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Posts Tagged ‘internal communication’

Radiant Circles Artist: Libby Lehman

Radiant Circles
Artist: Libby Lehman

I am going to use this to try to figure something out for myself and hope that it will make some sort of sense to someone else.

I am at a point in my therapy where things can be quite intense for a period and I simply have to do my best to cope, but I’ve also developed more of an ability to observe what is going on for me. What may be even more important, I am also learning to not make immediate judgments about what I observe, but rather to take it as something useful to understand about myself and how I work. Really, what would make the way a brain works be bad unless it results in real harm? At the same time, there isn’t necessarily a “good” way for it to work either. It just is. So that is my goal, no judgments on whether my brain is doing something “bad” or not, despite the fact that I seem to have soaked into my pores the idea that everything that is individual about me is “bad.”

Over the least several months, as internal communication has increased, I have become increasingly adept at 1) recognizing when I am in a dissociative state and 2) identifying which part is involved. This is good, because I am no longer going along in this dissociated fog, clueless about what is going on with me (at least most of the time I am not.) I am able to deliberately communicate with my parts and often keep things from escalating to an overwhelming point. Good news, right? But it’s also frightening that the parts are becoming more clear to me. Is my paying attention to these parts reinforcing them and making them stronger? Or am I simply bringing into focus what has always been there at this level? How would I even tell the difference?

But are these the really important questions?  If I step back and think, I realize that my goal over these last several months hasn’t been to change the parts one way or another, it has been to decrease my distress levels and increase my functionality.  What I do know is that the symptoms have become more manageable most of the time and they weren’t getting any better when I was ignoring how much I function in parts. I had no control over anything going on in my mind and was constantly being triggered, whether I realized it or not. The way that I was functioning then was making me ill. Things were really chaotic for awhile and I have since learned that Mama Bear was tearing her hair out trying to figure out how help me get out of the pit that I had fallen into, because I was headed in an alarming direction.

So, thinking about it, I can see that I had to establish the internal communication, so I could start to get a handle on what was going on inside. I had to get to a point where I wasn’t so afraid to “see” and “hear” my parts, because otherwise I would never be able to figure out what I needed in order to start to feel safe. If in doing so, I have reinforced the parts, then so be it. That is a far better side effect than psychosis which could have been an option the way that I had been going.

I can let go of the worry that I have done something “bad” here and just accept that I acted in the way that would most improve my life and the lives of my husband and daughter. There is nothing at all bad about that.

I can be at peace with myself. I haven’t made myself “worse” by paying so much attention to my parts. I have done the best that I can and I am in a better place now.

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Map Quilt Lucinda Carlstrom

Map Quilt
Lucinda Carlstrom

(Disclaimer: I mostly wrote this and the following post to to have a record for myself of what the process was like, but I decided to post it, in case someone happened to look for information on drawing a system map or the struggles of revealing your parts. Anyways, it is written less with an eye towards presentation and more to satisfy my personal needs and may not be of much interest.)

As I have said, I am trying to develop better communication with my parts. At this point, communication tends to be pretty rudimentary, unless I am in a part or on those occasions when my insides with just give me some chunk of information. About 6 or 8 weeks ago, I felt like I was being told that a part of me wanted to sit down with a big piece of paper and some markers and draw. I had been feeling pretty miserable and was looking for anything that might help me feel better, so I gathered markers and a piece of paper and sat down on the floor.

Many years ago, I used to do a lot of art as a part of my therapeutic process. I probably have over 50 drawings using oil paint sticks in portfolios. I found the art to be a very effective way to allow the inner me to express myself, although I always worried that “I” might be influencing what I was drawing too much. I think I tried to do a bit of therapeutic art a couple of times over the last few years, but I kept on jumping in and taking control, as soon as I started to draw anything. I simply was too frightened to see what my insides would produce, so I put the idea to the side.

When I sat down on the floor with those art supplies, it was the first time in at least a dozen years that I had been able to not interfere when a part started to draw. It’s a weird feeling to draw without knowing what you are drawing, but if I just let the drawing happened, I knew that the shapes and the lines were right when they were and if they needed to be modified when they started to go wrong. It kind of felt like being able to scratch an itch that you could only reach in a particular way. When you got it just right, it worked and otherwise, it didn’t. I drew for a few minutes, looked at what I was drawing, started to think about it, and panicked. It looked to me like I had a partially completed system map. “What the H__!” I simply did not think of myself as having the sort of system that was solid enough to have a map- my system has largely been a hidden mystery to me, even as I have been slowly accepting it. But I knew what that drawing looked like and I decided that I should put my queasiness to the side and see if I could step out of control, not think about what was happening, and let the part in question finish the drawing.

