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.
Besides the components of the BASK model, it is also important to understand that within every dissociative system, there is certain to be found several types of personalities who have specific roles to play in the system. These types of personalities were identified by Richard Schwarz in Mosaic Mind as Managers, Firefighters, and Exiled (usually hurt child) parts. According to his experience, Dr. Schwartz found that while the three categories of parts are apparent in all people, they are more extreme and defined in survivors of abuse. (Goulding/Schwartz 109) Identification of the role and function of the presenting parts is helpful in using a system approach to map out the internal family in a way which provides guidelines for perceiving and understanding the relationships between groups or parts. (Goulding/Schwartz 109)
Again, another paper could be written to discuss the roles and functions of individual parts, and the importance of avoiding the limitations of labeling by addressing functions rather than the essence of each part. Suffice it to say here, that a major work of integration is to come to know each part, with its function, its noble intent, individual personality traits, weaknesses and strengths, and to learn how that part functions separately from the Self, when it is “blended” with the Self, and how eventual synergy can be attained by integrating or “melding” parts and their roles and purposes to accomplish a unified whole. Further along in this paper will be a larger discussion of the role of “Self” and her importance in the healing process.
It is not unusual for a person with DID to maintain a degree of sanity, and to function in a somewhat “normal” manner until she is middle-aged, and/or until her perpetrators are either passed over, or otherwise out of her life. In my experience, there are several reasons for this phenomenon. First, maintaining secrecy and silence is a way of life that has been learned from early childhood.
Amnesia for circumstances and the parts who hold the memories is a self-protection which is vital to maintain safety and to an individual’s ability to carry on with any semblance of normalcy from day to day. A child who remembers that she was raped the night before, or on a regular basis, is not able to go to school the next day, unless she has some safe place to store knowledge of unbearable circumstances. In order to protect herself from further harm, she must often carry on as though nothing unusual had occurred.
It is as though a child builds a wall of amnesia, and stacks little mummified parts who have suffered beyond her ability to bear, behind the wall. Maintaining that psychic wall of amnesia takes a LOT of energy, and when that energy begins to falter, the wall begins to deteriorate, and little snippets of memories begin to filter through. It is not uncommon for this deterioration to come at about the same time that childhood perpetrators begin to fade from an individual’s life. It is also not unusual that it happens in middle life
Early in my process of discovery, before I had been diagnosed with DID, I was diagnosed with OCD. My therapist remarked that no one really knows what causes OCD, and I replied that I could tell her what causes it, and I wrote the following poem to illustrate my knowing:
Inherent in many cases of DID are also symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and Depression. Depression may well be a coping defense against the “revolving door syndrome” wherein each alter personality or mind state believes him/herself to be the only occupant of the body, and attempts to maintain control. Problems arise in these individual attempts at maintaining control because the parts are so “frozen” in time and perception of circumstances as they experienced when they were individually “created”. Not having developed maturity, nor gathered information past the original set of circumstances, these individual parts are ill-equipped to make rational or functional choices.
Much like a pair of Japanese World War II soldiers, lost for 20 years on a deserted island who, when discovered, came out in tattered uniforms with their guns raised, unaware that the war was over, these victims “frozen” in time and circumstance within the human mind and body, must be de-briefed, and given new information that the war is over, and it’s safe to come out now.
To illustrate, many victims of catastrophic abuse show symptoms of obsession with self-mutilation. As described in the book, The Mosaic Mind, (Schwartz, Goulding) there are alter personalities in every case of DID who fulfill the role of “firefighter” and who are responsible for the protection of the system. These “firefighters” often perceive that injury to the body is inevitable and imperative. Since this is their perception of reality, they rationalize that if such treatment is inevitable, they will determine when and where and how deeply to cut or burn or whatever punishment is self-inflicted, in order that they may control the damage, ascertain how close the body is to help, etc. [There are many other causes of self-mutilation as well; this is only one. This subject alone is worthy of a whole paper, and is only briefly mentioned in this context.]
As was discovered in the aftermath of World Wars I, II, and since, somatosensory aspects of trauma are often experienced in an altered state of consciousness. These instances are referred to as “abreactions” or body memory, and often accompany the return of dissociated memories into personal awareness. While body memories are helpful in piecing together dissociated memories, they are useless, and even further retraumatizing, unless connected to a specific circumstance, and accompanied by transformation and substitution. That is, abreactions (physical component) without processing of memories (integrating mental, emotional and spiritual aspects) are not effective in releasing trauma. (van der Kolk, et al).