Achieving Co-Consciousness: Trauma Work

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Most people would agree that working through the traumatic memories of abuse and neglect is one of the main pathways that lead to co-consciousness. However, trauma work does not stop once a memory has been shared with the therapist and its meaning has been interpreted in a new way. Trauma work also means to restore self-capacities that were arrested or did not develop. Take for example a memory that led to the part holding it coming to the conclusion “You can’t trust people” and acts accordingly.

Within the therapeutic relationship, that particular part is given the opportunity to learn to trust. Usually the therapist is the first person that is trusted. It often starts out with showing a little bit of trust – some call it rather a leap of faith than trust – that over time grows stronger and stronger. How well and how much trust grows really depends to a large degree on the therapist’s actions. All qualities of ‘good therapists’ described in other posts on this blog come into it: understanding, listening, respecting, caring, supporting, valuing, accepting, being predictable, reliable, and approachable.

By being able to talk about the ‘hard times’ over and over again and being more and more able to cope with the different memories, Multiples learn distress tolerance skills. I aim to take time at the end of each session to summarise what has been talked about or disclosed and share that with the ‘client’ when not she but one of the younger parts has done the work in the session. As the client becomes more and more used to the material and accepting of what happened, my summary becomes more detailed.

I also ‘prescribe’ that s/he talks to the parts inside for information about what has been shared in the session. It may not be possible immediately because ‘Fort Knox’ is too protected, but it re-enforces the notion that internal communication is possible. I also encourage parts who have processed a traumatic memory to seek and get support from other parts they know of. Equally I challenge parts to paying attention to other parts hurting and coming to their support, thereby increasing the connection and communication amongst each other.

All of this enables not only co-consciousness but also self-capacities to grow and the Multiple becomes more self-confident, has more respect for her/himself, and feels more esteemed by people around them. By the way, the process described here is the same for trauma survivors, whether you are a Multiple or not.

12 thoughts on “Achieving Co-Consciousness: Trauma Work

  1. Sarah Lewry says:

    Hello. I was wondering: is it possible that if a person was well read about the disorder, that they could unknowingly create that disorder within themself? That is what my counsellors are saying. I really do wonder.
    They think I have DDNOS which is similar to DID. Is it possible that I invented it within myself unknowingly, just by becoming too familiar with the illness? I believed I had the illness before I was diagnosed because I stumbled upon it by accident.

    • gudrunfrerichs says:

      Hi Sarah, this is a really good question – and one that has kept the therapeutic community divided for many years now. I started answering your question and found myself going on and on and on …. so I thought I better make that a separate post that might be of interest to more people and doesn’t get lost in the comment section. It’ll be posted today or tomorrow.
      Cheers Gudrun

  2. gudrunfrerichs says:

    Hi VK, I have always seen hostility as a sign of great fear and insecurity. From that position it is easy to have care in your heart and feel compassion. Even though I have to admit that it can be really scary when someone ‘blasts’ at you with full-force hostility.

    With the listening, the way I see it it’s listening knowing your own truth but being open that another person or part has a different experience. It doesn’t have to become your experience, but you can have a compassionate response, maybe like the one I had reading your first comment! 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  3. gudrunfrerichs says:

    Hi VK, your comment has deeply touched me – I have written a post earlier as a response to your comment. It does not answer all your questions, but maybe gives you a different perspective on your situation. In any case, I would aim for being able to talk to my therapist about the conflict that you are caught up in. You might not have to talk about ‘dissociation’ as such, but about the different mind-sets. A good question to explore in therapy would be – in my opinion – how you can like yourself – and all the different parts of you – more fully. Take care 🙂

    • Vk says:

      Thanks for your new post. I was surprised the comment was touching in anyway or even understood- I was very uncertain of pressing the post comment button as I was sure it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone. In return I was touched that it did.
      The listening part in your post has given me something to think about. I don’t know how to listen with love in the heart. Inside can be loud, there can be yelling/screaming/crying. It can be belittling, threatening, frightening or crazy. It has always been there – but actually listening and understanding it – it seems like it would devour me. Sometimes what I hear is distressing, I understand I need to reach out to these parts but I don’t know how to have space in my life to listen to that and not to drown in it, loosing myself. I think the hearing but not listening has made me feel like I was keeping drowning at bay.
      Understanding that what I am hearing is a dialogue of dissociated experiences has been confronting, and then trying to have compassion for the hate and ugliness? An internal war is a very good description of what this feels like for me. Going to therapy and learning how to talk seems to have, at times, further ignited guerrilla warfare. Every tentative step forward is often met with self harm and threats. This doesn’t invoke a loving feeling from my heart. Trying to heal can be like walking through a mine field not knowing what step will set things off.
      Learning how to confront these things in therapy is going to mean allowing another person to see something that has always only been in my world. It also makes it more real. It means pushing through and breaking some internal rules which is scary and sometimes impossible. Learning to like myself ? learning to like this hostility? I am not sure how to do that, but what I read here gives me some hope -to counteract the hopelessness – reassuring me that this is a healing journey and that there is a way forward.
      I am thankful that there is a place where I could write this. I understand what I write here is best addressed in therapy. However, writing here has shown me that I can push through and it is possible to break some rules. It has been done on this site, several times, and I am still here despite some backlash. It’s a shame my therapist doesn’t live inside a computer.

