Trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder have an internal world – an internal landscape that is visible, tangible, and very real for the different internal parts. No one on the outside can see this internal world – it is within the mind of the DID person and it belongs totally and completely to them.
Many times, this internal landscape is an internalized replica of what happened in the outside world. For example, you might see a house that looks just like the place where you grew up. Or you might see rooms that appear to be the same as rooms where you were hurt. When you first look within your internal world, it is not uncommon for most of the landscape to parallel your trauma history. It is, in fact, during the traumatic times that your various parts were split off.
However, the internal world belongs to you, it was created by you, and it does not have to stay “as is”. If you can visualize something new, you can change your internal world. If you want to create and develop nice internal homes, you can do that. It is your world, and you can surround yourself with whatever you choose.
This internal world can be changed and affected by work done with external people with the internal parts. Like any other situation, if the interactions are with a safe person, the changes to the internal world will lead to greater healing and stability. If those interactions are with a not-safe person, the changes in the internal world will be done to serve the offender / abuser, and will not benefit the DID survivor.
The internal landscape comes naturally with the concept of dissociating because the other people that are split off from the natural born child have to have a place to be, to exist, to live. They have internal homes – their own place be – when they are not out presenting in the body.
When the host person is in a lot of denial about the DID system, it is not unusual for that host part to not be able to see much of the internal world. Hosts with denial very often say, “It’s dark inside”, or “It’s all black”, or “I can’t see anything.” When this is the case, it is a very clear indicator that there is work to be done.
Or for that matter, even if denial isn’t the issue, the out front host parts may be blocked from the chaos or complexities of the deeper internal worlds so they can stay focused on outside world, everyday life issues. Dealing with the outside world, and outside people, and the job, and the household, and the kids, and all the busy-ness of an outside world is a big enough job of itself! Blurring the inside world with the outside world can become too much to manage at the same time. In that sense, it can feel protective and more manageable for the outside host part of your system to stay further removed from internal workings of the rest of the DID system.
Therefore, the host person of your system may not be the best person to go to when you are trying to work with your internal worlds. Hosts are great at their outside jobs, but someone else in your system could be better prepared to work with internal worlds. For that matter, if the host person has a great deal of trouble accepting that there are internal worlds, or simply finds it too difficult to manage, you might have to side-step that debate, and work on the issue separately as an internal group. Invite your host to join in with you, but don’t stop doing this work if the host personality finds this too difficult.
You will have internal leaders as well – they may or may not be the same leaders that deal with the external worlds. These leaders will likely be aware of who is in their area. They even be aware of other areas that are separate from their own “world”.
A Neutral Meeting Place
Those of you that can see each other can create an internal meeting place – a neutral area, much the same as a living room or den of a house. Create this place as an area that belongs to everyone and is created to be shared between whoever shows up. This makes for a good place to practice overall group communication.
Use this room to have general group meetings, to talk about daily events, to discuss decisions, to make plans. Check in with each other – ask how the others are, how they are feeling today, and what’s going on for them. The more your group as a whole participates in life issues, and becomes aware of each other, listening to each other, the more cohesion and cooperation you will get. Developing a group consensus – where insiders can agree to do various issues, will significantly improve your overall stabilization and ability to function.
Besides group meetings, make it abundantly clear that it is also okay for everyone to speak with everyone else. This is important, as breaking the “no-talk rules” is critical in your overall healing. Encourage each other to spend time together, to get to know each other, to talk on a regular basis. Do not base these kinds of communications on trauma material – base these on typical outside interactions, where you get to know the person, what they do, what they like, who they are before you start asking about crisis or traumatic material.
Go on Internal Walk-Abouts
When you look around your internal world, you will get clues from the actual landscape that is there. If you see a locked door or a walled off area – there could be someone else on the other side, specifically separated from the rest of you. If you see black fuzzy shadowy areas, there are very likely groups of other people hidden inside of those. If you see a house or a building, there will likely be people inside those areas as well.
Explore. Walk around. Look deeper into areas that you haven’t gone into before.
Look in the hidden areas – you’ll find all kinds of internalized parts if you look for them. Think about where you used to hide as a child. If you look in those same kinds of places on the inside, you’ll find some of your internal kids hiding there in your internal worlds. These hidden kids may also know where other hidden children are. Be sure to ask.
If you are leery about doing these walk-arounds on your own, take someone with you. The buddy system works well and be sure to inform the others inside that you are exploring, and ask them to come check for you if you’re not back in a certain amount of time.
Your inside world will be a mini-version of what your life has been like. What happened externally will have been internalized. In many ways, your internal world will be a version of your life story, and all the insiders needed to get through the different events. The places will be the same. The stories will be the same. It’s you and your life – just on the inside.
Meet the Needs of Your System People
Remember, as you find someone inside, approach them the same as if you were looking at an outside person in that situation.
If they look hungry, give them something simple to eat. If they look thirsty, share a favorite drink with them. Give them clean clothes, warm blankets, a warm wash cloth, and small teddy bear for comfort if they are young. First meet their physical needs. Your first priority is to help them feel safe and protected.
Once these parts feel safer with you, they will begin to talk with you a little more. Do not push for memory content. This will overwhelm too many people too fast, and it’s not necessary. If the hidden ones you find will move to a new area closer to the safe common ground, that is great. It might take a lot of work, before they are comfortable enough to do that, but let them know the option is available whenever they are ready for that.
Help the Insiders see the Outside World
Start with getting everyone connected more in the here and now. Do they even know there is a NOW time that is completely different from the THEN time they are familiar with?
Let them peek at the external life, through the outside (body) eyes to see that they live in a new place and time. Many of these insiders will have been locked deep within their traumatic worlds for most of their lives. They need time to see that it is Now, and that it will be news to them that they can live in a safer place. Build nice areas for them to stay, so they don’t have to go back to their traumatized “homes”. The longer they can stay in safe neutral areas, the better.
However, expect your system members to go back and forth between the new areas that you create for them, or that get introduced to them, and back to their old trauma-filled areas. They will visit or return to their old internal areas while they still have unprocessed trauma to deal with. The more they get a chance to have healing for their wounds, the less they will have to return to those old places that remind them of the trauma.
This is such a huge topic, and the process of this work can continue for years of time. It is extremely rewarding and makes a huge difference, so I encourage you to get started, and to stay with it. Please continue to read other articles that expand further into the discussion.
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2023 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation