Thoughts on Plural Positivity World Conference & ISSTD’s viewpoints on DID

Sometimes, I think, even among survivors, I’m lost.  Even among the DID community, I just don’t get it. Here are some of our latest thoughts sparked by the Plural Positivity World Conference. 

I’m not sure how I feel about this conference.  I’m not overwhelmingly supportive of it, but I’m not writing it off as unimportant, either.  I’m wondering, though:  Is this REALLY what my fellow DIDers are thinking about healing and the professionals who treat DID?  They clearly begin with: we organized this against the ISSTD conference but we’re not against them BUT…here’s a litany of things we demand change and the ISSTD has wrong!  Yet…my experience working with the specialists at Sheppard Pratt, including past-ISSTD president, Dr. Loewenstein, is totally different.

The following quotes are from the Opening Remarks.

This is what led us to organize this counter-conference, intentionally timing it simultaneously with the ISSTD conference happening this weekend in New York.  Let me clear. We are not protesting that conference, nor we arguing against the ISSTD.
…using other language such as “metabolizing” experiences (Lynne Harris) rather than “integrating” them, now that integration has such a negative connotation that it’s actually become triggering verbiage in and of itself.
Is integration a bad term, though?  This is what I taught by ISSTD therapists, as recent as 10 months ago:  Integration refers to an integrated understanding of the current day, present, healed self.  Trauma becomes part of your life story, but not the main focus anymore.  This does not refer to integration of alters or parts.
I don’t think anyone associated with the Plural Positivity World Conference is lying.  I’m just confused where the disconnect is coming into place.  I would expect such a glaring misconception from our classic experience with therapists not trained in dissociation.  Why are these DIDers under the mistaken belief the ISSTD would support such an outdated view?
The general attitude regarding survivors having contact with each other needs to change, especially in regards to the online community. For years we have been isolated from each other and it was recommended we not have contact with one another. 
Again, this is a completely opposite view than that which the professional community supports.  In fact, at Sheppard Pratt, the therapeutic milieu is recognized as a core piece of healing.  Part of self-care, we learned, was talking to people who understand DID and are capable of having compassion for us.
We know, in differing degrees, but especially once we have been in therapy, that we are “parts of a whole”. Please interact with us as we present, just like you would for any other client. There is a reason why we function that way as a system, and listening to us will help you understand us more, and help us trust you more quickly.
This is where I’m going to end my post.  Because being “parts of a whole” was a statement I heard repeated to me on a daily basis by ISSTD therapists at Sheppard Pratt.  I felt like the therapists there understood even better than myself, exactly this statement.  That there was a reason we function as a system, and they were willing to listen to us for as long as we needed.
I was surprised to see this was the attitude in the Keynote.  I believe we do have a healthy, strong supportive network of DID survivors online.  I believe the dissociation professionals have come a long way in their understanding of treating severe dissociation, and we’re on the verge of seeing growth in the professional community as a whole with better understanding of trauma and dissociation.
Good wishes and healing thoughts to you all.

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on Plural Positivity World Conference & ISSTD’s viewpoints on DID”

  1. I’ve always been part of the RA community, not the larger DID community, so this was new to me. I can’t remember the last time I met somebody who was DID and not an RA survivor! Shows you how insulated I am.

    Anyway, I support these folk because survivor-activists are pretty rare. I agree with some things they say and disagree with others. (There is also disagreement among members of the group, which is so for any healthy group.) I have learned of things I had never heard of before, for which I am grateful. I also think it will be a great place to raise consciousness about RA.

    Many people in this group have had trouble finding a therapist versed in trauma and/or dissociation. And some therapists have not been on the cutting edge of trauma-oriented treatment and so have been following guidelines that have been updated.

    I have the greatest respect for Sheppard-Pratt and Dr. Lowenstein and have referred people there for years. I also would go to Sheppard-Pratt myself if I needed to. And that means I pretty much agree with their stance 100%.

    By the way, I figured that I had reached the goal of “trauma becomes part of your life story, but not the main focus anymore” when my RA books weren’t all together but were mixed in with poetry and art and cookbooks!

    PS I have to admit that I was ranting when I wrote that blog entry and did not take the time to go and read the ISSTD guidelines, so I, too, was going by outdated standards. I should go back and correct myself when I have a chance.

