What is Headwork? (introduction to "Headwork" — Advanced)
"Headwork" is a slang term used in the online multiple community for self-improvement work that helps people deal with their internal issues and problems.
Sometimes multiples lack cooperation or need help getting a working operating system together, or particular selves may have psychological hangups that prevent the system from working cohesively. This section is for practical tools that one can use to help oneselves. These are detailed methods that people have found useful and helpful to achieve concrete goals within their system, such as deprogramming triggers, fostering communication, managing PTSD reactions, creating healthier habits, ending abuse cycles, negotiating between residents, etc.
Most people know about "self-improvement" or self-help literature, and abuse recovery books, etc. such as those that are found in libraries and bookstores under "Self-Help." Headwork is the work that happens when people are improving themselves (as opposed to reading — reading just makes them "shelf-help" books. You have to actually do the exercises for them to help you!).
Everybody can tinker with their thoughts, feelings, emotions, reactions, etc. In the case of multiples, headwork can also be used for things like alteration of internal landscape, building mental constructs, creating or altering the metaphors used for any "As Inside, So Outside" intentional paradigms, and so on.
Headwork is particularly useful when discussing multiplicity because, in most cultures, multiplicity does not come with healthy role-models. We lack examples of intra-social interaction, helpful or useful internal organizational documentation, etc. Even setting aside issues from trauma or abuse in the past, multiplicity has independent issues simply by way of a lack of appropriate role-models, feeling different than the average Pat, and with depersonalization/derealization there can come a great deal of uncertainty that you are normal or sane. Being able to hone your own abilities in grounding, reality-testing, lowering your anxiety levels, etc. can have massive pay-offs.
Not all multiples do headwork, and not everyone who does headwork is multiple. That is not to say whether or not any particular individual or system needs it, and certainly doing headwork carries potential risks that may rival having not done it at all. You have all your cards on the table, so to speak. That said, sometimes headwork is assigned by therapists as "homework" between sessions. It certainly counts, even if you choose tasks or experiments with your professional team's oversight, for example bringing a self-help book to therapy and asking for help, support, and/or accountability while doing the work, or asking for assistance with a troubling exercise.
There's enough precident that walking through life with your blinders on, in denial, living moment-to-moment is not particularly safe or fulfilling for singlets, and there's no reason that multiples are exempt from similar needs for self-actualization, enlightenment, working on baggage, and facing their issues, imperfections or flaws — whether developed via childhood trauma, or later on in life when their lover was manipulative towards them, when they witnessed a disaster like 9-11, or a loved one dies.
Thus multiplicity + headwork is it's own topic: People grieve, for example, at the loss of pets and loved ones, and there is a period of healing. In multiplicity, this is colored by having a closely knit group of people all with different memories and thoughts about that person, and the grief process can be more like an internal group mourning session, and there may be additional complications as one internal person reminds another of the bereaved. This is one case where being multiple can change the experience had by singlets as discrete entities, or more aptly brings group social dynamics into one individual head with the caveat that certain resources are limited, such as front-time.
Headwork is not at all a requirement of multiplicity, but at some point or other you're likely to discover that there's something about you — whether system wide or for one individual within the system — that the group or individual in question wants to change. This resource section is for both "group entity" and "individual internal entity" improvement.
Note that this manual does not specifically encourage a specific methodology for headwork, nor is this the sole purpose for this work. It does serve as a place to share and discuss any theory, research, studies, or our own experiences — not as anything resembling professional advice. It's up to you to be responsible to and for your own collective, to listen to your own internal wisdom, and to use your own sensibilities for what helps and does not help your system, and indeed for whether or not you even attempt to do any headwork at all.