It didn’t take long to finish, because I didn’t have to think about anything. “I” made no decisions, those were all made at an internal level and there seemed to be a clear idea of what needed to be drawn where, how the lines connected the shapes, and even how solid or incomplete the lines were.

I remember looking at the drawing, knowing that it was a system map, and being certain that the central, large shape was the “everyday I.” Everything else was a mystery to me at that point, though.

When I started the project, I discovered that I only have a few sharpies in different colors, which just wasn’t enough variety to satisfy the part that did the drawing. I looked at my daughter’s art supplies and absolutely could not use her supplies for this purpose. Sometime over the next few days, I went out and got a box of good quality markers, with intense colors, so I could finish things up.

This time, there seemed to be a bit more consideration of the drawing before I proceeded and I felt more involved in the process. “I” wasn’t making any decisions about colors or designs, but it was like I was being told what and how to color things. It felt as though I could be involved a bit and still allow my insides to make the decisions. I was learning how to stay out of the way. 🙂

And while I colored the shapes in, I started to understand what I had drawn just a bit. I realized which parts two of the shapes represented and how those two parts are basically joined back to back. I was surprised to see those parts there, because I haven’t thought of them being at all central over the last few months and my sense is that the system map shows most of the parts that are most important in my work right now. I’m still confused about how they might be involved, but I am also aware that the themes of death and feeling like a wraith might still be important ones for me. For the most part, I still didn’t understand which parts the different shapes represented, though.

Slowly, over the next few weeks, I figured out more of the parts. I still felt frightened by the map, so I wasn’t inclined to sit around, staring at it, trying to figure out which part went with which shape. Instead, I wouldn’t be thinking about the map at all, but all of a sudden, I knew that the part that I was thinking about belonged to a particular shape on the map. I found that my expanding understanding of what I had drawn helped me to feel more comfortable with the parts and what I had drawn helped to give me insight into some of my parts.

The size, shape, placement, color, and method of connection of one shape helped to changed the way that I had been thinking about a part to point of view that helped me to extricate myself from therapeutic quicksand. I had forgotten to look for how that part would have helped me when I was a child and been solely focused on how it was making my life more difficult in the now. This part holds the strongest denial of the abuse (may even be the lynch pin for the denial all together) and it was damaging me every time it was evoked. But once I accepted the survival role that the part had played when I was a child, realized that trying to convince it to believe was not a fight that I could win, and did my best to side step that part as much as possible, the power of that part faded.

I brought the drawing in once, 3 or 4 weeks ago, but there was another issue that was more pressing. It was just as well that I waited, because over the last few weeks, I have finally developed a sense for who all but one of the parts is (and there is another that I am not fully confident of.) I have also started to develop an understanding of why they are in specific locations on the paper, and what their relative locations to each other mean. I am starting to believe that there is very little there that does not have specific meaning.

A few days ago, I started to consider bringing in the map again and yesterday, I clearly knew that I needed to bring it in and share it with Mama Bear. I had some thoughts about the whole thing and wrote to her about what I wanted to do, so I knew that we would at least talk about it, if I decided not to bring the map itself in.

Continued in Daring to Share Myself

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From Nothing Terrance Osborne

From Nothing
Terrance Osborne

The way that I experience my parts has been changing lately and I need to write about it, in hopes that I might develop more of an understanding of what is going on. I would be very interested in knowing how my experiences are similar and/or different from those of you who also deal with having parts, if any of you would be willing to share.

First off, I want to be clear that I see my internal parts as all being parts of me. Sometimes I may forget this basic fact because I can experience them as feeling quite separate from me and often my language will sound as though I think of the parts as being separate individuals because of the limitations of language, but I do believe that they are me. It’s a weird experience though, because it often feels like a “we” within “me.”

I know that I have some sort of an internal system, but just what form it takes is a mystery to me. It’s as though I see movement behind a curtain and sometimes someone pops out and interacts with me, so I see parts of the system, but I simply don’t have the big picture. While I have a handful of parts that are very consistent and I can easily identify, I generally am not clear if the part that I am dealing with is one that I have dealt with before and if so, who they are. I don’t know if that’s because I have a system that keeps on reshuffling itself and creating new parts to deal with whatever situation I am trying to process (and then letting go of that part when no longer needed), or if these actually are discrete, consistent parts and I just can’t tell them apart yet. So far, the ones that I can consistently identify all have to do with a particular age (ie, 3, 6, 12). There are others that consistently come up in the same sorts of situations (like the one who tries to keep me from speaking), but I don’t get a strong sense of self from these others.

