Introjects – What are Introjects?

I am frequently asked “What is an introject?”

Most DID trauma survivors have introjects as part of their dissociative system, but there is a lot of confusion as to what introjects actually are.  There is even more confusion about what to do with an introject when you find one.

Introjects are alters.  They are a specific type of alter, but they are alters nonetheless.  They are a dissociative split from your mind/self the same as any other alter.  They would have been created during a traumatic incident just as any other alter.

Introjects are alters who were split off to represent outside people, most typically an abuser (but not limited to that, by any means), and thus create the appearance of being “introjected” within your system from an outside person. They are splits from your own mind, and they are there to help you remember / contain specific, detailed information related to whoever it is that they are “being” within your system.

Introjects are as convinced as the other parts of the system that they the same as the external people they represent.  They think they are separate from the survivors, and separate from the body of the survivor.  Many negative introjects will adamantly believe that they could hurt or harm the survivor / host of the system and not be hurt themselves.  Introjects typically truly believe they are separate people, but they are, in fact, part of the DID system.

For example, an abusive father introject (paternal introject) is an alter that looks, sounds, feels, acts exactly like your father.  In fact, from the perspectives of the inside world, it is hard to tell the difference between the inside father and the outside father.

A father introject will tell you what to do, how to behave, what to say, what to feel (or not feel), the same as your actual outside father.  One of the main purposes of a father introject is to control your behavior when you are away from the father with the same intensity as if you were right in front of him.

Many controlling abusers and organized perpetrators will create these introjects of themselves on purpose as a way to maintain control and dominance over the survivor-victim even while the survivor is away from the perpetrator.  It is a way to have the survivor experience the presence of the offender any time the perpetrator wants that to happen.

Often the internal introjects will report back to the external person they represent.  They experience themselves as a mirror of the perpetrator and keeping the perpetrator informed of the survivor’s activities is often a big part of the introject’s job.  The host and front world parts of the dissociative system will very likely be completely amnesiac for this reporting-back, and will be confused as to how the outside perpetrator actually knows so much information about them.  Don’t worry – the outside perpetrator isn’t magical.  He would have just had some loyal-to-him reporters parts from your system inform him of your whereabouts.

Introjects are not the same as programming.  Programming — the tapes/scripts that dissociative people hear within their heads — the words / phrases / teachings that get said over and over inside, very often are exactly that — programming phrases. Repeated words that were learned / internalized and are expected to control behavior. They are just messages / phases / sentences / learnings.  Programming scripts are not an alter or an introject.

Typically an abuser person would have said those phrases over and over to the person. As part of the survival process, the survivor has to “learn the rules” of the perpetrator and these words / phrasings could be planted deeply in the brain for the survivor to remember them, both consciously and unconsciously.  However, the words said and taught to someone are not the same as the person who says them.

Persecutor alters can be, and often are the same as the introjects. Some persecutor alters are alters from your system that internalized the rules of the perpetrator, and continue to follow those rules, but don’t necessarily believe themselves to actually BE the same perpetrator person. Introjects actually think they are that perpetrator person.

Some introjects can be more helpful and positive than others.  When the idea that an introject being an internalized version of an exterior person, the sky is the limit to who a child may have internalized as a helper introject.

For example, if children with dissociative identity disorder watch a lot of Star Trek, and Star Trek becomes their favorite TV show, and their favorite fantasy away from home, then the children may learn to imagine that Star Trek characters come to their rescue during moments of severe abuse.  The children may split off internalized versions of the Star Trek characters, creating Star Trek introjects as their way of getting help and imagining safety.  These introjects are helpful to the children.

Working with introjects, especially negative, harmful system introjects is a critical part of treatment for survivors with dissociative identity disorder.  The goal is to show the introjects that they actually are part of the survivor person, and not part of the perpetrator person.  There are a number of steps involved in this process, but once an introject becomes loyal to the survivor person (vs. being loyal to the perpetrator person), you will experience a much increased level of safety and stability.

Is it possible to work with an introject?

Yes, absolutely.  Your treatment for DID is not complete unless you work effectively with your introjects.



Kathy Broady LCSW

12 comments on “Introjects – What are Introjects?

  1. Kathy,

    Lassie, yep. Lassie. Lassie saved me more times than I could remember. I’ve never heard of introjects, tho I instantly recognized some of the behavior of an alter who thinks she is a single, not a multiple. My T sometimes tells me how Smoke acts and things she says – so she might be an introject. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my T about that.

    Good food for thot.


  2. Good post, makes muddy water clear.

    “There are a number of steps involved in this process, but once an introject becomes loyal to the survivor person (vs. being loyal to the perpetrator person), you will experience a much increased level of safety and stability.”

    Could you point us in the direction of these steps, our talk-doc could use a set.


  3. Hi Juliewtf, Ivory, and Ravin,
    Thanks for your comments – it’s nice to hear from each of you.
    I’m glad this article was helpful. I’ve looked around the internet for information about introjects, and there’s just not so much out there, so hopefully, this will help clear up some questions for a lot of people. I was asked “what are introjects” twice on the same day, and I decided that meant I should probably write more about it!

    The whole “ok, I’ve got some introjects, now what do I do??!” bit is certainly it’s own article. The good news is, it’s not as hard to work with an introject as you might think. The key is to remember that they originally came from you, and even tho’ they “appear” to be like the perpetrator, they are NOT the perpetrator person. They came from you and you can re-claim them back from the other side. Don’t let the perpetrators keep even one of your inside people — they are yours, and bring them back to you. Once you get past the cover facade of “I’m here to remind you of the perpetrator”, you’ll most likely find that these parts of you went through some pretty serious abuse of their own.

    It’s hard work, but very well worth it.

  4. today i called my biological mother to wish her a happy mothers day. it was awkward and strange…she was like a robot in tone and i ran out of things to say to her. i want to hate her but the truth is i dont know her.

  5. Pingback: 10 DID Therapy 101 Tips « Discussing Dissociation

  6. Pingback: 10 DID Therapy 101 Tips « Discussing Dissociation

  7. I spent my whole childhood from the time I can remember up to age 9 in full-out fantasy that one of the following super heros would come rescue me just at the moment when I “died/lost consciousness:”
    – Astro Boy
    – Mighty Mouse
    – Super Man
    – Speed Racer
    – Batman/Robin
    I don’t know how I did well in grade school (it seemed so easy) because I wasn’t “there” most of the time…lost in one of these rescue fantasies. I always thought this was normal until I tried to get my friends to act out this fantasy in play and they weren’t interested (“who wouldn’t be interested?????” I thought) and then much later until in adulthood I took a course in developmental psychology that got me thinking, that coupled with grappling with “untreatable” depression/anxiety that was finally diagnosed as ptsd and did-nos. I guess i still don’t quite get it/can’t quite accept that living in rescue fantasy world wasn’t just a normal part of my watching too many “damsel in distress rescued by heroe” tv shows as a kid. Comments?

  8. Hello Kathy,
    My system has a couple of introjects who terrorize the rest of us. They threaten us and try to get us to self-harm. These are actually the first alters who came out almost 20 years ago, and they actually did cause a lot of harm at the time.

    I’ve heard it said that that persecutory alters often start out as protectors, but somehow they’ve turned bad, or perhaps their attempts to protect are misguided attempts to use techniques that once worked but that are unhealthy and unhelpful now. This might describe William, but James… he is pure evil as far as anyone can tell. And as for persecutory alters vs. introjects… is there a difference? in other words, can introject alters start out as protectors who turn into persecutors?

    We want to know more about introjects and specifically, how do you deal with them in healthy ways? How do you get them to listen to you when you are female and they are male, and they have been trained to believe that all women are worthless? (Mine are both adult males who believe they are the original ab*sers,)

    Please help. These alters won’t leave us alone, and we really want to heal. We are tired of their continual sabotage.

    ~Caro, the Littles, and Crew

  9. Hello,

    For the last ten years I have had friends who are diagnosed with DID and know about DID tell me that I have DID. They tell me they have interacted with some of my alters. I have never been diagnosed. I finally told my counselor, whom I’ve been seeing for seven months, when I learned that she has worked with DID patients in the past, and she told me that she does not believe I have it because she has never met another alter of mine.

    I remember when I was having “invisible friends” and those friends would let me go to the garden, my safe place, when I was being abused. I have always had conversations with these invisible friends, they have never left. At times I feel like somebody is standing right behind me, and I can tell you which friend it is. Other times I feel like someone is pulling on me. I don’t necessarily hear voices, but rather when they talk to me it sounds more like thoughts that I know aren’t mine. The thoughts are different from the programing (“old tapes”) thoughts.

    I have tried what my friends have suggested asking my invisible friends to come out with my counselor but they won’t or at least my counselor says they haven’t. My friends know some of their names and i have never told anyone their names.

    IF I do have alters, how do I get them to come out with my counselor, or at least get them to work with me better?

  10. This be just like mical. He so mean.
    You no waht rachel used to pertend her got recude by the pepol from star wars
    At nite in bed her wud pertend

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