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Posts Tagged ‘integration’

Artist: Kevin Stanton

Artist: Kevin Stanton

This was a thought provoking article from a DID survivor about her experience with integration: Understanding Integration. I think that most, if not all of us with parts, even if we are not diagnosable with DID, have concerns and questions about integration. She addressed many of mine and has given me a lot to consider about the process. Perhaps my largest questions simply were, “What is integration like? Is it as lonely as it sounds like it would be?”

After reading the article, I find myself feeling like my head is “busy,” as if on several different levels I am evaluating what I have read and trying to form opinions of it. It was long and full of many provocative points, so I have a feeling that I will be processing it for awhile.

What do you all think? Not necessarily of the integration vs. non integration question, but of what she otherwise said about integration? What the process was like. What the benefits were for her. I will admit that at the moment I am very aware of the barriers in my mind and that the flow of information is not smooth or predictable. I am frequently frustrated by my limitations and the idea of my being able to have all of my recent thoughts and memories available is appealing to me.

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Artist: Rob Harrell

Artist: Rob Harrell

OK, so I know that I dissociate. And I know that dissociation basically is a disconnection of experiences. And I have been aware of how it is difficult for me to identify internal sensations. Over time I have been working on experiencing myself as having some solidity, which is slowly getting better as I practice mindfulness and grounding techniques. But this morning, it struck me that it goes beyond not feeling fully solid; I don’t experience my body as my own. I don’t mean it in a psychological sense of feeling as though it belongs to my abusers (although I do struggle with that issue as well), but rather as a physical day to day experience.

For instance, this morning, I was looking at my arm and when I touched it with my other hand I realized that the experience was as if there was one arm and then, separately, there was another arm. Both of the arms seem to travel up and connect to some sort of vague something. I “know” that they are connected to me, but I don’t experience them as being pieces of me. When I thought about it, I realized that the same sort of thing was true for my legs, but broken down a bit more. My thighs are separate, but they attach to my calves and feet, and then they also attach to a vague something, instead of my torso. Those body parts are there, but I’m lacking a sense of continuity with them; it’s as if it’s too overwhelming to experience them as belonging to the same body. Each body part seems entirely separate from each other, rather than being parts of a single whole.

Thinking about this and trying to figure out whether the body parts feel as though they are mine at all, I experience a conflicted internal reality. I think that some internal parts may have memories associated with certain body parts and so won’t accept ownership of those body parts. I also believe that some aspects of me have a harder time accepting that I have a body at all, while a few actually enjoy having a body some of the time.

And then there is my torso… For the most part, my torso seems to be “no man’s land” and thinking too much about any any portion of it as being mine is threatening enough as to start to bring on a headache and make me want to start to cry.

Actually, there is a difference here. I have realized that intellectually, I know that these body parts are mine. I can look in the mirror and see my whole body and I know that it belongs to me. But I just cannot experience my body parts as being parts of me.

Within me there is a part that is furious that I have a body and that I can feel physical sensations. It wants to destroy my body. No, not just destroy it, but obliterate it, so that there is no chance of feeling anything again. When I first recognized this part a month or so ago, the intensity of the rage and the desire to utterly destroy my body frightened me. Not because I thought that there was chance that I would harm myself that way, but simply because I had never experienced such a powerfully dark side within myself. Now, I can feel the terror that this part carries underneath the rage, and I can experience her as a frightened child who just wants to make the bad stuff go away, rather than a major destructive force. This part doesn’t even understand that destroying my body would mean killing the whole me. She doesn’t want for all of me to die, she just wants to know that she is safe from ever being hurt that badly again.

And not being able to experience my body parts as mine is a different facet of the same fear. The fear that if I own my body and someone does something horrible to me, then I won’t be able to survive experiencing it. But by living the way that I am right now, I am cut off from a large part of what I could experience of life. The irony of this is that tactile sensation may actually be my most vivid sense. Or maybe that is exactly why it causes so many problems; when I allow myself to really connect to the tactile information that is coming in, especially when I am out in nature, it’s almost like putting the world into technicolor as opposed to sepia.

Realistically, whether I have managed to integrate ownership of my body and the sensations I feel or if I remain just as dissociated from my body, if by some chance I should be assaulted, trapped, and physically violated, my mind will revert to dissociation as a defense mechanism. Experiencing myself physically in the now isn’t going to take that last resort protective ability away from me. And there is nothing in my day to day life that is horrible for me to experience, so it really is safe for me to have a body now. It wasn’t when I was little and there was nothing that I could do to physically get myself away from what was happening. Not experiencing myself as owning my body was the better alternative then, but that was then and today I live in a very different now.

I feel so much grief over the fact that I have these parts that are either terrified to have a body or loathe my body simply because it feels. Part of me knows that there is joy to be had in having a body. But first, I need to help these parts of me that desperately want nothing to do with my body.

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I am sad to say that yesterday’s deep and pervading sense of safety has not continued into today, but I also haven’t entirely lost that sense of safety. It’s buried inside, if I reach for it.

