Picture taken from the P4 THEME SONG! Listen to it in the video below.
One of the main, most impactful take-away’s from the P4² DID Conference was the opportunity for dissociative people to truly connect with other dissociative people, in a variety of settings, both formal and informal. The opportunity to be comfortably dissociative, to be natural (plural or otherwise), to sit relaxed around folks who also understand living life as system, to feel as regular and normal as anyone else, to see other system members speaking out — the knowing that other parts and peoples were that — all priceless experiences.
Whether it was sitting around the hotel lobby, or going on a walk, or chatting in the hang-out room, or standing around during conference breaks, or talking together on zoom, or hanging out at a restaurant, or participating in an activity, or we had an excellent time just chattering and getting to know each other, including the insiders who finally had the opportunity to present themselves as the one on the outside. These conversations were excellent! We were many people talking with many people!
This sense of community, and building deeper connections with a community of like-minded people was truly significant. Absolute life-changing. Conversations with genuine impact.
Listen to our P4 THEME SONG to understand more.
WHY does community matter?
Have a listen to The Writing Team’s perspective on why COMMUNITY is important.
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THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
There are layers and levels to why having a connection to community is important for DID people. There are the outside layers, the ones that are the same for us as for all humans: we need to feel we belong, are valued, are supported. We need to know that we can contribute something of worth to other people’s lives, and we need to know that we matter enough that other people will do the same for us. We need that feeling of acceptance and understanding that comes from having a group of people who share a significant aspect of our experience say, “I know. I get it. Me too. You’re OK.”
And this human need for community has arguably been deepened for those of us who have had the array of experiences which create DID. We didn’t get enough safety. Our development of trust in other people got disrupted in a pretty extreme way, early on. We didn’t have sufficient emotional or practical support to manage the dangers we experienced without needing to split. This is big stuff. This is really big Me-and-Us-In-Relation-to-Other-Human-Beings Stuff.
So, as we bravely make our way along the pathways of recollection and healing, we eventually get faced with the necessity of dealing with this Stuff. This super-scary Other People Might Hurt Me If I Let Them Get Too Close Stuff. Right? Probably, lots of us have gotten very good at keeping people at a safe distance. One way or another. But if we’re really doing the healing thing, then at some point we gotta figure out how to start safely connecting. We need to come out of hiding, or being mega-busy, or too chaotic, or sabotaging, or flip-flopping, or having a thousand Insta-friends who don’t know us well at all, or whatever thing it is we do to keep other people from getting close. So we don’t get hurt. Again.
We need to try.
But it’s hard, right? It takes time. It takes courage. It takes some risk. It takes a whole lot of building up enough of a collective sense of worth that we all decide, hey, we WANT more safe outside connection. We DESERVE more support. We think that opening a door to acceptance and validation and reflection will be GOOD for us. And wouldn’t you look at that…. we want more of what is good for us! When did that happen?!
Now, we’re sure we don’t need to tell you how massive the journey is to get to that place. After everything. Getting to the place where you and your people want more and good and better for yourselves is an immense feat. And when you get there, when you get to the bit where you want more in the sphere of relating to other outside people, that’s something to celebrate. That’s a big ol’ hallelujah kind of moment. Stop and hug each other. Raise a glass. Bake a chocolate cake. Hand out gold stars.
And then, after the party, you’ve got to figure out how on earth to meet that need. Which has its whole own set of challenges in the context of being a DID system.
There’s the kind of community connection you get from being a student at school, a member on a sports team, a volunteer for environmental conservation, or going to book club every week. These communities allow us to join with people over shared interests, values and goals. They provide opportunities to develop social and emotional muscles, and friendships. We can grow and contribute our skills, which helps us feel competent and masterful, valuable and needed. And this is all golden, especially in the context of our trauma healing processes.
