Have you just discovered that you are multiple?
Do you have new insiders surfacing and creating havoc?
Is this a tough time of year for you?
Are you feeling highly triggered right now?
Is your system struggling, feeling dark, chaotic, and separated?
Are you experiencing memories, flashbacks, nightmares, and other PTSD symptoms?
For the dissociative survivor, the process of healing from severe and long-term abuse is a bumpy and difficult road. There WILL be days, or weeks, when you feel like you are holding on with your very last ounce of strength.
- What do you do when you are exhausted and in too much pain?
- How do you start a healing process that feels hugely overwhelming?
- How do you help those brand new insiders that you just found?
- How do you help your system when you know you are being triggered?
- What are the best steps for healing?
- Is your therapy work effectively helping or not helping your system?
Here is the good news:
I have some really helpful ideas for you.
I want to share 10 steps that I use in my clinical work with dissociative trauma survivors.
I know for a fact that these steps work.
And I know, without a doubt, these steps will help with your DID system communication, internal stabilization, ongoing peace of mind, and overall happiness.
I also know that these 10 steps appear to “simplify the process”, and while in some ways, there is a lot of simple repetition in the healing process, it can also get a whole lot more complicated than I’ve written here.
Please don’t forget this article: 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder .
Healing from DID is no simple task, that’s for sure. And yes, more in-depth work will be addressed in other articles and resources here at Discussing Dissociation.
Developing Internal Communication
Also, please note that I haven’t made a specific category in this list for sorting out conflicts, and resolving internal differences, and improving internal communication. Your DID system will be riddled with complicated opposite views, and opposing opinions about EVERYthing. Surviving the trauma would have required different insiders with extremely opposite skills, beliefs, expectations, etc. This is normal for DID !
However, as your healing journey progresses, your system connections will need to become more cohesive and less opposite. As a system, you will need to know how to talk with each other about these differences, and have a cooperative attitude in resolving your differences, and make decisions based on the best possible outcome for the whole of the system.
Because these conflicts happen at every step of the process, just know that systemic conflict resolution happens, all the time, every day, every week of your healing. Developing excellent internal communication is essential, and will help you complete the rest of your healing tasks.
Every time you meet a new person in your system, or any time you have an insider struggling, or anytime you feel like hurting yourself, or any time you experience time loss…
Use these these 10 steps to help improve how you and your system are feeling.
Create Outside Safety
The fundamental element of healing is to stop the abuse. Think about it. It’s very hard to heal when you keep getting hurt. You probably have had a life far too full of abuse, trauma and neglect — horrible events that happened originally in the outside world. That trauma is where the problems started for you.
Always remember — the trauma was NOT your fault!
So yes, to be the most effective in your healing process, you need to be safe in your outside world.
You need to not be having ongoing trauma.
You need safety from recurring abuse.
Stay far, far, super-far away from anyone in the outside world who has been a perpetrator, abuser, offender, or programmer to you or to anyone in your system. You know who they are, even if you don’t know that you know who they are. I promise you, someone in your system knows who your perpetrators are. Learn to trust your system, and listen to your Insiders so you can stay far away from anyone who has been your abuser.
Be brave, and have the courage to NOT be near abusers, perpetrators, and offenders. If they don’t have the decency to stop abusing you, you must have solid determination to not let them have access to you. Don’t talk to them, and certainly don’t go visit them. Don’t open the door if they come to you.
Build thick and literal walls of safety and miles and miles of distance between you and your perpetrators.
I realize this may be a very complicated process, but I think you get the point. Start here, and work to build your external safety as quickly as possible.
Create Inside Safety
Outside trauma taught your system how to do internal trauma. This is not your fault. However, for effective healing work with your system, you need to put a priority onto creating safety in your life, both inside and out.
Look inside, because if you are not being literally hurt at this exact moment in the outside world, but you are feeling it as IF it is happening right now, then it IS happening right now, on the Inside.
What is happening on the inside is probably mirroring what happened on the outside. It’s a separate way of doing memory work, but if you take the approach of finding where the trauma is happening internally, you’ll be able to help your insiders finally get a sense of freedom and protection.
Working with Insiders who are abusive to other Insiders is a process that is beyond the scope of this particular article. Yes, you will need to teach those Insiders how to be Helpers instead of Hurters, and yes, you can do that.
Speak with the Insiders who are Feeling the Trauma
Do you know who is getting hurt?
What is happening to them?
Where are they located in your system?
What can you do to help those ones who are feeling or seeing or remembering the pain?
