Forming Relationships With Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder

October 21, 2015 Crystalie Matulewicz

Forming relationships with alters in dissociative identity disorder (DID) isn't much different from forming social relationships. For example, we have close relationships and distant relationships, relationships built on open communication and relationships that seem to be closed off. Those same complexities exist in the relationships people with DID have with their alters.

Those of us with DID work diligently in forming relationships with our alters. Understanding these relationships can eventually lead to better self-understanding and self-awareness, and can make managing life with DID a little easier.

Forming Relationships With Alters Requires Open Communication

Open communication is important when managing DID. For those with co-conscious alters, communication is similar to talking with any other person, just without the presence of a separate physical body. It may be difficult, however, when you have alters or parts of you that you are not conscious of.

Only one of my alters has made himself known to me; the others remain in hiding and only make themselves known to people close to me. For a while, I was hesitant about communicating with these other parts because I just didn't know how to talk to them. How do you talk to someone who isn't physically there and who won't respond to you?

I realized that my hesitance was only hurting my relationships with those parts. I started setting aside time each night to talk to them. I addressed the ones I knew by name, and even made sure to include the parts that were still in hiding. From the outside, it looked like I was talking to the ceiling, but I believe my alters knew I was talking to them. It may feel awkward and you may think your parts aren't listening, but it is important that you acknowledge and communicate with all the parts of you, even the parts in hiding. Set aside time for just you and your parts to talk, even if the conversation ends up being one-sided.

Acknowledging the Uniqueness of Each of Your Alters

Another important thing to remember when maintaining relationships with your alters is that each of your alters is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all way of forming relationships with your parts. Each alter has his or her own style and his or her own likes and dislikes. Alters also vary in age. You wouldn't talk to a child the same way you would talk to an adult. In that same way, you shouldn't talk to a child alter in the same way you would an older alter. Use vocabulary a child of that age can understand.

Different alters also have different needs. I have an adolescent alter who is angry and loud. In the beginning, I would get angry with him and respond to him out of anger, much in the same way a frustrated parent responds to an unruly teenager. That only made our relationship worse and pushed him away. I had to learn how to let him express himself without letting him take complete control. Instead of shutting him down, I let him know he was being heard. For younger child alters, focus on making them feel safe and secure, and try to soothe them as you would any child.

Forming healthy relationships with your alters when you have dissociative identity disorder can be difficult. Healthy relationships are possible. Read this.Building relationships takes time, effort, and patience; building relationships with your alters is no different. You need to be able to adapt to each alter's specific needs. It's not going to be easy, but it can be done. When you are able to work together with your alters and form a cohesive team, you can better manage day-to-day life with DID.

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APA Reference
Matulewicz, C. (2015, October 21). Forming Relationships With Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Crystalie Matulewicz

Crystalie is the founder of PAFPAC, is a published author and the writer of Life Without Hurt. She has a BA in psychology and will soon have an MS in Experimental Psychology, with a focus on trauma. Crystalie manages life with PTSD, DID, major depression, and an eating disorder. You can find Crystalie on FacebookGoogle+, and Twitter.

August, 16 2023 at 12:50 pm

Hi recently taking the time to ignolage the 17 alters I have 11 conscious , that speak or want to sleep the morjoraty of the time 4 are very suicidal beginning to try and understand something others around me can only guess at really reading this and your stories give me some hope I'm 29 any advice would help a lot thanks

November, 21 2015 at 6:20 am

Does anyone ever get this? that sometimes co consciousness is like being in a busy room - I can hear voices but can't make out what they are saying.
And this? That they steal my thoughts, I think something but don't get to end of the sentence because I can't remember the start. An bit like when people completely forget what they are saying in the middle of a sentence from time to time, but for me it happens over and over and can last as long as a few hours, it's infuriating.
I know I don't make enough time for my alters, but at the same time I have a life to lead. I did not ask to be a full time carer for a bunch of children in my head. I know that sounds bad, and I need to give them unconditional time etc, but I just don't always have it in me.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Crystalie Matulewicz
November, 21 2015 at 11:33 am

I have trouble making out what some of them are saying (I believe they are littles). It's frustrating and makes it hard to focus on other things.
I also frequently forget what I was saying (or even thinking) before I even complete the sentence or thought. I've assumed it's caused by another part of me coming through in that moment.
It's okay and understandable to lead your own life. I told a friend once that I would never have children because I could barely handle the ones in my head. Managing DID is a job in itself.

November, 2 2015 at 9:44 am

In my case, in the night I go to the roof of my building, sit on a comfortable chair and while watching clouds shapes and stars I keep a conversation with my child for half an hour aprox. I feel it's working good and is really pleasing and relaxing though it feels a little weird at the beginning.

Jay P
November, 2 2015 at 5:06 am

I find that talking out loud to my alters works very rarely--they either don't hear me, or don't respond. Instead, each alter has a folder in their favorite color, and we leave notes to each other when we want to discuss something.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Crystalie Matulewicz
November, 2 2015 at 10:55 am

Jay, writing is also a good technique that I overlooked. Unfortunately, my alters do not like to write, so talking has been the option that worked for me. Leaving folders for each alter is an excellent idea. Thank you for sharing.

Crystalie Matulewicz
October, 31 2015 at 10:54 am

I am glad talking out loud had an effect, even if it was delayed. Once you do it a few times, "talking to the ceiling" feels less weird. I hope you are able to improve communication.

Crystalie Matulewicz
October, 31 2015 at 10:52 am

Yes Cody. I am only co-conscious with one alter. I hear voices, and the co-conscious one is the one I am able to distinguish from the others. I am able to interact with him without him taking control of my body. At times I can also feel what he is feeling. I do think there are times when he may take control; I honestly don't know for sure or how often it happens because I still have a tendency to block myself out of knowing what's going on when it happens.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 28 2022 at 1:37 pm

Hi, I am new to DID, and I was hoping you could expand on what you said about blocking yourself out. I think I do that so much, but I don't know how to not, and I'm afraid to stop. Also, what kinds of things do you talk about? I can barely exist in a conversation with a normal person who responds ( I ask questions to keep them talking so I don't have to) how can I have a conversation with someone who doesn't talk back?

October, 30 2015 at 5:40 pm

I have been diagnosed for a year and are co-conscience with my alters. But, I have no idea how to communicate with them! So, the other night I tried what was suggested in this article and talked out loud (to the ceiling!) I didn't get a response and it felt very weird and strange but it did have an affect two days later as I then felt Little Girl come out. I know I need to do this more.
Cody, I do know my alters thoughts and I have read on here where other people hear their alters voices. There are times when I know their thoughts but they are not able to take control of my body. For me I have noticed that when my own emotions are stronger than their desire to be out then they are not able to completely come out. For example, because I am co-conscience I could hear Little Girl talking with my therapist. Something was sad that made me extremely sad and I immediately came out and Little Girl faded to the background. She was still there and had thoughts but wasn't "out".

October, 23 2015 at 8:06 am

Sorry, messed up, I meant to say, is it possible to have conscious alters that are not able to take control of the body?

October, 23 2015 at 8:04 am

Is have conscious alters that do not have physical control, but can interact with you in your own mind? Like hear them and feel them?

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