Integration: A Requirement for DID Therapy – Or Not?


There are lots of different people with lots of different colors in a dissociative system.

There are lots of different people with lots of different colors in a dissociative system.

I am well aware that many trauma therapists are highly supportive of the treatment goal to integrate dissociative selves.

I have a different approach to this topic.  Please understand I am not at all opposed to the idea of integration if that is what the person wants.  However, that is a very complicated topic, and I’ll discuss the integration issue from that perspective at another time.

In my experience, by far, most dissociative trauma survivors and their systems have been opposed to the idea of integration.  They like themselves as they are, and they don’t want to lose the various individual parts / people from inside.  The concept of integration feels more like killing each other off, or losing unique characters, real people, and best friends. While integration may be the favored ultimate treatment goal of mainstream mental health professionals, it is not necessarily the favored option of the dissociative trauma survivors.

For that matter, I’m not even convinced that true integration is literally or physiologically or psychologically possible.  When one person’s mind-self-body gets pushed to the point of separating and breaking apart into entirely different selves, with entirely different lives, preferences, interests, knowings, time awareness, relationships, friends, hobbies, memories, realities, likes, dislikes, etc. and that distinct plurality solidifies as extremely different people for 20-30-40-50+ years, can it ever really be as if it didn’t happen?   Once that distinct separateness occurs, is it really possible to make that group of folks back into “one” person?

Power of mind 4 - Dissociative Defense / Mogen...

Power of mind 4 – Dissociative Defense / Mogens Jacobsen (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)

I’m not convinced there is a need, or even a benefit to trying to do this.

I do believe that creating teamwork, cooperation and communication between the different selves, and lowering and removing the dissociative amnesiac walls is critically important.  I can’t stress how important that is.  But developing these internal communication, self-bonding skills is entirely different than integrating these unique selves into one single solitary person.

Developing a highly successful internal group approach is hard, intense work.  It takes a very long time to achieve that goal.   The good news is that a dissociative person can actually function incredibly well as separate selves.

Power of mind 4 - Dissociative Defense / Mogen...

Power of mind 4 – Dissociative Defense / Mogens Jacobsen (Photo credit: Ars Electronica)

So why is there any need to remove or eliminate this amazing talent and ability?  Why would someone want to try to become somebody else when they can successfully cooperate with their selves as they know them and stay who they are?

If a person does not want to integrate, I do not believe that genuine integration can be forced or “made to happen”.  Instead, I think that forcing the integration issue actually causes the creation of new dissociative walls, which means greater separation, not integration.  Internal parts can be forced to hide from the others inside, giving the appearance of integration without an actual integration being achieved.  This is not good!!  This is the very opposite to helpful healing.  It creates an emotional time-bomb just waiting to explode.

Forcing an appearance of premature integration sets up a horrible dynamic within the dissociative person.  All too often the person is rushed into this conclusion when there hasn’t been sufficient time for the parts involved to heal properly.  They are not finished telling their life experiences, or expressing their feelings, or developing connections with the other inner selves, or challenging their own abuse-related approaches to life.  It happens too fast — and the therapy healing work is just not done.  So that is not ok.  The “integrated” but still dissociative person is left with a huge overwhelming sense of failure if — and when — the parts need to reemerge and finish their healing work.

Healing takes as long as it takes, and the point of therapy is to provide that healing, not to cut it off at the pass. Attempting to rush or force the idea of integration causes, in my opinion, great and significant harm to the dissociative client.  It is a huge set-back.

I believe that any kind of system blending and system cooperation takes a very long time.  It is a slow process.  The reasons for the dissociative splits in the first place are huge and fundamental.  Pretending these splits haven’t happened is like denying the reality of a person’s life and all the conflicting things that have happened along the way.  Bridging the gap between the splits requires huge pieces of therapy work.

If this house is a dissociative system, how many different 'people' can you see in this picture?

If this house is a dissociative system, how many different ‘people’ can you see in this picture?

My recommendation is to throw that nasty i-word away. Don’t even go there.  Instead, use your time and energy to focus on getting to know your people and becoming really good friends with them – with ALL of them, including the insiders that you are afraid of or angry with.  Focus on building the connecting bridges instead of smushing and smashing people into each other.  As you develop your internal relationships, you will find a great sense of inner peace and satisfaction.

You’ve got good people in there.  Keep them!!!

Many people can work together as many colors, and still be very functional.

Many people can work together as many colors, and still be very functional.

Warmly,

Kathy

 

Copyright (C) 2008 – 2013 Kathy Broady and Discussing Dissociation

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32 thoughts on “Integration: A Requirement for DID Therapy – Or Not?

  1. David says:

    Kathy, I really liked this post. I had this same conversation today with my own therapist, who surprised me by telling me that to her way of thinking, I already am very close to what she would consider “integrated” with the alter I most dread losing, because we communicate freely and are continually aware of each other. She then reiterated that the goal of therapy was to reduce pain and suffering, and improve quality of life, and so if losing a sense of an alter as a separate entity would cause suffering, it would be inimical to the goal of therapy to think about integrating that alter.

    She did feel that trauma-bearing parts tend to naturally relax into the system as their burdens and needs are addressed and healed, but that integration was all about increasing communication, not about elimination.

    Which is pretty much what you’ve said here. It increases my confidence in a highly confusing and frightening process to have consistent information from two professionals who specialize in dissociative therapy. So, thanks for that.

  2. David says:

    On a completely different note — I love it that WordPress thinks a possibly related post is something entitled “Give the Gift of Delicious Beef.” I’d love to know the algorithmic logic behind that one.

  3. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi David,
    I’m glad you liked my post – thank you.
    Yes, it sounds like we are very much talking about the same kind of thing. That’s good news to me too.
    Remember, your system and your healing journey belong to you. You don’t have to do anything that frightens you. Take as much time as you need to process through things. Healing and internal blendings will happen naturally as you do the healing work. Nothing has to be forced. In fact, if you are forcing it, then you are rushing the process.
    Keep up with all the internal chats — sounds like you have a real good friend inside there.
    Kathy

  4. castorgirl says:

    Thank you so much Kathy…
    This supports our own ideas about healing and what it means for us.
    We don’t care about the number of alters in this head, but rather finding ways to make this life work.
    One of us made a joke that with our therapist pushing for integration, our mind will become the latest “Survivor” series – “Survivor DID”… Ok so it wasn’t a particularly funny joke, but indicates our resistance (at the moment) to integration. We aren’t discounting integration, but rather would like it to occur in a supportive environment when we’re more aware of what each of us does and our role in this life.
    Take care…

  5. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi Castorgirl,
    Yes, imho, the actual number of alters doesn’t matter one little bit – everyone is there for a reason, and they’ve managed a piece of your life experience, so.. it is how it is. You’ll have internal leaders, and others that aren’t as active or busy, and as you build relationships with each other inside, that internal cooperation can all be worked out.
    And… seriously, rushing or pushing integration before you thoroughly and completely understand each other will not work anyway, (including knowing and having complete familiarity with each other’s memories, feelings, attitudes, beliefs, realities, etc). So… do the work first — that will keep you plenty busy for a long time.
    Kathy

  6. haberlach says:

    how do you heal abuse if parts are pushing their way out to be heard? Do they heal then we all work to gether? Or do I heal? How do I heal? If integration isn’t healing, what is?
    I am so confused.

  7. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi haberlach,

    A really big important part of the healing process is listening to what the parts are saying. If they are pushing out to be heard, that is a good thing!!! They will contain a lot of the info about your trauma and surrounding life experiences, and healing happens as all of you find comfort, and understanding, and have a chance to speak your truth, and to sort out the confusion you feel, and process your feelings, etc.

    I think that healing comes as the each of the people in your system feel a sense of their own healing. And no, integration is not “the point of healing”. Any integrating or blending that happens is more a result of the healing … Any steps towards being less dissociated and separated from each other are signs of healing.

    The healing happens in the process. Its in the step by step work on the trauma that you and your insiders do. It’s developing the ability to communicate and work as a well-functioning group — its addressing the trauma, and listening to each other. There’s a lot involved in healing. Maybe I”ll add that to my list of ideas of posts to come. Keep reading… there is lots to learn…

    Thanks for the comment —

    Kathy

  8. haberlach says:

    what if they are pushing out just to be close to the therapist, or to get the therapist to hit them? They don’t always come out to talk. One comes out to have sex with the therapist. He NEVER has done anything remotely sexual. One wants to come out to color. But they all push at the same time, it makes for a loud head. Sometimes I can’t even talk.

  9. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi haberlach,
    Oh dear… well, yes, I can certainly understand how all that stuff makes for a loud head. I think it is critical, especially in these situations, to understand what the parts are trying to say through their actions. They may be “showing you” what they know, instead of using words or their voice to “tell you” what they know. Of course, it is important to set appropriate behavioral limits for them, but it is also ok to encourage them to keep talking about what their lives have been like. It sounds like your insiders may very well be testing the therapist, or acting out traumas (that’s called re-enactment). Either which way, it is important to talk about all that is going on for them. Find a safe way to talk about this stuff, and keep working at it. Those insiders certainly need time to address whatever is going on for them.

    Thanks for sharing – I can hear how much you are struggling. It must be so very scary for you.

    Warmly,
    Kathy

  10. haberlach says:

    Thanks Kathy.

    I appreciate your time to answer my questions. I am working on understanding all that you have said.

    I want to clarify the the ‘noise’ and ‘loud head’, if I can. It isn’t physically loud, like in my ears. But it feels loud, lots of energy, commotion, confusion. Now that sounds like someone who is mentally-ill, or crazy.

    I don’t always believe what they say, there is no corroboration. And it seems like someone else is making me move, or talk, but I can still hear, and see most of the time. i just can’t stop what is happening.

    There is so much about this that I just don’t believe , or understand how it could be me.

    So thanks for all your time and effort. You are a special person to choose to work with dissociative people.

  11. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi Haberlach,
    It’s good to hear from you again. :)

    I am going to guess that what you are describing as the “loud head” is just your sensing, “hearing”, feeling the presence of your inside system. So, no, that’s not crazy at all. I promise you, it’s really not crazy, (even if it feels that way sometimes.) It’s the others inside, and I can guess it is a very active inner world in there. Dissociative people typically have internal worlds, internal landscapes, etc. One day, when it’s safe to do so, and when you are ready, you’ll be able to see the other people that you are “hearing” now. In the meantime, you can learn more about your inner people by listening to the stuff you are hearing. It really will all make sense one day.

    It sounds like you have a lot of work to do in terms of meeting your internal people. I understand how that can feel overwhelming, and you can take that as slow as you need to – it can happen tho’, and I bet things will calm down more once you get more of a friendly working relationship with these other parts. There really is a lot to understand about dissociation tho’ — but you will learn. It will be ok.

    Thanks for posting — I look forward to hearing more from you. :)
    Kathy

  12. gobbies says:

    haberlach,

    you sound so much like where I used to be. I guess every now and then I end up there again. I just wanted to share one thing that really seemed to help us with the “loud head” stuff. We left out a notebook in a safe place that anyone could write in. We asked questions and then would come back later and discover that the questions had been answered. It really helped to confirm things for us and also opened up communication. WE also learned that people could mention their needs and wants there instead of just going after them, so we could meet those needs in a safer way.

    Good luck,
    Gobbies

  13. gobbies says:

    Kathy,

    I just wanted to say I agree. Our former therapist was obsessed with integration as she herself claimed to be integrated. I don’t believe she was ans the charade just made me completely opposed to it.

  14. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi Gobbies!!!! :D

    Nice to see you here. :)

    And yes… I’ve met people who’ve claimed to be integrated when it was really really obvious they weren’t. I didn’t understand the pull for it either. It’s a bit scary to think of seeing a therapist who was putting on a charade of integration… hmmmmm……
    Nice to hear from you.
    Kathy

  15. pilgrimchild says:

    My husband seems to think that integration is the ultimate goal. To get rid of all the inside people. When he thinks of me going to therapy, he wants me to “get better and heal”– and in his statement I can practically hear him shouting, “and just STOP being DID!! Get rid of all those people!”
    However integration has not ever been a real consideration for us. Our ultimate goal is cooperation and having good relationships with each other, and functioning properly and appropriately in the world.

  16. juxtapieces says:

    yep, it is as we said
    INTEGRATION = IN – TO – GREAT – IONS = a really big bang and more splitting and more pain. we’ll take a pass on that plate of pain tyvm.
    nobody has to die.
    thank goodness, nobody has to die.

  17. [...] or need to be silenced, or need to be pushed to the back, is damaging to the person as a whole.  Integration is not anywhere near the cure-all or ideal goal it is professed to be, and frankly, expecting [...]

  18. [...] my opinion, integration is not necessary for successful stable functioning.  But, eliminating time loss and/or periods of unknown switching [...]

  19. rociocaro says:

    Kathy,
    You wrote: “My recommendation is to throw that nasty i-word away. Don’t even go there. Instead, use your time and energy to focus on getting to know your people and becoming really good friends with them – with ALL of them, including the insiders that you are afraid of or angry with. Focus on building the connecting bridges instead of smushing and smashing people into each other.”

    I’ve got 2 persecutory introject alters. The only time they talk to any of us is to threaten us with really bad stuff. We’re all scared of talking to them because of this. How do we build connecting bridges with people who say they are going to t*rture us and k*ll us? If these guys had bodies, I’d get a restraining order from the police or move… but they live inside my head, so I can’t. How do we become friends with alters like this?

    Scared, but wanting to heal…
    ~Caro, the Littles, and Crew

  20. ohevet says:

    Heck-to-tha-friggin-no! I SOOO agree with you on this. Few things annoy us as much as when our T starts talking about integration of the systems! Ugh! If we can just learn to live as a ‘community’ and function in our various HEALTHY roles, the why not just keep on that way? What’s the problem in that?

    Love this post!

  21. abiih says:

    I am dissociated therefor I cannot concentrate on all that writing. But for the little I got, I can say I have the same thoughts.

