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Internal Landscapes or Inner Worlds

What is an Inner World or Internal Landscape?

Most simply put, an internal landscape is a shared mental refuge for DID systems. An internal reality. An internal world. Inner worlds are not limited to specific types of plural systems; the author is speaking from personal and community experience as a DID system.

In some cases an inner world is a literal copy of external places, an internal adaptation of a known location in which the plural or multiple's system members can interact. There are some common models for an internal landscape's form: perhaps a room, a house, a vacant lot, a spaceship, another planet, a castle, etc. There can be furniture, and various props, areas with specific purposes, and much more.

This happens to be a very common trait for multiples. The persons who are not in Front tend to interact in their head as though their head is an actual location. The individuals can be walking around, doing stuff in the corner by oneself, or interacting with one another.

Popular sayings like "a corner of my mind" can be taken much more literally when it comes to DID. We really can have a corner of our mind, an "in our head".

Subjectively speaking, the internal landscape can be as real as (or even more real than) external reality. The internal landscape or internal reality can be used as a metaphor and is usually fairly easily adapted and modified. It can be a world all its own, open for exploration.

To find your internal landscape, one might ask "Where do I go when someone else comes out?" or even "Where are those other voices coming from?" Some headmaps describe the internal landscape rather than an organizational diagram of the relationships, the internal landscape can describe those relationships between those on the inside by where they live in what looks like a building diagram or a map.

More complicated systems can have entirely separated communities within their internal landscape, representing sub-systems. They may have emissaries, ambassadors between these distinct communities in order to communicate and negotiate agreements.

We Crisses have remodeled our internal house (which can be seen in our sub-site documentation) into a spaceship. Our population of known folk has grown considerably and now we have something like clans or families within our system, where a sub-group has its own section on our spaceship, some share quarters and others have individual quarters. We sometimes send considerations to sub-committees which are ad-hoc groups that go off into small meeting rooms to hash out specific issues and bring suggestions back to the general membership. We have 2 large "flexspaces" which are basically large rooms that can be set up at the "push of a button" for a variety of purposes. One's primary use is a test kitchen (we work on recipes internally, or while editing cookbooks and recipes we have folk inside following the directions and steps to see how it turns out "in our mind"), the other's primary use is as our all-hands meeting space.

By residents, in many ways we're talking about those who reside in your system's internal landscape.

Internal landscaping is the act of deliberately influencing or crafting your internal landscape for any reason. Sometimes in therapy, you'll be asked to create a meeting space in your internal landscape, so that you can invite other residents to a meeting. Or you may want to use or modify your internal landscape on your own as part of self-help, such as mentioned in these self-help articles on internal landscaping.

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.

Features of Internal Landscapes

There are internal landscape "boundaries". These are structures that serve to segregate people &/or information in a system. These translate to fixed hard boundaries (for example walls), permeable boundaries (doors, windows, gates, fences, etc.), and broken boundaries (a demolished wall, broken door, etc.). These can be seen as metaphors, but working with them can be very effective in changing the relationships in the system.

Some things in an internal landscape are just "there" and have no function. They're cosmetic. Like wallpaper — it looks pretty, but it doesn't do anything. It's simply an ornamental fixture.

We have a pile of pillows. The pillows don't appear to serve any specific purpose (it's a place we go for respite in our internal landscape) and they could be simply ornamental. A fixture that has no part of our mental processing allotted to it. It's comfy, that's all. We don't count fixtures in our extended headcounts. There's so many of them (the floor, the ceiling, each chair in the meeting room, etc.), and they aren't doing anything but looking pretty. — The Crisses

Other things have a purpose. A telephone. There's some corner of a multiple's psyche that is activated when they interact with these items, so we consider them functional fragments.

In our case, a logbook which serves as a "recent changes" update book for anyone who needs to review current events and maybe go back over the last several days for recent information. Our logbook is an internal landscape functional fragment metaphor for short-term shared memory. — The Crisses

Then there are programmed constructs, which serve to actually process and change something, or detect input and execute a reaction (see Implementation Intentions for research into temporary constructs).

Our most-used programmed construct is our Language Filter. We used to talk about it before we were even aware of being multiple or having an internal landscape. It's been there a LOOOooong time. A bunch of foreigners moved into our head when we were quite young, and someone (or some many possibly) must have fashioned/built/conjured this programmed construct to assist in language translation between folk in our head. We jokingly say "Garbage in, garbage out" with regard to our language filter — but mostly it works very well. It is certainly a functional fragment, but it goes further than that. It receives input and has output. — The Crisses
We count functional fragments and permanent programmed constructs in our extended headcount. They require mental processing and are part of our dissociation ability. Note that these are not Tulpas, they're not to our knowledge (nor the test of time) capable of acting on their own. They're all passive until engaged with. — The Crisses


Many features of inner worlds are metaphors for mental mechanisms, internal communication, self-comfort, thinking, processing, handling information or memories, etc.

