Image from “Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia” by Rob Breesny
As Mike Lloyd explains in his video “Introduction to Structural Dissociation”, when we apply stress to a solid object, it is likely to fracture and split off into various components. A similar thing happens to people. My current therapist introduced me to the idea that I am a system of different parts or subpersonalities. These parts can be categorised into “exiles” (young parts that carry trauma), “managers” (parts which prevent exiles from being activated), and “firefighters” (parts that react when exiles are activated, turning to drastic things like drug and alcohol use, self-harm, binge-eating, sex binges, and other addictions). This model of therapy is called Internal Family Systems. A similar model, called “Structural Dissociation”, categorises the parts into two categories: the “Going on with Normal Life” part and the emotional, “Traumatised Child” part. We all have different parts of ourselves, but the greater the degree of stress a person has experienced (and the presence of certain factors listed here), the more fragmentation there is. Dissociative Identity Disorder is the most extreme case of this where the parts act independently from each other (separated by amnesia) and are incredibly nuanced.
In the rest of this post I’d like to share some of my own parts I have started to get to know. I have already written about one in my post “Layers of self”. She is a river spirit. Our therapist and I wondered why she is on her own, and the answer I got back was so she cannot be touched. She does not carry any trauma, unlike other parts.
Recently we identified a very young part. This part is very attached to our therapist, as though our therapist is a mother to her. This part liked to view our therapist’s Facebook profile between sessions, or what was available publicly at least. She could see some photos of our therapist and some of her posts. This was important to her as she is yet to develop “object constancy”, a child’s ability to know that objects and people continue to exist and continue to love/support them even though they can no longer be seen. Ever since our therapist blocked us and made her profile completely private, I have been dealing with a distraught 2-year-old (and she is not alone, my whole system has been in chaos). We thought about giving her a toy from the office to keep between sessions. But then I felt anger at hot as wildfire rise up in me. That was the first time I really felt this part of me, and realised there really is something to parts work (which, at first, I thought was wishy washy). It really was like there was someone inside of me. I told my therapist that she doesn’t want a toy. This part was most offended at the idea of being placated with a toy. My therapist then asked me what she wants, and I said “She wants you”. My therapist then asked me what qualities do me and her (therapist) share. We are both kind and we both are able to hold space for people; we are ok with the expression of strong emotions. I am hoping that this little part will come to trust and feel as close to me as she does with our therapist.
I don’t think all of my parts are the same gender. I think one of my parts is a guy. I am shopping for some men’s clothes so he has something he feels comfortable wearing when he comes out.
Another part which I’m starting to really like is what I call “the angry part”. This part will not put up with bullshit. They swear a lot. They believe I am worth something, otherwise they wouldn’t get angry. I don’t think many people have met this part other than my therapist. Usually my other parts shut them down, especially the trauma part who tries to appease everyone so as to not be hurt. But this part took over this evening. I’ve been wasting away inside my house with no purpose, no meaningful activities, nothing. I haven’t been able to play badminton, which is what got me through the week, because of lockdown. Recently I heard badminton is finally starting up again next week. I was so looking forward to smashing that shuttle again. But this evening my team mate texted me telling me we must show proof of double vaccination in order to play. I’ve been so upset tonight I’ve wanted to kill myself (it has also triggered my trauma as I was excluded by my peers right through school). I called triage and also my friend who convinced me not to give up as there are thousands of people out there fighting for our freedom. So here I remain in this miserable fucking world, angry as fuck. Then I did something that I don’t usually do. I told my badminton team mate that they can stick their vaccine right up their miserable ass, I’m not coming. I can’t believe I actually said it. I don’t think he’s ever seen that side of me. And the trauma part who tries to appease everyone is freaking out big time right now. But I am proud of saying it, and I hope to see more of this sassy badass in me.