Dissociative Identity Disorder: Mapping the System
If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder you've probably been instructed at least once to create a map of your system. A system map, I've been told, is essentially a recording on paper of alters' names, ages, and roles - arranged according to where they are in relationship to each other. I've never successfully completed one. If that were the only definition of a system map, I likely never would.
Mapping the Dissociative Identity Disorder System Isn't Easy
I've tried making system maps several times over the years, but the enormity of the task quickly overwhelms and immobilizes me. There are several reasons for that:
- DID systems don't often respond well to demands for identification. Similar to the question, "Who's talking?" a system map exposes the man behind the curtain. Because Dissociative Identity Disorder is designed to go undetected, many systems are reflexively defensive in response to outright inquiries about their makeup.
- Putting it on paper starkly displays harsh reality. Dissociative Identity Disorder is a difficult diagnosis to accept, sometimes exceedingly so. Even now, in my sixth year of treatment, the thought of laying my entire system out in black and white is intimidating.
- System maps imply permanence. Like pinning butterfly specimens in a display box, mapping the system can feel like defining ourselves in a linear, concrete way. And that's contrary to the intended purpose of creating maps - getting to know your system. My friends aren't defined by their names, ages, and jobs. Neither are my alters.
Creative Ways of Mapping the Dissociative Identity Disorder System
I can probably complete a system map if I take a less rigid approach. Pressing for information provokes fear and anxiety, but an open-ended, system-wide invitation to share whatever feels comfortable in self-expressive ways fosters safety. Some reader suggestions:
- Make a scrapbook. Lenore created a scrapbook with pages for each system member to fill with images that represent who they are. What's so appealing to me about this idea is that it cultivates creativity, and provides a more nuanced look at system identities than hard data alone can provide.
- Create a video. I love castorgirl's idea if for no other reason than it utilizes an entirely different medium. Every artistic medium has its limitations and advantages. Video allows the system to express itself in ways that aren't possible through written word alone.
- Compile a mix tape. I made music compilations for friends in high school. It was a fun way to communicate my feelings as well as my impressions of who we were to each other. Donna says her system did something similar by picking out songs for each other.
My psychologist often tells me that the structure and design of a Dissociative Identity Disorder system is limited only by the imagination that created it. "There are no rules," she says. I think the same holds true when mapping the system. What matters is not ironing out the details, but expressing who you are.
Gray, H. (2010, November 4). Dissociative Identity Disorder: Mapping the System, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/11/dissociative-identity-disorder-mapping-the-system
Author: Holly Gray
My original map didn't really address the relationships between alters, just wrote them all out. Then, it started to occur to me why I think a few formed, and writing that down too has been helpful. I also write down their roles- which are sometimes really unexpected! My two known angry parts aren't persecutors, they're protectors. My young teen part that I split from about six years ago is the persecutor, because she harms the body and will trigger herself and us on purpose.
I doubt this helps anyone, but if it does, I'm glad.
So my advice: rely on yourselves
Know that the only one who truly can heal your many parts is you and the parts by themselves
Aknowledge that the healing process is not always easy, but
We are together alone
We feel good on our vacation and volunteering right now
When we will return home it won't be a post traumatic hell as previous 4 months, bc now we know we just have to go and we want to live up to our goal in harmony with each other and not constant survival (fighting and overload of flashbacks constant dread and parts acting out by crying whenever we need to leave the house and even on the street...)
Therapy is not an answer to your multiple problems, sometimes it can harm more than it cures.
Self reliance and courage are keywords to living multiple.
Everybody in the system plays a vital role in the well being of the whole.
We've tried 'mapping' - but the map changes; "we" change - and "we've" gotten okay with that. Finally gave into embracing my DID selves and others - which has worked better than hating or trying to bury them so deep we can not hear them any longer (which has also led to a better memory recall as a 'nice' side effect!).
It's a difficult journey, but one which "we've" decided to take 'together', assuming we can not only get 'everyone' onboard, but identifying all who are 'there.
we also have a leadership team, that meets regularly.
"it’s funny, I find mapping to be reassuring somehow… I think it might be because I have a pretty big system"
Interesting! You see, part of the reason mapping produces so much anxiety for me is that my system is particularly large. I become overwhelmed just by the numbers.
"Every time I have mapped my system it has changed."
Me too, I think that's why I like the more fluid system maps.
It's good to see you here. :)
I have read here how some go through several therapists before they find one who knows how to help someone w/ DID. I'm on my first & DID is her specialty. She is completely awesome & I would love to tell everyone about her, especially seeing the need for good, knowledgeable therapists.
Just a thought...
There are some support groups for dissociative disorders here on HealthyPlace: http://www.healthyplace.com/support/groups/?categoryid=24
I always recommend the ISSTD first as a resource for finding someone to treat dissociative disorders. If your therapist is a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD), she can opt-in to their online Find-A-Therapist feature which allows users to search by geographic location. http://www.isst-d.org/find-a-therapist/disclaimer-find-therapist.htm
I hope that helps.
I hate to hear that you are walking this with out anyone to walk with you. I know what that is like. If you would like to just have someone to talk to who could also use someone to talk to, here is my email email@example.com
I don't have good communication between alters so, am not sure what is going on... No therapist for the last few years mine retired... Just not sure what to say or the state of things to someone else that is pertinent for now.
Something that is not resolved but not wanting to go back over anything I have finalized... Any suggestions? I have no family or friends and never had any help with this...from regular people! Thanks for hearing me, kathleen
I've heard of spontaneous integration but my guess is you'd know if that's what had occurred. What seems to be more common is a period of dormancy, where internal communication subsides altogether and the person may not even lose time for a long period, sometimes years. I imagine there are many reasons why this could happen but I can tell you from my own experience that when we did not have help - i.e. a therapist with experience treating DID - I had almost no internal communication at all. Now, I still lost time and had all the symptoms of DID, but when I tried to initiate communication it was like talking to a brick wall. Once we were able to get help from a therapist skilled and experienced at treating DID, that changed dramatically.
Given all of that, my suggestion would be to look for a new therapist, preferably one with experience successfully treating Dissociative Identity Disorder. I know that's so much easier said than done. If nothing else, talk to others with DID (if you're comfortable) and continue learning about it, looking at it from different perspectives.
You mentioned your sticky note idea before and I loved it. I'm bummed that I forgot about it ... had I remembered I would have written about it in this post. I really like the fluidity of it, as you mention. That's one thing I hate about the traditional, write-everyone's-names-and-ages down approach; it feels so permanent. And I feel like my system is a living, breathing thing that moves and changes, expands and contracts, like any living thing.
I need to find a huge white board and give your idea a try.
Thanks for reading and commenting, Lu.
Now I have a new therapist who wants all my parts to sit around a table and they tried it once and were terrified to do so. Where do therapists get these ideas? We did it a few months ago and now she wants to do it again next time we meet. I am not sure I/we will be able to do it then either but I gave her some suggestions of what would make it safer for us.
"No matter I do or choose, the outcome is always the same. I can't change it."
It was the first time I connected (in a positive way) with someone inside.
Names are something that I have a hard time with, so I just called her "No Choices" because that is what she represented to me. When we put her page together & decorated it, she became more real and less scary to me. It was a major change in my view of this whole thing. Instead of seeing this as a bunch of crazy people inside that I just want to get rid of. My were eyes opened to someone that is hurting and feels hopeless. I had compassion for her and not the normal anger I usually feel.
Driving to work not long ago I saw her face & heard the word "Hope" & I knew she now had a real name.