Left-hand, right-hand journaling is an invaluable tool in the work of integrating “multiple personalities”. Using the dominant hand to ask, and the sub-dominant hand to answer questions, one can elicit a complete BASK model on elusive memories, as well as to uncover and understand thought patterns which may be unconscious to the whole of the system.
It is important to discover how many parts were involved in each set of circumstances, and to elicit a complete BASK model from each of them. Only in this way can erroneous conclusions be corrected. It make take several passes through the same set of circumstances, seen from the perspective of several different parts before that set of circumstances can be fully processed, released, and reframed. This work takes patience and perseverance, and can’t be done all at once. Important also to remember is that while one part may be willing to communicate, others may be “hiding out” awaiting evidence that it is safe to surface and share. Patience is golden.
I learned the BASK model in my studies of writings by Bernard Braun, Ph.D. Dr. Braun was a pioneer in the field of MPD. His acronym stands for Behaviors, Affect, Sensations, and Knowledge. Every experience of any individual is comprised of the components of the BASK model….what did you see/think, feel, sense, and interpret (know about) that experience?
In dissociation, these components are separated in an attempt to chunk the experience down into a more tolerable one. It is not unusual to have combinations of elements of the BASK model, such as abreactions (body memories) with no pictures, or emotional responses with no explanations. We all “know” things we don’t know where we learned. The re-weaving of these completed BASK models is basic to the integration process.
Further, in my experience, it was not unusual to have detailed descriptions (pictures/memory) of the circumstances long before I had any inkling of the affect (emotions/feelings) or sensations (abreactions, body memory) attached. In other words, I could describe grisly acts of abuse in much the same manner as I would tell you how to peel an orange, or mix up a recipe.
In using right/left-hand dialoguing to discover these components, the questions might flow as follows:
Behaviors: (mental) What was going on? Where were you? Who was there? Who was doing what to whom? In journaling, one might begin by asking who wants to talk about what? If there is no response, one might choose a circumstance they have fragmented memories of, and gently ask questions until the left-hand answers. The more one practices, the more willing “parts” are to answer. One must have patience, but not take “no” or “I don’t know” for an answer. The question may have to be asked or rephrased in several different ways, or ask, “Who does know?” before answer begin to emerge.
In my experience, parts are more than willing to answer direct questions, once trust is established within the system. Keep in mind that secrecy and denial have more than likely been the rule of survival among the parts who have retained memories for many years. It is not (or has not been) safe to talk about anything of negative reality. There are good reasons to be discussed shortly for parts to remain feeling unsafe until they are brought up to present time and circumstances.
Affect: (emotional) How did that make you feel? Rather than narrative here, one will more likely receive intense emotions – crying, groaning, deep feelings of loneliness, terror, grief, etc. If those feelings don’t surface easily, try to empathize – how would a child feel in that circumstance? It is not uncommon to receive these feelings without any memory of circumstance attached. Until there is a thread of recognition, however, I found that all the crying in the world didn’t help. There was nothing but emptiness to cry into. The crying felt useless and more lonely when I had no circumstances or specific memories to mourn.
Sensations: (physical) As amazing as it seems, these sensations of pain, of muscle contractions, of crawling insects, or of constant hypervigilence and tension, are stored in our muscles. It has never been difficult for me to have graphic physical portrayal of what happened, even if I had no memory I could picture or emotional affect connected. It was only when I was able, however, to make the connections, that the sensations made any sense. Sensations alone, while powerful testimony, are very difficult to believe unless you have the other components attached.
Further, since the language of our inner consciousness is pain, or body sensations, these can be highly useful in initiating conversation with inner parts. Any body sensation can be used to access inner thoughts and feelings. Keep in mind that the body speaks in metaphor; and that specific physical ailments can spell out specific beliefs and actions. For instance, someone who constantly says, “I can’t STAND it!” may well find themselves unable to walk due to bad knees or ankles. Our body truly believes every word we say, and it also speaks a very clear language if we are willing to listen to it, and honor its messages to us.
Knowledge: (spiritual) To me, this part of the model was always the most joyful part of the process. While experiencing ugly memories, painful physical experiences, or devastating emotional responses, getting to the bottom of the spiritual purpose, lesson, opportunity or awareness is often heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, and always endearing. It took me a while to understand that we cannot simply accept all conclusions drawn at a time of terror, of trauma, of total disorientation, as fact, or truth. We must allow our Self to hear, to understand, to validate, and then to gently correct or reframe these misperceptions.
By realizing that every action of the Self is of noble intent for the system, it is important to discover the perceived need for which actions are performed, and help the system to find other ways to fulfill these needs. For instance, the “firefighters” can often make choices which appear to be harmful to the system, but are done in the best interest, and with the best information available to that alter personality. Finding out these mistaken perceptions and correcting them can bring order out of chaos for the client.