My “lets’ get real” moment mentioned in our last post was hard, but truly gave me some relief from the intensity of our fear. The husband was very supportive. He listened intently. He shared that he was proud of us for having the courage to explain to him how we were feeling.
It also opened the door for us to do some retrospective thinking on who has been forward and what is termed Gatekeeper Alters. As a result, I thought this would be a good time for us to share what we know is true for our system, and what we have heard other DID systems explain about their Gatekeepers when we have been inpatient.
Gatekeeper alters are very common in RA systems. They are typically externally created by abusers. Many friends of mine think of them as guards, and we relate to this description as well.
Gatekeepers may be called other names, such as:
- File keepers
I’m not sure why, but it’s also common in RA systems for Gatekeepers to be non-human. All of our Gatekeeper/Controller parts are non-human. I’m not sure if this was done purposely by my abusers. But, again, this is something other DID systems I have met in the hospital were able to identify with. My Gatekeeper/Controllers identify as an angel, ghost, and robots/AI.
Their roles may include:
- Observing everything that happens
- Holding back feelings or memories
- Holding in alters
- Only permitting certain alters forward or forward enough to passively influence
- Keeping records of the system (with the exception of unknown/accidental splits)
I believe these parts are so commonly found in RA systems because of the nature of polyfragmented DID. I am unable to count how many parts we have. There’s just too many. For the sake of example, let’s say we have 1,000 parts. Most of them are personality fragments, meaning they are undefined, holding a single memory or emotion. Only a small fraction of our parts are wholly defined parts that have their own independence, relationships, and interpretation of life. In this complex scenario, a Gatekeeper would seem required, or how would we function?
Once our main Gatekeeper part was convinced that healing from our trauma aligned with her values, she became a huge asset to our symptom management and recovery. For instance, we tend to struggle at the end of therapy sessions when processing a big trauma memory that won’t pack up nice and neat just because time’s up. Since our Gatekeeper is excellent at containment of memories, she can often easily suggest containment strategies for the memory or situation.
Our main struggle, however, is we have a limited awareness of this Gatekeeper. Although she has all these skills to her advantage, and she is willing to help, it is as if she exists on a different layer — some kind of deeper or abstract layer that allows her movement to control, but never quite forward. This is the part about DID that is so hard to put into words.