I don’t fully understand what happened a couple of nights ago, but I know that it was important. Actually, I know what I am guessing happened, but what I have no idea of is why it happened right then. I think that I have at least begun the integration process for the part of me that holds that type of memory, but I don’t understand why so much of this process happened almost as soon as I finally told Mama Bear what happened.

I want to be clear that I don’t have DID and so I am not talking about the integration of an alter. I do have dissociated parts that I try to not define, but simply to accept as however I seem to be experiencing them at a given time. Those experiences can feel more or less discrete and separate from the “fuller” me, however over the last 9 months or so, the trend has been to experience them as being more interconnected with the rest of me. For me, integration is the process by which those parts of me are brought in closer, what they hold becomes accessible to the rest of me, and they come to understand that all of me is part of a much different and safer reality than the memories they have been holding all of these years. Even though I will use the words “they” and “she,” I am quite aware that these not “others” but they are parts of me that have been held separate for good reasons. Even if they are sometimes experienced as being separate, they are all still me.

I have experienced integration in two different ways. Most of the time, it is like the barriers within me dissolve and there is a gradual absorption. I tend to not notice this process while it is happening, because it is so slow and quiet. Instead, I notice it as a gradually increasing sense of wholeness and feeling less chopped up inside. Recently, I discovered that it doesn’t mean that the barriers cannot go up again, because as I became more and more distressed, I experienced parts of my experience being separated out and held by seemingly discrete parts. But as I have calmed again, things feel more open inside me. I liken it to the difference between having an open floor plan in a house, where you can easily see and hear what is going on in other areas, versus a house with many small rooms on different floors, tucked away into corners. You may have trouble finding the rooms, never mind hearing what is going on inside. Just think of the frustration of calling to someone who is in a room on another floor and their not being able to hear you. Sometimes you can even hear them, but because of the way that sound carries, they can’t hear you.

So, most of the time, integration is an almost invisible process for me, and I generally notice it when something happens that points out to me that things are more open inside of me. Sometimes I notice it when a memory comes up and it does not have the same ability to take me off to a frightened, dissociated child state, but most often I notice it in terms of my no longer having some very distorted beliefs about the world. In addition to this gradual processes, there have been a couple of times when it has gone completely differently.

The first time was several months ago, probably last summer. I don’t remember what led up to it, other than that I was struggling mightily with whatever it was and then finally something shifted and I accepted something that seemed like a Very Big Deal. As I was sitting there, taking in the shift, I experienced a physical sensation of a child part sliding into me, right where my solar plexus is. This part still felt somewhat separate, but it was also definitely a “within” feeling. I began to cry with the relief of it all, because that part of me was no longer alone and since I could feel her connected to the fuller me, I could finally protect her. I went around for days with my hands protectively across that spot, and it transitioned from having the sensation of there being a child there, to simply being a warm spot. I felt such a concentration of vulnerability right there, and I was much more weepy during that period, even though I also felt strong and determined to protect the vulnerable parts of me.

In many ways it was a profound experience. When that part of me fully slid into the greater me, I then fully experience how young and vulnerable that part was. Going through this helped me to shift from being angry at the parts for the pain that they brought to me to being more compassionate and gentle with all of me. They were not the cause of the unbearable emotions and memories, they simply had served the function of holding what I couldn’t tolerate away from the rest of me, so I could function at a reasonably high level. I needed to be grateful to those parts of me, because they are what enabled me to get to where I am now.

I had a similar process a couple of nights ago. The part of me who held that memory whispered what happened to Mama Bear and when Mama Bear reacted with compassion, understanding, and acceptance, that part of me just soaked it all in. It really was a physical sensation of a smaller me being curled up against me, absorbing what she has so desperately needed all of these years. And then there was a shift to her being inside of me and that part of me finally felt safe, really and truly safe. And all day yesterday, I could feel that part of me inside of me bathing in the feelings of being safe. Today, I still have a warmth in a spot under my ribs and a feeling of safety connected to the spot, but there isn’t that physical sense of a small body inside my body the way there was yesterday.

So, I think that I experienced the integration of the part who has held this disgusting secret all of these years. I’m just not sure why it happened so easily once I got those 4 words out to Mama Bear. My suspicion is that this part has been held separate because of the way that I was treating that set of memories, but because it also is a part of me it has been absorbing what the rest of me has been learning. It was ready to accept the fact that while what happened was something gross that I had to live through, it was my grandfather’s act and his shame, not mine. I think that I simply was ready to throw away the shame, once I was able to tell someone and have that person react with compassion and understanding. So there was no gradual dissolving of barriers here, it was like I went in one evening from still being afraid that what happened meant that I was gross and disgusting to just tossing away all of the shame and self blame in one gesture. And I have a very strong sense that all of me threw off the shame associated with those acts. I am so clear that I would never, ever have chosen to do such things that it becomes easy for me to see that they simply are not a part of me, once I started to place the shame where it belonged.

I don’t know what this means about dealing with the actual memories. They still hurt-alot, even though I don’t feel the same sort of shame that I used to. I think that I really need to be able to say X happened and it was disgusting and I am so angry that I was treated that way. But I need to do this without being drawn into the memory itself, because the thought of re-experiencing what happened just revolts me.

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