It can be very helpful to simply deal with the inner world as having many of the same interactions and mechanisms of the external world. Systems are systems, whether it's a school system, a belief system, or a plural or DID system. Information is moved around, interactions happen, ideas are transferred or transmitted between systems, both internal and external.

Whether the inner world is a pocket dimension or an elaborate mental metaphor doesn't really matter. What matters most is that you recognize that what happens in the inner world matters. And that you can be deliberate about how you interact with the inner world, shape it to work for you and ease suffering, or help you recover from issues faster.

How Can You Discover Your Internal Landscape?

Some plural & DID systems describe very elaborate visual inner worlds, draw or paint images from their inner worlds, and make it seem like if you can't see or feel it in as much detail as the external world then maybe it's not valid.

Elaborate inner worlds are as valid as voids or spaces lacking in visual detail. Bear with us here.

An inner world is where you interact with other internals. That's where it begins, and where it ends. No matter how elaborate, magical, beautiful, distracting, etc. it is, this is what it is when you strip the idea down to its most simple concept.

So start where you are, and recognize that your perception of your inner landscape is what it is now, and may or may not change in the future.

Some systems just have front and beyond that it's all walled off (fog, cloud, pea soup, etc.). High amnesia systems with no internal communication are likely not ready to get far in working on finding their inner world, but it's still good to have some of the information below so that when the time comes it may be more easily recognized for what it is. It still would probably be better to engage with communication techniques and self-maps before trying to work on any inner world issues.

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.

We (Crisses) are kinesthetic, for the most part. Auditory, too. Visual is likely a 3rd for us. For us to really "See" our inner world, we need to close our eyes and turn our attention from the external world to the inner world. We can do it with our eyes open, but we brown out at least partially from the external world. We must be using our visual cortex, because we lose external visual perception.
But kinesthetic is our primary sense. We have a constant sense of placement/direction, distance, and those near Front without having to lose external sensory processing. We do have a visual inner world, but it's more work for us to see it because visual is not our primary sense.
So much of the time we don't bother "looking" at our inner world. We move around and interact, can sense the walls and floor plan and objects, etc. without having to see them visually. Our inner world is constant, folk interact in the background, and the person who is front doesn't always pay attention to it, but things are always happening back there.
Our auditory sense of the inner world is nearly constant. We can hear babble on the periphery all the time, and don't have to pay attention to it. When we do, we often hear very distinct simultaneous streams of sound from our internal landscape. Those near front are constantly injecting thoughts and ideas to whomever is front. Sometimes it's audio, sometimes it's mind-speak i.e. it just shows up as thoughts inserted into the thoughts of whomever is fronting. Also sometimes we have folk co-fronting, blended with front, or passive-influence especially when writing or typing (something we've been doing since we were teenagers).
We also have other constant "streams" of audio input most especially notable is our earworm which we call the Music Layer that's been there as long as we can remember hearing thoughts at all (at least age 10). So many plurals report having a music layer or earworm (constant songs playing in their inner world) that we made a page to discuss it New. It's further back, but it is loud enough that it's easily heard by front.

Front: the first step

It's usually best to start with "where is 'front'?" Front is "where" you are in your inner world when you are fronting. You may be so distracted by fronting that you are not focused on the inner world, and that's totally valid.

Front is liminal. Which is to say that front is in the space between the inner and outer world. If you are "fully front" then you are engaging through your body (which is the boundary between the inner & outer world) with the external world.

The things you do with your body are in the external world. The things you think are in the inner world. Thus when someone is fronting wherever they are standing (sitting, existing) in the inner world can be marked as "Front" — the interface that inner folk use to interact with the external world.

If you can interact with other internals (in other words if you have anyone you know and can speak with internally for any definition of "speak"), then you have interacted in the internal world. Bear with us here, because like we said it's not always a visual landscape, and we're getting there.

When you front and speak with someone else in your inner world, how do you sense it? Are they louder and hence they're closer (audio)? Do you feel their presence behind you (kinesthetic)? Perhaps you can smell them, or feel the warmth of their body, or the tickle of air when they speak in your ear, or when you need comfort they hold your hand, or they may even appear in front of you, visually or in any other sensory way.

In all of these ways and more, you have a sense of placement. They're behind you and to the left, or right, or directly behind you. Above you, below you. Outside of you, inside of you, beside you. These are all directional in some sense, implying that there's something 3-dimensional going on inside your head.

If you just get mindspeak for now, that's actually great. In terms of communication, if you get direct thoughts like telepathy, count your wins in internal communication and then come back to working on inner world stuff as well. Not everyone has what you have!

If you have no communication, no sense of co-presence or folk nearby when you're fronting, then it's much more difficult, and we would guess someone else told you people have been fronting and you don't have any knowledge of them directly. That's a very rough situation, and we would start with communication techniques (as mentioned above) before working on inner world issues. Once you have communication, it will be useful to figure out where folk are.

However, not everyone without communication is missing an inner world. If you do have a sense of an inner world but not other people/beings within it, and you can't hear communications, etc. then perhaps "look" (in whatever sensory way you use) around for why communication is blocked and whether it can be adjusted or fixed. That gets into internal landscaping.

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.

Long ago, we Crisses got caught up in the phrasing of the "Litany against Fear" from Dune (CW: total fictional religious mumbo-jumbo, skipping some potentially triggering words):
"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."
The whole idea that we could "turn the inner eye to see" something's path through us was what really caught us. And the whole litany overall was a promise that fear, while natural and normal for us, did not have to have more of a hold on us than necessary. It was definitely something we could get behind: the idea that fear did not have to be a way of life. We existed outside of our fear, and fear could come, and go. It took years and years to get better control of our anxiety & fear, but the saying perhaps inspired one of our first selves-help moments.

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, 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.

Selves-Help and the Internal Landscape

The inner world could be the place where many mythical journeys took place in times of lore. There are many ways that inner worlds can be used for selves-help and selves-improvement, therapeutic work, and working with both trauma and trauma-holders.

First keep in mind that plurals & folk with what is now called DID have been around much longer than therapists, and drawing inner worlds, dealing with our internal denizens in internal landscapes, existed far longer than therapists have. Indigenous cultures undoubtedly leverage the inner world in healing journeys and recognize the value and importance of these natural tools of humanity.

As an adjunct, therapists also have come to recognize the importance of self-maps, inner world landscapes, and the selves-help potential of embracing these features of plurality and leveraging them towards health rather than suppressing them or vilifying them.

When using the inner world involves changing or altering it, that's is explained under the internal landscaping article. It's an art unto itself to actually change the inner world itself to create a healthier internal environment, or foster skills and healing.

Here are some ways to use what is there already. If you need to add in these features or change features in order to attempt any ideas here, see internal landscaping.

Internal gatherings
From meetings to internal parties, it's possible to have internal gatherings in your headspace. All-hands meetings and voting, committee meetings or sub-committee meetings to discuss specific things to bring back to the main meetings, classes to teach skills to others in the system, get-togethers to get to know each other better, hang-out time, movie-night (can watch a movie externally together as a group), etc.
Sharing or Broadcasting information
Using any of the internal features to project information or share information system-wide if possible so all that can get the message do. Can share ideas, info, appointments, memories, etc.
Comforting headmates
Folk do not have to front to be comforted. Someone can go join them and listen or comfort a headmate who is upset or bothered by something.
Locating lost headmates
From just discovering folk to rescue missions where you deliberately liberate stuck trauma holders, the internal landscape can prove to be a very useful ally in finding and rehabilitating headmates.
Internal conversations with folk you're having trouble with, negotiating truces, coming to the table together to discuss differences and find compromises.
Caring for System Kids
Kids can get many of their needs met internally so that they don't derail external life and ruin careers or relationships. (As mentioned in our re-parenting materials, you can make an inner world nursery, or you can build a teen recreation center for the middles and teens, etc. - this crosses into Internal Landscaping if you're actually creating areas for this, but it's simply possible to use the space you already have to take better care of headmates, especially the kids.)
Rather than holding debates or arguments, it may be valuable to hold brainstorming sessions where everyone looks at how to best solve a problem or issue, rather than argue about it or take sides about it by way of coming up with as many creative ideas as possible for how to resolve the issue before voting on the best idea(s) that come up.
Idea Testing
This can go hand-in-hand with brainstorming or other situations - and it's important to be careful about emotional reenactments. However, you can play out scenarios such as how to hang a picture on the wall, what tools will I need? what are the steps to take? in the inner world. You don't want to have an imaginary argument with someone, but you can imagine how to wrap a gift or coordinate an outfit. There are of course some limitations; wearing an outfit in inner space may not work out with your external body. But perhaps things like tattoos — if everyone inner world has and likes the same tattoo inner-world, then maybe it's time to consider getting it outer-world too.

- to be continued. Sorry

See Also

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