  4. Vk says:

    How much is internal communication hampered by denial? There’s still a struggle to believe experiences are dissociative and that there are parts. Progress seems to be one step forward followed by ten steps back. There’s a lot of blaming internally of lying and of being stupid/crazy rather than have things claimed as trauma/ dissociation related. Inside can be a scary place and for some it can be difficult to decipher and understand what’s going on. The lack of internal communication is disturbing, especially now that there is more awareness of when there is ‘lost time’ but still not the awareness of what has happened during that time. There has been some loss of stability recently and technically the answer to this should be to ask inside what’s going on but inside there is hostility and it is cold, dark and threatening. Its hard to get anywhere – it seems safer to stay on the outside. It is also frustrating when there is such reluctance to discuss dissociation in therapy and reluctance to admit when it happens and what time is missing even when it occurs during session time. There doesn’t even seem to be any capability to admit what is and isn’t remembered. The first reaction is always to cover it up, this happens automatically so its difficult sometimes for the outside ones to notice it too. I guess its the need to know if this sort of thing occurs with others too whether it is a part of some sort of process. The computer seems to be the most successful place sometimes for communication maybe because its not totally doing it on your own but still keeps people at a safe distance. There needs to be a way of bringing questions and understanding about dissociation into therapy but so far developing trust has been one step forward and ten steps back.

    • little one says:

      finding it hard to believe that recently having felt more content and able to take our place in the world and matter that now feel so disconnected to those feelings. If only it could be bottled and dished out when needed – when the anxiousness descends and the fear increases and no amount of pausing settles it. hoping tonight not another sleepless night – trying to calm them. speaking aloud that we matter – is it to not alloud , can calmness not be ours for to long ,

  5. little one says:

    Having found it hard to accept certain parts and accepting them as part of me or their experiences it has been so good today when I was prograstinating yet again about doing an assignment – a well loved part reminded us of “litttle miss scholar” . After been told in therapy it was time for the adult me to take control i was pondering who the hell got thru school, uni that there had to be an adult part functioning within me. surprise again have been in awe- she was so round today ‘little miss scholar – my belief that i could do it was so concrete – this is a great feeling. where though has she been – have all the sad,tormented and neglected parts made them selves known. Is it by accepting other parts that ones can come in and work together so as to support all?

  6. Gudrun Frerichs, PhD says:

    Hi Jessica, I have come to believe that every part of a person has been created to help. Initially, it must have been important for you as a child that you could completely deny what happened so that you could feel safe in your environment – even if that was a false sense of safety.
    Parts only seem to grow and develop when they have ‘out’ time and are in contact with other human beings (like your therapist) or, to a lesser extent, in dialogue with other parts inside. So your part that lives outside of your body seems to be pretty allienated from everyone else. A sad picture.
    By not being in contact with anyone, it cannot change its view, it cannot evolve, it cannot see what other parts have seen. Instead it is frozen in time and acts as if you are still a little girl that needs protection from the truth. I wish you all the best for connecting with that part – it seems to be very important to do so! 🙂 Gudrun

  7. Jessica says:

    What about the part that isn’t even part of the inside family. The part that is (apart) outside and without a body, and his only function seems to be to instill a denial that anything ever happened. His only ability, to shut down the whole system from thinking and insist that it’s all lies, all made up, that nothing ever happened. How do we deal with this, who is telling the truth? Do we work to change his thinking, or do we dispose of him altogether, back into outer otmosphere, disolved? Just when I am starting to feel really strong in our selves, he says, ‘It’s all been a waste of time, it’s a fantasy, stop living a lie.’ He has shaken our confidence in our ability to cope and made us feel confused. He wants us to appologise to those who have helped us, He wants us to say ‘Sorry for wasting your time.’ He wants us to walk away and not ‘tell any more tales’. There is punishment waiting for for us because our behaviour reflects on him. Does this part identify with the abuser, trying to stop us exposing anythig more, or is he just trying to protect us from the traumatic thoughts being worked through at the moment. He seems impenetrable. Is he really part of me? I don’t know if or where he fits in.

  8. ADHD Therapy says:

    I’ve being researching about Trauma Therapy and reading your blog, I found your post very helpful 🙂 . I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog!

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