What has been changing for me is that I am starting to be able to differentiate the different parts more easily, even if I can’t actually identify them. Mama Bear says that this is because I am no longer so phobic of them and the internal communication has increased, so I can “hear” them better. It’s as if my parts always had to scream in order to be able to be heard before, but I’m starting to be able to hear more of the conversation, not just the screaming. That’s starting to create some odd experiences for me.

Today was a prime example. I had a session today and I went in there with my system in an uproar. In fact, for the previous 3 1/2 days, I had constantly been somewhat in one dissociative child state or another. When started to drive to my session, I had to stop because I realized that a child part was driving. I reassured that part that she would have time during the session, but I still had to “pull” her back during the entire drive (which thankfully is only 5 minutes.) The entire session was a struggle for me to at least retain dual awareness of both me in 2014 as well as the dissociative part. I have had sessions like that before, where I feel as though I keep on being pulled back into a dissociative part, but up until now I either have only dealt with one part at a time that I could identify or it’s only felt like “unidentified dissociative child state.” Well, today I experienced the parts as being distinctive. I could feel how my facial expressions changed, my movements changed, my body sense changed, what motivated me clearly changed, as well as something that I can’t identify. I can count being in 5 distinct states during the session and my mind won’t go to the middle part of the session, so there might even be more.

At one point, I managed to say to Mama Bear, “How many different states am I going to go through in one session?” Her response, “I don’t know, but obviously a lot.” I didn’t have a chance to confirm this with her, but I think that she was seeing the shifting more clearly than she normally does, as well. I know that she saw exactly when 3 of the shifts happened, because she asked me, “What just happened?” each time. What I don’t know is if the switching between parts was more obviously happening than normal or if it simply was more clear to me that she was seeing it.

I seem to be having more of this mysterious “internal communication” between multiple parts and myself that I have heard about. For example, bed time has been an ongoing problem for me over the last couple of years. Sometimes I manage to get myself pretty well on track, but then I always get way out of whack again. I haven’t been able to figure out how to solve the problem, largely because I haven’t been able to figure out why I am so persistently bad about this when it obviously causes me problems. I have come up with possible reasons, but none of them seemed to lead me to a solution. Well, a few nights ago, I once again asked myself the question “why is this such a problem for me?” and I suddenly understood that it has been such an intractable problem because different parts of me have different needs/desires in regards to going to bed. As odd as it sounds, I think that some parts of me go to sleep before the rest of me does, some parts are terrified of going to sleep (to make things more complicated, they are scared for different reasons), at least one part just likes to be awake after everyone else has gone to bed, and another part thinks that I should be punished by not taking care of myself. I think that I am going to have to deal with all of those issues all together, if I am going to be able to solve the sleep problem. I can’t deal with it as a single issue problem or deal with it as if it is just “my” problem, because it is a problem that the greater me is struggling with. At least I now have some understanding of what is going on, so I have a hope of making progress.

Another example: In the past, I have been completely unwilling to “gather together” multiple parts and try to “talk” with them at the same time. There are techniques for doing this that Mama Bear has introduced, but none of my parts were willing to show up, so we abandoned the idea. I say that I was “unwilling”, but it’s more complicated than that. Cognitively, I could see that it was a good idea and might very well help things, so I wanted to try it, but in reality I was scared stiff of dealing more directly with my parts at that point. This was before I was anywhere near accepting that my dad had abused me and I knew that I did not want to know what my parts had to tell me. Well, a couple of days ago, a part of me was terrified to go to bed. I had been trying for an hour and a half to get myself to bed with no success and it was 2:30 AM. This child part was shaking and begging to sleep in the floor in the living room and even too afraid to go into the bedroom to just grab my pillow and a blanket. I knew that she was afraid of being assaulted by my father and having my husband in the same bed feels scary, however sleeping on the floor was not something that was going to go well. So I called my parts together and asked their help in getting this scared little one calmed down enough so I could get myself into bed. It worked. I shook all of the way into the bedroom and until I went to sleep (thankfully my medication makes me sleepy and helps that along), but, with the help of the rest of me, I got myself into my bed.

I’m not sure where this is going, but I think that these are all signs of increased strength within my system. In fact, I think that they are signs that the dissociative barriers are starting to weaken. It hadn’t ever occurred to me that the point when I might experience my dissociative parts the most clearly might be as (and because) the dissociation was starting to lessen. It’s nice to be able to look at this whole experience with curiosity and a wish to understand for a change, rather than fear and the need deny/push away the parts.

I really would like to hear what other people’s experiences have been like, both where they are similar to and different from mind, so please share, if you are willing to!

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