The Rocky Road of Integration

DID System There seems to be a myth about integration where people expect never to have flashbacks, depression, and triggers to interfere with their lives. Although they interlectually understand and even proclaim that "recovery is a lifelong process", they get discouraged when they find themselves in spaces that are very reminicent of the 'bad times'. So here are some thoughts about this confusing, difficult phase.

We do know that not all the work has been done – and we acknowledged that people never do all the work. There is always something that is coming up and will do so over one's lifetime. The question is whether it interferes with your coping or not. If it does, you need to 'work' it through. That happens whether you are a multiple or a singleton.

The great thing is that when you have come to this point in your recovery journey, you can be assured that you have a clever head, great people skills, and great great coping skills. You had the flexibility to lean into other parts of you, tolerate and even share their feelings. That made you perfect for being the 'spokesperson' of your system. If you wouldn't have these skills, you wouldn't have been able to reach this far in your journey.

However, often people are at this point a little bit too hard with themselves. They expect of themselves to be coping, to understand everything, to have their memory function without fail etc. Its not unusual that the 'spokesperson' of a system used to be a part that was not so deeply feeling, not so deeply traumatised and he/she could function well because of the separation between them and other parts. This gets re-enfored by the people around them who are usually glad that the multiple is "you are soo much better now", without realising that the dissociation has increased and the distressed parts are pushed down.

This is different in the integration/post integration phase. The separation is gone. You are now, after all the work you have done, as dissociative as the next best person. That comes with advantages (not losing time etc., being more rounded,) but it also comes with disadvantages. When under stress, other parts get reactivated and interfere with your coping. Their 'stuff' intrudes into your day, without making much sense to you because you don't know the full story.

This will keep hapening – it does so for every other person, multiple or not. The past intrudes into the present, triggered by events, sounds, smells, pictures, thoughts. It's hard to accept that as a normal state of being, but the bad news is, its normal! Bummer!!

You can help yourself by getting in touch with the parts that 'run the disruption' that make you feel out of sorts, depressed, panicky, having memory problems, not knowing how to boil water, and speaking as if you are still living in the past etc. If you can give those parts some time, some care, some compassion, and explore WITH them what they need, you will get over these speed-bumps.

I do not believe that you have a problem with memory or sink into a depression. I do not believe that you have lost your ability to boil water or don't know how to speak to people around you, or how to protect yourself. Instead I think that at times of stress younger parts are closer to the surface and you will be feeling things, saying things, or even be reminded of things that used to belong to them. Having younger parts re-activated will interfere with your memory, you will feel more fearful and depressed.  Rather than reaching for a medical explanation or getting scared that you will slipp back, somebody needs to attend to the fears or issues these parts have. They won't go away by themselves. Parts are reactivated for a reason. In order to feel better you have to understand that reason and intervene with care and compassion.

You just can't ignore the needs from other parts inside you. If you do, you will pay for it with for example headaches, slipping memory, sleepless nights, disorientation, and dissociation. The doctors' surgeries and mental health places are full with people who ignore their inner world. Don't join them. You know better!

11 thoughts on “The Rocky Road of Integration

  1. shirley says:

    I used to think of my parts as being ‘apart’ from me. I formed a vision of them being birds attached to a thread flying out from my head and opperating in ‘other space’. I watched them from afar, a safe distance. I got to know them, most of them, and occasionally would draw one or the other in and love and nurture it.
    Instead of them being attached to me, I began to feel attached to them. However they all still opperated in their own space. Outside of me. Randomly. I never quite knew where I was with my raggle-taggle flock.

    My new vision, and my New Year’s resolution, is to give all my parts their own personal spaces inside of me. I hope they will be safe and contained and comfortable, still free to fly but free to come inside too. It would be good not to have parts perching on my head or on my shoulder, chattering in my ear and flapping their wings trying to maintain a grip. I am going to fill my body with nesting places and hopefully hatch new and fresh ideas and ways of being in the world. Ways of working together. I don’t know if I would call this integration. I can’t think what to call it. Maybe it’s more like ‘Drawing In’. Anyway it’s worth a try.
    First there will be the calling in, then choosing a site, then the nest building, then the waiting, then the hatching, then the feeding and nurturing… then the learning to fly, the letting go.