But as DID people, how do we navigate our systemhood in relation to the singleton social world? Do we need to choose just one person to be at the front? Or delegate a group that is best-suited to the activity? Is there ever a situation where it’s safe and appropriate to ‘come out’ as DID? Are we always going to feel like we need to hide this fundamental aspect of who we are — our ‘We’-ness? Are there middle-ground options for that particular dilemma? How do we manage the wide range of our people’s reactions to the people in our community? And let’s speak plainly: how do we manage the fact that sometimes we get the bejesus triggered out of us by things other people do and say? Are we ever going to feel ‘normal’? Is that something we even want, anymore? What do we do when our PTSD is flaring up and it gets really hard to meet our commitments to this group? How do we manage feeling like we’re failing, or like we’re never going to be able to be a part of something we value? What do we do when some of us really want to persevere and keep going, but others want to retreat?
As we ask these questions, and the many more that follow, it becomes apparent that, on a deeper level, the community we need is a community of DID people. Other folk who are managing this same, very unique set of challenges. We need DID community to help us manage non-DID community. To talk to. To ask these questions of. To learn from. To share back what we have learned. Or not been able to figure out. To be told, “Hey, yeah, I get it.” To be able to say, “Yes, that was really hard for us for ages, and then we tried this and it helped.” We need DID community because it provides layers and levels of connection and belonging and support that no other community will ever be able to provide.
And here it is: to be living life as a ‘We’ — as plural, as multiple, as a system, as a collective — is a really big deal. Not just because of the really big deal things that had to happen to create all our people (and not to in any way diminish the significance of those things, either); but because it is a fundamental aspect of our consciousness and experience and reality and psychological structure that is different to most people’s. This is not a value judgement. We are not saying better or worse, more or less, normal or not. Just different. It is what it is. And it’s a big deal because it’s who we are. We are a We. And yes, we are lots of other things, too — DID doesn’t necessarily define us; it certainly doesn’t have to limit us; in lots of situations it opens up possibilities for joy and fulfilment. But there is no getting away from the ‘We-ness’ (try as we might, for chunks of our lives!); and it has a whole range of implications. For how life is. And feels. What it requires. In order to function in a way that is safe and healthy, and that provides the most opportunity for happiness and wholeness.
To have the support and understanding of community in this very specific DID life-path is invaluable. These things we need to figure out and manage are not in the list of regular life skills you get taught at school, or personal development classes, or read in self-help books. These are specific, complex questions arising from specific, complex circumstances, and in most cases, only other people who have developed a whole heap of understanding in the area of dissociative systemhood will be of any help.
So, we reach out to each other. We find websites, blogs, YouTube channels, forums and social media pages dedicated to the conversation of what it means to be DID. We seek community. We seek discussion. We seek answers. We seek reflections of ourselves from other people and other systems so that we can understand our own experiences more fully.
We take what we learn and try it out. We take the support and encouragement and we make courageous changes. We bring back our war stories — tales of defeat and triumph — and relay what we have learned. Others test out our theories in their own lives, and they return with even more insight. We build community. Layer by layer. We weave new connections.
And it occurs to us…
It is commonly understood that people need positive role models in their lives. Someone to aspire to, who represents what they want to grow into, or become, in some way. Well, as we forge along this less-trodden path of healing from dissociative trauma, the path of learning how to live a safe and happy plural life, we need our own role models to look to. For encouragement and hope. For representations of what is possible for dissociative trauma survivors. And it is among our own community that we find these role models. Those amazing systems of people who have done the hard yards of internal communication and memory work. The ones who have achieved, for the most part, stability and harmony and balance. The ones who continue to make brave and heart-filled choices in their collective lives. Yes. We can all gain so much from hearing what these people can teach us. In and of themselves, they provide incalculable help to DID others by naturally filling that need for a role model.
But on a deeper level still: if what we are aspiring to achieve is a safe, healthy, happy group of people within ourselves, then surely we are in need of an outside representation of this. Of functional community. If there is a fundamental human need for role models on the individual level, does it not logically follow that we, as systems, also have this need on the collective level? That we can benefit from examples not only of who each of us can be as individual people within our system, but examples of how to identify and organize and understand ourselves as a group? Isn’t it natural that we’d be seeking models for navigating the relationships, politics, dynamics, seasons and tides of our systems? Looking for examples of how to manage and resolve conflict, give fair hearing to everyone’s unique voices, develop organizational protocols for getting things done, balance the need for hearing about trauma with the need for moments of joy and laughter?
