When we talk about compassion for parts, we aren’t just talking about dissociative identity disorder and alters.
To us, “Dissociated Parts” are simply parts of self that are left behind because the emotions they were feeling and the trauma they endured were just too big to handle. When the brain encounters something that is too big to process and conceptualize, we think that often a part of what the body experienced (body sensations, feelings, reactions, what was said etc) gets sort of “trapped” in the subconscious. Prior to recognizing the effects of trauma, we called these “gut feelings.”
Not many people understand the long term and debilitating impacts of trauma. In fact, due to society consistently normalizing traumatic experiences – most people don’t even know they are holding on to trauma. Holding on to trauma, suppressing those feelings and keeping those inner children feeling scared and unheard, in our humble opinion, is what causes mental illness, disorder and disease. We also think that modern day medicine furthers this by looking for ways to mask symptoms as a fix instead of acknowledging that most disease processes and mental illness can all be tied to trauma from some part of life.
We think by seeking out and comforting our parts – we can all heal. Now for us – it’s a bit extreme compared to others and their inner child – but truthfully we see it as the same. We believe that all humans are connected by suffering and trauma. Some may deny the trauma or simply not recognize their “normal” as trauma – but we have all had trauma.
We’ve all been able to put ourselves right back in the moment and re-live something. We all have a deeply rooted fear that we know we keep coming back to when we get lost in our thoughts. We all have words that someone said to us as a kid that we have never forgotten
Those things – they are signs of trauma. Not every trauma causes left behind parts but they all have the potential to do that.
Repeated traumas like bullying and abusive or emotionally unavailable parents are more likely to cause dissociated parts to get trapped in the subconscious and then later act out when triggered. But – everyone has trauma and everyone has a part of them that feels differently than normal sometimes. After being cheated on, most people are scared of being cheated on again. After a bad breakup, most people are afraid to love again. After being made fun of for something, most people will try to avoid doing it again.
While avoidance is good to use sometimes, it often causes suppression of emotions, feelings and thoughts which buries them deeper in your subconscious. As a system, through exploring our inner world, we are of the opinion that the deeper into the subconscious a thought, feeling or reaction is – the more POWER it has over your sense of self.
When we keep letting that self doubt voice automatically say “that’s never gonna happen” to anything we want or need from life, it gets stronger – more powerful. And since what happens in our subconscious manifests in our conscious reality, we believe we can’t do it and we fulfill that prophecy.
So – the compassion for parts approach is all about healing the lost parts trapped in the subconscious to change our conscious reality.
We do it because we have dissociative identity disorder and learning to work with our alters (or parts) is the only healing option for us but the more deeply we related to and got to know our parts we understood why people relate. At first, we got upset that people who didn’t have “parts” were saying they had “parts” too – but then we realized….
Parts are on a spectrum – just like everything else. Everyone has parts – but not everyone has parts that are fully developed personalities with abilities to control their body. It still remains true that we all have emotional parts in our subconscious – that’s how the brain functions.
We believe that the main difference in where the parts fall on the “parts spectrum” is directly related to the age of the body at the time of the trauma and the duration of the trauma that occurred. And since trauma is trauma is trauma, it happens all the time.
And as therapist @heytiffanyroe recently said on her Instagram, the way kids are treated in school is often later worked on in therapy.
Our opinion is that because mental health professionals are taught to look for criteria and fixable symptoms instead of underlying trauma responses – “parts” are identified as “symptoms” and true healing can never occur. Now of course – these “parts” are not the same as alters in DID – but they would fall somewhere on the parts spectrum, as we see it.
So while our parts are at the far end of the spectrum from others because of our dissociative identity disorder, the way to healing is still through embracing those parts, comforting those parts, and giving them what they need.
Suffering and enduring trauma are human experiences – we all go through. And to us, so is having a part of our self that was damaged, hurt, lost or scared that needs some compassion. While having DID means that our parts have full autonomy over our body and our symptoms are more difficult to handle as a result – it doesn’t mean that parts work is only for systems.