Sanctuary and Serenity

Posts Tagged ‘MPD

Mapping Your System
by Sara Lambert

Two words used frequently by multiples to describe their experience of MPD, especially early in the healing journey, are chaos and confusion. Many are skeptical when they are told that everything about their inner self-system was designed for a logical reason. But in fact it is true in most cases that the systems of multiples are masterworks of mental engineering. Some are highly regimented, with strict rules about communication and co-existence that maintain the boundaries of awareness and so keep the system safe; others are an incomprehensible jumble that allows no-one to figure out how it all fits together and functions – again, the purpose is to keep the system safe.

By creating a map of the system, a multiple (and her therapist) can come to under-stand that there is a method to the apparent madness, and can learn how to work with that method. One word of caution about maps: because the primary mission of multiple systems is safety, exposing the names, conditions, whereabouts, and means of communicating with the inner selves may feel just too dangerous to some at this time. It is important each person respects their own needs around safety and secrecy. If an inner self does not feel ready to have his/her name put down on paper, then s/he should be allowed to remain anonymous for the time being. Creating a map is not about doing “the right thing” or as a type of therapy homework. It is about YOU getting a better sense of yourselves. There are many ways of creating a map, and it’s a matter of finding the appropriate one for you.

MAKE A BOOK OF YOUR SELVES: Write about each of your selves on separate pages and bind them together. You could use a scrapbook, exercise book, photo album, or make a book with an elegant cover. You could have colored paper or card which you have spiral-bound at your local copy center (for a cost of about $4) – you may choose a different color for each part/ person/page. You might have dividers between the sections of children, teens and adults. Suggestions of what to write about your selves include – their name, why they were born, their skills, hobbies, favorite things, and a photo or drawing of them. Each self may wish to create his/her own page, although they may leave space for other inner selves and outside friends to add appreciative comments about them.

YOUR INNER HOUSE: If your internal world is constructed as a house, you could draw a layout of the rooms. Each self could describe their room in words, drawings, or clipouts from magazines like “Home & Garden.” The decor of each room could be an indicator of the personality and preoccupations of the person who lives there. The position of the room in the house (eg, in the attic or the space under the stairs) could also provide clues about the occupant’s position in your system. You may discover that corridors, doorways, and windows in your house represent the lines of communication in your system. If this is so, then redesigning your house could be a good metaphorical way to open new access to different selves.

THE LAYERS OF YOU: This exercise is especially good for those who have large, complex systems. Using sheets of transparent paper, draw each layer of your system on separate pages and then bind them together. Each self may be represented by a symbol, and their various relationships with other selves may be denoted by different types of lines (i.e., solid, dashed, dotted, colored).

DRAW A PIE CHART: This design helps emphasize the fact that all are part of the whole. Some questions you may want to think about as you draw the chart include – what is at the heart, are the segments colored, how thick are the boundaries between segments and around the edge of the circle? Co-centric circles of different colors could indicate life experiences. This exercise may not be possible for people with polyfragmented systems.

MAKE A COLLAGE: Sort through magazines and photo albums to find images representing each of your selves and/or the emotions, behaviors, or tasks they have. You could also include drawings, symbols, pieces of fabric and things like leaves or pressed flowers. Like the pie chart, a collage provides a single image of the multi-faceted whole. Once you have completed your collage, you could have it laminated and framed.

CONSTRUCT A FAMILY TREE: You may wish to do a family tree in the traditional manner, where it branches down from the point alter selves split from the birth child, and then further as new selves split from the first group. Alternatively, your tree could spread upwards, with the birth child as a seed from which the tree of yourselves grew, the roots being the first selves, the branches being those selves which were subsequently split off from those selves.

MAKE A JIGSAW: There are a couple of ways you could do this. One is to enlarge a photograph of yourself and then cut it in pieces, each piece representing an individual self. You could write their details on the back of the piece, or illustrate their qualities in some way (eg, with color) on the picture side. Or you could cut a large sheet of card into pieces and draw your own designs, significant of different selves, on each piece. You can reassemble the pieces immediately to see the big picture of how you all look together; otherwise, you can put the pieces back together again over time as each self tells its story or begins communicating with you.

DESIGN A MANDALA: Start by drawing a constellation of your selves, each indicated by a point, then join them with lines representing balance compensation, communication, heritage, or other types of relationship.

PHOTO COPIES: For this you need a photograph of yourself, sheets of white tissue paper, turps, and a rag. Lay the tissue paper on a hard surface. Do an enlarged photocopy the photo and place it face down on the tissue paper and rub its back hard with a turps-soaked cloth. Do this for about a minute. See if the image has transferred by gently peeling back one corner of the photocopy. The result should be layers of images on each of the sheets of tissue paper, representative of your layered selves.

MAKE A LIST: Some people’s systems are too complex and fragmented to map. Writing a list of names may be the only feasible option.

A mystery is something that is a puzzle because there is no reasonable explanation for it.

DID,(Dissociative Identity Disorder),is not a puzzle in this sense – it is the most reasonable, normal and practical way of dealing with something so hard for a mind to grasp that it has to create a way to cope with and handle it.

For example, if we are standing on the sidewalk and see a car crash into another vehicle resulting in gory and massive injury to the occupants, it is perfectly normal to block the scene out of consciousness. This is a normal reaction and often happens, to refuse what the eyes are seeing and the ears are hearing because to retain such trauma consciously is too much to think about. We deny it, shut it out, block out any memory or thought of it – all these are ways our minds try to cope with something far beyond our ordinary experience.

This example is talking about a trauma that is NOT connected to us personally. Let’s bring it into the personal arena.

It is documented that the cause of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), is extreme sustained abuse ( physical, sexual, emotional and psychological , usually a combination of all four) over a prolonged period of time. Usually beginning before the age of five and often occuring in infancy.

However, DID can actually occur because of one incident, e.g. a particularly vicious rape, or finding a loved one after their murder or suicide, which, if the person’s ability to cope with such horrific events is extraordinary low, it can cause them to dissociate to forget, and the mind creates another entity, alter/part, ego state, to keep the event out of consciousness.

DID is the presence of two or more distinct personalities within one body.

I would like to add here that there is NO automatic assumption that DID crtiteria must include sexual abuse for dissociation to occur. For those who present with symptoms and behaviors of multiplicity from sustained abuse and who might be confronted with needing to admit to sexual abuse or be delegatd to a fictitious or malingering desire to be called Multiple, it behoves us as therapists to focus on what the client is telling us.

Sustained abuse of ANY kind where the severity of the abuse in a single traumatic event, and/ or the length the abuse is sustained can cause the mind to dissociate to survive and will result in multiplicity.

It does grievous disservice to those seeking help for DID , and indeed, creates a magnification of their dilemma if focus is put on one kind of abuse be it sexual trauma, criminal neglect, or emotional abuse where absence of such history would put the diagnosis in question.

When I was in practice whether the client was mulitple or mono, I was not interested in a criteria for the diagnosis. For me, good therapy is all about the CLIENT’s agenda, not the Therapist’s thoughts, preconceived ideas, stereotyping or textbook theories.
Definitely not in a label or tag plastered on by a code in the DSM IV.
What I have learned about Multiplicity has been far more from my clients and DID friends than from any text book.

My main objective in this DID section focuses on cult-related issues and healing, but we cannot afford to OMIT an equally important FACT, that DID can have its origins in non-cult, and cult- associated sexual abuse.

It is hardly a mystery, but rather very logical, that in the case of severe and unbelievable ritual abuse of a child that continues for years, in the home and/or in a cult setting of any fanatical persuasion, a young child traumatized and having noone to turn to or trust, will look for ways to stay alive psychologically, emotionally and physically.

The only safe place for the child to hide because there is nowhere that cannot be reached in the outside world is to go deep within him/herself and create a friend in thought to take his/her place during the abuse. To, in one sense, pretend, ” it isn’t happening to me, and my little friend will protect and step in for me”.

We have all at one time or another, when something momentous occurs that we simply cannot face, e.g. we lose all our possessions in a fire, or earthquake, say to ourselves, ” This isn’t happening to me” – but in fact, it IS.

I have done this more than once, it is a common phenomenon. Do we become abnormal when our experience of abuse exceeds a certain level ? Those of us who think we are normal and people with DID are in some way defective, need to search ourselves and ask what difference is there between us ? When we dissociate, as we do, in times of extreme adversity, if we bide by this concept, then we become as “abnormal” as anyone with DID – the variable being that we do not have to dissociate over a long period of time, which we would do if that is our lot. It is the time and severity that distingishes between me and my DID friend if I have one.
Let us not deceive ourselves in this and think it not so.

For the person with DID,raised in a cult environment, (satanic/sadistic abuse), not once, but over and over and over, when the body is being beaten or tortured along with verbal abuse and emotional starvation and other extremes of deprivation, or when having to witness others being treated this way, (including watching sacrificed babies, children, adults and animals), the child, and/or adult who experiences this, will, instead of saying, “This isn’t happening to me”, very creatively deal with the unthinkable by shutting down and dissociate everything from conscious thought and awareness.

In this state of dissociation, another part of him/her, takes over to be present during the abuse and the more this part does this, the more established he/she becomes as an alter personality who thinks, behaves and feels in their own individual way.

This is logical, is it not, that there would be differences in these parts or alters, because if they were exactly the same as the host, or original person, there would be no need for anyone to take their place !! Their contribution to the life and survival of the host person cannot be measured.

In my mind, people with DID are a lot more ” normal” that those of us who are monos, who deal with our traumas in most UNcreative ways.

We use denial, we repress anger/rage, hurt, pain, squash memories, lash out at others because we won’t deal with our own “stuff”, so we, instead of creating safe measures and acknowledge we have things too much for us, jump to a conclusion that anyone with DID is abnormal, and has some strange mysterious disease or condition because they ARE, in fact, dealing with extra-ordinary suffering.

The myth that no abuse is severe or extreme enough to cause a mind to fragment in dissociation is, in my mind, the worst damage done to someone with DID.

It is when we, as therapists, as relatives and friends of these normal, sane and creative people, WAKE UP to the fact that we MAKE a mystery out of normal (documented) reaction to prolonged and extreme stress, terror and trauma that we will be in the place to help and treat such folk with respect and understanding.

We will learn how wonderful is the human resilience to pain and suffering, and bring awareness to the general public in an effort to stop this vicious mirage where society thinks it sees craziness,weirdness, and unreasonable behaviors, which, if it came close enough to touch, would be as unsubstantial as a mirage. The reality, substance and TRUTH could then be embraced in such a way as to heal and give the sufferers Hope.

Retired Therapist