Co-Presence, Shame and Guilt

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Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Today I had the first appointment with my psychotherapist since admission to the clinic five weeks ago. I came home last Friday. It was so good to see her. I obviously saw my psychiatrist and a psychologist in the clinic which was very good therapeutically and we got a lot of good work done especially on the destructive Alters (Dissociative Identity Disorder – DID) but I have been seeing my psychotherapist for five years and have a very strong bond with her.

We went through what had happened during the admission, work that had been done and where I felt we should go from here. I was pleased to be able to tell her that the psychologist had been able to teach me how to be ‘co-present’ with an Alter which means that my present-day self is still aware and conscious of what is happening when an Alter has switched. It doesn’t work on all the alters but works on four so that is an awesome start as it’s a major step towards integration which is the major treatment for DID.

My biggest issue that causes me to self-harm and attempt suicide is the need for punishment out of shame and guilt for what happened to me as a child. Being the victim of a paedophile ring for fourteen years and the expert grooming techniques that they used leaves an indelible impression on the brain where the victim owns the responsibility for the abuse and blames themselves. We decided to work on this using the ‘co-present’ technique.

I can switch when called upon to do so, so I switched to the fifteen-year-old who was abused by several men in the Hotel. I stayed aware of the Alter talking to the psychotherapist. She became very distressed and started crying. She spoke of her shame and guilt openly, blaming herself for what had happened saying the Priest had also told her she was to blame for what she ‘had done’. My therapist went to great lengths to explain that the Alter and I were in no way to blame and I was only a child who could not protect myself. I was a victim and a pawn in an evil ring. The Priest was a bad man and not a true Messenger of God. The alter believed God was punishing her. She was told that no God would punish a child in such a way. She explained in detail how grooming techniques work and how they affect the victim, taking care to ensure that she used language and terminology that a fifteen-year-old would understand.  She frequently checked for understanding and comprehension from both me and the Alter. Whilst I understood from a practical point of view it did not shift my shame or guilt and it only served to confuse the Alter. She is so convinced of her responsibility in her own abuse that no amount of the therapist telling her she was not to blame would get through. She said she was intent on punishment.

Grooming is the slow, methodical, and intentional process of manipulating a person to a point where they can be victimised.

We finished the session with me sending the Alter away and coming completely back to the present and showing the therapist therapy artwork that I had done whilst in the clinic. It told her a lot about my state of mind so it filled in a lot of gaps for her. For example, I had drawn a silhouette of a pregnant young girl and filled it with words expressing how I had felt at seventeen being pregnant. It was very evocative and emotive.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin