Sensory Mayhem - What if you can't see it?
Enough plural/DID systems describe a vivid internal landscape that it makes those of us without a strongly visual inner world doubt its existence. We're expecting 3D technicolor elaborate worlds and what we have must not be real.
Trust us, whatever you have to work with is real and valid. If you ask those systems, you may find that different headmates have more or less visual sense of their inner world, that not everyone has access to all of it, that it started out much smaller and much more boring seeming, etc.
Not everyone is visual-primary. There's a lot of emphasis on visual-ity in our culture, but there are plenty people who are auditory, auditory-kinesthetic, etc. Gustatory would be very awkward for us to explain, but we'll mention it (smell/taste) because it's still valid.
Be open to other senses. Knowing. Feeling. Tasting. Touching. Spacial-awareness. Whatever you have going for you. Don't force or expect it to be a visual dreamscape. In fact, if your dreams are not particularly visual, then don't expect your inner landscape to be particularly visual.
What about this sense of space?
Once you have a sense of where others may be in relation to front, you can start to work on the skill of paying more attention to your inner world. Not just for the sake of seeking your inner world. We don't think the inner world is just a place to run away from the external world. Because it's a metaphor for internal processes, it provides opportunities to improve those internal processes and thus provides tools to help you make life more manageable.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-******. Fear is the little-***** that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
For this exercise, it's that idea that we have an inner eye that's important. It doesn't need to be "an eye" per se. We have an inner sense, that we can "look" inside, that we have any potential pathways inside to see in the first place. That there's a "where" for that fear to have gone on its journey inside of us.
In other words, when headmates run away, when they hide, when they struggle, when they aren't close to front — where are they? You shouldn't go chasing after folk who want to be alone at the moment, that's pretty advanced stuff. But it's OK to look around inside, close your eyes and pay attention to the inner world, and see if there's any clues as to where folk have gone, or do a ping exercise (see communication techniques) to see whether you get a sense of direction and distance for where folk are.
What if I'm just making this up?
If your inner world helps you communicate, find internals, hold meetings, improve coawareness and coconsciousness, rescue traumaholders, and do a variety of other internal community tasks so that you get healthier in the long run and make strides in therapy, and cope better with external stuff, and manage your anxiety better, etc. — does it matter if you "just imagined it" or "made it up"?
If the progress is real, the inner world is valid. Period. Doubt isn't going to help you.
What really starts to make the inner world feel more real is a combination of real progress and persistence.
We don't mean your effort. We mean the permanence or persistence of the inner world. It is there for others in your system. When you add an object or feature, or discover something, it's also there for other headmates. If you remodel, paint, add furnishings, other folk perceive it too.
Also consider the irony of this type of question posed to people who have issues with derealization. How often is the external world fake, feels like someone's making it up, manipulating it, that it's hollow, just a bunch of stage props or movie sets, a puppet show, etc. If your inner world feels more or less "real" than the external world — that's par for the DP/DR (depersonalization/derealization) course.
The other answer is yes, of course you're "making this up". So what? Kick the external thought police out of your head. It's absolutely no one's business outside of your system unless you choose to share it with them.
But really, at the end of the day, if it serves to entertain folk who are not fronting, if it keeps your internal children occupied, if it serves in all the myriad selves-help capacities that are available with an inner world, we say run with it.
What if it's even better than the external world?
It can be. We know of systems where the inner world is more real than the external world. Rather than blaming a rich internal world for external hardships, maybe improving their external circumstances will help make the external world more attractive and inviting. From where we stand, their rich internal world can serve as inspiration for how the external world could be, and perhaps give them ideas for ways to direct their external life i.e. the inner world may inspire them to make external changes or pursue external careers or projects that bring their inner world benefits to the external world.
Also folk may still be living with abusers, not have agency, power, control, access, etc. in their external life. Frankly, if that's the case they're still living in a world with trauma and having a safe place to escape, have good moments, a place for privacy, comfort each other, create art and things of beauty, give themselves an inner life worth having an external life for — that's adaptive and beautiful. There's nothing wrong with this.
It can make it easier to switch and balance external commitments since folk don't mind being inside rather than fronting. That can help the folk with careers, a spouse, external kids, etc. do their external tasks and uphold their external obligations without fighting over front-time. Again — so what?
Sometimes, with or without the above factors, a system just has a very rich and enticing or delightful internal world. Humanity is full of distractions and amusements, and perhaps the external world resents being able to occupy ourselves with internal amusements that rival going to amusement parks, movies, playing in immersive MMORPG games, etc. because they can't charge us money to play around in our own head. Too freaking bad.
Isn't this just Maladaptive Daydreaming?
This used to be a DSM disorder, it isn't anymore. However, inner worlds have little to no relationship to maladaptive daydreaming. This is not only an adaptive feature of plural/DID systems, it has far too many therapeutic benefits to be maladaptive even when you're an adult. Harnessing and utilizing the internal landscape has been a feature of therapy for a long time (as seen in therapists asking their clients to create meeting rooms, or create safe spaces in their inner worlds as part of therapy for DID folk).
The inner world is a refuge, but also a parallel or visualization of a mental landscape in which internals can interact. The features are generally persistent if changable. Changes to this mindscape represent actual and lasting changes to mental processes for the plural system, and as such can be used to improve outcomes of therapy, communication, internal community, internal trust, and many other very beneficial and promising areas of the healing process, and thus the inner world can be utilized to promote healthy multiplicity OR as a stepping stone towards reaching internal agreement to attempt unification. Regardless of the client's therapeutic goal, working with the inner world or internal landscape can be highly beneficial.
The idea of maladaptive daydreaming is "too much of a good thing" and the myth that the inner world is "maladaptive daydreaming" is weighing the external world as being more important than the mental processing and internal relationships of the system in question. While healing and working on internal relationships, improving communication, finding lost or stuck internals, working on system trust, etc. the system's primary job is working on internal processes with a goal of eventually being able to deal with the Here & Now New better. The inner world is a feature not a bug in this process.
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