Let’s start with some integration facts:
- Integration (and unification) require consent. You can’t be integrated against your will, there’s no way to integrate a part forcefully. If any part wants to stay separate, it will.
- It’s not black and white; integration is a process and it’s mostly shades of grey. You start by having integrated experiences, being “blended”, which therapists describe as a state where 2 or more parts are present and working in harmony, without a distinct sense of there being parts. The parts usually feel fully present in reality, without distress or dissociation. It’s like a trial period for what integration feels like.
- While some people do “integration rituals”, this is therapist and patient specific. In most cases integration happens over time, as parts become more comfortable being present (vs. being dissociated, detached, etc).
- If for any reason the experience is causing distress, you can backpedal. You didn’t sign a contract or anything, there’s no fee for changing your mind.
- Becoming more integrated is an option to solve dissociative symptoms. It’s not the only option, there are LOTS of ways to improve your symptoms that aren’t integration. (eg, inner communication can help you determine a part has PTSD, and you can engage in therapeutic actions aimed at reducing PTSD symptoms).
- It usually takes years. It requires complete acceptance of self, including historic events like trauma. It requires resolving ongoing conflicts between parts. That is NOT easy or quick, by any means.
So with all of that in mind, why try? Here’s my perspective.
I feel like all of my dissociative parts (including me!) deserve to be more present in our life. To have rich, fulfilling lives, which we all deserve. I’d like less blackouts. I’d like to be able to feel Alice’s relentless optimism and Nick’s fearlessness, without feeling like those traits are foreign. Without worrying that I won’t be able to reach them (or if they even exist at all, because #denial). I’d like everybody to feel like this life, this place, these friends, this job, and everything else belong to all of us.
The majority of the work I do in therapy is phase 1, focusing on safety, stability and inner communication. I’ve only brushed up against a few trauma topics in the last 6 months, and we’re not rushing it. Baby steps. I’m going to keep chasing those concrete goals (eg, less blackouts) regardless of whether or not we eventually focus on trying integration.
Honestly, though? I think about it more like… why not? What is there to lose by learning more? I don’t feel qualified to judge something I haven’t experienced, and I want to keep an open mind.
(Source: Treating Trauma Related Dissociation, by Kathy Steele, Suzette Boon and Onno Van Der Hart, 2017)