What are we but the sum of our memories and experiences?
What if experiences are not remembered?
What happens when that knowledge may be recovered?
What does integration mean, really?
What does it mean to be “multiple?”
Separate experiences arise in separate states of conscious awareness. Each identity with their different set of memories stored, develops with THEIR OWN DIFFERENT personality characteristics, abilities, styles, and opinions. An alternate self, like in an alternate universe coexisting with another equal but opposite self. Some of us feel these “alters” can no longer be considered as just a “part of a single personality” once they develop into a complete, detailed, separate self with full spectrum of thought and emotion. A separate self that at times takes a turn completely controlling the body, solidifying that separate existence even more. Though we do believe there are less dissociated types who may have mere “fragments” of selves rather than very distinct separateness. The ability to integrate depends highly on how distinct each one is.
Each part, each identity, is real, not a figment of imagination or child’s play or hallucinations or delusions. They may have some incorrect information because of dissociation, but it’s not delusions. Each one also has real memories of things actually experienced when they were “fronting” with executive control of the body, or even just partially aware of the present. That’s not just “make-believe.” They then related it to their understanding of their world, and processed the information into each personal life story. They are as real as the history of their life is. Treat them as real people who need help filling in the blanks and making sense of their timeline and perceptions. Be supportive as each new discovery can sometimes be distressing, and don’t try to “push” someone to come to a point of healing sooner than they are ready.
This is how they can be united, if only you see them all as a whole valid being. If only you stopped trying to ignore their existence. Do not reject any of them, even seemingly “difficult” ones, because they are the real person on some level and cannot be “gotten rid of.” Though they may be able to be changed and have growth, so focus on that instead of “nonexistence” for them. Simply, I repeat, don’t treat one as more “real” than any other. That does not help move toward any integration, in fact can actually encourage more conflict and dissociative experiences.
Some of us learn to break down some walls of dissociation, but also for some the identities never seem to cease to exist. It’s like asking any average person to suddenly stop being who they are and completely become a new person, acting totally differently. That would be a difficult feat to achieve, though some do remake themselves. The key to beginning healing and breaking down blocks in memory is best achieved by everyone inside the mind being up to date on life history, and learning to exist as what is called “co-conscious.”
Sometimes sharing memories changes identities and they become like one flowing identity, possibly even agreeing to take on one name. This can be the way to a happy healthy kind of living and appearing less “imbalanced” or “chaotic” in moods from an outsider’s perspective. So, this possibly leads people to believe all the selves have achieved “integration” and perhaps this is really all integration is to some. This also can be the first step to really feeling like one single conscious awareness at all times. Getting to this point of memory sharing across the membranes of a multi-mind takes time and practice and some find it difficult to achieve. Often due to inability to process trauma. For some, it may be safest to not have all parts of the mind connected, at least not for some time, because it may cause a “self destruct” of the human being. It’s like the mind couldn’t handle it in the first place, and possibly never could. They can each still progress toward healing individual issues and become a working team, however.
The goal is never to try get rid of anyone, no matter how you view integration. Because if you take away one part, then that is not a whole, and therefore, not an integration. Therefore, you cannot make any of them “disappear” so you better learn how to live with them all, in some way. These real people called “alters” should not have to fear being made to “disappear.” They instead should know the truth of their valid existence so they can work on living united. If you, a multiple, felt like someone inside is “missing” when trying to integrate, then we’d probably say with loving humor that “you’re doing it wrong” and likely someone just bullied someone into silence. We fear that has happened to many multiples, or why many supposedly “integrated” find they “disintegrated” later under stress. Reach out and reconnect all your selves and know you all are safe. Integration can’t hurt you, it is just the average and very natural state of being for majority of human beings.
Integration, we feel, isn’t even a CHOICE and can possibly happen without actively “trying to.” For some, even if they WANT TO and try to integrate, their brain may not even work that way. Multiples seem to unnecessarily fear integration similarly to how many people fear DID, based on how they can’t comprehend that way of existing. Unknown territory, we fear what we don’t understand. Remember, knowledge is power for a reason. Also, knowledge does not force integration either and give some compassion to people (or yourself) for whatever level of healing achieved.
I hope this helps explain dissociative identities in a new way, with less stigma. I hope others can have more understanding and less fear of integration and multiplicity. As well as hoping this helps others accept that, even if integration seems not possible, then still there is hope for healthy balance, too.