.

I understand what you’re trying to say. But sometimes, there really IS nobody home; or the person that is home, has no concept of right and wrong. And I can tell you for a fact that happens. ~Touched with Fire

First, let me clarify that my comments were restricted to people diagnosed with DID or other forms of dissociative disorders. I completely agree with Touched by Fire that there are people who have no concept of right or wrong, but those are not people with DID – they are psychopaths and/or people with mental illnesses. (DID is not a mental illness.) It is possible for people to have both DID and a mental illness, but it would be the mental illness that causes the person to have no concept of right or wrong, not the DID.

I don’t know a thing about artificial intelligence, but I do know a lot about DID because I have lived with it for my entire life and have been healing from it since 2003. Yes, DID does affect different people in different ways. In fact, on Isurvive (a message board for child abuse survivors), a member provided the best definition I have ever heard of DID – it is a “create your own disorder” disorder. The variations in DID (and other dissociative disorders) are only limited by the creativity of the children “creating” it.

There are some blankets statements that do apply to all people with DID. All people with DID were severely traumatized as children on an ongoing basis (typically beginning by age six). You simply don’t get it any other way. If you did, then some Prisoners of War (POW) would develop DID, but they don’t, even when they have endured severe torture tactics on a daily basis over a period of years. My theory is that DID is a gift provided for young children who have no other way to escape the trauma. Maria Montessori observed that children through age six are in one stage of development that ends at age six, which is why she designed her school with age six being the magic age to move from one system of learning to another. I think there is something special about that stage of develop that gives children the gift of escaping the trauma through DID.

Of course, you can make blanket statements about the symptoms of DID – memory loss that is unaccounted for by addiction or another medical condition and the presence of two or more distinct identities (alter parts) that take control of the person’s behavior. In fact, the main difference between DID and other dissociative disorders is the presence or absence of alter parts. I have talked with people who have a diagnosis of Dissociative Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (DD-NOS) whose experiences are very similar to my experience with DID, but they split into colors or in other ways instead of alter parts, which pushed them out of a DID classification.

One other blanket observation is just my own – I have yet to meet someone with DID who is not, to some extent, a “people pleaser.” My own theory is that DID is, in part, caused by the intense need to be different things to different people that are inconsistent with each other. For example, I needed to be a whore at night, a well-behaved daughter in the mornings, and a perfect student at school while “stuffing down” (not expressing) my reactions to the trauma. I had to be different things to different people, and I did this by “splitting myself” to make this happen.

Of course, I can only speak from my own experience and from what I have learned about other people’s experiences. The books I have read and the hundreds of people I have spoken with online who have healed (or are healing) from DID show dramatic improvement in their symptoms as they embrace each part as “me.” See the article Understanding Integration for more information on this topic (written by a clinician who has fully integrated from DID).

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On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and “Hearing Voices”, a reader posted the following comment:

I am having some fast breakthrough thanks to this topic on hearing voices or “not your own” thoughts.” I recently sat down and compiled a list of what I call voices because I believe it gives whatever voice(s) a bit of individuality and recognition vs. just a thought.

I believe I couldn’t have done this on my own without the help of the “voices” on the inside. Also, my new book that Faith suggested, the above article and Blog.

The voice list to my absolute amazement (actually I was blown away!) consisted of 13 voices!! Whew.. now I really feel like a nut case! I am now for the first time am asking question to those on the inside and am actually getting answers. Some okay, some not so okay. From my reading on DD it is important to let them all express themselves and know that they were created to protect you.

Just this morning I asked inside what would be a good name for this chattering bunch. I or they not sure, came up with Comrades. That would be our ultimate goal is to find a sense of togetherness, acceptance and friendship. I don’t know it is possible especially with the angry ones but it could be possible?

If your there reading and if any of this makes sense to you or can relate I would love to hear from you. ~ Kim and The Commrades

I am so incredibly excited for Kim & the Comrades. This is a HUGE leap in healing!

What you are experiencing is co-consciousness. All of these parts have always been there, but they have hidden themselves from you (as the host personality). You have reached a place of healing (including moving toward self-love and acceptance) that has made you ready to have open communication among your parts.

Remember that they are all you. Even the angry part is you. That part is going to become your greatest ally in healing. Once you embrace this part and encourage him or her to direct the anger outward (toward the abuse and abusers), this part will share the amazing strength of the anger, which will help you push past the immobility of depression when that hits.

I love the term comrades, which dictionary.com defines as “companion, associate, or friend.” Your parts are becoming friends, which is an important step toward becoming one.

