Integration. A word that causes a lot of controversy among people living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. The disputation is mainly internal, as people like myself try to come to terms with exactly what integration means. Does it mean absorbing our alters and in effect killing them? Does it mean we pull together into a single entity like all the “singletons” of the world? Much of the misunderstanding on this subject comes because of misinterpretation by Therapists and other mental health professionals. It has been thought in these circles that the only way to “heal” a person with Dissociative Identity Disorder was to encourage them to become like themselves, a single entity. While this bias is understandable, it was and is not helpful.
I would like to explain to you my perspective, as an individual who lives with DID every day and has done a great deal of healing, just what is the reality of integration.
Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder are formed in very early childhood before the age of three to cope with severe and recurring trauma. Switching from one alter to the other allows these children to escape the torture their small bodies are being subjected to and thus becomes a major coping mechanism they will utilize throughout their lives. A person who has a fractured personality can never become a singleton, any more than an adult singleton can become a true multiple. This is because adult brains are too highly developed to change from one to the other. It is true that an adult can be forced to dissociate and form an alter. However, this alter will fall apart and not last for very long, certainly not a lifetime. It is also true that a multiple can live for days or even years, symptom free. However, given the right trigger the old behavior of dissociation will inevitably return.
All that having been said, there is a way to integrate these extensive systems of alters. Instead of pulling together into one entity as a singleton, the system of alters must learn to become conscious of one another and how to cooperate so that they may act as one person instead of carrying out their own agendas.
I’ll use myself to illustrate. I have a system of twenty-seven plus alters and fragments. At one time the most dominant four alters would take over the body and chaos would reign in our life. I, as the waking self, would find money I didn’t remember, be told I did or did not do something, etc. It was hard to make future plans when I didn’t understand what was going to happen from day to day. Slowly we began to work together, learning to cooperate and to be aware of the feelings and thoughts of one another. Today I have a relatively quiet life as compared to three decades ago. We are integrated in the sense that we work together to make as much harmony as possible.
An example my therapist taught me might help explain this better.
My internal system was like a great orchestra. They could make beautiful music, but if each plays his own instrument without working with the others the only sound they make is chaotic at best. However, if they had an orchestra leader who lead them and they cooperated with one another following his lead, then after a lot of practice they would play beautiful harmonious music.
I am the orchestra leader and my alters are the orchestra.
So, as can be seen, integration does not mean ignoring the alters or killing them, instead it means becoming aware of them and they you so that your life can become a harmony.