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Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

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Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

Postby fireheart » Wed May 18, 2022 9:25 am

To give some background info: our goal is integration and eventually fusion. We have been working with pur T for some years now and seem to be making progress. Internal communication is smoother, we rarely lose time anymore, daily life has gotten easier, and we have less flashbacks and trauma symptoms than we used to have.

We do, however, struggle a lot with allowing the T to help us. Real-time progress that is made together is super hard. Normally we just take information and retreat to work on things without another person in the room. Lately we switch more in therapy, because it seems to help this issue a lot. There is more direct communication to the T and this allows her to (1) see a lot more of what's going on, and (2) respond to that.

However, now she seems to continue the trend of the work that she mostly has done with *me* (as a part). She encouraged me a lot to parent parts and to take care of them, which has been helpful, but mostly because I feel capable of handling that. Other parts are not as capable of fulfilling that role and feel uncomfortable about it.

I don't know if it's a good thing to ask those parts to take on parenting roles (e.g., because they feel like they're 12 years old). I suppose that if there is something close to fusion, everyone would perhaps be okay with witnessing the pain of other parts. Maybe even feeling it and accepting it. I think that is what the T probably wants for us.

Does anyone have experience with something like this in the process of integration/fusion? Or thoughts about it?
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Re: Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

Postby ArbreMonde » Fri May 20, 2022 10:35 am

I have integrated a very young child part (Pride), and another set of child/teenage parts (Ghosties) has fused together and is slowly integrating with me.

None of them were given any responsibility outside of what was/is possible given their own ressources and maturity. Pride used to age-slide and become an old man named Wrath when given responsibilities to do, but after a while he stopped doing this when other parts took over said responsibilities. I managed to integrate Pride when I realized he contained some elements I was refusing to have inside of me. When I "clicked" and realized it was okay to contain said elements, it felt like a curtain named "Pride" was removed and all was left was me and another me from behind the curtain. I am Pride. And many others too. And they are me too.

G/Hosties started like a big box of childhood and teenagehood pictures, disorganized. They slowly got ordered in chronological order and became a fully-fused Ghosty aged like the oldest one of the lot. A bit like when you turn boxes full of pictures into a single, organized picture book. She does not do anything outside of her maturity range either.

Being protective of youger parts is not the same thing as parenting them. A teenage part can be protective of younger parts without parenting them. It's a bit different.
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Re: Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

Postby fireheart » Fri May 20, 2022 4:04 pm

Thanks for sharing, Abremonde.

I'm still chewing over the session about this with the T...
I think the T mostly got confused because the part (M) shared that we keep having a flashback that she first had when she was 10 (the body was actually 10 back then). That might have hinted to the T that M is mostly ANP, which is true.
So then she continued to treat her as a typical ANP, overlooking that developmentally she still mostly functions like a 12 year old. I think that the approach would indeed need to be adapted to that.

I don't think that M should work with the T to "go back into the memory" (or the feelings) and be the one to help the "part" to regulate ("part" because it doesn't have to be a DID part). The T usually recommends finding out about their needs and finding an imaginary solution.
I suppose with outside kids this can be done, so that's part of the reason why I'm not sure. M was very vocal about not wanting to take on a role like that, though.

She's still curious about taking on a more active role in therapy and so far it does seem more productive than when I am there. Now we just need to figure out what that would look like... Maybe we should think of more age-appropriate ways in which she could be involved in supporting parts, without responsibility for emotion-regulation.
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Re: Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

Postby Dwelt » Fri May 20, 2022 5:32 pm

I feel like the issue may be the pace.

For context, in my system, almost each alter is made of multiple parts, usually one ANP and a few EPs.

We did kind of the same thing that your T tried to do with M, but more slowly. We started with our teens (14-16), because they were the "easier" to work with, and also the "louder" at the time. They started by relying on adult parts for their regulation, then we taught them, by imitation, how to do it. We were still there to guide them and "catch" them if they failed, but eventually, they gained enough skills as ANP to be able to regulate their EP with minimal help. Now, they're working on integrating their traumas.

Recently, we started the same "emotional regulation" work with our youngest alters, those who have 12 and under. The work is different, more difficult, they need way more help and guidance. It's one very small step at the time to not frightened them.

So yep, maybe the issue is it was way too much, way too soon for M. She may need more time to build new skills before doing anything like that.

But eh, that kind of work is only one way to work. If it doesn't feel right, you can totally try to find another way, that may be better for you and for M!
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Re: Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

Postby fireheart » Mon May 23, 2022 6:12 am

I think you are right about the pacing.

It took us multiple years to build up M's emotion regulation skills. Now they mostly suffice for *herself*, but to then regulate another part feels like a pretty big step for her.

She is mostly okay with feeling and regulating her own trauma memories, with support as needed. I think the "next level" feeling of overwhelm she got was also because the flashback memory doesn't feel like it is her trauma. It doesn't feel like it has anything to do with her, apart from maybe the social expectation of feeling like she is supposed to be nice to all others inside.

Plus, I now remember that the T asked M if the part could have a big cry with her and be comforted by her. That's... a lot. M's pride and joy is that she never cries. :')

I think that we could write down some practical ways for M in which she could be supportive, so that she knows some of the things she could do. Like, draw something for the upset part, bake or cook something, put on a movie, ask inside if one of the older ones could please come out to help. Or perhaps I could write out a small script for her with questions she could ask and responses that would be appropriate.

Thank you so much for writing! Can I ask how you personally taught parts to help? Especially the young ones? Does their way of comforting end up looking a lot like your way of comforting, or is it different?
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Re: Asking young parts to handle difficult things in therapy

Postby Dwelt » Mon May 23, 2022 9:46 am

You're welcome =)

I think that we could write down some practical ways for M in which she could be supportive, so that she knows some of the things she could do. Like, draw something for the upset part, bake or cook something, put on a movie, ask inside if one of the older ones could please come out to help. Or perhaps I could write out a small script for her with questions she could ask and responses that would be appropriate.

That seem like really nice ideas!

Can I ask how you personally taught parts to help? Especially the young ones? Does their way of comforting end up looking a lot like your way of comforting, or is it different?

For the teens, we weren't in therapy back then, and we didn't really know what we were doing (that's why it took years to work). Recently, we started working with the young ones in therapy and we finally understood what we did.

It's basically about helping them to expend their window of tolerance. At first, we let them avoid everything related to the trauma, just comfort them and help them ground when they get intrusive manifestations because of it. Depending on how separate from the "related" ANP the EP is, it can mean comforting everyone at the same time, or first the EP then the ANP.

Then, once the alter feels safe enough around the adults, and trust them enough, the goal will be to help them "have a look" at the trauma. It can be by writing, or drawing, or anything that seems okay for them. They can do it at their own pace, start and make a pause and finish when they feel they can do it.

For the teens, it was okay, but with the young ones, this is already way too hard.

For them, our therapist suggested we start by making sure we are in a very safe place outside and inside, then, when they are ready, to just "watch" the body sensations linked to the trauma for one second, and then go back to the safe place inside. Then, once it's totally fine with the 1 second, to do it for 2 seconds. Then 3 seconds, etc.

And even that isn't easy. With one of our young ones, we could do only 2 sessions of 1s before he asked to stop ; then, we spend the rest of the hour talking about something else with our therapist. Also, even if we're used to working on our own, it asks for a lot of focus, and we are only doing that under the supervision of our T (this is to say : do not try it alone!).

All of this helps them see that nothing terrible happens when it just "cross our mind", that having the memory of it doesn't equal being overwhelmed, and they start building a bit of confidence. It also helps to reduce the fear of the other parts (all of our ANP started avoidant of their related EPs).

For the teens (we're far from here with the young ones), after they started being comfortable enough to draw or write, they also mentioned it a bit to some of our close friends we really trust. Having someone outside that recognize it was horrible but doesn't make a drama out of what we lived helps a lot to see that, even if it's important, it's not that of a big deal. It's kind of like when a child is more scared by the fact their parents are scared than by the thing itself, but in reverse. Seeing someone that isn't over-emotional about it helps realize it's in the past and can't really hurt us anymore.

At this step, our teens stopped being totally avoidant of the trauma and the EPs, and were more confident about their ability to handle the intrusions and the EP related to it. During all the process, they had slowly grown and became young adults. At some point, we just encouraged them to imitate the adults, and to try to take care of their EPs.

They started by doing little things. For one ANP, the only thing he could really handle at first was to stay close and not run away from consciousness while I was helping one of his related EP. Then, they started to do more and more. Now, for most of them, it takes a really big trigger to destabilize them to the point they need the help of another adult. We all have the same way of dealing with EPs and young ones inside, and when it's about doing outside things to help with comfort and grounding, it depends on what they like (watching a film, cooking something nice, drawing, etc.).

At some point, some of the most autonomous teens/young adults also spontaneously started to help comfort the young ones when they could. None of the adults asked for it, it just felt natural. Some who are less autonomous want to help too, but are still a bit uncomfortable, mostly because they are intimidated by young children and scared to do something wrong. They're slowly learning by watching how we do it and helping a bit when they feel it's something they can do. Sometimes, it means saying something nice, other times, it's by letting the young ones being co-cons when they do something fun, etc.

Hope it helps!
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