I am so excited to hear about your progress. You might feel “crazy” right now, but you are actually well on your way to be healed and unified as one spirit. Congratulations!

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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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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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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.

Related topics:

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Purple plants (c) Lynda BernhardtOftentimes, the alter parts of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) find themselves in conflict with one another. While movies like the remake of the movie Sybil give the impression that each alter part must “take a turn” being “out,” that was not my experience. Yes, there were many times that my host personality completely blacked out (such as during incidents of abuse). However, for the most part, my host personality would stay out while another alter part was co-present.

I can remember this happening from a young age. When I was around eight years old, I was sketching a toy horse. I left the room to use the bathroom. When I returned, I was thinking about how I wanted to reposition the horse when I stubbed my toe. I was jumping around in pain. Nevertheless, as I did this, I still reached out and repositioned the horse as I howled with pain. My mother/abuser, who was in the room when this happened, was baffled as to why I cared about the position of the horse when I was clearly in enough pain to be crying. While my host personality did not care about the toy horse, another alter part did, which is why my body did both things.

I have had odd moments like that throughout my life. I (from the perspective of the host personality) would be upset about another person taking advantage of me. From out of nowhere, I would suddenly have the assertiveness to stand up for myself and rectify the situation. Then, I would go back to being a doormat and completely baffled that I had the guts to do what I had just done. This dynamic confused people around me as well.

Another time, a “friend” was pushing my buttons while I was driving a car down the highway. I was 17. My father had recently passed away, and my mother had started raping me again. The last thing I needed was a mind-f@#$, and that is exactly what this person was trying to do.

This triggered an alter part that wanted to scratch her eyes out. However, another part of myself (my host personality??) would not allow that to happen, so it turned on me. I started mauling my own arm and my face as I drove. This also triggered another alter part that let out blood-curdling screams. Needless to say, this “friend” about wet her pants as I was speeding down the highway, screaming at the top of my lungs, and clawing myself until I was pouring blood. I finally pulled myself together, but it was a very intense period (perhaps five minutes) that had to have scared that “friend” to death.

Throughout my life, I would have “urges” to harm myself, such as to crash my car into a barrier while driving down the highway. However, another part of myself would never let me do it. I used to think that I was “crazy.” I now realize that this was a suicidal alter part that needed to be healed.

Even though alter parts can be in conflict, they all have the same interest of protecting the child. Even the suicidal alter parts are trying to “protect” the child in their own way (by permanently ending the abuse). As I learned to love and embrace each part as “me,” I stopped experiencing these kinds of conflicts.

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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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Purple flowers (c) Lynda BernhardtBefore I integrated from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), my memory was like Swiss cheese. I had a few vivid memories from my childhood, but they all involved my younger sister and me playing together without anybody else around. I have a few vivid memories from elementary school and can even tell you the name of each teacher throughout elementary school. However, so much was just gone, but I never realized it.

One fascinating thing about DID is a person’s ability to fool herself into believing that her memory is good when it is not. It was only after I started having flashbacks and analyzed what I actually remembered about my childhood that I realized how few memories were actually in my memory bank. That concerned me because people do not generally block out positive memories.

I saw the movie The Three Faces of Eve, which ends with the title character integrating after DID. She suddenly had the complete memory of her childhood. I always wondered if I would have the same experience. While I have recovered many more memories, my experience was a bit different.

In the movie, Eve wound up having all of her memories available to her. While many of mine have been restored, I still have some holes. My therapist is not concerned about this. He says that I probably “wasn’t there” for many things that happened. Also, I was probably in such a survival mode that I never imprinted many memories in the first place.

One wonderful thing has been the recovery of positive memories. One in particular was from when I was in the third grade. My family spent the day outside in the backyard doing yard work. I played in the grass and relished just being alive. I was so present that day. It was the perfect day. When we had to go inside, it was to watch my favorite television show, which was The Wonderful World of Disney. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Before recovering this memory, I had the wrong belief that every minute of my childhood was filled with horror. While there was plenty of horror in my childhood, there was also beauty. It was only through choosing to remember my childhood that I finally had access to the positive memories as well.

Also, my memories are not always linear. I have many memories that I can place within a certain time frame, but they are not necessarily in the order in which they happened. I guess the actual order does not matter, as long as I have access to the whole picture.

I do believe that I now have access to the whole picture. Some things exist in my head as memories. Other things I just “know” without being able to say how I know. Too many of those “knowings” have been corroborated by my sister, who was there, for me to doubt their authenticity.

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