Integration: What it is and isn’t

Ah yes, integration. I’ve found another reason to use this glorious meme.

I’ve decided to write about my experience with this topic because it’s been coming up several times a day on /r/DID.  

When I first started therapy, I believed integration to mean parts losing their separateness and becoming one person.  I remember asking our therapist, K., “What does the end of therapy look like?  Do I have to integrate everyone?”

Her understanding of integration, at the time, was the same as mine.  She responded, “No. You are the patient.  You get to identify what the goal is.  Many people with DID decide to work towards internal cooperation as the goal.”

Since that time, the DID professional community has provided clarification on what integration is and isn’t.  Much like a large misunderstanding about the disorder in general (such as people calling us as having multiple personalities *shudder*), many people still erroneously believe integration to mean two parts becoming one.

Let’s go right to the source and see what professionals have said over the years up to the present day about integration.

Integration is defined as an ongoing process of undoing all aspects of dissociative dividedness that begins long before there is any reduction in the number or distinctness of the identities, persists through their fusion, and continues at a deeper level even after the identities have blended into one. It denotes an ongoing process in the tradition of psychoanalytic perspectives on structural change. – R.P. Kluft (1993)

Integration is a broad, longitudinal process referring to all work on dissociated mental processes throughout treatment. – ISSTD Guidelines (2011)

Integration is defined as the process of bringing dissociated material into consciousness. -Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook

“Integration is a process, as opposed to an actual event, that begins as soon as DID-focused therapy begins. To view integration simply as a time when all the internal parts come together to form a unified self does not do justice to the process.” -Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook

What does all this mean?  This means if you are currently in DID-focused therapy, you are already integrating.  Integrating being the key word.  Integration is a process, not an event.  It is gradual, not spontaneous.

If we take Haddock’s simple definition that it is bringing dissociated material into the consciousness, well isn’t that the outcome of internal communication?  

I’ll use Meg and Mina as examples, since they are regular fronters and ones we have established internal communication.

Meg is a protector part, who is vocal (even when not asked) about decisions being made and how they may impact child parts.  Mina is an adult part who handles much of our work and at-home responsibilities.  Let’s say Mina handles a particular difficult phone call at work.  It is emotional and triggers us to the past, when we were hurt during a conflict.

Meg is able to communicate the internal trigger is happening and how it is impacting child parts.  Mina is able to gather that information and pass it along to me (Nel).

I remember Mina taking the phone call.  I feel a internal, emotional understanding of what Meg is communicating.  Whereas, in the past, I had no personal knowledge or investment.  I was either completely unaware (amnesiac) or it was information that I was emotionally numb to.  This connection of knowledge and feelings is integration.

Meg, Mina and I still exist separately.  We function together cooperatively, share information, and there is no loss of said information.  Not exactly what we were led to believe integration was all about, right?

This whole parts-losing-their-separateness thing is a concept clinically referred to as fusion.  

Fusion refers to a point in time when two or more alternate identities experience themselves as joining together. – ISSTD Guidelines (2011)

Fusion is two alters coming together to form a single state. -Deborah Bray Haddock, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook

The ISSTD identifies the final step, when all parts have fused together into one unified self as unification.  

Of key importance is fusion is a desirable outcome for many systems, but not all systems.  Some systems take it a step further and decide to fuse some of their parts but not all of them to the point of unification.  Whatever yous decide is right for yous is okay.

There are yet other reasons for confusion around this topic.  The biggest one is systems (or therapists) rushing through integration too fast.  This can cause the system to be overwhelmed with traumatic material.  A part may go into hiding to look like we have fused.  Or, we may spontaneously blend parts (which is temporary), and we mistakenly label this as integration.

Any time we notice something suddenly change, it is not fusion.  Always remember that both integration and fusion are gradual processes that occur throughout therapy.

As we have mentioned several times throughout this blog, our treatment goal is not fusion.  I do not feel I need to explain that at length here, as you’ve probably all read about it before.

I’ll leave you with a final thought.  Many of the posters on /r/DID mention their belief of what is integration to be chaotic, sudden, and distressful.  Remember that recovery is a process of growth.  Yes, growth can be painful at times, but the difference is we are survivors today, no longer victims.  Integration does not ultimately leave us feeling as we did during the trauma:  powerless and grieving.  It is a road of discovery, empowerment, and taking back control.

If you feel like these positive words are meaningless to you, try doing something different before your next therapy session.  Arrive 15 minutes early and take an internal roll call to see who is present, or what each part needs from that session.  Ask for what yous need.  Yous deserve it.


1 Comment

  1. Integration to me means many parts working together & each part has its own skills, focus etc…all are needing to creat the whole, while enriching life. Check out Ken Wilber Integral Theory.

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