  2. As someone diagnosed 25+ years, I would have to say that the ISSTD is not always right. They were completely different minded in the 1990s than what they say today. As such, I believe a lot of what they are saying today will evolve again.
    This DID shit is not an exact science, and no one has all the answers.
    From my understanding, integration is a triggering word to some because there are DIDers who are strongly opposed to integrating their parts into one. And whether one intends to or not, if you work to integrate memories, you may spontaneously create an integration of your parts and lose them.
    Not all ISSTD therapists are alike, for sure. Your experience with Loewenstein is not necessarily what other people experience with other ISSTD therapists.
    I have worked with ISSTD therapists who discourage outside relationships with other people who have DID. I worked with one who only believed in working with my parts through me, which is very different than working with all parts. I have worked with ISSTD therapists who are extremely rigid about phase work.
    One thing I especially don’t like about the ISSTD is that they believe there is a subset of people who can’t get well for various reasons. Sheppard Pratt put me in this category 25 years ago, and they were wrong.
    Having said that, I do believe Sheppard Pratt is the best treatment center in the US for people with DID, but they are not perfect and they don’t have all the answers.
    Healthy debate is important for all sides.
    After all, almost everyone who writes the standards for DID therapy does not personally experience DID, so for that reason, I believe you should always take what they say as information, and not gospel.

  3. Thank you for writing this. I understand feeling lost among survivors in the DID community, and in some ways, I think this is related to each systems goals for therapy and their definitions of healing.

    Our primary goal and definition of healing is to not be dissociative and/or not use dissociation as a psychic or emotional escape hatch. We don’t want to lose time anymore. Once time is gone, It’s gone forever. We can never get it back. We want to live life, fully, now, present in the present. That is something that we all agree on, because we have all lost time and missed living full lives. If being non-dissociative leads to merging of parts into one, comprehensive whole, then we are open to that. I do not believe that we will lose a part. I believe that parts will become something I know and feel and experience and love intimately instead of perceiving and experiencing them as something ‘not me.” Will that feel and sound and look different inside? Completely. Will it feel like a loss in some ways? Probably. Will we all need to grieve internal ( and external) changes that come with growth and new skills? Absolutely.

    I have a wonderful therapist who works closely with Sheppard Pratt and follows their recommendations, but she is also flexible and open to the needs of individual systems. She is both informed and humble. I appreciate her skill and wisdom and the support, ideas, and information she gets from fellow therapists at Sheppard Pratt, ISSTD, and other trauma related groups for mental health professionals.

    I completely agree that we are seeing growth as a whole in the professional community and I am thankful for those dedicated to understanding and treating trauma and dissociation.

  4. My therapist recommended I listen to the opening remarks of the Plural Positivity World Conference because a colleague on a trauma/dissociation forum for professionals had recommended it because she thought it was very well done.

    I have a teenage protector part who immediately became active. As an organized CSA survivor, she has been deceived so many times in the past and is distrusting of everyone. Our abusers were also dissociative, so that can be a trigger for our system. Her research into Emma Sunshaw was troubling and she became triggered and upset with our therapist for recommending listening to her because what is claimed about Emma Sunshaw doesn’t seem to add up. On the systemspeak.org webpage, Emma is 36. We don’t know how old “Dr. E” is. On the Plural Positivity Conference information, they list Emma Sunshaw, Phd with the following experience/accomplishments:

    BS Human Development
    MS Counseling
    M Div Pastoral Studies
    MS Hebrew Jewish Studies
    PHd Marriage Family Counseling

    In private practice since 2004 with experience in:
    ER Triage, Inpatient Psychiatric, Residential Treatment,School-based, and Outpatient treatment.

    In practice 20 years before she was diagnosed with DID.

    wrote 14 books
    Wrote 300 articles
    International speaker
    Guest lecturer

    Fostered more than 80 children in a 4 year period
    Adopted 6 special needs children

    Has a cochlear implant.

    My teenage part could not find any books or articles online by Emma Sunshaw, Phd even though the Plural Positivity Conference materials claim she wrote 14 books and 300 articles. And the list of experience/accomplishments seems unlikely, especially for someone who is only 36 according to the systemspeak.org webpage. It would be impossible for her to be in practice for 20+ years as the conference literature states. Emma’s attitude and voice on the podcasts and keynote address sound more like a 30-something than someone over 50+. Her webpage has a younger, hipper feel than pages done by someone 20+ years older. Additionally, cochlear implants started being commonly used in the 1980’s which would make Emma in her 30’s. And if she is in her 30’s, then the list of professional experiences and accomplishments isn’t possible. At least for one person. And even a highly functional much older multiple who never slept would have a hard time doing everything listed. Systemspeak.org says that Emma does consulting, writing, and presenting as a speaker. But in the next sentence, it says Emma won’t appear in public, do youtube interviews, or answer personal questions. How can you do consulting work, and present as a speaker but not appear in public? We were confused, to say the least.

    So, we brought all that information back to our therapist. She agreed that things did not seem to add up and she apologized for referring us to a resource that does not seem credible.

    Sigh.

