There is no definitive guide to healing. There are some great resources out there written by survivors, professionals, and survivor-professionals. I encourage you to always do your own research. If you need a place to start, I hope you find my ideas below helpful. You can also check out Resources.
- What are alters or parts?
Alters is the abbreviated term for alternate personalities. Today, many DID systems use the term parts as it more accurately refers to parts of the mind. These words are interchangeable.
- What is a system?
A DID system refers to a group of parts. Some individuals with DID have one system, while others have multiple systems.
- What does it mean to switch?
Switch is a term that refers to a part changing places in the system. Most commonly this refers to a part being the most conscious and controlling the body.
- What is a host?
Host is an older term referring to the part most forward and controlling the body. Some DID systems have one host and this is the primary part that is forward. Other systems claim to have no host, meaning there are at least 2 parts forward at all times.
- What is the original or core personality?
Some systems have a part they identify as the original child prior to any dissociative splitting of the personality. This is not a requirement of DID. In fact, many systems cannot identify any original personality, because DID develops prior to the age of 4-5 years old. Prior to 4-5 years old, humans have not developed a solidified identity, and therefore there is not an original identity to trace back to.
- What is an ANP and EP?
ANP stands for Apparently Normal Part (aka the host). EP stands Emotional Part (aka part that experienced trauma). Some systems can clearly identify ANP and EPs. Other systems, due to the complexity of their trauma(s), claim they do not have ANP and EPs, as this is too simple an identification to explain their parts’ roles.
- What does it mean when a part goes dormant?
This refers to a part not being as forward as s/he had been previously.
- What is Internal Communication?
Internal Communication refers to parts being able to verbally or non-verbally communicate with one another. Internal Communication is a common treatment goal of DID. Through internal communication, systems can achieve safety, stabilization, and integration of memories.
- What are internal meetings and how do I start them?
Internal Meetings is a commonly suggested way to formally initiate Internal Communication. Internal Meetings can take many forms. Some suggested methods for meetings include:
i. Taking out a journal and conducting the whole meeting “live” through writing.
ii. Using imagery to create a safe space internally to hold the meeting. The room can vary from a traditional work-like meeting room to quite literally anything the system creates.
iii. Breaking meetings up into (1) adults/young adults and (2) family meets with kid parts.If you are not sure how to begin internal meetings, set aside some time (such as on the weekend) to brainstorm with your parts. Get feedback on who wants to participate and who doesn’t. If there are parts who do not want to participate, would they still like to be informed on what is discussed during the meeting? Would like a way to participate without being present (e.g. such as leave a note on a message board)?
- My therapist keeps asking me to “map my system.” I don’t know where to start.
Mapping is a great way to get to know your system. Alex Robboy, LCSW has a very basic explanation on how to map on her website. I personally haven’t found her exercise helpful, but it is a simple introduction to the concept. Holly Gray, a person with DID, has some good pointers and other examples on what a map may look like here. Some other ideas for system maps might be…
i. A timeline, starting off the year the body was born, documenting any major events, trauma, and parts’ arrivals.
ii. A family tree
iii. Or a picture of a tree, with the branches symbolizing dissociative splits
iv. Lists of parts, their names, roles in the system, ages, likes/dislikes, etc.
v. Make a collage to represent your system or to represent a part who is currently forward
vi. Mapping your system in a layered way–e.g. using index cards you can stack in a certain order or grouping parts based on roles, traumas, or symptoms.
- What is co-consciousness (or co-fronting)?
Co-consciousness can refer to parts being mutually aware of one another and able to exchange information, thoughts, and feelings freely. Co-conscious parts may also cooperatively control the body together, or co-front.
- What is passive influence?
Passive influence refers to other parts impacting the fronting part. For example, passive influence may refer to a part suddenly inserting speech that you did not intend to say. Strong feelings may seem to come out of nowhere which you cannot modulate. Another example is feeling that your thoughts are suddenly taken away.