Communication between alters is key to a dissociative identity disorder (DID) system’s overall well-being. It makes a huge difference between functionality and sanity, even though DID is a coping mechanism to protect the brain from trauma — and, in turn, keep trauma unknown. DID systems generally work together to function as one person, although overt systems — DID systems living in the open — may not practice functional multiplicity and instead live as separate individuals.
What Happened to Monday? illustrates well what communication and functional multiplicity is like for DID systems, because every septuplet must look and behave the same to the outside world in order to hide being seven identical individuals in an overpopulation dystopian.
What does DID alter communication look and feel like?
Alter communication varies across different DID systems, but the common communication methods include:
- talking aloud, to their alters or seemingly to oneself
- communicating internally, to their alters
- using a notebook/journal in a way that it appears to be a diary, but is actually used by the entire system
- sticky notes, paper notes, digital notes, calendar reminders, etc.
- using a system-assigned mediator
It’s different from having and talking to your conscience.
Generally speaking, your conscience may speak back to you, but it doesn’t carry on conversations of sweet nothings with you. It will tell you right from wrong, and guide you to adhere to your morals, but it does not have an identity of its own. Your conscience is not “triggered” by a certain nail polish color, it doesn’t speak a different accent, and it cannot take over your body and create its own memories. Your conscience doesn’t cause blackouts.
DID alters speak back to you, carry on conversations about the most random things that serve absolutely zero enrichment, will seldom tell you right from wrong, may have different morals, and have identities of their own.
The definition of DID is literally two or more unique identities within a person (body).
DID alters can be triggered by certain nail polish colors, causing the system to feel even more unattached to the body it’s in. Alters can speak in different accents and languages, or not even at all — and somehow, the system can typically still comprehend what those alters are communicating.
Alters can take over your body and create their own memories. Alters can cause blackouts.
What talking aloud to your conscience may look like
You: Do I want this?
Your conscience: Yes, but your stomach is going to hurt later.
You: But I want it.
Your conscience: But you don’t need it. You can get it later. You really can’t handle that right now.
What talking aloud to yourself as a DID system may look like
You: Do I want this?
Conscience: You do want it —
Alter 1: Gross — pass.
Conscience: — but —
Alter 2: I want it!
Alter 3: Um, pretty sure [gatekeeper] announced that we needed to avoid that for a while due to our gastroin–
Conscience: — it’s not a good —
You: I’m getting it.
How to increase DID alter communication
If you don’t currently have communication between your DID alters, opening up a gateway to that communication is the first step after accepting that you’re a DID system.
System communication may feel a lot like deciding where to sit at a school cafeteria — there are cliques and different tables have different topics and rules. Some alters may not feel comfortable speaking directly to each other, or simply feel they have nothing more in common beyond being a system. Although nothing is normal about having dissociative identity disorder, this feeling is normal being a DID alter. You don’t have to like everyone or be everyone’s best friend forever.
Create and assign a mediator role
Assigning a “mediator” role to an alter helps speed communication up between alters. My system has a few alters with this role, though we do not often acknowledge it because it’s more or less a default expectation given their gatekeeper roles.
Having a mediator does not automatically mean all system communication will henceforth be good as gravy. We still forget where we park our car, what groceries we need, where we put our phone, and what important thing we needed to remember or else horrendous consequences would occur.
Apps like Simply Plural may help DID systems who want to map their system and see who is fronting when, as well as invite outside people to view the information so they can know who is fronting.
My system tried this app, but an update resulted in our account being lost — and no one ever updated when they fronted, anyway. It’s not a good solution if you experience rapid switching or switch subconsciously. We’re not used to drawing attention to our switches like that, and I daresay it even caused us some unbalance.
If you can leave pens and sticky note pads around your home, sticky notes help open a gateway to communicating with your DID alters.
Frost did this with Caitlin in The Flash.
We briefly used sticky notes, as we quickly learned it wasn’t a safe option when we didn’t live by ourselves.
Example sticky notes:
- probably shouldn’t have told the therapist that
- sorry for taking over a few days
- enjoy my consequences LOL
- little ate all the candy again before I could stop her — sorry! xx
In our first apartment, we started making notes on a magnetic dry-erase board on our fridge. Mostly, we kept track of what meals we had in stock and it became a more sustainable method to singlet meal planning.
Talking to yourself
When you live alone, it’s much easier to talk to yourself. Your neighbors can usually hear you outside your front door, because apartments be small and imperfect, but who’s to say you’re not on the phone??
When we talk out loud to ourselves, some of us only reply internally, in the headspace, and not aloud — some of it is because of anxiety, other reasons are because those alters cannot form coherent words outside the system.
Example conversation of talking to myself as a DID system
Izzy: If we were not a system, we could easily all take care of Galaxy on rotation so I could get these book reviews converted to the other plugin already.
Jane: Oh, like roommates!
Izzy: Exactly like roommates!
Aiden: Uh, if we were roommates, 1) we would look different; 2) how would we have become roommates?
Jane & Izzy:
Aiden: Exactly. We’re only together because we’re a system. If we were actual people, in different bodies, we’d need a Breakfast Club plot to bring us together.
Jane: You ever notice how every system has an Aiden?
Aiden: What does that have anything to do with this topic?
Izzy: Yeah, yeah, I do…
Jane: So I wonder if other system’s Aidens are like ours.
Izzy: No, you have a point there.
Jane: Because the roommate situation would be really helpful right now. Imagine how low the rent would be for each of us!
Izzy: Exactly! We could easily have a What Happened to Monday situation if —
Aiden: Not in this complex we couldn’t.
Jane & Izzy:
Aiden: Because it has cameras. They’d know.
Jane: This is why you don’t host much.
I went into writing this post with non-DID systems in mind, but ultimately wrote it for DID systems. Still, I do hope it helps to paint a better picture of dissociative identity disorder for those of you who aren’t systems — which was most of my blog readers until my post about DID alter roles — because pop culture stigmatizes it, and pop culture is where a lot of people get their info about less favorable mental/psychiatric diagnoses.
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