Attachment Theory and the Internal Working Model: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D.

My wife/my girls and I have been traveling a road of healing from her dissociative identity disorder for the last 6 years. Last year I ran a series of blog articles on how I had unknowingly followed the tenets of attachment theory as I helped each girl in my wife’s network to heal from the past trauma and then begin the process of reconnecting with the others. Today I want to write about the internal working model everyone has according to attachment theory.

John Bowlby, founder of attachment theory stated, “Each individual builds working models of the world and of himself in it, with the aid of which he perceives events, forecasts the future, and constructs his plans. In the working models of the world that anyone builds a key feature is his notion of who his attachment figures are, where they may be found, and how they may be expected to respond. Similarly, in the working model of the self that anyone builds a key feature is his notion of how acceptable or unacceptable he himself is in the eyes of his attachment figures. (Bowlby, 1973, p.203)

For the last year or so, my girls have been in a new phase of the healing journey where every moment is no longer spent dealing with the past trauma. Now we are trying to loosen the iron straight jacket of habitual dissociation, re-establish the neural pathways between the individual girls, and move toward normal, internal communication. But at this point it seems like their brain is fighting against what I know they are mentally able to do. I know they can talk to and work with each other at a much greater level than they are actually doing.

It is so frustrating when I know the degree of interaction which they are capable of, and yet, they take the path of least resistance which means continuing to act as if they are still 7 separate individuals. Enter Sophia and Tina to the rescue: “And a little child shall lead them…” (Isa. 11:6).

I’ve tried to chronicle the progress of the 2 littlest girls in the network on this blog. Tina was the last girl out, but she has begun to lead the group in this new phase. She hated her old, dark, isolated closet. So we (‘Jesus’) made her a new room, by her best friend, Sophia. Then they adopted each other as sisters. Then they changed a ‘bay window’ between their rooms into a door that allowed free access to each other’s rooms. I helped them do some of this, but other parts they simply did on their own and informed us of the change afterwards.

I watched them begin to change their inner landscape. Then I saw how profoundly that affected how they viewed themselves and their relationship to each other. And so I wondered if the “inside rooms” that each girl had and the layout of those rooms was actually my wife’s internal working model in the picture language of a little child.

I’ve read a number of d.i.d. blogs and read the descriptions many of the systems had of their “inside worlds and rooms.” And I know basically how my girls’ inside world is laid out. But I had always emphasized bringing the girls to the outside and ignored their inside world. I wanted them to stop being “insiders” and become “outsiders” like I believed Karen was. My mantra was always, “Healing is on the outside.”

But as I watched Tina and Sophia take the lead and redraw their inner world, I noticed how it affected their interactions to each other. I started to realize that the ‘inside world’ was affecting how they interacted with each other and with the outside world. I believe their inside world may be a pictorial description of their internal working model of themselves. So now I have begun to help all the girls change their pictorial model of dissociation among themselves to reflect a picture of connectivity and association.

Currently we have added a window (that moves up and down) between Sophia’s room and Amy’s room which is next door. We also changed the “hallway” that connected the 5 little girls’ rooms into a “common room” that is part amusement park, part craftroom, and part meeting area. Karen’s room is still disconnected from the others and so we added a doorway in her room that will eventually lead to where the other girls’ rooms are. Tina’s closet was moved by Sophia’s and became the most wonderful, and envied, room among all the girls. And I’m encouraging the other girls to consider adding windows to their rooms as well with the goal of them all becoming doors in the future as they are able.

But this remodeling of the inner landscape is very hard and scary work. The work of re-landscaping the inside comes with the price of massive headaches, especially if I push them too fast. But it’s also scary for the girls to add these doors and windows, changing the safety of their dissociated landscape that they have always known for one of interconnectivity. And I am apt to be pushy in my desperation to finally have a healthy wife. So I have had to repeatedly pull back and take smaller steps with them when I notice that they become “terrified” of the next step I have laid out for one girl to connect with another girl. In fact, we will probably pull the door in Karen’s room back out and replace it with a “less-threatening” window because the door seems to overwhelm her at this moment. I have to give them and their brain time to adjust to the new landscape and allow each girl, not my desperation, to set the pace. Slow, baby steps are better than big leaps to the finish line!

Each time we change the inner landscape I see forward, healing progress. A while ago I wrote about Tina’s constant nightmares. I added a note to that post that once she and Sophia added the door between their rooms, the nightly nightmares began to subside. But a few weeks ago, they restarted. So I threw out some ideas for Tina and Sophia to try and help alleviate the nightmares. They resisted all my suggestions until I said, “Why don’t we move your beds, during the night, side by side in the door way so that you can hold hands if Tina gets scared?” They embraced that picture and the nightmares are a thing of the past now. Each night I pray for the “angels” to move their beds together so they can sleep side by side and then ask that the beds be put back where they belong in the morning. And that new picture for the two littlest girls dealt with all Tina’s nightmares.

When I read attachment theory literature, it doesn’t seem as if most people have visual internal working models by which they order their lives. I certainly don’t. But when my wife developed d.i.d. during childhood, I believe her internal working model was highly visual to her as represented by the inner world the girls describe to me. Then her model froze when the little girls went inside permanently instead of growing and maturing like a healthy person’s does. Rather than ignoring and de-emphasizing that inner world as I did in the beginning, now I have been actively helping the girls change that inner landscape. And as they have done so, it has begun to change how they interact with each other and the world around them.

Blessings,

Sam, I Am

Bowlby, J. (1973) Attachment and loss: Vol. 2. Separation: Anxiety and anger. New York: Basic Books

http://www.affective-science.org/pubs/2000/PietromonacoFB2000.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_in_adults#Working_models

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attachment_theory

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24 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. flowerofthewoods
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 18:06:53

    I want to thank you for this post. My husband and I have also failed to realize the importance of the internal world, and your writing has helped us start moving past many of the blocks that I’ve been struggling with during the past couple of years.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Apr 28, 2014 @ 18:12:44

      Hi Flower,

      it’s good to hear from you again. I’m glad this post resonated with you. It’s been scary for the girls to change their inside world, but it really has helped them to move forward. I hope you and yours can find the right balance as you move forward and that you see progress as you do!

      Sam

      Reply

  2. jeffssong
    Apr 30, 2014 @ 14:02:33

    I think the inner worlds of DID are often dismissed by professionals as well as the patients themselves sometimes. Your posting caused ‘me’ to reflect and look at the worlds we’ve built, and the interactions of alters within them – and yes: it seems that “the right” worlds/scenes/places are conducive towards a more healing and cooperative atmosphere. After all, most of the ‘healing’ goes on in a persons’ head – why not make places which are better suited for it (such as our ‘counseling room’ in OUR head). It sounds like you are doing good, Sam, and as always offer some insightful counseling yourself. 🙂

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Apr 30, 2014 @ 20:53:22

      Hi Jeff,

      thanks for your comments and your praise. I’m still struggling to teach my girls the things I share on this blog. But hopefully we’ll get there in time.

      Take care,

      Sam

      Reply

  3. nique and gang
    May 14, 2014 @ 12:11:18

    WOW! Great progress going on. We were likely very lucky that our husband intuitively addressed the inside landscape so early in our DID awareness. After frequent and sometimes extreme changes it seemed to have settled into the way it is. As we all began spending more time outside, we realized most of us has developed a sense of shame if we feel a desire or need to go inside. I think it’s been seen as a regression by both Brian and us. Your writings have opened up an awareness regarding this and possibly a new prospective of our inside world. Thank you much.

    Nique and the rest of us.

    PS. Kimmie and Chrystal wish to say hello and that they think it is brilliant that the beds are in the doorway to allow for holding hands.
    (edited by me, Sam, to reflect what they had meant to say…)

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      May 14, 2014 @ 20:34:31

      Hi Nique and all,

      it’s nice to hear from you again. Yes, I remember that you said you’d had some major interior landscape changes. It’s still VERY hard for the girls, and after losing much of the spring to MASSIVE headaches because I was pushing the changes ‘hard and fast’ we’ve slowed down a little for all our sakes. I wish it could go faster, but at least they are all still willing to make changes as they move forward and I booked a cruise in the fall as a “carrot” to encourage them toward that end… 🙂
      Sam

      Reply

  4. nique and gang
    May 14, 2014 @ 12:13:40

    I know better than to use my phone to type. That should read, “that our husband intuitively addressed the inside landscape…”

    Reply

  5. Glenn
    May 19, 2014 @ 17:11:46

    Hi Sam, I just found your blog on Friday, thanks to my wife. I have been married to my d.i.d wife for ten years. It was only at the end of last year that she was diagnosed. So much has happened and changed since then. I am her sole therapist because I am the only one according to her that she trusts. Just finding someone else that seems to be going through the same thing I am,is so heartening. I always felt I was alone in this path of selflessness and determination. I am so grateful you decided to write this blog.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      May 19, 2014 @ 17:28:39

      Hi Glenn,

      So glad you decided to write me a note. There aren’t many of us husbands doing what we do, but you aren’t completely alone, if you don’t want to be. But it seems most husbands are so busy between work and helping in the healing process that I only hear from them occasionally. But I am VERY glad you stopped by and said, ‘hi’ and if you ever want to write more feel free to do so thru the blog or privately at samruck2 at gmail dot com.