  22. I value your opinion. I do have to say that integration has NOT been the loss of anyone or anything. It has been the way to greater understanding of each part, of knowing myself fully. It’s sad if people are afraid they are going to lose parts of themselves by coming to accept them completely. Integration brings all these unique and valuable components into harmony. To be in one complete mind all the time is the greatest blessing of all the hard work I’ve done.

  23. Kathy Broady says:

    Hello Sharon,
    Welcome to Discussing Dissociation, and thanks for writing.
    I like that you’ve found the most important elements of healing. To me, the most important things — not losing anyone, accepting each other completely, and living in harmony — that’s what healing from DID is all about, no matter how it looks or feels or is defined in the end.

    It’s always wonderful to hear when someone has reached that point in their system work and healing where they can live in peace. Well done, and congrats on the hard work!

    Warmly,
    Kathy

  24. Kathy Broady says:

    Ohevet, lol… love the enthusiasm, lol. Thanks for the comment.
    In my way of thinking, of course, if y’all can live as a healthy community and function in healthy roles, that’s wonderful. Living a healthy, peaceful life is the point, yes?

    I hope you are making big steps in reaching that place —
    Warmly,
    Kathy

  25. Sarah Enany says:

    God, your blog was a lifeline. I have been going crazy trying to prove to myself that by being close to my best friend *and* his most prominent alter, that I wasn’t hurting him. I even paid for one of those services online and they all said the same thing: “the alters are not people. Don’t buy into the fiction that they are people.” And that made me just want to cry. I can’t stop seeing his alter as a person!!! Both my friend and his most prominent adult alter love me very much, and I care for them more deeply than I can say. His alter sometimes expresses sadness that his primary’s wife cannot love him, and I tell him to give it time – they’ve only been ‘out’ for less than six months. But my friends AND health professionals keep telling me that integration is the point of healing, and my feeling that I’m hurting him is like running my hand over a cheese-grater every time I send a loving email to her alter. I feel stupid and deluded at best, criminal at worst. Your post is the one thing I have found that doesn’t make me feel like a criminal. I’m crying now. Thank you.

  26. Kathy Broady says:

    Reblogged this on Discussing Dissociation and commented:

    Hello everyone, thank you for continuing to read here at Discussing Dissociation while I was away. That’s very much appreciated. Let’s start up again with a complicated and somewhat controversial topic….. integration. What do you think about integration? Is it necessary or not?

  27. Thank you, Kathy.

    Integration is something that for me/we feels like an impossibility, at the present time.

    For us, communication and co-operation are the aims. Hopefully, if we gain those to c`s, we will reduce time-loss and will be more able to manage trauma, safely.

    Really, though every person surviving with D.I.D has developed D.I.D in ways unique to their individual trauma[s] and are more than capable of finding their own aims, and should never be re-traumatised by any therapist/Dr “forcing” a specific recovery model.

    Hoping this makes some sense!

  28. lifeandptsd says:

    Question- for a person who is highly dissociative, what is the difference between having a very clear and strong sense of inner child vs a fairly well integrated alternate?

  29. Devia Murry says:

    Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for reposting this. I have just started the journey after a 30 year break. Seems like a lot more has been learned. I had given up on therapy. What I didnt understand is there ARE persons inside and not just unfeeling, unseeing fragments or shadows. My T met one and he wrote me a letter. I am a bit confused on how to communicate but think that will come. PLEASE KEEP POSTING!!!!

  30. Kathy Broady says:

    Thank you, Devia, and welcome to Discussing Dissociation.
    I’m glad this blog has been a good resource for you – that’s excellent news. And yes, I will keep posting, bit by bit. There are lots of ideas written here about internal communication. Talking with your others inside is extremely important, so yep, keep working at that whole process – its key to making progress in your healing.

    Please keep reading!
    Kathy

  31. Kathy Broady says:

    Hi Sarah,
    Thank you for your comment, and welcome to Discussing Dissociation.

    Oh my goodness… I am so very glad that this blog has had such a powerful impact for you. That’s good to hear. It means a lot to me that this blog can have such a positive effect for people.

    And yes, insiders can very very much be their own person in how they are / relate to others. I simply don’t agree that integration HAS to be the point of healing, so please do encourage your friend to find what works for him, and to stick with that.

    Please keep being a good friend…. because that is NOT criminal, and yes, insiders need good friends too!

    Thanks for your post.
    Warmly,
    Kathy

  32. Ellie Sofia says:

    Dear Kathy and Discussing Dissociation, i can’t thank enough for your words here and those of others too. For the first time in my life, i don’t feel alone. I feel understood and accepted for who i am with all my alters. I value your advice and information on this site and thank you from the bottom of my heart for accepting me as ‘normal’ (not that we want to be normal in that sense). My alters are all trying to speak and be heard so my head feels like it’s about to burst but it is such a relief to find you here. Thank you again x <3

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