One of the topics that came up at Bridges today was parts getting stuck. Now, for some multiple systems, parts are fighting to be out, and sometimes that means that some parts are getting overpowered and stuck inside. This doesn’t just make them unhappy, they are often lonely and unsocialised, not having a voice or getting their needs met, and their unhappiness may well bleed through and cause troubles for the whole system through general distress such as not being able to sleep, nightmares, rashes, the sound of crying or screaming inside and so on.
Another kind of getting stuck can happen when someone comes out and can’t seem to go back inside again. In this case they may be quite overwhelmed and traumatised and not want to be out, or not be able to take on roles being required of them – perhaps they can’t drive, or lack the skills needed at work, or don’t eat. Rather like putting a stick in the spokes of a wheel, what was working gets locked up and stuck and things can get pretty tricky.
I’ve had to deal with both kinds of getting stuck at different times and I’ve learned a few keys to help get things moving again that work for me. The biggest issue for me is always working out what the problem actually is. Before we knew that we were multiple, we still picked a few things that helped with this sense of being stuck. One of them was changing environments – as that often triggers a switch for me. Thresholds of any kind – doorways and windows and the transition from concrete to sand to grass to earth, often have the capacity to draw out of me a different part to engage the new environment. When I am really stuck, I lose my capacity to initiate this change, I spiral down into a dark overwhelmed place where even if I can work out what I need I have lost the power to do it. This is where friends can be really helpful, to help me out of that place.
I can also often call out a different part by using other things that will likely trigger them, such as wearing ‘their’ clothes, putting their music on, going to their favourite places and so on. This was somewhat effective even before I had much information about who was who.
Now that I’ve done more system mapping, most of us can ask for another part by name to trigger them to come out. This is very useful but has the downside of making it difficult to talk about the parts by name without switching.
For me, some switches are automatic – for example in instances where I’ve been physically threatened, there is a particular part who will immediately turn up, without fail (to date). On the other hand, I’ve floundered badly in uni when I’ve ‘lost’ my researcher/study part and the rest of us have struggled terribly because writing essays are not in our skill sets . For us there’s a kind of dance that needs to keep moving for us to keep functioning, of appropriate switching so everyone in the system can be at their best, get their needs met, and use their strengths. We get stuck when this dance stops.
Another approach we’ve found useful to support very wounded parts is to allow them the right not to have to be out or have to try and function. They’re allowed to hide out inside where it’s safe, or to stay in bed. They need rest and peace.
As far as making sure unhappy buried parts get time out, I’ve a couple of approaches that help me. One is to fill my environment with things special to – and therefore triggering of – everyone. My home has to have things in it that represent or speak to every member of the system. Another is to keep a private system map that you check regularly. If you’re co-conscious or can track what you’ve been up to in some way, you can notice if someone hasn’t been around lately and make time for them.
For me, I’m getting much quicker at working out if getting stuck is the problem. Over the past week I’d noticed that although we were getting downtime and rest time overall there was a sense of chronic tension. We figured after a while that probably someone wasn’t getting out to get their needs met and made space for some switching to parts who haven’t been out in a while. That helped a lot.