Recently the subject of internal landscapes came up, so I thought I would write a little about it for the benefit of those who do not have D.I.D…or even those who do, if they want to join the discussion. 😉
So, what a lot of people who do not have D.I.D. don’t always understand is that a lot of systems have an internal world. Occasionally you will find someone who is not a multiple who also has an internal world – so they already understand this – but I have found that to be a rare occurrence. Assuming that most non-multiples do not have an internal world, this can be somewhat confusing. I’m going to try to explain the concept, although the variance between systems is not something I could possibly hope to cover in a blog post. As usual, the best way to learn is to ask people about their own system and experiences.
There are several aspects of internal landscaping, for those who have such a thing. Which also brings me to another point: not every system has an internal world. Some people do not. Some multiples report experiencing a sort of “fading into blackness” when they switch and another inside person comes forward. If you don’t have an internal world, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re not “doing it wrong.” Everyone is different.
For those that do, there are a lot of possible scenarios about the nature of their internal landscape. Some people who have experienced mind control/programming have an internal world that is almost entirely created and structured by their programmers. In other words, their own personal taste or preference or creativity had very little influence on things. Others who became multiple (but without programming involved) spontaneously created an internal world based on their own particular brand of creativity, emotional needs, and life experiences. Some people may be a mixture of the two.
Programming – despite what they want everyone to believe – is still not an exact science, and programmers cannot and do not always control as much as they would like to think they control. My own world seems to be partially programming-driven, but there are elements of it that extended beyond their control, and sort of morphed over time – especially without regular maintenance. I often wonder if size has anything to do with this. It seems logical to me that the more you break something down (a mind, in this case), and try to separate it out into organized pieces, the harder it will be to stay in command of all the pieces if you create such a large number of them. Once again I wonder if we were just a simple product of trial and error, and they learned what NOT to do, by way of experimentation. But I digress.
So, by way of the brilliant creativity of the human mind, an internal landscape can be anything, really. Literally anything, and any size. Some people report having a “house” where their inside people live; others have castles, boxes, or grids, or other places where their insiders exist when they are not in executive control of the body. I have heard of beaches, forests, playgrounds, and myriads of other environments on the inside. Other than a place for people to reside, I have also heard of various healing elements existing in the internal world. Sometimes people have a “lake” where alters can go, to “wash away” their pain (be it emotional or physical). Some create lockboxes to put the memories in whenever they are not in a therapy session, in order to maintain safety while outside of therapy. There are virtually no limits to what an internal landscape might contain or consist of.
There is also the changeability factor. Some people report being able to create or change their inside world at will. For example, if their therapist should want to speak to all of their inside people at once, the front person can simply create and install an “intercom” accessible to all inside people, by which the therapist can be heard. Or if their little people are bored and lonely during the day, some are able to “create” a playhouse for the little ones to go to, and entertain themselves, while the front people are engaged in adult activities like working or parenting or cleaning.
Not every system has this ability to change things, and not everything in the internal world is observable at all times by all inside people. My particular system is unchangeable just by sheer will. Because of my belief system and the path of healing that I’ve chosen, I am able to pray and ask for a solution for particular issues, and sometimes this results in a change to the inside world. But that change is not specifically driven by me.
I can’t walk into my internal landscape and say “Give me five pink puppies!” and have them appear (although that would certainly be interesting). 😉 There are many times when the internal world can’t be seen clearly, and sometimes a solution for a particular issue – when sought – is shrouded in fog or mist. This can take time and determination when it comes to seeking out the details of what’s really there. My system is too big to be viewed all at once, so it’s best to try to work with whatever section is being experienced at that time, which in other words is wherever the insider you’re interacting with is located.
There is also another element to having an internal world that can be difficult to understand for people who are unfamiliar with the concept: traveling inside it. Inside people can and do travel to and from various locations, if their internal world is big enough to encompass such a need. My own system is quite large and there is sometimes a need for an inside person to change locations (for various reasons) when my prayer minister is working with them. This can take time, depending on where the person needs to go and how far away it is, on the inside. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or even longer. For us, we have found a particular solution to this; sometimes multiples can “create” ways of travel that can speed up the process, such as cars or roads or space ships. This can be necessary for very large systems to save time if a location change is absolutely vital to therapeutic work, so that the time is not wasted waiting for the insider to get where they need to go.
As a practical example, so you can have some vague idea what I’m talking about, we have recently been working on retrieving pieces of our core self. The necessity of doing this is fairly self-explanatory; healing will never be complete without reconstructing the core of who we are, and that can’t be done without finding the pieces. It means – for us, anyway – having to traverse the entire system to gather what was intentionally hidden from us and scattered to far-away places. This was done deliberately with the intention that we’d never find them, and thus never heal. Having a way to speed up the travel time is crucial. I have personally been deposited in one of the far corners of my system once a long time ago (long story, and will have to be saved for another time), and it took me about a week or ten days – or so – to get back within range of the front (“the front” meaning a place close enough to consciousness where I could be forward and have executive control) without the ability to accelerate the process. That was before we’d found a way to hurry things up. So with that in mind you might be able to imagine why the vehicles can be important.
