Many dissociative trauma survivors struggle with how to tend to their child parts, and how to create a safe environment for those inside parts.
For lots of DID survivors, it can feel quite difficult and challenging to know how to gently and tenderly care for their injured or upset child parts, especially when their own experience of childhood was anything but gentle or tender. This task feels overwhelming, uncomfortable, confusing. Maybe even frightening.
Do you wonder how to take care of your little insiders?
Do you wonder why you might need to take care of your little ones?
This complex topic was raised in the comment sections of one of the articles here on Discussing Dissociation. To see more, check out this blog, Being Kind to Your Internal System.
One of the faithful, long-term readers here at Discussing Dissociation, ME+WE, wrote some very helpful ideas in response to this discussion. Click here to see her original comment written on the article, Being Kind to Your Internal System.
Because I really liked the way these guidelines were written and organized by ME+WE, I decided to post her helpful words of wisdom in a blog post for everyone to see.
Here are the excellent ideas for accomplishing DID system work, as written by ME+WE:
I would venture to say that most of us did not have compassionate, caring, nurturing and safe childhoods. It leaves us rather empty on that front. But, because we did not know compassion, caring, nurturing and safety first-hand ourselves does not mean that we cannot create this kind of environment for our insiders.
Here are my thoughts on how to do this:
1. Have the courage to see.
Our insiders were created because of all of the horrible things that happened to us (and should not have). They stored the knowledge of this trauma and abuse away for us so we did not have to see it (and experience it, deal with it, etc.). Now, to liberate our insiders from this duty that they have taken on, we have to be willing to see. So, that means courage and an open mind, heart and soul that is willing to truly see into even the darkest corners of our internal world.
2. Build communication.
We cannot see our truth if we do not know who is holding it. So, we need to find out who is in our internal system, a little of their biography (e.g., when they came into existence, how old they are, do they hold trauma, etc.), how they exist internally (e.g., are they all together, separate, in groups, etc.), who knows who, and so on. Just a getting-to-know-you with our systems and letting them tell us who they are, and what role they play.
3. Offer the basics of existence.
By this I mean do not wait to hear what your insiders need. Offer them food, shelter, clothing, blankets, pillows, stuffies, etc. Just all of the things that a child would need. If there are older insiders, you can offer age-appropriate things for them. Anticipate their needs and show them that you care.
4. Build safe places.
My little ones have a sunshine tent made from yellow sheets with their blankets, pillows, and stuffies. This is where they can go to feel safe and not have to deal with the outside world. For example, if I am going to see the doctor, I ask them to go to their sunshine tent and stay there until I call for them.
5. Encourage insiders into safety and comfort.
Some insiders may be in dark, dangerous, unsafe or uninhabitable places inside. Create safe places for them to come out to. They may be reluctant at first but offer them the option and encourage them to come out. For example, I had an insider who lived in a cold, dark and damp cave. Eventually she came out to a little cabin that two of my boy alters built for her. Actually, one of the boys when and got her and brought her to the new place.
6. Talk with your insiders.
I found that the best way to encourage my insiders to talk with me was for me to talk to them. Every day I would tell them that I loved them; that I appreciated all that they had done for me to survive; that I wanted to help them as best as I could; that I wanted to hear what they needed/wanted to tell me; that I might not always understand or agree with them but that I would always listen respectfully to them and try to comprehend what they are telling me; that I wanted to build co-consciousness so that we could live together in mutual cooperation; and that I would always have their best interest in mind even though I might make mistakes along the way.
7. Listen compassionately and creatively.
Your insiders are full of information that is going to be hard to hear and some of it may be difficult to understand. Remember it was your child’s mind that interpreted what happened and is now trying to tell you. Be sure to listen openly, non-judgmentally and courageously. You are not going to like a lot of what you will hear and maybe even doubt its accuracy but it is your truth. Do not doubt yourself or your insiders. Be gentle with ALL of you (inside and out).
