February 17, 2010


A Part Is Born

Well, I was going to write about eugenics and explore "what if I had never been born" for the birthday-themed Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse this month.

TRIGGER WARNING! Some examples of dissociative outbursts and child abuse ahead. Please stay safe.

But, I had what felt like a set-back the other day. I got really triggered and reacted violently. I spent almost a whole day disparaging myself and even had some self-harm return. I tried so hard to pull myself back, but felt so out of control. I pulled out every grounding trick in the book. I did grounding exercises I haven't even thought of in years. But, it still took me about 24 hours to feel like myself again.

I was really disappointed because I allowed some behaviors to come out that I thought I had contracted against with various parts. I've discovered--and begun to work with--two new parts in the last few weeks. Maybe this is yet another new part who has no such contract with me. I'm not sure.

This got me wondering. Just how is a part "born" anyway? Mine seem to have come about for a whole plethora of reasons. Some are like full-fledged personalities and have tried to run away and start their own lives or have pushed me aside and tried to live life their own way with me out of the way, so to speak.

Some parts have very well-defined roles. Many of these roles are quite dysfunctional for my life now, so I've had to define and assign new roles to some parts. Other parts are what my T refers to as "partial splits," without much of a fleshed-out personality of their own at all. These splits seem to have come about for very specific, time-limited functions designed to keep me alive in my childhood's life-threatening situations.

For example, the first part I ever heard of by name--this was three years ago--was Nina. I was told she "comes out when we're in the shower." If you've ever read the account on my dot com site called, "A Fear Of Plastic Shower Curtains," You can understand why my helpless child self might have wanted to create a part just to take over when I need to take a shower. I haven't worked specifically with Nina via any kind of dialogue, but I have done EMDR on the shower torture incidents and I've done a lot of comforting and self-care work in therapy around this daily hygiene challenge.

In the very first chapter of The Dissociative Identity Disorder Sourcebook, Deborah Bray Haddock explains, "In systems where extreme splitting occurs, clients report a host of personality fragments created to do specific tasks, such as cooking, cleaning the house or going to school. Once the task is performed, the fragment becomes inactive."

In the book, The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization, the authors talk about "a fragment that has only a minimal set of response patterns to stimuli, life history, and range of emotion/affect but has knowledge for a short period of time." They go on to say that the actions of some of these fragments are very specialized. "Some...have a very specific purpose during traumatization."

In my case, I have another split or fragment, that I don't have a name for, who came about for the sole purpose of helping me hold my breath for a long time when my father would try to drown me in the bath water. I don't know much about these partial splits or fragments, but it makes sense to me that they would not be very developed if their survival purpose was quite distinct and unique to specific situations that I don't repeatedly come across throughout the day as I go about the business of life.

Then, I have some parts who I have named--or labeled--to match their functions. These functions are more broad than the two I've just mentioned, but still don't lead these labeled parts to control the body for any great length of time. There's Sentry, who I first started getting cooperation with in March of 2007. He was a great help to me when some creep followed me on the streets of Chicago once. Sentry is not afraid to get in any one's face in order to protect me. Unfortunately, he was getting up in peoples faces in inappropriate ways that didn't match present-day situations. So, I had to contract with him to stay located in an internal lighthouse and only "come to the rescue" if some stranger approaches me in a dark parking lot, or something like that.

I have another part I call Serena. But, she's not so much serene as she is still. That is, literally, her role: She keeps the body still so that there can be no self-harm or suicide attempts. I haven't felt her around much lately, but I sure coulda used her the other day when I slapped myself in the face seven or eight times. Luckily, I was able to stop myself rather quickly and vowed to engage in no further self-injury, even without any obvious help from Serena.

Whether my part splits are currently helpful in my day-to-day life, or the actions of these fragments are now dysfunctional for me as an adult living in a safe environment, I'm glad I'm learning about them. For a while, I was convinced that unless I found a part who had a high degree of autonomy and emancipation, I wasn't dealing with dissociated pieces of myself. This is one of the reasons why the "Man, I must be crazy" attitude persisted with me for such a long time.

If you are a dissociative child abuse survivor who is uncovering less complex personality fragments and doubting your diagnosis (or your sanity), I encourage you to read the two books I've mentioned in this post. There's a reason why even your smallest, simplest parts were "born" and you very well may be alive today because of them. So, even if I don't have a name for one of these partial personality fragments, I still make it a point to thank them. They helped keep me safe, they helped me stay sane.

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Dear one I appreciate you sharing!! I do not suffer like you do with dissociation, so I cannot really understand fully what you go through terribly, but I am always here listening. ((((Marji))))
Thanks once again for sharing and surviving.We all take some steps forward sometimes and then one back.How we deal with that is important I find, no self blame, just recognising it for what it is and going into the new learned modes.Makes it sound so easy doesn't it?
Whatever works for you.I personally like to think of protective behaviours or survival techniques.Recognise them for what they are, how they arose, see how they affect my life and try to change them if they need changing.I like to think of myself a a whole person without parts so don't find that way of thinking helpful but if it works for you it's great.We do what we have to do to be survivors and thrivers! Very good wishes, glad you got through a bad time.....
Marj, I'm so sorry you had to endure these bumps in your road. It sounds like you handled them with poise even though you may be disappointed in the return of some behaviors. I learn so much from you every time you post. Your strength is so apparent in everything that you do. I'm praying for you, hun.
I find that each part "becomes" for a different reason and in a different way.

We often have to find out "where one comes from" Once we find out where they come from the traumatic memories come into our consciousness and we heal then integration happens.

There are some parts that are almost built. There are many many of them and we call them hosts.

We do not dissociate. It is unrelated to our multiplicity as far as we know. We know we did not dissociate after age 4, before age 4 we are not yet sure about. One of us is always aware even in sleep.

We think and feel that for us it is more that parts never joined rather than they split off.

We were present during all trauma as allowed by brain function.
JBR, Von & Lily: Thank you for leaving such supportive comments, even though you do not have parts yourselves. I so appreciate your kindness.

Michael Finley: thanks for stopping by, leaving a comment and sharing part of your personal story.

I really would like to get some more ideas about how you, dear readers, think that some of your parts were "born," if you do, indeed have parts, alters, personalities, dissociative splits. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks for sharing this, I'm sorry about what you've had to go through. I'd very much like to read the books you mentioned, thanks for putting them on here.
Take care
Paola: You're welcome and thank YOU for visiting and leaving your comment. Do check out those books. The Haunted Self is written in a very clinical way, but if you can wade through it, there is some great research in there.
wow, marj. thank you for describing what you go through and what you've learned about how you function. as you know, i'm not dissociative, so i really appreciate getting to learn from you and be inspired by you. reading about your journey reminds me that often when we're beating up on ourselves and thinking that we're just "crazy" what's often going on is that we just don't understand what we're going through. and how external learning and validation can help so much to make sense of our lives and help us build confidence and self-awareness.

i'm sorry you went through a painful time recently. ~~safe hugs to you~~
That's a great insight. Thank you, Katie. And thanks for those hugs, too.
Thanks for sharing. You do so much to help others. Hugs.
Thanks, Colleen. And so do you! I'm glad we can work together via the blog carnival.
Honey thank you so much for sharing this information. It helps me to understand what you deal with and are currently going through.
I would gladly take a shot in the butt if I could give you a hug right now. lol and as we all know.. butt shots hurt. ;-)

Sending you positive energy, love, and e-hugs :-)
Marg, you have so much courage. With your words you help me to understand what it is like to have separate parts to your self.

I dealt with my own abuse by going inside my head and staying there so I wouldn't see or feel what was going on with my body. In learning to take care of my inner child, I sometimes felt like she was her own individual person with no connection whatsoever to the adult me.

I know that is not the same thing that you deal with in your recovery. You inspire me to keep on moving forward on my own journey.
Every part has significance. Each one is so important and what they did is important. The key is whether or not those jobs are currently needed. We need to help insiders find new jobs and new significance. We need to work through the things that caused them to be "born" so that we can all heal together.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. I know it can be very difficult when you feel you have had a set-back. I like to look at setbacks as actually moving forward. Something is happening to tell me where I need to start focusing. I hope the best for you as you keep on working this out in your system.
Sorry for the delay in responding to your much-appreciated comments. I had the stomach flu this weekend and was wiped out. Bleckkk! :(


Jade: Thank you so much for the positive energy, love and cyber hugs. I can really feel it, no butt shot required! LOL! ;) I appreciate you, deary!

Patricia: I think so many of us who experienced incest as children learned to dissociate. We've just all landed on different spots along the continuum. Thanks for your kind words. It means so much to me that I can help inspire, even a little bit.

Hey, thanks for those hugs, EH! It's so nice to "see" you! :) xoxoxo

OneSurvivor: That is so well-said. Thank you so much for reading and leaving a comment. I appreciate your kind words. I wish you many blessings on your journey, as well.
With this visit, I went and read your shower curtain story and the other two that you posted under the title of "My Story". You are so courageous to revisit that time in your life to share those stories with others. I know how hard revisiting that past is.

Your father was such a monster to do those things to you and your sister. You truly are a survivor of the first order. I am sending you love and hugs from my inner child to yours.
Oh, Patricia! thank you so much. My inner child is sending hugs back to you!
I am not diagnosed as a 'split' person, but in childhood I created many imaginary friends and helpers who had specific roles to help me survive an abusive home life. I never considered actually thanking those 'parts' of me, real or otherwise, that helped me survive. Now I see most of my once functional and even essential behaviors as simply dysfunctional and unneeded. It is much more positive to think of thanking them for their hard work in the past, even if they are sort of making things tough now.
Blue Morpho: Thanks for visiting and leaving your comment. I hope you can thank those "parts" of yourself. We can honor what we had to do to survive, even while working at more functional ways of living now.
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