It can be confusing to non-multiples that we can have such a dualistic mental/physical presence – meaning, being present at a specific location both in our internal world and the external world simultaneously. Not all inside people are good at managing this; there are some who are less experienced (or perhaps less developed?) who cannot be co-present in the internal and external world. They are in one or the other, and they can only interact with one or the other at a time. But there are plenty of others who can do both, and seem to manage well enough; for example, being present on a peaceful park bench overlooking a lake on the inside, and being present at our desk at the office, doing paperwork, on the outside.
This is important for therapists to know and understand, but it can be harder for those who know us casually to wrap their minds around if they are a singleton. For a lot of us, it’s simply the way things have always been, so the complex nature of the experience is lost on us. It’s just been our reality, and we don’t know anything else.
While it can all seem a bit overkill to people who don’t have this experience, there are some important things to know:
In the case where a multiple does have an internal world, this came about as a result of their natural innate creativity as utilized to survive. In the face of overwhelming circumstances that may or may not be imaginable to you, rather than die or go irrevocably insane, the person’s mind came up with a way to keep them alive, and this was part of that effort. It may seem different or foreign to you if you don’t have an internal landscape, but it is extremely important to them, as it was, at one time, all that they had, in pursuit of survival.
Side note: if a multiple does not have an internal world, this does NOT mean they are not as creative as others who do have one. Everyone is different. Personally I think it would be much more handy (and much less mentally exhausting) to just have my insiders fade to black when they’re not out…but that wasn’t something I got to choose. The fact that multiples are multiple is testimony to their creativity. Not having an internal landscape does not make them less of a multiple or less of a survivor or mean that they’re “doing it wrong.”
Even though the internal landscape is, as it were, internal, what happens there is still quite significant both in their healing journey and in their everyday life. More often than not there is a mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical correlation with many, many internal events or the general state of affairs on the inside.
This is true on a microcosmic level and a macrocosmic level; things that affect each alter affect the system as a whole, and vice versa.
As a practical example (because shut UP with the technical jargon, Jade! –roger that): if a person has a baby alter that is upset by something and is crying on the inside, this can (depending on the system) cause quite a stir. Depending on how co-conscious other insiders are with the baby, how significant the baby is to the system (is it core or non-core?), how many others are around and able to hear the baby, etc., it can be anywhere from mildly distracting to downright overpowering for whoever is trying to lead. It could cause headaches, flashbacks, loss of ability to focus, a literal pain in the throat or chest or any area the baby might be affected (if crying either caused or was caused BY pain), etc.
No one on the outside has any awareness of this event, but for the multiple, it is affecting them to a greater or lesser degree depending on circumstantial details specific to their system. Take this scenario and multiply it by however many alters they have, tweak it by their exact degree of connection to all of those alters (although unknowns can still affect the system too), and you might be able to see why our behavior and even our affect and physical state can widely and rapidly fluctuate for no reason that is readily observable by an outsider.
The internal world is not just a fantasy that we live in because reality is (or was) too painful; it has real effects on us in the here and now, and internal issues must be resolved for us to find tangible relief on the outside. Pain originates in the mind, insofar as all of the neural pathways in the body are working properly, and that is primarily where it is processed. It may secondarily be processed in the body (which is another post for another time) but those two things need to work together in tandem. You cannot neglect the inner world – in the event that a multiple has one – and expect to make great strides in healing.
When in a friendship with a multiple, wherein they and/or their system share their experiences with you, it can oftentimes be important to clarify if something that’s happening is happening on the inside, or on the outside. Sometimes internal worlds are structured and named similarly to the external world, and sometimes this has been done (thinking about in the case of programming) deliberately to confuse people, so that help cannot be obtained because the one being asked for help doesn’t understand what’s really happening. If you are being asked for help, or informed of something that could potentially need intervention, try to clarify what’s really being said, if it seems even remotely possible that there could be some confusion – or ask to talk to someone who can.
That’s all I can think of on this subject, at the moment. Feel free to join the discussion (which seems to happen more often on Facebook than in the comments…), if you would like to, or start one of your own. Either way, I hope this has been helpful. Cheers. ~J8
***EDIT: I forgot to include some outside references, so here are a few, if you would like further reading.
I do not agree with quite a few of the tenants of this article, but my agreement is not a prerequisite for inclusion most of the time; some people may find it helpful. There are some interesting thoughts included in it that I wasn’t aware of and did not touch on in this post (e.g. denial is related to the “fog” or “mist” shrouding the insides? -must think about this later…), so it’s still worth a read even if a lot of the “facts” do not ring true for you.
This article is long and the part referencing internal landscapes is about halfway down the page under the section entitled “The Importance of Safe Places in the Treatment of Dissociative Children.”
This is also an interesting (and lengthy) article on D.I.D., dissociation, and accompanying issues and topics. The discussion of internal landscapes is brief but interesting, and this seems like a good resource for anyone interested in the subjects. The internal landscape piece can be found in section 3.3 (“The Multiplicity Mini-FAQ”) and is quite far down after that.