People who suffer with dissociative disorders have parts. These parts often communicate internally only in patients with BPD, C-PTSD, PTSD and other dissociative disorders, while those with dissociative identity disorder may see the parts more in depth and communicating externally. Internal communcation is rarely a topic of discussion and often it gets overlooked during the recovery process.
But how you talk to your parts internally is where recovery starts.
Something we often underestimated was our ability to trigger ourselves, internally, without a word leaving the lips of the body. Society has taught us, and we suspect many of you, that words can never hurt us. However, that isn’t true.
Word can hurt us. Words can cause harm. The way we communicate can be abusive… AND repeated verbal abuse is complex trauma.
Since words can hurt us, words can also trigger parts. Not just words spoken to the body but also words that are spoken internally – part to part. For us, Lydia’s confrontational style of communicating always triggered Emmie and Ashleigh – our attach and shame parts. It’s very common for parts to trigger other parts.
Dissociated parts often use words, reactions and labels that are recycled from abusers
In structural dissociation, parts of traumatic memories are unable to integrate appropriately into the brain. Those parts are trapped in the subconscious and react to triggers often without the knowledge of the “going on with normal life self.” The way the brain learns how to react and perceive is based on what we see during the early years of our life. For this reason, dissociated parts often know how to react only in the same way their abusers acted.
When we communicate internally with the same insults our parents, school yard bullies and abusive partners used then we are unknowingly triggering ourselves and our parts. When Emmie continued to ask Lydia, “Why do you have to be so angry all of the time?” and Lydia continued to call Emmie the “needy one” we started to see how we weren’t doing each other any favors. Instead, we were doing all of the things that are sure to alienate parts.
Ways we communicate that alienate parts
How we give and recieve communications dictates how other people perceive us. The same is true for how we interact with parts. If you treat your parts like someone you don’t like or give them reasons to not want to be around you, the amnesiac barriers firm up and communication declines.
How we hear the needs our parts have and how we respond to them makes a big difference in recovery and getting parts to work together. Behind the intimidating and confusing messages that come through are just parts appealing to you to meet their needs. When we react poorly to those requests we help make sure they don’t ask us for help again.
There are 6 common ways we communicate that alienate parts:
Not owning needs, theirs or ours
Making demands instead of requests
Comparing them to other parts or other people
Ignoring and suppressing them
If you communicate with your parts in this way, you are not alone. And it’s likely that your parts communicate in these ways with their response. It’s understandable that you communicate like this, that’s the only thing you were taught. Over time, because the subconscious learns through repetition, our internal dialogues start to mimic the dialogues we’ve had with our abusers.
We think we are what our abusers said we were. Needy, angry, too much and not enough, being dramatic, faking it – and sometimes even not worthy of life. It’s not just what our abusers said that shape this. It’s also how our abusers made us feel that contributes to the way we communicate when triggered.
Creating a hostile environment where harm is caused, even if it’s with words, is a re-enactment of the environment that helped parts form. Speaking and acting like our abusers instead of a trusted friend is common because they often sound and react like our abusers. Of course that’s why this type of communication formed – but it can be changed. Prosecutors can turn into compassionate protectors when you learn to communicate in a way they can hear instead of in a way they are known to react to.
Reframing how we express so parts are not triggered
Reframing how we is express is only part of this process. In order to keep communicating in a way that parts can hear, we had to also reframe how we heard what parts were saying. This all started when we began to see that communication from parts, no matter how hurtful it is expressed, is only the part asking you to meet it’s needs.
We discovered that assuming all of these communications are signs that parts’ needs were not met and they were not able to communicate their need clearly – changed our perception. We chose to assume that their communication was just a need and our job as a trusted friend is to clarify what that need is – and then validate the feelings that come with it.
Learning how to communicate internally with parts is essential to recovery
We are sure that this is the number one reason we were able to recover so quickly. It didn’t take everyone getting on board, it just took one of us consistently modeling this type of communication to break down barriers. Choosing to communicate in a way that focuses on the needs and feelings of parts in a non-judgmental way and then respond like a friend changed our recovery.
If we continue to talk negatively to our selves and all the parts of our self, the message that we are safe and away from the abuse never gets to the other parts. They will still believe that they are in a scary situation like the one before if we continue to communicate with them like our abusers did.