      Good luck to you and your wife!

      Sam

      Reply

      • Glenn
        May 20, 2014 @ 11:28:19

        I did email you separately. Some more thoughts on the journey. I have since implemented this idea of working from the inside out. I started on Sunday rearranging and creating rooms and Monday was not easy for my wife. I think I am moving too fast but that is caused by my wanting to help too much. I can see how letting her take the lead with how things work inside makes so much more sense than me trying to figure it out. I know that sounds controlling but I that is not my intent. I am very logic and goal oriented and that causes problems sometimes. But last night I was getting to know all the girls and some that were not known until last night and that seems to have went better today. There are many girls from my perspective. Wow I have alot to say! I was following my wife’s lead in trying to force integration and that was not working. So this approach has been a God send.

      • Sam Ruck
        May 20, 2014 @ 18:35:58

        My wife and I are nearing 50 (47 and 48). I’m guessing your wife is younger if you have younger children. So you may be able to go more quickly than we have as we didn’t start this journey until she turned 40 which means her brain had a longer time being dissociated which means it’s harder to train it back to being non-dissociated.

        All that to say be careful in my blog because my more recent entries are NOT where we started…I spent the first 3 years dealing mostly with the traumatized insiders, helping them heal from the abuse, making them feel loved and accepted into our family, and teaching them to work together, but NOT at all about changing their inside world. I do have one woman that visits this blog and her husband changed around their inside world from the start and it seemed to work for them. Whatever you do, go slow and get lots of feedback from them. I pushed my wife/my girls too hard this spring and they were debilitated most of the spring from the headaches as I said in this entry. If your wife’s network can handle changing the inside from the start, it may give you a better start than we had because the individuals in a d.i.d. network struggle when they are on their own individually since they each only control portions of a normal person’s abilities to cope with all of life.

        Anyway, I’m rambling: as you read my blog be sure to read the comments, too. I’ve had some good visitors who do it differently than we have, and you might get good ideas from them as well.

        Take care,

        Sam

  6. Making Good
    Jun 04, 2014 @ 09:12:10

    GREAT review and insight! We shouldn’t get caught up in the particulars of these theories but focus on what you point out: to address the fragmented parts. While attachment theory does tell us a lot about the importance of early relationships in forming a strong core of self, the trauma will blow it away and its impact then contributes to so many of the DID symptoms regardless of attachment style. In fact, we end up as showing ‘disorganized attachment style”, but so do many whose early parent-child interaction encouraged this in non-abusive or non-traumatic ways. What you said about addressing the parts/alters is essential. I spent so many years avoiding and seeing therapists who also avoided it- not helpful! You are right, it/they need to be addressed directly and their needs have to be met before true integration can happen. Keep up the great work and keep writing!

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Jun 04, 2014 @ 16:46:04

      Hi MG,

      thanks for stopping by. Yes, I’ve spent the last 6 years loving and helping heal my wife’s insiders and I think we are finally nearing the end where they are now, mostly, ready to reconnect with each other and leave the dissociation behind.

      Take care,

      Sam

      Reply

  7. talktoj8
    Jun 12, 2014 @ 22:27:11

    How fascinating! I just found your blog by way of your comment on my blog. I now have some reading to do! I’m very interested and familiar with attachment theory but never quite seen it applied in this way. Makes sense that children would translate an internal working model literally, visually and creatively. I have an article on my website (resource page) about “D.I.D. As an attachment issue” but it’s been awhile since I reviewed it. Have you heard of it? My system and corresponding internal landscape is quite detailed, large, and complex – prob more an indication of the programming than anything about me. But I couldn’t agree more; the inner world affects outer world. I will be following with great interest…

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Jun 12, 2014 @ 22:52:28

      Hi J8,

      welcome to my blog. I did relate to the entry I commented on your blog. I even have an entry I wrote a long time ago about how I helped transform my wife’s defender. Sounds like, maybe, a similar thing happened to you.

