From Research to Practice to Fiction

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Since the early Nineties, I’ve been passionate about the wonderful women and men I met in my private practice who went on the sometimes odious path of recovery from childhood abuse. I’m sure if people knew how many obstacles they have to climb and how many hoops they have to jump through, many would think recovery is not possible.

But it is!

I’ve seen it many, many times. Never have I seized to be amazed by the courage and determination I’ve seen in survivors. That determination and courage spoke of Life’s force to be whole and healthy.

It wasn’t an easy decision to take my shindle off my door and retire. But it was time for me. My body told me, enough is enough. Looking back over the last five years in retirement, I know never again to ignore the wisdom of my body.

I became a writer. Well, maybe I always was, writing stuff in here for the last 11 years. After a wee detour into writing romance novels–I never would have learned about writing without the amazing women in my Wellington romance writers group and the NZ romance writer’s conference–I’m now writing about Elise, a woman with multiple personalities, who fights for her sanity and freedom as she’s framed for murder.

It’s fiction… made up, but certainly partially based on my experiences over the many years in my private practice. I’ve seen the struggles, witnessed the inner fights. My aim is to write Elise’s story from a point of authenticity, that is rarely found in the writing, fiction or non-fiction, about MPD. Maybe that way I can contribute to change the strange picture that is still painted about people with multiple personalities.

The characters of the book started their own website a few days ago and told me I’m not allowed to interfere. I hope all goes well and cross my fingers! You can check it out here!

I’m interested in gathering a small group of people with intimate knowledge about the struggles and joys multiplicity brings to read through my chapters and tell me where I’m off track and, hopefully, where I’m spot-on. If that is you, please email me, using the contact form.

That’s me for now. It’s almost Christmas, and I wish you a safe, peaceful holiday. Take Care!

 

Have I created my dissociative disorder?

Have I created my dissociative disorder? This really interesting question has been posted in the comments section and I thought it deserves a more in-depth response because I have heard this question asked many times over the years.

The question whether people (either clients or therapists) can create a dissociative disorder has kept the therapeutic community divided for many years now. The good news is that nobody really knows. Whatever people believe is just that: THEIR BELIEF. We don’t know enough about how our marvelous mind works to be able to give a definitive answer.

It might be wise to be cautious and not believe everything therapists (and other people) tell you – including myself here – because we all make up our own reality as we speak or think for that matter. Our perception is so fickle, it’s more about ourselves and our own history and experiences than what we perceive is going on in the world. When you find that you are able to quieten your mind and use the stillness to listen inside to your own wisdom, you will find your truth. That’s the only one that you can live by! Not my one and no-one else’s.

But I am diverting – back to the question: In my personal view it is naive to think someone only has to read a book and then can talk themselves into having a disorder so severe that it causes mental and emotional distress. “Inventing it yourself” implies a purposeful act – like creating a make-belief story that then is lived out. If we watch a movie we might be affected by it, but we still know it’s a movie, a made-up story, it’s not real. That step doesn’t seem possible for people diagnosed with a dissociative disorder (or any other disorder for that matter).

‘Inventing unknowingly’ is a contradiction in itself – it doesn’t make sense and isn’t really a thought-through statement.

I have always perceived dissociative disorders on a continuum of awareness. To use a stereotypical example: the academic in their ivory tower who is not aware of his/her other needs and feelings, and is complete ignorant about leisure, health, family, etc. This kind of ‘life’ is – even though socially acceptable and at times even admired – in my view very dissociative. It is just not recognised as a pathology because the person is not signalling that s/he is suffering.

The person that ended up with a diagnosed dissociative condition seems to me to be a bit further on the way to ‘mental health and inner peace’ because their awareness is awakened to the aspects of their lives that don’t work for them. One way of going through the mental disorders of the DSM is to view all (or most) of the listed disorders as people’s individual way of coping with the problems life is presenting them with. Does the depressed person chose to be depressed? NO. Does the anxious person chose to wake up anxious every day? NO. Neither does the dissociative person chose to see him/herself as fragmented and disconnected. Due to complex circumstances (age, resilience, support, ability to conceptualise, etc.) these people have learnt to respond to life through these specific ways. There is not really a choice as in “I am consciously choosing x”.

If we look at mental disorders from a medical/pharmaceutical perspective, the answer is usually: it’s some form of mental brain malfunction for which – thanks to pharma – we have a pill that can be prescribed and things may or may not improve. Because dissociative disorders itself don’t respond to pharmaceutical interventions, many people lean to thinking they can’t be real and therefore must be a creation of the patient or the therapist! There you have it!

If we look at mental disorders from the perspective of how human experience is created, than all our experiences are due to each individuals way of making sense of life and ability to respond to life. In that sense we do create all our experience – but is it inventing? Certainly not, it is just what every human being is doing, it’s how nature has designed us to exist.

If someone tells you that you are creating your e.g. dissociative disorder,  depression, or anxiety there is the implication that you’ve been naughty, it’s not real, you shouldn’t have done it, please un-do it quickly. They don’t understand it’s your personal response to life’s circumstances, it’s the best way you could cope with life given your resources, awareness, and thinking at the time. Once your awareness increases you will improve the quality of your responses to life.

Internal Warfare

A reader of this blog commented yesterday on my post “Achieving Co-consciousness” and described in deeply touching words the heartache of living with so much fear, not knowing, not understanding, and internal dissonance. Reading the comment I got a really good feel for the ‘outside’ people who try to manage the everyday life as best as possible, and the ‘inside’ people who seem to try to manage the inner world of memories and feelings that go with these memories.

