Forming relationships with alters in dissociative identity disorder (DID) isn’t much different from forming social relationships. For example, we have close relationships and distant relationships, relationships built on open communication and relationships that seem to be closed off. Those same complexities exist in the relationships people with DID have with their alters.
Open communication is important when managing DID. For those with co-conscious alters, communication is similar to talking with any other person, just without the presence of a separate physical body. It may be difficult, however, when you have alters or parts of you that you are not conscious of.
Only one of my alters has made himself known to me; the others remain in hiding and only make themselves known to people close to me. For a while, I was hesitant about communicating with these other parts because I just didn’t know how to talk to them. How do you talk to someone who isn’t physically there and who won’t respond to you?
I realized that my hesitance was only hurting my relationships with those parts. I started setting aside time each night to talk to them. I addressed the ones I knew by name, and even made sure to include the parts that were still in hiding. From the outside, it looked like I was talking to the ceiling, but I believe my alters knew I was talking to them. It may feel awkward and you may think your parts aren’t listening, but it is important that you acknowledge and communicate with all the parts of you, even the parts in hiding. Set aside time for just you and your parts to talk, even if the conversation ends up being one-sided.
Another important thing to remember when maintaining relationships with your alters is that each of your alters is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all way of forming relationships with your parts. Each alter has his or her own style and his or her own likes and dislikes. Alters also vary in age. You wouldn’t talk to a child the same way you would talk to an adult. In that same way, you shouldn’t talk to a child alter in the same way you would an older alter. Use vocabulary a child of that age can understand.
Different alters also have different needs. I have an adolescent alter who is angry and loud. In the beginning, I would get angry with him and respond to him out of anger, much in the same way a frustrated parent responds to an unruly teenager. That only made our relationship worse and pushed him away. I had to learn how to let him express himself without letting him take complete control. Instead of shutting him down, I let him know he was being heard. For younger child alters, focus on making them feel safe and secure, and try to soothe them as you would any child.