There are as many variations in systems as there are dissociatives. Some you may recognize from reading, some may be completely foreign to you. You have to be adaptable and resourceful. Again, experience with children comes in handy here.
This was the Ultimate Irony for me, as I’m uncomfortable with kids. (Note – I’m learning)
Your other half has a bunch of alters, or parts, or people. I find it helpful, as does her therapist, to think of the others as parts of her. Her job, in the long run, is to communicate with all of them, and stay present, instead of letting the others take over when it’s uncomfortable for her. The power is there – she will have to patiently learn to use it.
Try to deal with the alters on their own level. Many are children, so you have to relate to them as such. Set limits, don’t yell or argue, and don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of (but don’t be preoccupied with the thought of being taken advantage of).
If you have or like children, this is excellent preparation for interacting with alters. Remember though, that an alter might be only five, but he is a very ADVANCED five. He might know how to drive. She might be 10, but she took all the college math courses for your SO.
Never underestimate the alters. And never NEVER lie to or break a promise to an alter. You have to have an atmosphere of trust and communication. Remember – they were abused and lied to in the first place. You have to be someone they can trust.
If you want to address a certain alter, Miss Manners suggests that you only address the alter who’s out at time. If you want to speak to a different one, ask the out personality to send a message, if that’s possible. If there’s danger, ask for the appropriate part.
Whenever an alter comes out, you will eventually notice subtle (or not so subtle) clues as to his or her appearance. If you’ve read the books, you know it was mentioned that when different alters came out, the person took on almost completely different looks. She could appear to be taller, she could write with the opposite hand, frown, have a different blink rate, and/or appear younger or older than your SO. This can be quite dramatic, or you could have a hard time noticing it.
Watch and you will soon be able to tell who’s out by voice or appearance, if not by context. Remember though, that they spent all their lives being your SO, so they’re liable to want to not be noticed or identified. This also has something to do with getting hurt in the past if they `told’ something.
Don’t prod or badger an alter. If they want to talk or interact with you, they will. Your job is to create a trusting, loving atmosphere. Since they were hurt, it s very difficult for them to trust anyone. They can also become wonderful friends, somewhere down the line.
Each one has his place in the system, as well as a function. One might handle certain school subjects, another might do other subjects, one can be the perfect spouse, one might strive to please her abuser, a few can do sex, and some might pop out when you’re in a toy store.
Type of Alters:
Suicidal: this is just as it sounds. When this one’s out, she might try to kill the system. They seem to have no fear or regard of death. Sometimes they consider it a relief. They frequently think that they’re killing the host and they will live. They are wrong.
Protector: you have to be careful here. This is also just what is says. The job of this alter is to make sure no harm comes to the system. This can be accomplished in many ways, some being nastiness, arguments (if I make him go away, he won’t hurt us), and picking up and going elsewhere without notice (he can’t hurt us if we re not here). A lot of persecuter alters are miguided protectors.
The Kids: are precisely this. They are young, and enjoy all the things that real children do. Teddy bears, crayons, arts and crafts, animals, and whatever else you can imagine are their playthings. They can be easily frightened.
Helper (Inner Self Helper): this one is generally fairly powerful, and has contact with a lot of the other alters. She might be able to tell you things that the others can’t or don’t know. She may hold The Kids in her lap to calm them down, or referee disagreements within the system.
Self Mutilators: these alters cut, burn, scrape, scratch, poke, and otherwise hurt themselves. This can be to release pain, or perhaps due to feelings of inadequacy.
Frequently, alters are not aware of time or location. Some may be frozen in the time the abuse took place. If possible, you can try to make the alter aware of the time, place, and year. This can sometimes help. If someone’s constantly on the lookout for abusers, you can make her aware that the abuser is far away (if this is true), or dead, and that she’s safe. It happened in the past and although her pain is real, it’s not going to happen now.
It’s a good idea to alter-proof your house. Think of how you’d childproof the place, then do it. Get rid of all non-necessary medicine, trash the razor blades, and do whatever’s necessary to keep the alters safe from themselves and each other. You might have to learn the hard way, by catching an alter trying to do harm, but then you will know better next time.
“I didn’t buy that. I’d never wear that.”
“All men are bad.”
“I just know you’re going to hurt me – maybe not now, but soon.”
If you can gently help them to realize that this isn’t so, you’ll be helping. Use logic and don’t be forceful.
You’ll hear all sorts of interesting things from the mouths of alters. You must remember that these people grew up in their own little universe, with radically different rules and beliefs from what we consider normal. They don’t think like us (some multiples jokingly refer to us as `singletons’ or as having Single Personality Disorder). All their lives this went on, so this is their normal way of thinking and doing things.
Each alter was `born’ for a purpose, and generally has a pretty set way of thinking and doing things. So you’ll be greeted with some totally outrageous statements, but try not to sound too surprised: you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
The protector alters were born to protect (obviously). They’re generally on alert, even if there is no reason to be. This is also alt logic. The kids may be afraid of a lot of things.
If you want to truly communicate, try to do so on their level. This will be difficult, but you’ll adapt quickly.