Mapping Your System
Two words used frequently by multiples to describe their experience of MPD, especially early in the healing journey, are chaos and confusion. Many are skeptical when they are told that everything about their inner self-system was designed for a logical reason. But in fact it is true in most cases that the systems of multiples are masterworks of mental engineering. Some are highly regimented, with strict rules about communication and co-existence that maintain the boundaries of awareness and so keep the system safe; others are an incomprehensible jumble that allows no-one to figure out how it all fits together and functions - again, the purpose is to keep the system safe.
By creating a map of the system, a multiple (and her therapist) can come to under-stand that there is a method to the apparent madness, and can learn how to work with that method. One word of caution about maps: because the primary mission of multiple systems is safety, exposing the names, conditions, whereabouts, and means of communicating with the inner selves may feel just too dangerous to some at this time. It is important each person respects their own needs around safety and secrecy. If an inner self does not feel ready to have his/her name put down on paper, then s/he should be allowed to remain anonymous for the time being. Creating a map is not about doing "the right thing" or as a type of therapy homework. It is about YOU getting a better sense of yourselves. There are many ways of creating a map, and it's a matter of finding the appropriate one for you.
Make A Book of Your Selves: Write about each of your selves on separate pages and bind them together. You could use a scrapbook, exercise book, photo album, or make a book with an elegant cover. You could have colored paper or card which you have spiral-bound at your local copy center (for a cost of about $4) - you may choose a different color for each part/ person/page. You might have dividers between the sections of children, teens and adults. Suggestions of what to write about your selves include - their name, why they were born, their skills, hobbies, favorite things, and a photo or drawing of them. Each self may wish to create his/her own page, although they may leave space for other inner selves and outside friends to add appreciative comments about them.
Your Inner House: If your internal world is constructed as a house, you could draw a layout of the rooms. Each self could describe their room in words, drawings, or clipouts from magazines like "Home & Garden." The decor of each room could be an indicator of the personality and preoccupations of the person who lives there. The position of the room in the house (eg, in the attic or the space under the stairs) could also provide clues about the occupant's position in your system. You may discover that corridors, doorways, and windows in your house represent the lines of communication in your system. If this is so, then redesigning your house could be a good metaphorical way to open new access to different selves.
The Layers Of You: This exercise is especially good for those who have large, complex systems. Using sheets of transparent paper, draw each layer of your system on separate pages and then bind them together. Each self may be represented by a symbol, and their various relationships with other selves may be denoted by different types of lines (i.e., solid, dashed, dotted, colored).
Draw a Pie Chart: This design helps emphasize the fact that all are part of the whole. Some questions you may want to think about as you draw the chart include - what is at the heart, are the segments colored, how thick are the boundaries between segments and around the edge of the circle? Co-centric circles of different colors could indicate life experiences. This exercise may not be possible for people with polyfragmented systems.
Make a Collage: Sort through magazines and photo albums to find images representing each of your selves and/or the emotions, behaviors, or tasks they have. You could also include drawings, symbols, pieces of fabric and things like leaves or pressed flowers. Like the pie chart, a collage provides a single image of the multi-faceted whole. Once you have completed your collage, you could have it laminated and framed.
Construct a Family Tree: You may wish to do a family tree in the traditional manner, where it branches down from the point alter selves split from the birth child, and then further as new selves split from the first group. Alternatively, your tree could spread upwards, with the birth child as a seed from which the tree of yourselves grew, the roots being the first selves, the branches being those selves which were subsequently split off from those selves.
Make a Jigsaw: There are a couple of ways you could do this. One is to enlarge a photograph of yourself and then cut it in pieces, each piece representing an individual self. You could write their details on the back of the piece, or illustrate their qualities in some way (eg, with color) on the picture side. Or you could cut a large sheet of card into pieces and draw your own designs, significant of different selves, on each piece. You can reassemble the pieces immediately to see the big picture of how you all look together; otherwise, you can put the pieces back together again over time as each self tells its story or begins communicating with you.
Design a Mandala: Start by drawing a constellation of your selves, each indicated by a point, then join them with lines representing balance compensation, communication, heritage, or other types of relationship.
Photo Copies: For this you need a photograph of yourself, sheets of white tissue paper, turps, and a rag. Lay the tissue paper on a hard surface. Do an enlarged photocopy the photo and place it face down on the tissue paper and rub its back hard with a turps-soaked cloth. Do this for about a minute. See if the image has transferred by gently peeling back one corner of the photocopy. The result should be layers of images on each of the sheets of tissue paper, representative of your layered selves.
Make A List: Some people's systems are too complex and fragmented to map. Writing a list of names may be the only feasible option.
Copyright © Sara Lambert
Originally published in Team Spirit
Reprinted With Permission