The Best Advice I Have Been Given

A couple weeks ago, my girls and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary. We are both in our mid forties now, and sometimes it feels like our lives are rapidly ebbing away as we wade through the dissociative identity disorder quagmire together. Karen and I are impatient to get this over! But impatience is NOT healing; in fact impatience just prolongs the healing. Sigh. Oh to be Job.

When we began this journey I would often “push” the girls in many little ways. I thought I was offering my wife “good advice” on how to fix a problem both of us wanted fixed! But pushing made the girls keep their defenses up which slowed the healing down.

Then I came in brief contact with Winter’s Keeper on Kathy Broady’s wordpress blog last year and asked her how she became fully integrated. Her advice has helped shape my interactions with my girls, and so I wanted to share part of it with you:

Dear Sam…

…The therapist who helped me the most allowed each insider to present themselves as they chose or needed to be present. His theory was that I would remain multiple as long as there was a perceived need for separateness. He respected the dissociation as a necessary defense mechanism that would gradually be reduced as the insiders were nurtured in a safe environment and allowed to share their stories. There were never efforts made to convince parts to get closer together, that just happened gradually on its own as each insider got what he/she needed to feel safe and to developmentally progress in their own time. He spent a lot of time repeatedly reassuring different parts that they were safe there, that the danger was not present right now, that everything would be OK, that saying “No” would not really result in their immediate death, etc. By listening, and by example, he helped the protectors learn that they did not have to react in such dramatic ways in order to perform their duties. He asked questions such as “Do you want to leave the group (my abusers)?” and accepted whatever answer that individual part gave, without trying to tell them what they should do. It had to be difficult to watch my system go back again and again to those who had so damaged us, I think he realized that the system as a whole would have to reach the point where they felt that there was more for them in the “light” than in the “dark”, and it was his job to show them what they could have in the “light” without making them feel pressured. It was eleven years from diagnosis to integration for my system.

So my suggestion to you is to continue to support your wife and her insiders in the loving and gentle way that you currently do. Accept them as they are in the moment. Let them tell their stories. Tell them how courageous and strong that they are to have survived what they did. Tell them they are safe. Tell them it is OK to say “No”. Continue to support their efforts at teamwork without offering suggestions that they work together more often. Finally, don’t try to influence what they want with regard to integration. In my experience integration does not occur just because you want it to anyway. It occurs when the insiders are ready- and *only* then.

The best to you and your wife on the journey.

Winter’s Keeper

So… everything I do with my girls addresses their perceived need to remain separate: a need that arose because they felt unsafe, unloved and unattached as a result of their past trauma. My girls don’t want to deal with their trauma from the past with me: they do that with their therapist. So what I do is make sure that the present no longer makes them feel unsafe, unloved and unattached like the past used to do. By doing this they are more readily able to let go of the trauma from the past. While doing this I try to observe Winter’s Keeper’s caution: DON’T PUSH THEM (though I am known to nudge)!

In the healing process there are different players and processes at work. Consider a more obvious example: a broken arm. Without a doctor setting a compound fracture it will NEVER heal properly. But once the bone is realigned and the arm is in a cast, the arm largely mends itself. The person with the broken arm (say, my wife) certainly plays a part in the healing process as she tries to keep from further stressing or injuring the arm. However, as a husband I can also do many things to help my wife’s arm heal. I can relieve her of household chores while the arm is mending. I can help her bathe and dress if needed. If things are inaccessible to her around the house, I can set them out in easy-to-reach places. There are lots of things I can do to make her recovery time as beneficial and short as possible. I can make sure nothing within my control hinders that process.

In a similar way I can remove hindrances to the healing of her DID by:

1) making ALL the insiders feel welcome no matter how difficult or demanding they may seem in the beginning,

2) providing age-appropriate interaction with each insider,

3) doing whatever it takes to make them feel their safety needs are heard and adequately met in their opinion,

4) being willing to give up personal rights and needs temporarily to facilitate a deeper and more complete healing that both partners in the relationship will enjoy for the rest of their lives,

5) meeting the felt needs that each person in the network expresses,

6) being willing to treat each inside person with the full respect you would give anyone,

7) and being willing to seek forgiveness, if necessary, from each insider (usually the defenders) based upon their perception of things.

These and the other things I’ve talked about on this blog remove present-day hindrances as my girls’ hearts heal. But lest that list overwhelm you, let me assure you that I grew into that list and I’m still not perfect at keeping it. I can’t take over the other player’s parts in this healing journey, but I want to do the best I possibly can in the role I fill.


Sam, I Am.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. upload to my mp3
    Jul 24, 2011 @ 18:42:59

    Your feeds are fed into other bloggers RSS feeders, making it syndicated or putting in another way, people out there will subscribe to them and receive online copies of your text.


  2. Keith
    Jul 29, 2011 @ 22:42:42

    As always, a great post Sam. I wholeheartedly agree.


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