We think that, for DID people, possibly the deepest level of help that a DID community can provide is as a model for what can be achieved on the inside. The coming together of a diverse collection of people — all with a history of profound trauma (whether they realize it or not), all carrying Big Stuff around connecting with other people (whether they realize it or not), all with a desire for a better life (whether they realize it or not!) — to offer their pieces of struggle, learning and hope in order to forge connection with others who share similar experiences. With an implicit understanding that this connection will help everyone along their way.
As we learn to establish relationships with each other on the outside, and we see, bit by bit, the evidence that it is possible to connect in ways that are safe, kind, helpful and mutually beneficial, we are not just healing our wounds around external relationships, but we are healing our internal wounds. The splits. The deepest trauma injuries. These were once unresolvable — hence the need to dissociate around them — but perhaps, with the help of a community of others who have known and survived that same type of hurt, we can find new ways to tend them.
If we can sit with the pain, the beauty and the multi-faceted potential of an outside community of dissociative trauma survivors, why can we not sit with our own? If we can speak out loudly that the people we encounter in our outside community deserve more safety, more happiness, more stability, more opportunities for growth, why can we not do that for our own, inside community? As we experience other DID people speaking out for us — with encouragement, with savvy wisdom of lessons learned, with exasperation, with thunderous pride — why can we not receive that from
our own people, and be transformed by it, just as we are transformed by our external relationships?
As more and more people and systems within our DID community heal their traumas; as we get better and better at sharing what we have learned and are learning about that process; as we form deeper and stronger connections with each other on the outside and our insides, there will be an incredible foundation and network of support and resources laid for those brave people still to set out on this less-trodden path. Those who are still hidden within us, and those still struggling alone Out There in the physical world. We get to learn that healing our own hurts and making wise choices in our lives helps other people: it helps our inside community and it helps our outside community. Because we are interconnected. When we live a life of systemhood, that is the bottom line. The big kahuna truth of it all.
We often think that, as a subsection of society, us DID folk have a lot we can teach the rest of humanity — specifically because our lives challenge us to come at everything from the perspective of ‘We.’ To have any hope at being healthy and content and productive, we must grapple in a very significant way with the dilemmas and benefits of being part of an interconnected system. A community. We need to embrace the fact that the ‘I’ must always be balanced with the ‘We’; and that the reality of achieving this, day in and day out, requires an unwavering dedication to flexibility, creativity, pragmatism, compassion and justice.
We like to envision a world filled with communities truly living out these principles. Inside and out.
Can you imagine?
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Such powerful words by The Writing TEAM! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
How about you and your thoughts? There’s lots to think about:
- CAN YOU imagine living your lives filled with these principals?
- Can you apply these ideas to deepen your relationships, both inside and out?
- What does healthy connection mean for you and your people?
- Can you build relationships, both inside and out, that enhance your healing and growth?
- What are your plans for building happy, healthy community in your life? What about for the lives of your insiders?
- Does your system get to have a sense of community as well?
- How will your being a “WE-plural” make a positive helpful impact to the world around you?
As the P4² DID Conference comes to an end….
I am sad that, as an event, P4² is already over. It was so awesome to see you there — on Zoom, or in the Room! We really did have soooo much fun.
We learned, we laughed, we listened. We played, we cried, we giggled. We dreamed, we planned, we challenged. The conversations were amazing, and thank you for being real, for being present, and for being ALL your selves. For connecting!
Thank you for all the ways you were involved with the P4² DID Conference in Chicago. What an amazing weekend! This conference changed lives, once again, it really has. What pieces of P4² will stay closest to you?
HOWEVER, know this. The spirit, the movement, the connections made at P4² will live on, and will continue… for many years, even after this event. MORE to come, that is for sure.
Want to stay connected in an ongoing way?
Remember, if you aren’t a member of our incredible DID Forum Community, you can join our DDCF group at any time. Click HERE for more information.
I can’t wait to meet up with you again soon.
Copyright © 2008-2022 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation