It always amazes me when dissociative trauma survivors tell me that after they’ve met three or four of their inside alters (or maybe even a few more than that, but not many), that they think they’ve met everyone in their system. They think they are “done” meeting their insiders.
That never makes sense to me.
Oh, I understand why the survivors would want to believe they have so few others inside, but that hope rarely matches with the actual amount of dissociative symptoms that they experience in their lives.
For example, if someone is still losing time, but they believe that have a good solid relationship with the parts that they know – then why are they losing time? Yes, it is possible that someone you know in your system can still block you out of awareness at certain times.
Then again, if everyone you know in your system said they did not know what happened during a period of lost time, then it only makes sense to realize there are other parts of the system out and in charge during that missing time. If all of you are losing time, then there are more insiders yet to meet.
In my definition, meeting new insiders is a sign of progress.
Meeting new parts is not the same as creating new parts – they are simply finding the parts that have been hiding from them all along behind strong dissociative walls. Any time you can reclaim more of the information that had been previously blocked from you via dissociation, you are making progress.
Learning about your system and your history are always steps of progress.
So who should you look for or when will you know if there are more parts to meet?
All dissociative trauma survivors have their own unique system, of course. No one’s system is exactly like anyone else’s. There is no right or wrong for how big or how elaborate your system is. You would have split as many times as you had to, and you will have as many parts as you needed.
However, there are some common types of alters that exist in most DID survivors. This is a non-exhaustive list:
(Please note: alters may start off in these categories, but their roles can change.)
1. Host parts .
Check to see who was the host at various times in your life. This role can change and be assigned from part to part to part through time. Host parts are the ones assigned to deal with the outside world. They are often the ones who went to school, or who go to work. They deal with the interactions with outside people, and often use the legal name (but not always).
2. Child parts.
Your dissociative splitting would have started prior to age 7, so you will definitely have at least one child part, however, most DID survivors have bunches of child parts.
3. Parts that are relatively happy and trauma-free.
These parts do not remember any trauma whatsoever. They can be of any age, but they believe they had a completely safe and happy childhood / adult life. Some parts might believe there was childhood abuse, but they can be blocked from the awareness of abuse happening in the adult years.
4. Parts that are created to manage the outside world.
These parts may be the ones that went to school, or go to work, or handle social situations. They are typically quite separate from the trauma-holders or those that hold intense emotions. These parts may not be aware of a lot of trauma, they may hold a lot of denial, and they have the job to look as normal as possible. They will help the person get through life by doing normal things.
5. Parts that don’t remember anything “good” happening.
If there are parts that only remember good things, there will absolutely be parts that only remember painful, not-so-good things. They contain the information that the normal daytime “happy” parts were not allowed to know, experience, or remember.
6. Parts that know a lot of memory information.
These are the parts that either experienced or witnessed the trauma, abuse, neglect, etc. Getting to know these parts will involve listening to stories about the trauma, body memories about the trauma, flashbacks of the trauma, etc. It is common for there to be numerous parts to handle various types of abuses by various perpetrators. For example, one part may have managed a specific kind of abuse by perpetrator A. Another part may have handled a different kind of abuse by perpetrator A. Another part may have handled the abuse by perpetrator B. Yet another part handled the abuse by perpetrator C. And so forth.
7. Parts that contain a specific emotion.
Many people split off various emotions into parts to contain those intense overwhelming emotions. If you believe, for example, that you never feel anger, you will likely have other parts in your system that do contain those emotions for you. These parts often have names such as “the sad little girl”, or “the angry one”, or “the scared one”. Getting to know these parts will mean starting to accept and experience these emotions.
8. Parts that split off at particularly traumatic years of life.
These parts could also be memory-holders, but during years when there was more stress in the external life, there will likely be more parts. Years of more extreme abuse can lead to more parts being created of a similar age simply because more selves were needed to manage the overwhelming abuse.
9. Parts that are loyal to the mother.
All children love their mother, even abusive, neglectful mothers. However, this emotion might need to be contained within certain parts, especially in the case of abusive mothers. Some parts are created to agree with the mother’s abuse (defining it as anything but abuse), and others are created to be obedient to the mother, even if they are terrified or in pain.