    I want support those who advocate for the DID community, but I wish there was more transparency. And accountability. If Emma Sunshaw, Phd. is a pseudonym, or the name for a system, not a part, then be honest and upfront about it. If Emma Sunshaw’s experience and accomplishments represent those of group of DID people, (not just one system) then be honest and upfront about it. It seems like Emma Sunshaw, Phd. is trying to pass as something she is not. If someone is claiming to be an expert and using their education and professional experience for credibility, then it should be easily verifiable to online readers or listeners.

    In researching Emma Sunshaw and looking at online videos, I also realized that parts of me are deeply triggered by people posting youtube videos and podcasts of their parts, especially child parts, and then asking for monetary support to continue. As someone whose parts were created to be bought and sold, I find it deeply disturbing.

    And in some ways, it makes me terribly sad, because it’s almost like DID becomes some circus tent freak show that people outside of the DID community get to pay to view. People with depression and other mental health issues don’t video or record their breakdowns or unusual behaviors and post online and ask for monetary support to continue. It seems like something only the DID community does.

    I am not involved in a significant way in the online DID community. It’s obviously very triggering for me. My purpose in writing was to let people involved or connected to the Plural Positivity Conference and systemspeak.org know how someone who has DID and is more or less an outsider in the DID online community (because it is so triggering for so many different reasons) experiences their advocacy efforts.

    1. Holy moly. I am seeing people make similar points as you about this Emma person but you by far have the most points. Thank you for helping me think a bit more critically.

      1. Emma Sunshaw, Phd. of systemspeak.org has posted 66 podcasts in 142 days, which is a podcast every 2.1 days. Wow. I wish my system worked on healing that fast. Lol. Her descriptions of the podcasts are written like a plot summary to a soap opera. She even refers to her podcasts as Episode 17 of Season 1, Season 2, Season 3 etc.

        She certainly is able to line up interviews with prominent psychologists and entertainers and formulate questions and do all research and the recordings and all of the work required for that with amazing speed.

        And on top of that, Emma also posted 34 blog posts in that same amount of time, or 1 every 4 days that included videos, charts and literally 100’s of numbered references at the bottom.

        This isn’t real life or real healing. It is a dramatization of DID that’s being presented as ‘real life’ when it is anything but. It is duplicitous. It’s deceitful. And, in many ways, I think, unethical.

        JMHO

  5. Hi!

    We would be glad to talk to you guys directly about me, or my life, or the podcast, and answer any of these questions which are all easily answered. Also, we are still very much at the beginning of our healing, not going through super quickly. It’s so hard and so slow!

    As for your comments about the remarks in the conference, the idea of using different language for integration was in response to an online survey where more than 3,000 systems reported it as triggering language. It was just a suggestion, and given in response to the survey.

    We totally agree that integration refers to the integrated experience, not integrated parts, but were addressing the misuse of the phrase by clinicians who don’t know better. That’s great that you have good clinicians who do understand! Fantastic!

    And that’s great that you know a hospital that understands survivors need to be together and support one another. We are actually interviewing them pretty soon, so that’s exciting. But not all places or facilities or therapists know that, which is why we were educating about it.

    You say you believe we have a strong, supportive community online, and yet you attacked my words without talking to me, and our podcast without listening to it. That is neither strong nor supportive.

    As for the comment about the seasons and episodes, the podcast software does that automatically because it’s a podcast. I only advance the season when there is a significant piece of something that clicks into place, so I can go back and find it easily.

    The rest of what you say is the same as the SwissArmyPups thread, and based on a lot of false conclusions that are easy to clarify. The reason you cannot find our books online is explained in the podcast. Our webpage lists some of the alters as being 36, not the body age.

    Thanks for thinking my webpage looks young and hip! That’s fun!

    We did not get cochlear implants until 2010. Just because they came out in the 1980’s doesn’t mean we got them then. That’s a pretty big leap on your part.

    “Dr. E” presents publicly under our legal name, yes, but we are only doing the podcast for therapy and not visiting YouTube channels or appearing in public at this time because we are not working at this time. That is all explained in the podcast.

    It is false that other mental illnesses don’t ask for support for educational and expressive material to be continued. It’s actually a common way to fight stigma, educate, and provide additional resources to the overall community.

    None of the podcasts, except for the Plural Conference ones, were written ahead of time.

    ALL of this information is in the podcasts if you actually listened to them.

    Hope that helps clarify! Thanks for sharing our podcast!

    1. Hi Emma,

      I’m not interested in talking to you directly, because that, in itself, is a false statement.

      Emailing your podcast and having you respond publicly is not ‘talking directly.’ It is not actually talking at all. It is not a discussion or a conversation. The likely outcome would be you reading my response or my online posts on your podcast and then publicly offering your point of view and opinion and psychoanalysis of what I have written while I have no opportunity to respond to or correct the false assumptions and conclusions that you have made about me.

      That doesn’t seem to be a safe or healthy situation for me.

      Best wishes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s