We are not of one mind...

3 Conversations

This is a cut-and-paste version of an article of mine that appears on my Survivors' Page, to save me keeping on having to refer to it in various threads on multiplicity that I seem to be involved with at the moment. Please note that I wrote this about four years ago, so it's somewhat dated, but the links shoudl all be accurate.

About three years ago, I started working with Janie, a psychosynthesis trained psychotherapist. One of the aspects of this therapy is that each person has inside themselves different "subpersonalities", and that part of functioning in the real world is recognising which subpersonality is operating at any specific moment.

So I learnt about being 28, about finding and listening to the bits inside me that weren't acting as an adult. In psychosynthesis work, the goal seems to be (as far as I as a non-therapist and non-trained person understand it) that by separating out these different parts, giving them names, identities, descriptions, you can then work on seeing them all as YOU, and develop what is termed the "aware Ego"; so that these different bits aren't controlling your life. So I found little Kirsti, who loves to play, but who can feel sad, and lonely with such intensity that it almost scares me. I found KJ, known as Nan on Sanctuary, a wild teenager, who had tried to run my life pretty much up until then. Vanessa, the artist, who loves solitude, nature and drawing. Books, the intellectual, who escapes into reading, into analysing situations, and has no feelings at all. Dead Kirsti, who is almost catatonic, and handles emergency crisis times. Pirate, the wild sexual part, who was in charge when I was having the reckless affairs. Pirate knows no consequences, and uses sex to get what she wants. I found Hannah, my critic, who tells me that nothing I do is good enough, and her companion, Sarah, who has to be perfect. The "I'm bad" voice inside me, that feels totally worthless. And, most importantly, I found the adult. The me who can take responsibility for my actions, who can modulate between all the inside bits of me, their wishes and needs and demands.

Please note that I am not saying I am DID/Multiple Personality. I do not meet the DSM criteria, I do not lose time, I am not unaware of these parts. They are not totally separate from me. More and more researchers are realising that dissociation is a continuum, with normal daydreaming at one end, and the classic "Sybil" case of MPD at the other.. and then there are people in the middle - as someone on a mailing list put it, "somewhere to the right of inner child work and to the left of "I just woke up in Toledo and haven't a clue how I got here"". For more on this continuum theory of dissociation, see Vicki(s)' page on being in the midcontinuum, and my friend Pam has a page on her own "self diagnosis".. she works on the principle that if the bits feel "not like me", then they are separate. I also like how Bob King expresses it on his "Coming out Multiple" page.

For me, this is a tough one.. Vicki(s) talk about the struggle with labelling and so on... and some days I'm not even sure how "plural" I am - I recognise all the bits of me as belonging to, and making up the person that is Inanna. I do like the term coined by someone on Sanctuary "Singtiple" .. maybe partly because it isn't defined, or diagnosed, so I don't have to worry about what it implies...

New thoughts on all this, which seem to fit in at this point of my "essay"... perhaps there are Two different continuums, more like a graph, and you can be at different places on each of them. One for dissociation, with people at one end who never lose time, never even daydream.. moving up to people at the extreme end who do "forget" what has happened around them, who block off from feeling things, and who have these memory holes.

But that is then SEPARATE from the "plurality" continuum. Again, one extreme would be someone who is entirely the same no matter what the context is, someone with a very solid sense of self. Then there's what most people (I think) do.. the sort of adapting, behaving differently in different social situations.. which progresses to having parts which are very different from eachother, and the "poly-fragmented" hundreds of alters situation at the other extreme.

So.. my theory is, that someone can be fairly plural, but not very dissociative.. so you are aware of parts of you, of them feeling "different" and "not you", but you do not lose time or have black outs etc. I would put myself on the lower end of the dissociative scale, as I do space out and daydream, but do not lose time; and somewhere towards the middle-lower end of the plurality scale. It would also be possible to have one or two alters (i.e. low on plurality) but be highly dissociative between them, and not be aware of what was going on.

The cool thing about this model for me is that it means that therapy does NOT have to try and make someone "less plural".. but that focusing on the becoming "less dissociative" will improve functioning all round. OK. End insert

So, I can name different aspects of me, but I think that everyone has these parts inside them, and working with my partner, we have made some incredible discoveries. She has been able to find her own inner teenager (hi teege!), with all her passion and pain.. and in doing so, has been able to realise a lot more of what is happening in her adult life and relationships.. something that might have seemed "silly" to an adult can be expressed with new meaning if I can say to her "little Inanna is feeling x y z.."

A tool that has really helped is Voice Dialogue Therapy. This was developed by Hal and Sidra Stone and helps you to get in touch with different aspects of yoruself such as the Pusher, the Critic, the Child. The first link above gives great descriptions (and cute cartoons) of these subpersonalities. In Voice Dialogue work, the idea is to give each part of you a voice, to let them speak, and then to let your "Aware Ego" learn to listen to these different parts, and modulate between them as appropriate. It is NOT just for people with DID.. Like I said, both my partner and I have benefited, and although I am an abuse survivor, and used a form of dissociation to cope with the original experiences and my subsequent life, she has not used dissociating as a way of being. I don't know what the official Psychosynthesis/Voice Dialogue position on "classic multiplicity" is.. if anyone knows, please leave feedback here.

But the test of anything is how it works out in practice. For me, becoming aware of these aspects/bits inside me has helped me to respond appropriately to situations. I don't have to let Pirate run my life, and hurt other people in the process. I don't have to let the little child in me get scared and run away from situations.. she isn't meant to be facing them in the first place.

Some people might read this and think that it's a total load of psychobabble, or just fantasy.. but I have learnt through experience that when I try to ignore the fact that "we are not of one mind" that the problems start. I can be holding many conflicting feelings inside me about a situation, with different "bits" reacting very differently.. and if I try to ignore that, then I am much more liable to slip back into an old way of coping, or escaping, like cutting myself or bingeing or spending hours on line. If I can stop and "take a roll call" inside me.. try and check in with everyone and work out what they're feeling, then it enables the 28 year old adult to handle the situation much more effectively.

If you're interested in learning more, Hal and Sidra Stone have very kindly, made chapters of their books available on line to read, just as if you were browsing in a bookstore.. I have read, and wholeheartedly recommend "Embracing Our Selves" and "Embracing Our Inner Critic".. and I can't wait to get hold of the new one. Visit their Reading Room now. More recently I have found, but not fully explored, Pat McClendon's page on Ego State Therapy. A review will come later, but I wanted to put this page up here as it seemed apt.

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