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Clues Left Behind

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Lentz Letters! I can spend hours walking through museums or antique stores. Each relic, picture and image can bring exciting clues that provide insight into another time and place. It is like we have access to our own personal time machine that brings understanding about people’s experiences in the past. At other times, the clues left behind might bring confusion. It can be better described as the giant jigsaw puzzle that you spend hours putting together only to be missing one or two pieces. It can be so frustrating to not have the full picture! Gaps in time, unexplained notes left for you to find when you wake up in the morning, unfamiliar voices, toys from the shelf at the grocery store find their way into your grocery bag, unsettling shifts in body, personality or attitude leave friends or loved ones expressing concerns about what they have observed in your behavior that “just doesn’t seem like something you would say or do”. This might be better described as Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID. Some might call this their inner world, internal family system or multiple identities. What would you do with these types of clues? It can be extremely alarming when it first starts showing up in your life. What if you knew that these types of clues hold the key to recovering from your traumatic experience and helped you survived from the past?

Not knowing what to do when trauma strikes, our minds search for a way to dump unresolved feelings of longing, loneliness, dependency, and need for comfort. Through the years, the internal world is created to protect and guard the trauma survivor’s mind from intense emotional pain. This inner world can include helpers, protectors, ashamed parts, wounded or vulnerable parts and even parts that imitate the perpetrator. This complex internal system can affect memory, behavior, emotion, perception, and identity. Without understanding, one could easily become overwhelmed since the system’s methods may evoke fear and shame. It is important to recognize that each part or identity played a valuable role. Think about the part of the personality that has been the keeper of the shame and/or kept the emotional pain away from other more vulnerable parts of the personality. Consider the identity that learned to cope with anger, that naturally flows from feeling controlled by another, by redirecting it, either internally or externally to outside sources. Whether these identities take control of just the mind or take charge of both the mind and body it is important to understand, relate, and learn from them. Since the inner world can appear confusing and full of conflict at first glance it is important not to navigate this diagnosis alone.

It is important to look deeper into the role of each of these parts of the system. What can we learn from each of them? Younger parts experience themselves younger than their actual age. They can hold traumatic memories and/or painful emotions or sensations or possibly positive memories. Angry parts are often a protector part used to protect against internal threats or perceived external environmental threats. Helper parts have learned to take care of other parts. Parts that are stuck in the past when the trauma was actually occurring often feel neglected by the parts that have tried to move on with day to day living. Conversely, the parts that have tried to move on with life don’t want to have anything to do with the parts stuck in the trauma. This cycle sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

This is part of the trauma work. Your internal family system is no different than the one that you interact with on a regular basis. A therapist can help all the parts of the system to learn how to get along and listen to each other. By learning to listen and cooperate with each other the path to healing is created.

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