11. June 2015 · 1 comment · Categories: Post

I would like to write about something that may seem noticeably absent on this blog so far. That is, the apparent links between plurality and trauma (in particular, childhood trauma). I have avoided this topic for a number of reasons. I wanted to introduce the idea of plurality without explicitly linking it to trauma, as that was how we understood our own plurality at the time, and how many plural-identified folks do understand themselves. I wanted to help counter the prevailing notion that a certain type of severe childhood trauma and abuse are required to cause dissociative identity disorder (the way plurality is usually conceptualized in mainstream mental health systems). I also avoided the topic because it is difficult to write about, and my attempts to think and write about it have been met with definite internal resistance (mostly in the form of thought blocking, anxiety/panic, and startle/tic responses). However I do believe it is a very important topic to discuss, and I also want to explain how my own understanding has evolved. As always, this is an exploration from my perspective and experience. I try to represent some diversity but the best thing you can do is find other blogs on plurality/multiplicity, and read (and accept!) their understanding and experience.

When I first came to understand ourselves as plural about a year and a half ago, psychological trauma was something pretty far from my mind (and actually a concept rather foreign to me). I had even written that we had experienced no overt trauma that we remember. Over the last six months, however, we began exploring some trauma memories and understanding how trauma may have played a part in our development as plural, rather than our development as a being with an individual sense of self. It’s not that we actually uncovered events in our life that were previously unknown, it’s that things we did not believe to be significant (especially at a young and critical age) have actually been very significant. I won’t mention what these things are, but I will say that none of these situations would typically be understood as abuse. (My family doesn’t deserve to be implicated in any way. Read more on this: Don’t Say Child Abuse Causes Dissociative Identity Disorder). I now believe our plurality as a trauma-influenced identity came from a combination of biological and environmental factors, including events with trauma potential.

 

Our understanding of our plurality evolved from having nothing to do with trauma, to probably not involving any overt trauma, to almost certainly being trauma-formed or influenced. I admit that part of the reason I wanted to conceptualize plurality outside of trauma influence is that I felt people would see it as more legitimate that way. However, this is an idea that must be challenged head-on. Trauma-formed identities are not less legitimate than identities with no apparent trauma influence. This is true even if the identities cease or evolve as that trauma is recognized and dealt with. Don’t Be a Sex-Positive Jerk has some thoughts on this with respect to asexuality, and they transfer over to plurality.

While your lack of desire or inability to have sex might be rooted in trauma, it doesn’t mean that you’re broken or that there’s something wrong with you that needs to be fixed, nor does it mean that the people around you have the right to insist that you need to join the sexual world…

Maybe you want to go to a therapist for counseling to work through your trauma, and perhaps the sexual issues will be part of your sessions together — but maybe they won’t.

Asexual identity and complex feelings about sex can be created or influenced by trauma, but can also emerge without trauma. Despite now recognizing our plurality as trauma-influenced, I continue to believe all those that do not believe trauma played a role in their plurality, and wholeheartedly support them in that conceptualization.

 

It remains to be seen how our own therapy around trauma (mostly EMDR) will affect our system. So far EMDR has caused a lot of switching (especially to much younger selves), confusion, and some distress for about 24 hours after, followed by a period of feeling better than we had previously. Our goal with therapy is not to integrate (we have mixed feelings about that to say the least), but rather to improve current issues affecting our well-being, functioning, and relationships. Since starting EMDR we have seen a lot of improvement and are much more resilient. Our system has been affected, mostly with easier switching and increased co-consciousness (where we can talk amongst our selves despite only one self holding front). For the most part we see these changes as positive (though increased co-consciousness has taken some getting used to). We have also embraced these changes towards less separateness (arguably more integration) as a necessary part of us being more functional and happy. Having said that, I think we still have a long ways to go, and I am uncertain if and where our experiences of plurality will settle.

1 Comment

  1. Always a pleasure to read your words and learn more about your process.

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