8. Be consistent.
Children (and adults) find safety in consistency. So, that means devoting yourself to all of the points above as best you can.
Some articles on the DD website that I found particularly helpful on this topic (use the search function in the right-hand column of the webpage):
Developing Internal Communication – Starting with the Basics
5 Kinds of Emotional Support Needed by Dissociative Trauma Survivors (but I think that this applies to how we approach our insiders as well)
30 Tips for How to Help a Child who is Hurting (this applies to how we approach our insiders as well)
Kathy’s Video Comment: Making a Calm Place Inside your Dissociative World
Wow, thanks for sharing all that, ME+WE. That’s a lot of great advice, and I really appreciate your willingness to share your own personal experiences with reaching your insiders. Of course, everyone’s situation is unique, but it offers a certain amount of comfort and reassurance knowing that someone else was able to make positive strides in tending to their little ones.
For you who are reading this list today, here are some Dissoci-ACTION Questions:
Are you able to do any of these tasks with your insiders?
Do you know how to help your little ones?
What would you add to the list of what has been presented here today?
What helpful tips can you share with the other readers of this blog?
All your collective, helpful ideas are most definitely appreciated! Learning from each other, from others who are genuinely working on their own healing journey, is one of the best ways to feel encouraged, and on target.
Hopefully you feel inspired by ME+WE’s courage, and will find ways to help your own little ones.
Oh, and a quick reminder for you. A safe OUTSIDE Environment for your DID system, including your little parts can be found at the Discussing Dissociation Community Forum.
At the Forum, your system parts, old and young, are welcome to participate, talk, play, and communicate in a protected, private environment created especially for them.
You can practice your internal communication skills in your own designated writing areas, or you can ask questions to the other dissociative trauma survivors also learning how to improve life for their internal systems. Peer support is a wonderful thing, and DID survivors can learn lots from each other!
For more information about our DID Community Forum, click HERE.
Take gentle care, and be kind to your people!
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2019 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
we got a little baby inside kid right now that been crying so hard for 5 days straight. her be so sad. we dont know why. and of course her cant talk. she cry so hard her body shake. so we been trying to hold her and give her treats. but her pushes everything away. We still keep trying to find things to help her feel better though. her do seem to like having a blanket over her shoulders so we been doing that a lot.
Rylie – glad you are finding ways to help her! You are giving us hope! we are still trying to learn how to do that……Thank you……
Things have been in upheaval at work – being bounced around to different buildings which throws everything Inside into “on guard” chaos….Been in training in a new building with a new “unknown” person….started struggling and he must have told boss I was having a hard time so I had to work HARD to hide everything – but I knew it was still there….When listening to the training my hands would not stop holding the thumbs even when I was aware it was happening…..I guess parts were trying to deal with the anxiety….I just had to hope the trainer didn’t notice and consider me weird….I use my hands a lot when talking – hanging onto my thumbs while doing it is a bit out of the norm…but I couldn’t let go…..
So “I” held my thumbs….something had to be “allowed” to help Inside deal with the chaos and anxiety…..living Inside AND Outside at the same time can sure cause predicaments…. especially when Outsiders think you are ONLY Outside…..
How do you build stuff inside
Do you just pretend it
Can you do it all by yourself
Tuck use his imaginashon. He just sort of magics it. He think about what he want to make. And then he sorta wave his hands and there it be! He also have a magic wand that he use.
Lotsa times there be lotsa sad. Sad, scared, bewildered. Paralyzed cuz don’t wanna feel. Too much feelings.
But then I gotta remember thats theres LOTS good too. Goto FIND it! See, I go to the window. I see birds. Sometimes I see sparkling dust in the sun beaming in. I can see. I am lucky I can see. Some people can’t. But some cant see but they can hear! So they LISTEN for pretty things. Like birds and stuff.
So theres lots of good things.
Sometimes I goto remember that.
I goto remember to find good things cuz they always there.
This is me saying this.
We like to get each other presents. We love giving pepol 🎁 presents! It make us so happy. So we do it for wach other to. Like we bot jadie a book about anomals. And some
Times caden make us yummy treats like puding or cup cakes or bread. And Blue loves to give out flowrers and picsures
Of flowers 💐.
And we be good about taking turns MOSt of the time. It be real hard
Our tAlker lady. 🤔
And i be a good builder for inside things. I use my amajinashon
And build cool things inside like safe
For the girls to hide.
And we be doing lots better at being frendly to each other.
And we try hard
To say nice things.
I am still trying to work on the “safe environment” thing….after a session with T we are all “floaty” and I sit in my truck afterwards and “see” stuff Inside. They think I am “sleeping” Outside…but I am watching stuff Inside. We are still trying to understand our Inside World. We see stuff happening but don’t know what to do with it yet….we think we must be “imagining” stuff….we don’t “feel” hardly anything – mostly just “see” stuff. We just catch glimpses of what the Insiders “feel”….but it is “them” feeling it – not us……so how do we make it “safe” if we aren’t sure if it is even “real”…..we are still trying to figure this stuff out…..we don’t know what “safe” feels like anyway….how do we give to Insiders what we don’t know even is??? We must have a “long ways” to go…….
your words explained how I also feel.
It’s good to know that others feel similar things, especially the feelings after a session.
I don’t feel so alone now .
It feels like such a long way to go for me, even after 7 years of therapy.
I also struggle with my insiders, and how to help them to feel safe.
I have helped my little girls, with toys and blankets, but I am stuck on how to help my teenage girls.
Thank you for your response…YOU make me feel less alone….I have been with my T quite a while now (not sure how long) – but it has been not too long ago (?) that it is “sinking in” that we have parts…..not sure why they are there…we just have flashes and stuff that we have a lot of confusion about – real? or not real?……
What we “feel” and “see” after a session is the the weirdest – we don’t know if what we “feel” is in the “body” or only the Inside – we feel “waves”….evidently stuff triggers and bubbles up and we just “watch” it all…..Do you have Inside “waves” like actual waves going back and forth on a seashore? Sometimes gentle, sometimes intense, sometimes “swirling” in all directions..sometimes “dropping” like we just stepped into a “hole”…..we wonder if we are the only ones who ever “feel” that…it is hard to explain…most people look at me weird when I talk about waves…..If you prefer not to answer that…it is fine….I understand…..just wondering if there is anyone else like “us”……
You are farther along than me with “safety” for the little ones….we saw one little girl with a ball one time…but she looked “confused” WAY MORE than feeling “safe”….everybody got away from her……We also saw a little boy who LOVED ice cream….but Outside Her rarely buys it because it messes up the “body”……..
We haven’t seen too many “teenage” ones….we are focused too much on trying to get through Outside work……Hope you have a good day, Roslyn……
Hi again MissyMing
I feel my inner girls ‘ drop in ‘ beside me sometimes. That is a feeling of someone thudding into me ? A little disconcerting ,but welcome enough, as it lets me know they are there.
Another way I experience my inner girls is that I “see” them in the left side of my head.
If I am able to (depending on time and place ) I can concentrate my thoughts up to
that space in my head and gradually “go further and further up and out of my head.
I actually call it going into the black. For me this is a comfortable, relaxing ,safe thing to do.
The swirly feeling is familiar, also after a session I usually feel very confused, I have trouble sometimes with coming back to being the Me who is my body. I can also feel like my mental insides are on the outside, with everyone of my girls there. That feeling can be very unpleasant because I don’t feel safe or able to look after myself .
I have had many times where i have needed someone to “mind me” for an hour or so.
I often express dissapointment that my therapist can’t see my girls, but he has said that he knows which girls are out by my face and body actions.
My little girls are relatively settled, except for when they are not !!