10. Parts that are loyal to the father.
Just as with the mother, the father may have a variety of parts that are loyal to him, his beliefs, his ways, etc. They may learn that it is safer to align with the perpetrator and to separate themselves from the child-survivor.
11. Parts that contain loyalty to the perpetrators.
These parts are often rewarded by the abuser-perpetrators and are encouraged to view themselves as separate from the rest of the system. It will take a lot of work to bring their loyalty back to the person they were created from.
Introjects feel as if they are external people, and typically are created from mirroring external people. System introjects are internalized parts of the system that act – think- feel – believe themselves to be the exact image of the external person that they are replicating, except they often believe they are the actual person (and not the replication). They may adamantly believe that they are a different person from the survivor-self, complete with a different body from the survivor. These parts contain a lot of memories, factual information, emotional realities for how it was like to be near the outside person.
13. Parts that contain the programming / mind controlled messages.
These parts are often created by design and on purpose by organized abusers. These parts are given specific learnings that function as “rules” to control the survivor’s overall behavior. They are often separate from the host parts, and quite hidden within the depths of the system. The other system parts will experience their influence, but have trouble recognizing them as specific alters.
14. Parts that hate the mother or father.
Hating the parents may be a difficult dilemma to address, especially since there will be parts of the person that naturally love their parents. However, years of repeated abuse and neglect can create the need for parts to contain the hatred felt towards parents who would allow such atrocities to happen to their child. Refusing to claim the parents or adamantly denying that the mother or father is their mother or father is another option.
15. Parts that are created along the lines of family dynamics.
Some survivors will internalize their family into their own DID system. You might find internal replicas of the sisters, brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. The family dynamics will be played out in a variety of ways but will most obviously be noted in the way the survivor splits off their system.
DID survivors typically have parts who have floated up and away, and other parts that separated themselves from the body in one form or another during intense trauma. These parts may have risen above the body, and while maintaining a view from the out-of-body experience position, they may have specific information to share with the survivor about the kinds of things that happened.
17. Internal self-helpers.
These parts would have been created by the system themselves and not necessarily during a state of trauma. They are typically leaders of the system that are considered to be holders of wisdom, or gentle peace, or spiritual guidance. They are devoted to the survivor system as a whole and work towards maintaining safety, stabilization, balance, etc. They typically do very little with the outside world, and focus most all of their energies towards helping the system to survive.
18. Parts that are specifically parental figures to the outside children.
It is not uncommon for a survivor to split off “parental parts” just to be focused on raising the outside children as well as possible. These parts very often work hard at being different from their own outside parents, and strive to be the best parent they can be.
19. Parts that were involved in abusing others.
This is a very difficult area for survivors to reach, but it is more common than not. Especially for those people who have been abused by organized perpetrators (ie: cults, sex slavery groups, etc) there will be parts who were forced to have the perpetrator role and required to do things that harmed other people.
20. Parts that contain a specific skill or talent.
Certain parts can be created to develop positive talents and abilities, often as a way to help manage or express or avoid the pain that is felt so deeply by the others in the system. Maybe one part is better at playing a musical instrument than anyone else. Maybe someone else learned how to write poetry. Or maybe someone was created to be an athlete and to run, jump, excel at sports, etc.
As you can see, there can be a large system just by having parts to fulfill the different roles that are often needed to get through the abuse. Some parts may have a variety of these jobs, overlapping from a variety of categories.
But don’t be surprised if you have a variety of parts in each of the categories listed above.
Many survivors do.
Copyright © 2008-2017 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
- Extinguishing Fear by Relaxing the Body
- When the Painful Past is the Painful Present
- Feeling Split about Anger
- My 100 Strengths, as Said by a Group of Dissociative Trauma Survivors
- 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Discussing Dissociation, Five Years Later
For more information about Dissociative Identity Disorder, watch the entire video playlist on YouTube, Discussing Dissociation Blog: