Why do we seem to "fall apart" when we discover our multiplicity?
Many multiple systems go about their daily lives covering up for each other without even knowing that they're a system. This can go on for decades. So what is it that happens that makes this idyllic period of "ignorance is bliss" end, and why does it sometimes feel like one is "spiraling downwards" the more one learns about one's system?
There may be many reasons that multiples become less able to be "functional" when they discover their multiplicity. Here are some known factors and ideas:
New Trauma or Retraumatization
Sometimes it's as simple to explain as having been retraumatized, and that's what revealed the underlying system. Now there are all these previously unknown people in the system to deal with as well as this new trauma.
PTSD can be triggered which means you can end up with all the PTSD symptoms due to pretty normal everyday things.
One example of a common enough trigger is when a traumatized person's own child reaches an age they experienced trauma at — the fear that their child may have similar trauma, seeing their child being the age they were (and possibly appearing similarly to themself at that age) can be a trigger, or going through their child's milestones that they had troubles or struggles with can be a trigger. Even just the fear of being a bad parent or sounding like one's own parents can be a trigger — parents often have the "Oh my! I've become my mother!" moment.
Anything innocuous can also be a trigger. For The Crisses a trigger is the smell of coffee brewing — and the trigger/anxiety escalates if it's brewing daily.
A front/"host" has just bumped into "Stowaways" in their system, and they don't know who is who or who to trust. Pushing them away, excluding them from life decisions, hating them, repressing them, etc. are generally dangerous — these are real people with real feelings, and this is their life, too.
There's an underlying misconception here, most of the time, because they're not really new at all. They've really been there all along. But sensing each other's distrust or being pushed aside or held back can be a panic trigger, and cause all types of misbehavior and maladaptive behavior within the system. This triggering of each other within the system can lead to a downward spiral — a closed feedback loop descent into panic within the system.
If you suspect this for your system, please run don't walk to our System Trust Issues podcast episodes starting with Episode 009 New. The sooner someone breaks this feedback loop within your system, the sooner you can repair your relationships and work together.
Internal Chaos/Lack of Role-Models for Functional Multiplicity
Multiples don't have an built-in owners manual and no role models for internal community. Well, we do but we haven't figured out that they're everywhere.
Role models? Any group that gets along in a respectful, compassionate, thoughtful manner will do. Group at a non-profit, the library, a business, etc.
But many of us don't have great examples of good external communities to model our internal community after either… :/ We Crisses like to think of a Star Trek spaceship crew as our "model" for pretty good group interaction.
PTSD — stealthy and trisky like hobbitses!
Then there's the PTSD. PTSD has some stealth built in. It doesn't happen immediately after trauma. It kinda "cooks in" — when the brain realizes that a trauma hasn't been processed into long-term memory, or when something triggers a reminder of the trauma that was never "put away" in long-term memory in the first place, the brain tries to make it surface so you can "take care of it" — but it becomes a feedback loop rather than getting it processed it just keeps coming back up (intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, insomnia, etc.) until something breaks the cycle.
The Need to Walk in Their Shoes
We, the Crisses, are currently working with a theory. We'll state the hypothesis first, then the breakdown/explanation of what we're thinking.
In order for stuck residents New (or "stowaways") to front and process the Here & Now New, our body needs to (somewhat) match the vibration/intensity of their stuck trauma and/or the current "state" of the system or front needs to get close enough to their personal "state" in their stuckness to allow them to surface. Then they can become more coconscious and co-aware in order to "wake up" to the Here & Now.
Not an easy one to describe...
This article is a Stub requiring text description of diagram for visually impaired people.
When we are "functional" we're living at least in the middle to right of this diagram, probably not far from "Peace" or perhaps even all the way into "Passion" somewhere.
However, our stuck parts are living on the left, or far left, stuck in the Panic end of the diagram.
When we find out we're multiple, our personal perspectives are shaken, and certainly we will falter or maybe even slip to the "panic" side of the diagram — leaking emotions from others that we may now sense who are deeper on the panic side of things may drag us further left as well.
In order to rescue people from the left side of this diagram, and try to bring them closer to the center (you can't just hop from one side to the other), we suspect that they either have to be able to migrate there — on their own over time or with whatever inspiration — or the people interacting with them have to be able to "get close enough" to their frequency to be perceived, and for some type of communication to occur. Those on the far left, stuck in PTSD feedback loops are unable to perceive reality and the Here & Now.
Hell Team & the Rescue Mission
by the Crisses
This idea came to us (The Crisses) from finally digesting the most troubling concept in the book/movie What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson (SPOILER ALERT! sorry — this is the climax of the film, but it does not ruin the film):
The scene is 2 people:
Annie lost everything she cared about in her life — her children, then her husband Chris — and took her own life. Now Annie is dissociated trapped in her PTSD prison in the afterlife — locked inside her personal version of "Hell" and unable to be in touch with anything that doesn't fit in her warped perspective. The other, Chris — the person speaking — is her soulmate and has come via a long journey into her nightmare to find her. He cannot be happy without her.
Then Chris fully mentally joins Annie in Hell — leaving the Here & Now to submerse himself in a dissociative PTSD prison "with her" but unable to see her for who she is. His ability to fully join her wakes her up to rescue him.
This scene is so poignant, so real — we Crisses left the movie theater reeling, crying, and angry in a way, and amazed — because they had hit on a truth it would take us 20 years to digest. We read the book. We owned 2 copies of the DVD. We watched it over and over again. It took us a long time to really fully digest it.
We can't rescue our lost inner children while fully anchored and blissfully present in the Here & Now. All the people in our system who "held it together" when those children "fell apart" abandoned them in a version of "Hell" and let them sit with the pain of the trauma, while the rest of us "moved on" with life. We pushed away the pain and the trauma so hard we created their prison. We enjoyed our life while they were frozen in theirs.
For a while we issued open invitations. We tried to reach out to them but in their pain they couldn't be reached in our headspace. They're trapped inside themselves somewhere, somehow — or in time/space in the shamanic realms, or in a personal Hell if you will. Everything we have tried just hurts them. We decided for a long while that they had chosen to protect us from these things, and we were grateful, and we thought when they felt we were "ready enough" they would come out of whatever and join with us and be part of our happy head family.
Then we started having doubts. It had been more than 10 years of waiting, and they weren't budging. Maybe us "being ready for them" wasn't the problem.
To expect that they might suddenly be "inspired" to come forward, claw their way out of their hellish PTSD prison and share their pain all on their own is asking them to do the (nearly) impossible. So we are assembling a team we believe they can trust, people who never failed us — including one person who did claw their way out of their hellish PTSD prison as a journey guide — guardians, shamanic practitioners, healers, mothers, etc. And we're going to have this "Hell Team" go on a rescue mission to find these children, using What Dreams May Come and other sources as the "metaphor" for hell, the journey, the tools we're bringing, things we may leave with them if we can't rescue them, etc.
In the meantime, we totally expect our external life to get very rocky, maybe even fall apart — because you can't dive that deep into PTSD as a prison or Hell and not have system-wide repercussions. It may shake us to our very foundations. But those children can't be left fully alone down there to suffer any longer. It's really bugging us that we've left them there this long, but we can't change what we've done (or not done) in the past. We can and will change what we do now.
Parallels in other disciplines
This journey very closely resembles "Soul Retrieval" — a shamanic concept where the trusted shaman journeys to find lost soul parts that (by way of conferring with spirit guides) are ready to return back to the "patient's" body (Here & Now) and convince them that it's safe to return. It's an intervention that leaves the "patient" (for want of a better word) able to remain anchored without having to descend into the lost parts' Hell and lose functionality. The shaman who is skilled at Soul Retrieval is usually someone who has already been to their own personal hell, and is versed in navigating the other worlds, and receives additional wisdom and training to walk this risky path. Also, they specifically seek out parts that are "ready" where we are fully aware that these children may not be ready — and are prepared to journey back without them, and are considering carefully what gifts or tools we might be able to leave there for them if they aren't coming back.