What about all the body pain and body memories?
Many dissociative survivors are afraid or reluctant to speak to the people in their system who hold the trauma. I understand that you needed to be separate from these folks and their experiences to survive and get through the years, but now, for healing, you must muster the courage to find these insiders, and to speak with them.
At this point in the process, I am not talking about going into minute detail in learning about the actual trauma itself. Do not ask them to tell you about the details of their nightmares. At this stage, you only need to know the basic general idea of what happened, and frankly, when you see them inside, you’ll be able to see it for yourself. You won’t necessarily need to actually ask them much of anything.
So yes, you need to see and find who needs the help, and then HELP them move to a safer place.
Don’t continue the pattern of years of neglect by refusing to help them. It was wrong for people to not help you during your years of trauma. And now, it’s your responsibility to help your people. It would be just as wrong for you to refuse to help your insiders as it was for your outside caretakers to not help you.
Find People in your System who can be Helpers for the Ones who are Hurting
Often there are others inside who are just a few steps back from the ones who are feeling the most targeted with the intense pain. So… who in there can help them? Who can get close enough to them to make a difference?
Find someone inside who can lend a helping hand to the ones who are hurting. Who can pull the hurting one out of the trauma scenario? Who can offer them a towel or a blanket for covering? Who can help to wash their little faces or give them a sip of water?
There will be people in your system who are like the ambulance paramedics in the outside world. Someone needs to go into the traumatic scene and help pull the injured insider OUT of the trauma they are experiencing and then take them to a safer place in your inside world.
Remove the Gunk and Junk from your Injured Insiders
With dissociative insiders, there will be internal replications of the outside trauma still on the inside bodies. Of course, this is not visible on the outside body although it is probably felt intensely in the outside body.
This might be the after effects of the trauma itself… with dirt, or mud, or bloody stuff, or messy stuff on the inside bodies. Or it could be “inhuman objects” like wires or plastic or pieces of metal or funny objects attached to the inside bodies.
All this gunk and junk needs to come off the inside bodies so the inside person can feel as free and clean and “normal” as possible.
Note: this may not be a simple or straightforward process. This may take quite some time, and many repeated efforts. There are deep and significant reasons for this, and explaining all that goes beyond the scope of this particular article. Regardless of the long-term work, you can start with what you can see now, and do as much as you can while also knowing it’s a long-term job.
You can certainly address the most obvious bits and pieces by tending to what is most visible to you now. Referring to the ambulance metaphor, if the paramedic finds a stick jammed in someone’s arm, the proper healing procedure involves removing that stick from the arm. Follow that same concept in your internal world.
No one inside needs obvious trauma residue or weird junk stuck onto them or into them. Your insiders cannot heal if they still have that junk stuck on them or in them. It’s all gotta get off them so they do not have the experience of still being IN their trauma.
To heal from trauma, they must have distance FROM the trauma, inside and out. You cannot heal from trauma if it is still happening in the now, inside or out.
As you remove the Gunk and Junk, Prepare for Incoming Memory Information
The stuff that you see on your insider will be a visual metaphor that tells part of their life story. It’s very important to understand what those items represent and what stories they tell.
Secondly, it’s still there as a way of keeping the past still feeling like the present. Sometimes this has been done on purpose — as in cases of purposefully done programming. Sometimes the gunk and junk has stayed like this because the insider experienced years of neglect after their trauma and were never comforted or helped, so they stayed locked in that exact trauma spot where they felt exactly like that.
Removing the gunk and junk is necessary for healing, but it will tell the story of what happened. As you get close to these items, you will learn more about what happened, and you might feel more in your body, both inside and out.
This is difficult, yes, of course. It’s painful, and stressful to learn about abuse, even on a generalized level. But it’s still crucial, necessary, and part of the truth of your life. Find the ones who can manage this front line battle, and be determined to help your injured insiders find peace, safety, and healing.
Provide lots of TLC — Tender, Loving, and Gentle Care for the Injured Insiders
Again, let’s think of the process that happens in the outside world when someone is rescued from a horrible traumatic event. Let’s use a car wreck as an example.
The location of the traumatic incident is found. The people injured in the wreck are located. Someone goes to help them, like a paramedic does. The bits of surface glass and metal wreckage are removed from the injured person’s body. The injured person is taken to a safe place for more intense healing work (such as the emergency room), and then they are given a place to stay where they can safely and comfortably heal from their injuries – in their own ICU room. Then they are carefully tended by a team of caring medical professionals and supportive helpers until the injured person can regain their strength and function more on their own.
Your internal healing process is very much like that outside example, including the ongoing need for TLC and care for some time after the event.
Your insiders need time to heal in a safe, comfortable place where their needs are genuinely being met.
I’ve used outside metaphors, but I am also insisting that this same exact process happens on the inside.
Tend to each other. Care for each other. Help each other internally as you are healing from your deep wounding. Be gentle. Be kind. Offer the basics like clean clothes, good food, clear water, soft bedding, ongoing warmth, and gentle light.
LATER, you can speak about the details of the memories. Even at this point, you do not need to go into detail about what happened. Let some strength, healing, recovery, and recuperation happen first.
Build a Genuine and Positive Relationship with these Injured Insiders
People, including inside people, need to feel more secure in their relationships before they talk about the details of their trauma.
Trust and connection are important, and yes, of course, this is also important in DID system relationships.
While your injured folks are healing from the obvious surface layers of their abuse, and others in your system are providing genuine care, begin to build a relationship with these Injured Insiders.
Find out the easy bits of information and the simple things.
What’s their name? How old are they? What bits of story can they tell you about their life experiences that aren’t stressful for them to say? Start with the EASY topics, and don’t push for the hard topics. Let your relationship build with these insiders, allowing time for trust and connection to develop, the same as you would want with outside people.
This process can happen more quickly on the inside, but it won’t necessarily happen more quickly. It’s just crucial to not rush this process. Allow for bonding to occur between both the one who has the stories to tell AND the listeners who need to hear what happened.
Forcing the disclosure of memory detail will only rock your stability, create chaos and conflict. So, you know…. Don’t rush it. There’s no need for that.
Let your insiders have the time and space they need to tell what happened to them AND let the listeners in your system build their courage and connection to who needs to tell their story.
Once your insider is in a safe place, it’s soooo much more important to build that emotional bridge to them, in a positive relationship level, than to worry about details of their trauma.
SYSTEM WORK FIRST.
Memory work later.
Allow Memory Information to Surface as it Does, Naturally
As your Injured Insiders feel safe to tell their story, have the ears to hear it, and have a strong enough relationship to stay connected to them during this process.
If you can’t stand to hear their trauma, then you need to build more relationship with them.
Once that relationship is there, and the familiarity between the inside parts, you’ll be better able to hear, absorb, and address the actual memory information. You’ll care about what happened to them, and you’ll want to know more about them.
Your Injured Insiders may not want to tell your whole DID system the details of what happened to them. They may want to talk with a few people and keep their details private within that small group at first. That’s okay. That’s not a problem – it’s a step in the process.
As those insiders feel more safe and secure, accepted and connected to more of you in your system, then they will share their information with more of you in the system.
Walk the Healing Journey Together
Healing takes a looooong time, and happens in bits and pieces, and circles around and repeats itself a few times over.
Your insiders will need time to do their healing work again, and again, reaching deeper levels and finding new areas of pain as time goes on.
Being that you are dissociative, with an entire system of inside people, I can guarantee you that your trauma history is long and complicated. You would not need to be DID if it were simple and easy.
So yes, your road to healing will be complex, and your insiders will be at different stages of the process at different times. It will be a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and back around all over again.
It is what it is, and just prepare for that.
The main thing is to let ALL your inside people – ALL your Injured Insiders – have the time and space they need to get genuine healing.
And as you find each other again, become friends. You’ll need to be friendly and helpful with each other to heal anyway, so build your internal bonds and genuinely emotionally connect deeply with each other.
And THIS is the true beauty in being multiple.
Once you and your insiders are genuine friends, you will find such deep joy, love, beauty, and humor in your relationships with each other. You’ll be able to really have fun as a team, and march forward into the good stuff.
You won’t have to stay stuck in the painful hard stuff.
You’ll get to be together doing good things. Life will be worth it! Life will be good!
And THAT is a goal and a reality very much worth fighting for.
I’ve seen healthy progress happen with other DID systems, and I know, without a doubt, that it can happen for yours as well.
PS: Are you newly diagnosed with DID? Or are you struggling with how to help those newly surfacing parts?
The Saddest Little Bear Dissoci-ACTION Story Pack is available.
The focus for the Saddest Little Bear is on meeting new parts, and getting to know parts of your system.
If you need additional guidance with meeting new parts in your system, this Story Pack should be very helpful information for you.
I wish you and your whole system the very, very best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2023 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation