The Percent Theory of Fragmentation and Integration – Anna’s Experiences

Last week my good friend Anna sent me a fantastic email – “Omigod my life has changed… three and a half weeks ago I just kinda… integrated. Spontaneously, and it held!”

Anna and integration

(Anna and I have emailed each other for about a year, and an exchange this summer lead to this joint post.)

Anna captured her experience in a LiveJournal entry, where she proposed a simple yet incredible rationale for fragmentation and the trauma therapy – one she believes finally led to her integration. Her words and ideas resonate so strongly that I believe this must be one wonderful path to healing. What’s special is that she’s experiencing this RIGHT NOW – not just writing about something that happened in the past. I’d like to present her ideas here.

[Yes, there is controversy as to what integration means and if it is truly necessary. This post doesn’t speculate – just shares a first person perspective.]

Imoh, as I have known her, and her other personalities recently experienced integration. Newly integrated, she/Anna wrote in her post that she wanted to “[r]eally describe[e] it while it is still all bright and shiny and new, but been long enough to have a sense of what it actually *is* for me.”

Because you don’t know Anna, following the names of her previous selves might be confusing because you don’t know her experiences. But I know her. She has trusted me and shared tremendously with me. I know, or know of, her selves. All of us have had some delightful and also some very heavy exchanges. She is a wonderful and incredible woman.

So, the specifics of her past don’t really matter, other than it was incomprehensibly bad. It is her recent revelations about fragmentation and integration that are fantastic. She has given me permission to present her ideas with my own thoughts interjected. Because this is hers, and because I love her writing style, I will quote large chunks in color.

The Theory of Percents

Anna mused about the commonly-held belief that dealing with all the trauma must come before integration. She contends that addressing all trauma first is not necessary – a concept that seems to counter “conventional wisdom” and some treatment regimens.

As she described her experience, I found myself thinking of it as her “Percent Theory” and I like it.

Fragmentation and capacity to handle trauma

Anna described how she thinks fragmentation occurred, and what had to happen inside before some sense of integration was possible.

“Right here we go.

I think it goes like this. I have a capacity to bear adversity. Let’s call that capacity 100%. However, in the course of my growing uppedness, I experienced shall we say 600% adversity.

So to cope, I split myself into 6 people. Each one was a version of myself that specialised in (but was certainly not limited to) certain areas of life and trauma. I guess essentially I fragmented in the first place because what I was experiencing was too intense – well over the 100% threshold. Dividing it up between different versions of self, dissociating from it in this way, meant that each version of self was dealing with no more than 100% of trauma.

And I survived.”

Survived. But “living”? Dissociative and adversity-induced splits don’t usually happen all at once, but based on events over time. Mine started when I was about 3 and the last when I was perhaps 30. Anna clarifies that she didn’t fragment at one time, nor did she fragment like a pie is cut up.

I developed different pies, each one a me. Though each one specialised, there was a fair bit of doubling up of skills of each. A simple example is that Leonie, Anne, Imoh (who came later and not one of the original 6) and Indigo Elf can drive.”

Healing and Addressing Trauma

Therapy for me/us has been difficult. Releasing the denial of what happened. Recognizing that the amnesia hid different selves and activities; rage. Finally understanding the diaries that speculated insanity, schizophrenia. Fractured memories of abuse, emotional blackmail, rape, threats of death.

Anna’s therapy covered many years; long efforts to address her trauma – with the level of adversity she was able to bear now in the present day.

I did vast amounts of therapy and worked very very hard to sort out and resolve the trauma. Quite suddenly, two weeks ago, I dealt with 3 *huge* bits of trauma, perhaps combined they were possibly 70% (like I said, huge). And [by removing the 70%] suddenly the [total] percentage of trauma was down to maybe 98% of my adversity-capacity.

In addition, one of [the] things resolved was the trauma inherent in being integrated. Until this point the only real experience of being integrated where when I had to pull myself completely together to do the Dark Things I had had to do to keep myself alive. Those moments were extremely traumatic, thus the experience of being integrated itself, was extremely traumatic.

So [when my adversity-capacity dropped below 100] there was nothing left to stop me integrating. Not the trauma associated with being integrated, not the level of [the] trauma [itself], and also perhaps very importantly, [that] every personality got on with the rest – loved each other, even if Leonie and Weaver couldn’t agree on some things, or Anne and Leonie etcetc. they/I all loved each other.”

I think what Anna is experiencing is incredible. I never thought to speculate that different parts of me were carrying different degrees of trauma, and that the degree that each carried was a percentage of her capacity to survive. That each was perhaps under 100% but the total within me summed to over 100%. And that integration can begin to occur when the TOTAL drops below 100%. That ALL the trauma need not be gone before integration can start.

A fantastic way of thinking about it or describing it. And it may be totally true. The Theory of Percents.

The first feelings of integration – what is found and what is lost

In the initial throes of healing, Anna still feels and hears her selves. Her idea of “integration” does not appear to be the classic “removal or fusing” off all selves.

Eileen (counsellor) reckons I am not properly, fully integrated because I am still kinda sensing my different personalities. She reckons over time, I will have all the skills and traits of all the personalities, but not the sense of it being “Oh yeah, I know that voice that makes that kind of observations as Leonie.

But really, I don’t think directly feeling Leonie negates the integration I am experiencing. (Neither does my counsellor.) After so long being a number of different versions of myself, I think it would be unrealistic for me to suddenly lose that as a frame of reference. I am just not living within that frame of reference now.”

Anna’s first experience is vibrant and new, but also very intense.

Integration is incredibly overwhelming! My counselor told me that it is very normal for multiples who integrate to discover they experience … um … being alive so much more intensely, which I have.”

Anna describes three wonderful (and perhaps unexpected) things that came along for the ride with her new state of integration.

Calmness, love, clarity … and ….grief

So in integrating, the first thing that hit me was the calm. Instead of being like a conglomerate of different personalities, which is what I had thought it would be like, I felt like I had somehow found another personality, and that personality was all-of-me. Imoh is the one that remembered that. She is the only one who clearly remembered all-of-me. Anne could remember a bit. But I am not Imoh-personality. Nor am I a conglomerate. It is as if I stepped into a completely different pattern of being.

I became me.

Most of the time I have one quiet voice conveying what I want. I want to eat this. I don’t want to go there. I want to go here. This is in complete contrast to before when it would be a real rabble of voices and opinions inside that made it very hard to work out what one or ones I should act upon.

Sometimes now, in stress, that one quiet voice turns back into a number with different opinions. But if I be quiet and focus, it re-coalesces into one voice. (“Yes I do want to eat that Turkish delight” or whatever.) Oh, no, hang on, bad example! There is never any dissent on that 😉

The second thing I found was the sense of love. Over time, each personality had come to love all the others with a really strong, clear… well, love. Suddenly I was feeling that love for myself.

The third thing was just the clarity. Hell! I know what *I* want. I know who *I* am. I know… I know… omigod. I can feel *myself.*

And with that realization came the clarity.

And then, when I realised the integration was going to stay, the grief hit me. Grief for my personalities, all those wonderful people I was! Grief for the understanding of self that was no longer true. Grief for a way of life, grief for what I was used to.

It took a few days for the negative thing to hit me. I am operating with around 98% of trauma…. again.

Chucked right back in the deep end. Yeah yeah, sure I can handle it. But this is the 7th time I have started at the beginning, with a being full of trauma, and worked my way through it.

On the bright side, I have had plenty of practise at it. And I am finally finally on the home run.”

Memories with integration

Fragmentation of memories is a big issue with trauma and DID. Even when the selves are present and participating, sometimes the memories they should be carrying are just not there. That troubles me, scares me – will I lose things on integrating? Will some stuff never surface? But for Anna, it is a happy ending.

But perhaps the most stunning of all is I have not lost anything. I still have all the “Indigo Elf” happiness and simply joy. All of Leonie’s ability to find a pattern in the chaos, and Susannah’s ability to find the chaos in the pattern. All of it!

And all of my memories have come together into one long thread. And that makes it very hard. I think for the first time I can see what I have been through as a child – and then the hardships that the repercussions caused on me as an adult.

Eileen speculated that I am also perhaps experiencing for the first time the trauma lost in betweenthe personalities. The miniscule moments switching in between one personality and another. Since that often happened in traumatic situations, [those little bits of trauma] perhaps add up to a lot of time and trauma that has been inaccessible by any one personality, but has still been carried in my mind and body.

All those things are … almost… overwhelming. And I keep needing to cry. There are no words to describe how terrible it has been.

I am glad I am almost completely free of it.

The Theory of Percents for releasing selves during healing

Something else strikes me as I ponder this idea of percentages and missing memories. What if one part of you is individually over 100% and does not (or cannot) split? And remains this way for years? Maybe that’s why memories are still gone or some parts are still inaccessible. They cannot cope with the fear of letting those memories out. Of peeking out. Or, of BEING able to peek out.

Let me tell you a little story about that.

A little story about Sam: Sam-wise and Samantha

When I started this post in the summer, my Sam was nearly totally inaccessible to me. Sam-wise. The faithful, dedicated companion in Lord of the Rings. Who I thought originally carried my rage, my anger at the man who raped me. Of being that used and discarded. Since then, lashing out at anyone/thing she perceived as trying to of advantage. Damaged girl and vengeful girl. A lot for one little girl to carry.

Then I had a dream about Sam. She started as the nearly dead, burnt kitten and came back as a beautiful cat who lounged trustingly in my arms.

Kitten. I have 25 year-old writings that spoke of some evilness “rising to kill the kitten.” An evil I can feel only as “He.” Outside me, but who seemed able to manipulate parts of me. Who could not kill that kitten alone and entreated Samantha to join him, take over friends, alienate others. That covered a few very bad years…the initial suggestion of schizophrenia by the first therapist I don’t really remember.

But my dream told me that Sam survived and she will come back whole. I do not see that beautiful cat now, but when she comes I will be able to accept her and she me.

I cried the morning after that dream.

But how to reconcile this nearly life-long idea that Sam is both the hurt girl and also the rageful out-of-control girl. My mom said she wanted to hug Sam – ?!? – I told her that Sam was a brush of thorns and fire! I did not want, could not hold her. I thought my mother was somewhat delusional to make a statement like that.

Well, back up. During my attack, we blew past the 100% capacity. Sam came and took a good deal of that “experience.” I hold some, she holds the rest. Shit still outside my memory banks. The anger solidified.

But in the last year of therapy, that tight knot of chaos and pain began to break up, still floating in nebulous chunks. Hey – still pretty terrible, but perhaps now accessible. Would I see her soon? Was the terrified girl settling down below that 100% line?

Then I had a massive realization. All the evidence I carried for so long finally smacked me in the face. Sam is not both the rage and the damaged girl. My Sam-wise is that poor girl. But my writings to a “Samantha” are of a rageful manipulative and manipulated girl.

I could never understand why my nearly insane writings referred to a “Samantha” while my heart reached out for “Sam.”

Because they are two different girls. Sam-wise and Samantha. Created at nearly the same time.

Sam took the rape. The angry rageful stifled Samantha was not far behind, demanding that Sam get up and run away, hide, rather than melt into the ground and die.

How could this have happened? That combined sense of a selves – Sam and Samantha – was over the 100% line. As I worked with other parts of me, there must have been a release that allowed each girl acknowledge that separateness, bring each below the 100% line. I can feel each, and I can feel more memories of the attack very close to the surface, and I am holding them back. Suddenly, in a day, they are there waiting for me to brush my mind against them.

My mom was right. Sam is the child, the girl deserving of that hug. I was overwhelmed that Mom somehow knew. And when the time comes, I hope that Samantha will come for her hug as well.

I recently did something bad I thought might be irreversible. But this time I remembered some, but not all of what I had done – not total amnesia to the event. Maybe the drop below 100% for these girls is what is allowing me to see, albeit from the back without much control, what Samantha has been doing with my body.

The theory of percents – it supports the initial fragmentation, the acknowledgement and release of selves, and also of healing and integration.

Quite a powerful theory indeed.

More thinking on integration and the Theory of Percents

While developing this post, Anna provided some additional ideas on the “capacity to deal with trauma” based on her continuing process of integration. She speculates that this capacity can change over time – therapy increases the capacity and perhaps it also increases as an individual grows from childhood to adulthood.

“I agree about speculation on what if a personality experiences over 100%, I think perhaps that as my capacity to deal with trauma increases I was able to access the personalities with the heavier loads of trauma…. Also that the threshold of trauma at the point of a personality splitting off may have been significantly smaller than now, anyway. e.g., a six year old will not cope so well with trauma as an adult, perhaps. Or then again, it may have been significantly higher. Who knows?”

Makes sense – when I lamented last year to my closest friends and family – why is this happening to me now? After all these years? Crap barfing out of me, almost uncontrolled?

One of my dear friends said it was because I was finally ready to handle it. Able to handle it. That I am strong enough, and the body knows that. The mind knows it.

The body, the mind, knows the Theory of Percents. And knew when I was ready.

Post-Script

After reading Anna’s LiveJournal post last summer, I asked if could write about it here – I told her I thought it was so wonderful and amazing. She replied in an email that my *wonderful* comment took her by surprise, and which then also took ME by surprise. [warm smile]

Anna wondered in an email to me, from “other multiple’s perspective, would they think these points be valuable to read about? Like a peek at a much better future, worth every moment of the work?”

Oh yes my dear, these points are precious. Especially from someone who is just experiencing and so immediately confirming that it is worth all the work.

Thank you, Anna.

Anna’s entire post can be found here.

– ∞ –

See also:
List of all posts

Thoughts on Integration – What does integration feel like?

And now a break from your regularly scheduled integration

Does integration mean compromising on ice cream?

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9 Comments»

  secretshadows wrote @

Thanks so so much for sharing this.
Secret Shadows

  Jackie wrote @

Yes, Anna. You just gave me hope. I was yet again, going to throw the proverbial towel in, and call it quits. Whether integration ever happens for us/me(?), I can’t say, but you have transferred some strength by sharing, so thank you. It’s also reassuring to know that no one died in that process. Calm. That is the quest I am on. My mind to be calm. So it is exciting to hear that my expectations of what integration “feels” like includes being clam. Now THAT excites me beyond 100%

  Tigerweave/Anna wrote @

Jackie, I am honoured to hear some of my hard work and experience has given you hope to keep going.

Emily, Jackie, and others who are interested…

Rereading my own words 4 1/2 months on gives me a renewed appreciation for the difference between being a collection of personalities and being *me*

Definitely no one was lost in the integration. And neither have memories. In fact, more memories have continued to surface that I couldn’t access while a collection of personalities (usually because they are memories of incidents where I switched between two or three personalities to access the skills of each one as I needed, and the bit each personality held didn’t make sense on its own)
This has been very hard. I definitely was back up around 98% trauma in those first few months, but am feeling more comfortable now as a result of continued therapy.

Make no mistake, being integrated really *WAS* very hard at times, and the lack of info on how to cope, and work through it surprised and saddened me and my therapist. However after 3 1/2 to 4 months, things just … eased. I guess I got used to the new state 🙂

In addition, to my complete surprise, I found another three personalities. I was aware of them before – sometimes. After integration I was, ironically, no longer suppressing the awareness of their existence!

And it was, to a large extent, the unresolved trauma within these three that I was struggling with so badly in those first few months. And again ironically, I had to fragment to access their trauma to be able to heal it. But I never again fragmented to the extremes I had before integrating.

The other thing that surprised me was that I still had generally very high levels of dissociation in my day to day life, that noticeably affected my functioning. Once I realised this I worked on lowering that, and have succeeded to get it to a more workable level.

Nowadays I have settled into being integrated but still have maintained an awareness of the different “sides to my character”. For eg when I am designing a new crochet project it feels nice to acknowledge it is “my Suzannah part of me” that I am expressing. Or when being silly and giggly I know I am “being very Indigo Elf-y”

I think I have settled on maintaining this sense of the different “sides of my character” complete with their names etc as a part of my inner experience because the grief of their loss was so great.
But also, because it *doesn’t matter* – maintaining the awareness at that level doesn’t affect my ability to function in an integrated manner, and all the positives that brings.

So I think it is my own personal happy medium. I have the functioning of being integrated, yet the beauty of understanding the different facets of my personality that came with the DID.

And as for calm… yes… That is the *nicest* thing about it all. I very rarely have an internal fight going on over what to wear, how to handle relationships etc. And when conflicts do arise it is from past trauma being triggered, not everyday stuff.

But from that single focus has flowed huge changes in my life. Everything is easier as I can focus on one thing, then switch focus to another until that is done then switch focus to another… And I am more consistent in approach to … well, everything, but it is most noticeable in personal relationships.

Before I felt like I was trying to live a number of lives, and the result was very scattered. It is like the difference between someone employing good time management skills as opposed to someone scattering their efforts in bits and pieces throughout the day.

Much better.

Worth every moment of the hard work.

And the headaches are much fewer and less severe now. YES!!!

😀

Anna

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

My dear friend Anna – I am so happy we did this post together, and now re-reading it all and seeing the advances in both of our lives since then…good stuff. I really like that we had kind of “documented” where we were in our healing then, and now we can see concretely the improvements.

Thank you for sharing and for being such a supportive friend.

Emily et al.

  Jackie wrote @

Anna, you said “I very rarely have an internal fight going on over what to wear, how to handle relationships etc. ” which is really made me smile. Civil war drove me to therapy in this last leap of hope for calm. I find it interesting that you haven’t gone insane from the quiet. I am contrasting that against prisoners who dropped their basket claiming isolation from the quiet. merging vs isolation.
You also mentioned “lack of info on how to cope” which integrated or not is challenging. Can you expound on that please?

  davidrochester wrote @

I was thinking about this post today, and realizing how strongly I resist the idea of integration because my primary alter is my best friend, and has been ever since I was a little kid. I can’t imagine my life without him, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say I can’t imagine my life with him “in” me all the time. I feel incredibly bereft just considering it. I probably ought to mention that to my therapist. 🙂

  Tigerweave/Anna wrote @

Emily,
Friendship is a two way street… thank *you* for all your support 🙂 And yes, I too am glad we did the post.

Jackie, you mentioned the calmness,
Yes, I have found the calm to be positive, but I can’t say I have really experienced silence, or that it is deafening (!) however, now that I think of it, I am a musician and it is a very rare moment some piece of music isn’t going through my head. Hehe, perhaps taking up a musical instrument can become standard recommendation for newly-integrated multiples *grins*
Wanna know the nicest thing about the lack of in-fighting? I like *all* my clothes in my wardrobe now. Instead of Leonie cringing at Suzannah’s array of pink ones and Weaver cringing at Indigo Elf’s frilly stuff. I was surprised to discover I/Anna love them all.

re: lack of info to cope…
*thinking* to answer that is big. I think it might be easier to write it out on my journal. I am thinking of posting first reply to Emily as a “four and a half months on” thing. I think after that I will write a post on what was so hard in the changes it brought.
I will post on here when I have done it

David, I understand that sense of “but I can’t live without them.” And just recently I have come to understand I have had one more personality that I have had for so long I didn’t even understand it was odd to have someone like him in your head. (But hey… when I got the dx 6 yrs ago I was shocked not everyone had a different person inside to deal with different situations *shrug*)
I don’t think this personality will ever be integrated in the way the others were. And I think that is ok. I wrote about it here
http://tigerweave.livejournal.com/189625.html
Hope it make some sense what with the mentions of other people, but if not, just ask in my comments. It was nice to have my counsellor be cool that I didn’t feel it “right” to integrate with him.

Each of us is unique, so I suppose the state of harmony and happy and effective functioning is going to be different.

Having said that, however, I thought I would miss the others, but I didn’t. (grief for their loss is different to missing them, somehow) I simply discovered to my shock I didn’t feel alone anymore. Sounds odd to think that integrating and becoming one personality instead of 10 made the soul-wrenching loneliness I have felt for most of my life go, but it did.

For that, even if it had no other advantages, I would stay integrated.

Anna

  Jackie wrote @

Anna, I was hoping you were going to say with the calmness came the quiet/silence too. I am not a musician, but do love good music and symphonic music seems to calm the unpleasant noise down a good majority of the time.

You so made me smile about the wardrobe comment. I/we had a huge drama today about that. I’ll have to put that on my hope list to…diet drama on the wardrobe!

David – I hear you about integration vs your best friend. I’m saddened by this sensation too. Maybe we should talk to our T about this matter – the both of us.

  emilylonelygirl wrote @

Anna posted a response on her journal about her thoughts and feelings since we co-wrote this article. It is a heavy inside look at a process of integration not documented in the books. Take a look.


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