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Obstacles to Developing Internal Communication

When I was first diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I did what I always do when faced with something I have no idea how to handle: I went to the library. As a rule, I don’t read autobiographical accounts of DID but I voraciously digested everything else I could get my hands on. Most of the literature agreed on the basics of Dissociative Identity Disorder treatment, including the consistent message that establishing internal communication is an essential first step, second only to stabilization. “Ask inside” quickly became the most irritating, eye-roll inducing directive I heard. I hated it for one reason: it didn’t work.

Photo by Anthony Easton
Photo by Anthony Easton

When You Can’t Develop Internal Communication

In those early days after diagnosis, internal communication was a feast or famine kind of thing. I was either flooded with all kinds of information, most of which I was in no fit state to hear, or my head felt like a ghost town, silent and unwelcoming. It took a few years before I was able to begin building regular, balanced communication within my system. I’m still in the early stages of that process, but I’ve gained enough ground that “ask inside” isn’t exasperating like it once was. Looking back now, I can clearly identify some of the obstacles to system communication – obstacles that I’ve since learned are common:

  • It’s awfully hard to communicate with people you insist don’t even exist. My number one priority was establishing that I didn’t have Dissociative Identity Disorder. That affected internal communication in two ways: 1) my system vacillated between the silent treatment and barraging me with information in an attempt to force my acknowledgment, and 2) my refusal to accept reality prevented me from recognizing responses to “ask inside.” I genuinely believed there were no responses.
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder is about not knowing what you know. It’s unreasonable to expect a diagnosis to open the doors to balanced internal communication when your system’s modus operandi for virtually your whole life has been a smooth but covert exchange of need-to-know information. A form of internal communication existed all along. My awareness of it however, did not.
  • Some DID system members can effectively block all communication. The tricky thing about this sort of obstacle is that it’s not possible to either recognize or solve the problem without some degree of internal communication – the very thing that’s inoperable. For me, pinpointing and resolving this issue took guidance from an experienced clinician.

Developing Internal Communication Takes Time and Effort

Photo by Kathleen
Photo by Kathleen

I would be misrepresenting myself if I gave anyone the impression that we are a co-conscious, fully cooperating system with a high degree of internal communication. Though I’ve been in treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder for over five years, I’ve made excruciatingly slow progress. Even so, I’ve learned at least to recognize those three obstacles to developing internal communication. I share them with you in hopes that if you also dread hearing “ask inside,” you’ll know that you’re not alone, and that there is hope.

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19 thoughts on “Obstacles to Developing Internal Communication”

  1. You are so brave and expressive. Thank you so much for offering your insight to those of us who can benefit from your transparency either for our own journey or to understand a loved one. I am really needing to know how others found out about their DID, or systems, and what the therapist, family member, or friend did to help increase awareness? I mean, at some point a person with DID goes from not knowing of the alters to realizing what’s going on. How does that happen? I know greater awareness of this first phase would help so many in initial stages of treatment.

  2. You pretty much restated what my friend was trying to tell me earlier tonight. He told me that a lot of my system communication troubles happen because I go into those conversations trying to either “prove” or “disprove” my system’s existence. Thank you for writing these posts, they are very helpful!

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