The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, in their article about D.I.D. (which is no longer live on their page), says: “The main goal for treatment is the integration of the separate personality states into one cohesive, unified personality…” In other words, integration is the process of creating one complete whole, out of all the distinct parts of a person’s mind.
There are many different theories and approaches concerning integration. Viewpoints on the importance of it, as well as how to achieve it, vary widely from therapist to therapist and even from person to person. Since I’m not a therapist, but just a fellow wayfarer on this journey with all the rest of you, I can only offer my opinion on this subject rather than a complete list and analysis of all those other approaches.
But before I give you the cut and dried, I would like to address some of the common myths or misconceptions about integration. Again, my blog is simply my own experience and insight. Ultimately you’ll have to take what you find helpful, and put the rest on the shelf (or in the trash – your call), as what I say may not apply to all situations.
By the way, there apparently used to be a whole Dissociative Identity Disorder Wiki (who knew?!), and I still have a copy of the page about integration. Here it is:
Integration means “getting rid of” or “killing” my inside people.
This seems to be one of the biggest concerns for people with D.I.D. – at least, the ones who like their inside people. Then there’s the other camp who thinks their inside people are the problem, for which I would recommend this additional reading.
Truth: Integration is not about getting rid of anyone or killing anyone. It’s about bringing everyone inside to a place of peace, rest, and fulfillment. To the very best of my knowledge, inside people do NOT die. They can’t. If they are truly a part of you – the person – they cannot be killed. You are who you are on the inside, and no one ever has or ever will be able to take that away from you. Through the very worst trauma and abuse you have suffered, the amazing thing about your mind is that it was able to preserve you; creatively, beautifully, persistently.
It did what it had to do to protect you, and this is the wonder of dissociation. The abusers could not rob you of that which is truly you; not now, not ever. I have heard of inside people withdrawing and seeming very distant, even absent, at times. I have heard of them being put in a trance or in a deep sleep or rendered unable to communicate or interact in the accustomed way. With more healing, those things can be resolved.
Integration is really the opposite: integration will enable every inside person to be more truly and fully alive than they’ve ever been, because it’s like allowing everyone to be “out” all at the same time, without having to take turns or suppress one so that another can manifest. No one is suppressed, with integration. Everyone is expressed.
Integration means I’ll have all of my traumatic memories back and remember everything, all the time, and it will be torturous.
Truth: Gaining memories back is a part of integration, or a part of healing even if you don’t choose integration, but the point is not to be tortured 24/7 with flashbacks and scenes from the past. When healing happens, flashbacks will lessen and eventually cease altogether. Integration, which does involve sharing of previously isolated memories, is about becoming aware of your history and coming to terms with what happened to you so you can heal.
Psychotherapist and author of The Myth of Sanity, Martha Stout, believes that you only need to remember enough of your past to be able to create a narrative history; a story of yourself, so to speak. Every survivor will have to determine for themselves how much is enough. I don’t think it’s possible to remember every single detail of your past, nor do I think it’s necessary. I think the idea of remembering what you need to remember – in terms of whatever your body and mind is trying to tell you (via flashbacks, physical/somatic symptoms, etc) – is a wise approach to the question “How much is enough?”
If I integrate, my inside people will lose whatever “special powers” they have.
Truth: This may be true, and it may not be. This is actually too broad a concept to be able to address all across the board. I have heard of some who had inside people who could speak different languages, or had other specialized skills (such as being able to play specific instruments, draw, photographically memorize vast amounts of data, and other talents), etc, all separate from the main person who was in front most of the time.
In some cases, with integration, those skills were lost, or greatly decreased. I guess for me, the question would be, how important are those specific skills to your daily life and overall happiness in the world? If they were learned for a cult-specific job, how important is it to you to keep that skill, and why? Living in such a fragmented way can create a lot of chaos and conflict for the person with D.I.D. Those people have to decide whether the risk of the changes that will come with integration is a priority for them or not.
My own personal opinion about integration is that it’s a decision each system has to make for itself. The whole point of Dissociative Identity Disorder, or any other disorder, is that while it serves a purpose at the time it is needed, later it prevents the person from enjoying (or even experiencing, in this case) their life. It starts off as a very adaptive response, but later evolves into something that is no longer useful or helpful.
The point at which it ceases to become a disorder is the point at which you can decide what plan works for you and yours, and where you want to go from there. There are some systems which achieve so much internal communication and cooperation that integration really isn’t necessary. There are others who decide they would like to be permanently joined together, and it suits them very well.
It is common for the overall personality of a person with D.I.D. to change with integration, but this change is in keeping with the original design of the person before they experienced trauma. For example, some people with D.I.D. go into treatment very shy and scared and socially isolated due to large amounts of post-trauma anxiety. Upon completing treatment they discover that they are actually a very outgoing, social person whose core personality is quite extroverted. After their trauma memories are healed and their anxieties are resolved, they are free to live as the extrovert they truly are. So this is a good thing. That’s just one example, when there are thousands of possibilities.
If you want to know what me and mine are doing, we’re just following our intuition and trying to honor the wishes of everyone in the system. I don’t really care if total integration happens. I care about getting to a point where I can live as the person I'm capable of being, as a healthy and whole person, loved and loving other people. If that looks like integration, that’s cool. If not, that’s still cool. Maybe there will be a few of us inside people left at the end, who decide we can live in peace and unity and cooperation. Or maybe at the end there will only be the core of me, with all others having been joined or found a way to be peacefully at rest. I don’t know. I do know that I’m okay with whatever it looks like. Cheers. ~J8