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D.I.D. Terminology & Alter Roles

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!

Basic Terminology

Alter: Alternate state of consciousness.

Amnesic walls: The amnesia that surrounds each Alter to protect each them painful and traumatic memories.

Bigs: Adult Alters.

Co-Con: Co-conscious… When 2 or more Alters who are sharing consciousness. They do not need to be Fronting (in control of the body) to be Co-con, but often are.

Core Personality: Usually the legally named Alter, but not always.

Depersonalisation: When a person or Alter feels detached from their own body and does not feel like their body belongs to them.

Derealisation: When a person or Alter feels like the environment in which they find themselves is not real and they feel detached from their environment.

D.I.D.: Dissociative Identity Disorder

Dissociation: A state in which a person disconnects from reality.

Dissociative Disorders: Various disorders where dissociation of various forms are present.

Dissociative Seizures: Seizures that are not neurological, but mentally based, often through flashbacks and trauma related situations. Can happen with switches too. These can present as Petit-Mals or Grand-Mals.

Dormant: When an Alter effectively goes inactive in the System. Alters can be dormant for years before re-emerging in a time of crisis or need.

Flashbacks/PTSD: A memory that can come to the surface in such clarity that it can cause the body to feel like they are reliving the trauma right there and then. PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many war veterans suffer with PTSD and can be triggered by the sound of fireworks that remind them of gunfire.

Fragment: A partially formed Alter, or an Alter with a singular purpose, eg: Has or holds a single emotion or System role.

Front/Fronting: An Alter who is controlling the body.

Fusion: When two or more Alters merge with each other, forming a single Alter. This process will always include Integration (the breakdown of amnesia). Alters can Integrate without Fusing, but they cannot Fuse without Integrating.

Gatekeeper: An Alter who keeps everything running smoothly in the Inner World and prevents switches from happening that could potentially be dangerous, ie: A Little fronting whilst the host is driving. Gatekeepers can also control who has access to certain memories.

Host: The Alter who is fronting the most and deals with most of the day-to-day life. Not always the Core.

Inner World – The space in the mind where the Alters/Parts reside when not Fronting. Inner Worlds can be as simple or as complex as the client wants and is only limited by imagination. In other words – the Inner World can be as simple as a single room where all the Alters/Parts hang around, or as complex as an entire multi-layered universe!

Integration: When the amnesic walls between two or more Alters disintegrates and those Alters share memories and experiences. This does not mean the Alters will “disappear” or Fuse.

Introject – Factives/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.

Little/s: Child Alters, usually under the age of 13.

Middle/s: Teenage Alters.

M.P.D. - Multiple Personality Disorder – No longer used. The name was changed in the early 90s in the DSM-4 (Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders) as more research was done and it was determined to be a dissociative disorder not a personality disorder.

Non-Binary: An Alter (or person) who does not identify as male or female. This is not specific to D.I.D.

Non-Human: Alters which do not present as human. Alters can be anything the person needed at the time the Alter was created. This means an Alter can be an inanimate object, an animal, a supernatural being, a fantasy creature, etc.

Multiples/Plurals: Another term for Alters. Different people prefer different ways to describe their multiplicity. It is personal preference.

Outer World: Everything outside of the mind that we deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Persecutors: Alters who hold trauma and have adapted destructive ways and coping mechanisms to manage their pain. Generally this behaviour is unsustainable and needs intensive therapy to help them learn better coping strategies.

Protectors: Alters whose role it is to protect the system.

P.T.S.D.: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Split: The personality splitting into Fragments or Parts.

Switch/Switching/Switchy: When an Alter comes to the front and takes over. “I’m switching” – An Alter is coming to the front. “I’m feeling switchy” – One or more Alters are trying to come to the front.

Sub-System: An Alter created from another Alter, rather than the original Core.

System: A collection of Alters in one body.

Trauma Holder: An Alter who holds the trauma of what happened to the body. Not all Trauma Holders are Persecutors.

Trigger: A trigger is something that can cause the brain to bring a memory to the front and cause either flashbacks or switches. Triggers can be either negative or positive.

Interesting facts:

  1. Alters cannot die. Ever. They may go dormant or they may Fuse, but they cannot die.

  2. 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"?

  3. The Core can Fuse. Ours did.

  4. System Responsibility is a thing. More about that in a future post.

  5. 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!


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