My first thought was “just like it happens in real life when people go to war against each other”. Whether it’s the Germans against the Western World during the WWII, the Muslims against the Jews, the North Irish against the British, East against West, North against South, there is no difference. Each party is convinced they have a justification to go to war, fight for their right(s), even give their lives for the cause.

None of the parties is listening to what the other has to say. Instead, all they try to do is brow-beating the ‘opposition’ into submission, using all kinds of semantics or other intimidation methods. “I am right” … “… no, I am righter” (I know this is not correct english, go away spell-check!). All parties have their opinion already set in concrete. They are not open to new ideas. They don’t listen with care in their heart, they listen looking for evidence to agree or disagree with what is said. Hop over to my post “Just Listen” to get a clearer picture of what I mean.

What does that mean for ‘inside’ people and ‘outside’ people? Well, for starters, how well do you listen to each other? Do you listen with love in your heart or do you already have a judgement on your mind? And then, what happens when you (outside person) lose time and become an inside person? Do you then become part of the ‘inside group’ and become hostile, difficult, or not understanding?

Given that we can NEVER EVER see reality as it really is, that all we ever can know is ONLY our interpretation of that reality, its highly likely that neither inside nor outside people are getting the right end of the stick. Certainly when people are highly strung, emotionally distressed, or hurting lots, thinking and perceiving what is going on is unlikely to be very accurate. Only when you are in a calm state of mind and at peace is your mind in a state to get a clear picture.

I agree that it is much easier to understand the conflicting inner world when we talk about ‘parts’ – and each person has a psychological mind structure that can be understood by using the ‘parts-metaphor’. On a physical, observable playing field we are talking about the same person, one body, one heart, one set of lungs, and one mind. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of that! In physical reality, this internal warfare takes place in the very small space between your ears. Please, be nice to that poor, overworked, stretched out brain.

Letter To My Younger Self

Today I came across a lovely blog post from a fellow blogger. The title is “Letter to My Younger Self”. I became curious to see what Rachel (the blogger) wrote. Those of you who know me will understand that: I hold the strong belief that a big part of the recovery journey  is to find a place of compassion, love, understanding, respect, and appreciation for the younger SELF who managed to cope with the abuse.

When I make this statement I hear frequently “Yes, maybe, BUT see how much I am struggling, see how much I am in pain, see how difficult it is to reverse the dissociation”. The way the younger Self coped is creating a whole lot of problems today.

My counter argument is usually: The younger You cope with something horrendously difficult and confusing the best thing s/he could. With the limited resources and understanding a child has; and often with barely any support. You can now, as an adult, make the necessary changes.

However, the first step is to give recognition to the child in the form of love, care, respect, understanding, appreciation. It won’t be long until one by one your problems will start melting away. I encourage you to read the ‘Letter to my younger self” by clicking on the link!

Can You Trust Your Feelings?

Emptiness A big part of recovery from the legacies of sexual abuse is getting to a point where you have a sense of control over your emotional states. That means not to be thrown around all the time – or a lot of the time – by feelings of hurt, anxiety, fear, panic, suspicion, envy, hopelessness,"self-loathing, and hate.

On one hand we are taught to trust our feelings and use them as a guide for the way we behave and interact in this world. "How do you feel about this …?" A common questions we are asked to answer, not only in therapy but also in all other areas of life.

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Re-enactment of Trauma

Self harm Yesterday a comment had been posted asking whether it is OK to discuss self-abuse on this site. I had a look through my postings so far and did not find any specifically addressing self-harming issues. I thought it’s a very important issue for many survivors and will start off with some excerpts from the book ‘Traumatic Stress’ by B.v.d.Kolk et all.:

“One set of behaviour that is not mentioned in diagnostic criteria for PTSD is the compulsive re-exposure of some traumatised individuals to situations reminiscent of the trauma. This phenomenon can be seen in a wider range of taumatised populations.For example combat soldiers may become mercenaries, abused women may be attracted to men who mistreat them, sexually molested children may grow up to become prostitutes.

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What’s When You Have A Gay Part?

Gay couple I have often experienced that a multiple has parts that are gay. As a matter of fact, I don’t think there are many people who are either 100% heterosexual or 100% gay. Most people can be located somewhere on a continuum between <gay and straight>.

I can imagine that it feels more absolute and set in concrete for a multiple, because you don’t have instant access to the feelings of all your other parts.

Everyone – multiple or not – has to manage their feelings and attractions. If you or a part of you is attracted to a person of the same sex, what are the consequences of acting on that attraction? If you think it’s alright, you might have a wonderful relationship ahead of you. Managing these attractions, processing with your whole system what it means to have a same sex partner, and getting the support from people around you, is something that can be discussed and practiced in therapy.

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Achieving Co-Consciousness: Healing Narcissistic Self-Parts

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In general I have a great aversion against labels – certainly against psychiatric labels that put a person into a defined box. Labels often have a stigma attached to the, for example DID, borderline, bipolar, or narcissistic. I am going to use narcissistic self parts here because if anyone wants to read up on this particular point, you can go on a google search and find plenty of information out there.

Narcissistic wounding, like other emotional wounding, often occurs early on in childhood. These wounds usually affect a person’s behaviour and personality throughout her/his life unless healing of these wounds is taking place.

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Achieving Co-Consciousness: Self-Acceptance-And-Love

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On the first glance people may ask “What has co-consciousness to do with loving yourself and accepting all the different parts of you?” My answer to that is “Everything!”

If there is a part of you that you dislike, are afraid of, or even feel disgust for, you will stay away from that part ‘full stop’. If co-consciousness means to know to a large extend what other parts know, feel what they feel, and be able to act as they act, staying away from a part of you will increase the walls that divide you and prevent co-consciousness, not decrease them.

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