    • Gudrun Frerichs says:

      Shirley, I love your description of the flock looking for – and building a nesting place in the corners of your mind! Coming together – or integration – whatever you want to call it, is such an individual process that looks different for everyone. I would love to hear how it turns out for you. 🙂 Gudrun

  2. Tania says:

    OK cool – having read all that (and it is fine that you quoted me Patty – I like what you wrote in your blog) – I am still very confused right now.
    Integration is a goal – and yep, i agree, probably a lifelong process. But …
    I work with people daily who are “falling apart”, or “going to pieces”, a lot of the time, “at the coal face” so to speak, in the actual moments following immediate trauma. 99% of the people I work with though arent multiple. And they may dissociate at the time – but they dont switch. And that is a very different process. they feel like their lives are shattered, (and very often, they are). but they dont feel as if they themselves have “shattered” – split into different parts – switched personalities. They still have a sense of self – they know who “i” is.
    So – after integration – which is it – does stress result in a lost sense of the singular self – or does stress make the world seem shattered – but the self remain intact?
    Sorry – I dont feel like i am helping here – but this is a topic which is close to the heart right now
    So I am struggling with this –

  3. Gudrun Frerichs, PhD says:

    No trouble at all, Patty! I hopped over to your blog and read your reply. Integration is such a hard concept to grasp and live up to. It has so many meanings for different people,it is so fraud with expectations of a ‘unified supergirl’ as you describe it, that I think any discussion about it is useful. 🙂 Gudrun

  4. Patty says:

    Oh, I’m sorry, I thought the answers were in chronological order, not the newest on top. I didn’t mean to take away from the discussion. I didn’t see that Tania’s question was already answered. And I hope it’s okay that I quoted you Tania.
    *feeling kind of in trouble now*

  5. Gudrun Frerichs, PhD says:

    Hi Tania and Yvie, in times of stress everybody, whether you are multiple or not, fragments and regresses into less resourceful states. A funtion of the SELF is distress tolerance and emotion regulation. Under stress the SELF struggles to fulfil these functions and struggles to stay cohesive. You commonly hear “She goes to pieces” or “He is falling apart”.
    I see integration as a continum on which several stages of co-consciousness are stages of a person’s recovery. In my view integration is a lifelong process and does not just involve integrating emotions and knowledge of past trauma. Every experience that alters a person’s identity, like children growing up and leaving the parental home, needs to be integrated; so does getting old, losing a partner and many more ‘normal’ experiences. 🙂 Gudrun

  6. uznco says:

    ha!!1 yeah I agree with you Tania!!! that just pisses me off!!! So although we have done all this work and getting to a great place, lifes ups and downs etc will always affect our parts. What is the point of integration. Are there always gonna be deeper levels to work on deeper parts to integrate is that what all that means. I thought once you integrate you have integrated all the feelings. I feel that I am in the process and so yeah still struggle with knowing what to do with feelings and what they actually are. When I react that doesn’t feel like me yeah must be someone else inside reacting and don’t mind working with that causse I know I am not completely integrated yet not that I believe I ever will be. Half the time these days I don’t realise I’m not myself completely (spokeperson that is normally out I refer to a me and my normal reactions and feelings to things) yeah!!! maybe it is co-consciousness and thats it. agh!!! seems like there is no end…but I aint gonna get depressed about it or let myself slip back. just gonna accept it and keep pushing forward cause I am at a place now that I never thought I would ever get to. I thought that I’d be dead by now. Life is better, life it good. And I am just gonna keep pushing through. if the this is it all I have to keep working on is self care, forgiving myself and letting go of the past as it comes up. just gonna be a fact of life. It is well with my soul. I am so much better off than so many others I know. Many people I know struggle worse than I do and they are so deep in denial they think they are in reality but I see right through their facade and I think well if your happy living a second rate life in denial then go ahead. I am so much more aware than so many others and its because I’ve been through what I’ve been through. We all have!!! We have so much more to give!!! Go well everyone!!! Hope to meet ya all at the SOSA conference/summit i mean.

  7. Tania says:

    Im confused. How come, post intervention, parts can be reactivated that easily? If that is the case, what is the point in integration, and all the work involved in achieving that. Why not just settle for co-consciousness and be done with?

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