      As for your article, I’d have to look at it, but I’ve read enough attachment theory stuff to FULLY believe the subtitle to my series of attachment related issues: that attachment theory truly is the roadmap to healing d.i.d. fully and completely. Everything I do with the girls in my wife’s network including the host is to connect them to myself which provides them the stability then to connect to each other.

      Take care.

      Sam

      Reply

      • talktoj8
        Jun 12, 2014 @ 22:59:12

        It begs the question though – what if, as in my situation, the survivor does not have anyone who can or will play that attachment figure role? Modern day “treatment ethics” strongly advise against a therapist or other such helper in an SRA/DID case developing such a bond with a survivor. I do not have a traditional therapist, but rather a person trained in Christian inner healing methods. But even she has a boundary line that cannot be crossed, that it seems would have to be crossed or nonexistent to do what you’re doing. Not that she doesn’t mother my little people. She does. But there’s only a certain extent that she can or will allow. :-/

      • Sam Ruck
        Jun 12, 2014 @ 23:12:50

        Yes, it does “beg the question” but I’m in no position to authoritatively answer it as I have experience with a total of ONE person with d.i.d. (My wife has a counselor similarly trained in “theophostics” which is similar to inner healing, by the way.) I can only say that attachment theory would suggest that people are creative and can often get their “attachment needs” met thru surrogates, sometimes even, unknowingly. Like that favorite sunday school teacher, or coach or school teacher, or neighbor, etc. Attachment theory is clear that we NEVER outgrow having attachment needs met and the better we can do to develop a way to have them met the better ALL of us will do in life…

        And as for those who say I’m wrong…well look at the results…my wife: no need for meds, hardly any self-injury, panic attacks are rare, triggers…mostly gone, no need for hospitalization, all the girls are co-conscious, 2 sets of 2 girls sharing almost everything at this point, etc. Plus I AM her husband and attachment theory strongly recognizes spouses as the primary attachment figure in adulthood…

      • talktoj8
        Jun 12, 2014 @ 23:46:06

        True. Not criticizing what you’re doing in any way. I applaud what you’re doing and have to admit that I’m jealous that your wife has such a wonderful spouse. I was only mourning the ways that sometimes popular culture works against us by advising against some of the very things that may promote healing. I know it’s not simply for the heck of it. It’s designed to protect helpers and helpees who may end up harming each other with an unhealthy bond. Anyway. It’s late and I probably better quit trying to track with anybody at this point. 😉

      • Sam Ruck
        Jun 12, 2014 @ 23:54:59

        No offense taken. Yes, I am VERY saddened by the guidelines that I have repeatedly read from ISSTD knowing that they cut both ways: those guidelines protect and yet that protection comes with a price.

  8. vacancy
    Jul 01, 2014 @ 23:45:14

    Thankfully I have had time in the past couple days to look over your blog. You are insightful and I often find myself in amazement by how far your wife and the girls have been brave enough to come.

    When reading this entry it occurred to me that some may come read and try moving the family inside around. For you and your wife as well as the girls that works. However for some like us that would be extremely dangerous.

    I do not wish my words to discourage you I can only rely what some well meaning people in the past have tried within us despite warnings from some of us. This left the “host” at the time catatonic and others re traumatized. Sometimes there is a very good reason for amnesia boarders. Sometimes on the other side of a wall are experiences that can not be incorporated yet. I will not type anything here that would trigger anyone but you are welcome to contact me if you want to know more.

    In an effort to try to help myself I have run into the same issues as you the the ISSTD guidelines. They want to ignore but then try to push unification. It may be good intended but the price is very high if it is not time yet and causes any progress to be locked down.

    Please realize my intent I am no way criticizing what you and your family have been able to do it is to me a miracle and something I can only hope for. To live more unified would be a gift so if anything i have said is discouraging please forgive me.

    May God bless you and your loved ones
    Vacancy

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Jul 02, 2014 @ 01:21:21

      Hi Vacancy,

      You are correct that this process of opening up the inside world should not be done carelessly and without a lot of prior healing. Tina and Sophia made it look so easy, that I pushed the other girls before they were ready and the result was massive headaches for most of the spring. Now we are going slower, and it seems to be causing much less trauma.

      Thank you for pointing out a cautionary point. If someone came to this blog and did not know our history and only read this one entry, I’d hate for them to think this can be done without thought or preparation.

      Sam

      Reply

  9. Trackback: Attachment Theory and the Internal Working Model, Part 2: The Roadmap for Healing D.I.D. | Loving My DID Girl(s)
  10. Trackback: Anchoring Insiders to the Outside in Dissociative Identity Disorder | Loving My DID Girl(s)

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