My older teenage girls are still in a state of distress quite frequently, they cause me to have awful nightmares.
I’ve come to realise that they will act up until they feel better.
I look forward to the day they too are okay.
Much of my writing will seem odd to others, but if it strikes a chord with you or others it’s probably because we have a similar journey.
Roslyn…your writing makes sense to me….even if mine aren’t quite the exact same way as yours – I get what you are saying….”Pluto realm is Pluto realm” – that’s what I feel like anyway when I try to describe my Inside world – people must think I went to Pluto and got stuck there…..!
I would rather have your “drop in” than mine – mine feels scary on the Inside – maybe one day I will be able to “see” just what it is that happened…..the “thudding” I get…it lets me know to “pay attention!” – “someone” is trying to tell me something….
I understand the sensation of going “up and out of your head” – but mine is in the “opposite” direction – it is deeper and deeper into the Inside where it can be black there – but it is not “relaxing” for me because it is where the Black Tunnel is that goes way deep – I am too scared to go there yet……
I haven’t met any of my “teenage” ones yet – just some that feel about 12 or so….pushing down Rage and “disconnect” took up most of my teenage years….don’t know how I did so well in school when I felt “zombied” out and can barely remember any of it….I don’t have nightmares much – but I do function on very minimal sleep (I just suddenly wake up and that’s it for sleeping)….It feels more like I just “pass out” when I sleep….
You don’t sound “odd” to me at all!…..Your descriptions help ME to feel less “odd”….so THANK YOU! I don’t quite see my Insiders as almost on the Outside – my angle is that Inside feels far more real to me than Outside……Outside is hard to navigate…hard to find where I fit in….hard to feel “safe” in….hard to “trust”…..sometimes I wish that I could just live Inside – even though I get scared that I won’t like all that I would see there….but it just feels more “real”……
Thank you for sharing….have a good day!
Fiona Keel says
You make complete sense, you are so in touch with your girls, you write your feelings so well
Fiona K says
I am new to connecting with my insiders, so far we are 27 but know there are manu more, but not sure when we will find out. I learned this week that i should not make decisions without consulting and listening to them, my trauma therapist makes us feel safe and checks how i am caring for them. Yesterday she met 4 insiders, she said each had a different voice and body posture, but i the outside host was not aware of the differences. She makes us feel safe and says we are very brave, as we are very young and have held trauma for up to 55 years, my first insider split before birth and as she couldn’t speak, my 2 year old insider spoke her words. I am learning to thank them for protecting me and how grateful i am that their little army of soldiers fought to keep me alive. My counsellor keeps us all safe
we are a system of kids from 13 down and animals, we had no use for adults in fact believed that only decent adult was a dead one which was why we are a lot – and for years we operated very separated, except the shattered chore who had wolf watching and protecting them. most of us were probably jealous cause we figured wolf thought the rest of us were just as bad as those darn adults. our latest therapist finally gave us what we have been needing – unconditional acceptance and respect. if we say we are all kids she doesnt test us or question how she believed and even agreed we had a lot. the one thing she did was corrected the misconception about wolf (whom we all believe is the leader) – she told the rest of us that wolf was there for all of us and knows we arent bad and he sent the other animals to shadow us and protect us and he talks to them. what a wonderful feeling that was. we still do our own things but we work together when need to and we believe in ourselves and no longer feel ashamed or guilty that we must be full of evil somehow. we have groups as our numbers were large. we have joked we cant play baseball cause that would put too many players on the field but we are free and happy and find beauty in this world, not just evil.
I must confess I did not take any of that into consideration today. As a kayak to day down River using old behaviors.. not to thinking Of the body as a whole group I don’t think of them at all. I was just thinking of me.
Jessie ended up call the therapist so she could put a Contract in place. That’s how it works for me if I get carried away but Belinda reminds me to be thinking about the little ones andHow scared they get with my behavior sometimes