Have you ever had this experience?
When you know you are DID, and you know you have inside people, and AFTER they are used to having time to come out, to talk, to be heard, and to express their feelings, THEN you get into some social situation where all your insiders have to tuck back inside again?
I’m referring to times when your inside people no longer get to present in the outside world, and no longer get to speak or play or talk or interact with their outside world, especially after they are quite used to be out and about. When they suddenly have to keep secrets or worse yet, when THEY have to be secret again.
What is that experience like for you?
I think it must be very hard, and extremely difficult.
It’s even more difficult than trying to put a sleeping bag back inside its bag, or re-packing an overly full suitcase, or blocking off the flow of a river. Once everyone knows they can come out, it’s quite difficult to get everyone back in.
It was hard enough for everyone to stay tucked inside before they were recognized and welcomed into the outside world. Growing up “as a secret” and staying hidden deep inside is a normal early-days way of being DID. For years, even decades, many insiders were not allowed the freedom to come out, and were only triggered out for traumatic events and painful circumstances. It wasn’t safe to be out, and staying tucked inside away from more trauma and abuse would have felt much better than venturing out into the outside world.
That was then, and this is now.
Hopefully, your outside safety has greatly improved, and hopefully, your current day is not filled with ongoing trauma or abuse.
Hopefully, your insiders are starting to experience good things in the world, pleasant experiences, and cool stuff. They might even have some fun every now and then!
Through the healing process, DID insiders typically start being welcomed out into the world, they begin to have positive experiences, they create their own interests and activities, and they begin to build their own life in the everyday here and now. This is the good stuff — that’s how it’s supposed to be — having all kinds of positive Corrective Emotional Experiences (my favorite term), and learning to enjoy life.
So being told “Get back in your box, now!” — WOW! That’s a completely different situation when your inside people are quite used to have their own outside time, their own outside space, and their own outside activities. To lose that freedom of life and expression feels extremely hard, painful, traumatic, and impossible.
For a busy and active plural system of people, to suddenly be told to “Be Quiet” or “You’re not allowed to talk anymore” or “You can’t be here right now” can create all kinds of system struggles. It can trigger up old feelings, and be a reminder of bad memories.
This situation can happen innocently enough when there are guests in your home, or when you start a new job, or when there is a disagreement with your therapist, or if you have a conflict with a friend, or if you are meeting a new therapist, or it’s time to go back to a busy semester of school. Obviously, when you are visiting family or around folks who were your abusers and perpetrators, your insiders will try to run and hide deep inside. There are all kinds of reasons for insiders to suddenly lose their “privacy”, or personal space, or freedom to talk.
What can you do?
How does this situation feel to you and your inside people?
What has helped you and your system when this happens?
Stuffing your insiders back deep inside will not feel comfortable or okay, especially after they are used to having freedom and creative expression. Your people have learned to enjoy freedom, and good for them!
To prevent the building pressure and emotional blockages, try some of the following ideas. It’s important to keep some options of expression open and available for your people.
Also, focusing some time and attention on what your insiders need and want, even if they can’t be out in the outside world, will help them to know that YOU haven’t forgotten about them either. They won’t be happy about being ignored, displaced, thrown away, or abandoned, so if you are sure to create some viable options for them, that will help to address their emotional needs to stay connected with you.
Here are a few ideas to try.
Be mindful of the situation, and recognize the strong emotional impact it will have on your insiders. No one likes having their freedom taken away, and feeling restricted or contained or gagged or silenced could be very triggering for your insiders. And if you are feeling triggered, or internally upset, it’s best if you can at least understand why and where that’s coming from.
Talk to your inside people about the situation and their feelings. Maintain your own internal communication and be sure to listen to your people. Even if they can’t present outside, it’s still important to keep talking to them on the inside. Make extra time to talk with each other every single day.
Explore other options and other places where your insiders can be safely outside while you are waiting for your overall situation to change or improve. Giving your insiders ways to still be themselves will be important. Where can they go to get a few minutes of safe personal time? Can they go to the park? Can they spend more time in your room where they are allowed to be out? What about walks out on the beach or on a nature path? Can they take the dog for extra long walks? Can you find outdoor places with privacy where your insiders will free okay to visit?
Develop your internal world to have even more of the good things you enjoy from the outside world. For example, make an inside music room, or an inside playground, or an inside swimming pool, or a super cool tree house, or a sports complex, or a pool table, or a pretty flower garden, or a library, etc. Your inside world is an unlimited resource, so anything that your insiders would like to have, you can create for them on the inside.
If you need ideas for what to create in your inside world, do Google searches, especially Image searches. Use the key phrases such as “cool places for kids to play” or “tree houses” or “pretty gardens” or “kids activities” or “rainy day activities” to get some new ideas that will work for your insiders.
Make a list of the work and changes you’ve needed to do in your internal world, and use that time to focus lots of energy on doing those inside jobs. Read the articles in the “Therapy Homework” category here on Discussing Dissociation if you need some ideas.
Focus on some reading you need to catch up on, including books or articles that your insiders wanted to read. Or, encourage your insiders to do more writing and journalling while they need to be externally quiet. Writing exercises, writing poetry, writing stories, etc could have great emotional value and also be an option for expression. Staying busy with quiet activities of their choosing will help pass the time, but also make good use of the time while your insiders can’t be out and about.
What about using the time to watch tv shows or videos that have personal meaning for your system? Even if your insiders need to be externally quiet, have a movie marathon of their favorite television shows could be very important — it’s like being recognized, feeling comforted, and spending time with old friends.
Listening to music that connects with your inside people will also give your insiders ongoing recognition, and help meet their emotional needs. Music can be a very powerful tool for healing and for expression, so you might need to let the music do the talking for awhile.
Give your insiders some creative art projects as an alternative to outward expression. This can mean anything from drawing, sketching, painting, or collage. And if your insiders aren’t able to show artwork outwardly, can they create images or edit pictures or make collages on your computer? Computer artistry can be more private than external artwork, and creating visual graphics could be a fantastic form of expression.
Many times, in these kinds of situations requiring external privacy, your insiders may agree with the need for them to be tucked deeply inside, even if they don’t actually want to be there. They may full well understand why it’s best for them to not be outside and visible to outside people. They may not argue with the premise of them needing to be tucked back inside. They might not feel safe about being seen either, and they might not want to talk.
However, even if they are in agreement with this situation, it will still be in your overall best interests to acknowledge that it’s not ideal for them, and to create as many other alternatives as you can.
Tending and caring for your system is crucial for your healing, no matter what.
Can you relate to this experience?
What have you found helpful in these situations?
How do your internal people react to be told to be quiet and stay inside?
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2018 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation