People with dissociative identity disorder (DID) have two or more distinct personality states, sometimes referred to as alters. Alters may be of different ages, different genders, different religious beliefs, etc. Alters may have very different ways of thinking, behaving and communicating.
Alters may or may not be aware of each other. They may communicate well with each other or they may not. Improving communication between alters makes life run more smoothly and is frequently a goal in therapy for DID. Here are a few techniques I’ve found that help improve communication between alters.
The community meeting works well for some people with DID. Different people use slightly different techniques, but basically you imagine a room that is conducive to a meeting and invite all your alters to attend. You can imagine a room with a large round table or any other setting that works well for you. All alters are welcome to attend and share their thoughts and opinions on issues affecting the group. It helps to establish some basic rules, like only one person talks at a time, no interrupting, no name calling, etc. Some alters may choose not to participate in community meetings, although over time they may change their minds and agree to participate. It’s usually not beneficial to try to force alters to participate in community meetings; just continue to issue the invitation.
Invite all alters to participate in community meetings, including child alters that may not be very interested in what the grownups are talking about. If child alters want to participate, make sure to explain things to them in a way they can understand.
Keeping a journal is an excellent way to help improve communication between alters. If different alters will write in the journal about their thoughts, feelings and experiences, then other alters can read it and they can communicate with each other that way. I have found that some alters are more likely to use a journal than others, but I encourage everyone to do so. Having different colored pens seem to help as different alters have different preferences. Don’t be surprised when you notice some very different handwriting in your journal!
Some alters, particularly child alters, may prefer to draw instead of write in the journal. That’s all right. Allow everyone to communicate in whatever way they are most comfortable inside the journal.
Some alters may not like to write and some may not know how to write. If you provide paper and crayons, markers or colored pencils, those alters may use those things to communicate. I’ve found that having a variety of writing and drawing materials helps because different alters are attracted to different media. In fact, I have one alter, a teenage girl, that refused to speak for a long time but was willing to make collages with old magazines and poster board, and she expressed a lot of thoughts and feelings that way. You might want to try other art materials as well, like play dough or clay.
Don’t limit yourself, or your alters, to art, however. Child alters may communicate through play and in fact my therapist tells me she has had good results using play therapy with child alters. Some alters might communicate through music or dance. While it can be easier to understand when alters communicate with words, pay attention to what they have to say regardless of how they say it.
Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder. Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder).
Alderman, Tracy and Karen Marshall. Amongst Ourselves: A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder. 1998.