Hi fellow travellers. Today I promised to do a post about the various types and roles of Alters, and I thought it would be a good idea to add some terminology too. D.I.D. has its own lingo and I didn't want anyone wondering what the heck I'm talking about when I say words like "Fronting", "Switching" etc. So without further ado, let's get into it!
Alter/Part: An Alter, or Part, stands for Altered state of consciousness. It is what we call a part of our personality which has split off from the core personality. Alters vary in their roles within a D.I.D. System and are fully or partially developed individuals with their own sense of being. Alters are created by the mind at a time of need and are assigned a role that is necessary for dealing with the disturbing events surrounding that need.
System: A collection of Alters in one body.
Fronting: When an Alter takes the driver's seat in the body.
Switching: When an Alter starts to Front.
Inner World: The world we create inside our minds where the Alters reside when they aren't Fronting.
Co-Conscious/Co-con: When one Alter is in the driver's seat and one or more Alters are in the passenger seat.
Integration: Integration is when the amnesic barriers between 2 or more Alters breaks down and memories and experiences are shared. Integration does not mean the Alters will be lost, or disappear or die. Alters cannot die. They can either Fuse or go Dormant.
Fusion: When 2 or more Alters integrate and decide to merge together forming a new Alter. Sometimes an Alter can choose to fuse with the Core or Host personality, or sometimes they choose another Alter to fuse with. Fusion can only happen when the amnesic barriers between them break down. The hybrid Alter will have the combined memories and experiences of the Alters that fused. Many Systems work towards total fusion where the individual no longer has parts but becomes a whole person. Some Systems prefer to have Functional Multiplicity, where they choose to keep the parts and function well as a team. Neither is wrong or right. It is personal preference.
Dissociation: A state of consciousness where the person disconnects from reality. It is a coping mechanism.
Depersonalisation: When a person feels disconnected from their own body and does not feel like their body belongs to them.
Derealisation: When a person feels disconnected from their environment and what they see doesn't feel real.
Trigger: A trigger is something that causes a flashback or a Switch. They can be positive or negative triggers. Negative triggers are intensely distressing and should never be deliberately used to cause a Switch. Positive triggers are less distressing, eg: Showing a toy to the individual may trigger a child Alter to front, however positive triggers should always be done with the permission of everyone in the System. Deliberately forcing a switch, either positively or negatively is never okay without permission as it can be highly distressing and disorienting.
Fragment: A Fragment is a partially formed Alter or an Alter with a singular role ie: a particular emotion or memory.
Split: No... not the Hollywood movie! A split is when the personality splits into Parts. Once the initial split under the age of 7-9 happens, the mind remembers how to do it and can split multiple times throughout life, even into adulthood. It is an unconscious act most of the time, and generally happens in stressful situations where the individual feels they cannot cope. Splitting should neither be encouraged or discouraged. It simply is what it is. As the individual receives professional therapy and starts working through trauma and issues, and begins learning better coping mechanisms, splits will naturally happen less and less.
Blend/Blended: When two or more Alters are at the front, but instead of them being defined and easy to tell apart like when they are co-conscious, they feel all blended together and it's impossible to tell them apart. It's a bit like putting a load of ingredients into a blended and turning it on.
Alter Types & Roles
Core: The "original" personality, generally named on the Birth Certificate.
Host: The Alter who Fronts the most often, usually dealing with day-to-day living. This doesn't necessarily have to be the Core, and the Host can change from time to time.
Gatekeeper: The Alter who generally deals with Switching and Fronting permissions; the Gatekeeper's role is vital as the are kind of like the Manager of the System. They decide when it is safe or appropriate for an Alter to Front. They can deal with internal disputes between Alters (yes, Alters can fight with each other), and they often have access to most, if not all, the memories. Gatekeepers are often Ageless (meaning, they have no defined age).
Protector: Protectors are there to keep either the whole System or an Alter/s safe. They tend to Front when there is danger.
Persecutor: Easily the most misunderstood and often hated Alter in a System, however they are just as important. Persecutor Alters hold a lot of trauma and have unhealthy coping mechanisms. Sometimes they take on the role of the abuser, keeping the System in a victim state. Although this is extremely unpleasant, Persecutors still need love, acceptance, understanding and validation. If a Persecutor can learn healthy coping mechanisms, they often become the best Protectors.
Littles: Littles are child Alters, generally under the age of 13. They often hold a lot of trauma memories. When a Little Fronts, they will act exactly like the age they represent. Care is needed when dealing with Littles because they are highly vulnerable and suggestible.
Introjects: Factives and Fictives: Introjects are Alters who form just like any other Alter, however their personality is based off either a fictitious character, like someone from a movie, or a factitious (real) person. This gives the impression that they have been introjected into the System. These Alters fully believe they are the person they represent. This does not make them any less valid than any other Alter. An example of the difference between Fictives and Factives would be that a Fictive is Superman and a Factive is Christopher Reeve.
Alters cannot die. Ever. They may go dormant or they may Fuse, but they cannot die.
The Core personality is also an Alter. Let that sink in for a moment. Imagine you drop a bowl and it shatters. Can you point to one single piece and say "That's the original, we don't need the rest to fix the bowl"?
The Core can Fuse. Ours did.
System Responsibility is a thing. More about that in a future post.
Alters can vary in age, gender, race and even be non-human.
Those are a few of the different types of Alters. There are others, but they are the main ones. An Alter is formed out of need and it's important to be respectful to any Alter you speak to. It may seem really weird and hard to wrap your heads around, but remember, the individual who has D.I.D. lives with this every single day, and to them, it is as natural as breathing. If an Alter introduces themselves to you, be grateful they trust you enough to reveal themselves, ad be respectful enough to address them by their name. Refusing to call them by their own name would be just as rude as someone refusing to call you by yours. Keep in mind that they are complete individuals living inside one body and mind. As difficult as that is to grasp, it will make a huge difference in their lives if they feel validated, accepted and loved.
And above all, always remember that D.I.D. is formed in childhood as a direct result of severe trauma and/or abuse. This is not a fun disorder. It is difficult to live with and manage and there is still a lot of stigma surrounding it. Whether you choose to believe the existence of D.I.D. or not, always treat others how you would like to be treated.
I truly hope this post has helped you understand better the roles of Alters and the lingo. It will also help you understand what I'm saying when I write my own personal blogs and document my journey.
As always, thanks for reading!