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Internal Landscaping

What are Internal Landscapes?

Internal landscapes, in brief, are the subjective experience that many people with DID have as a mental "home" apart from the physical and external world. For more on the subjective experience, see Internal Landscapes or Inner Worlds.

Note there's also a sliding scale online course on Inner Worldscaping on Plurality Resource.

What is Internal Landscaping?

Internal landscaping is the act of deliberately creating fixtures, structures, furnishings, objects, appliances, or decorating one's internal landscape. For example, creating an internal safe space or an internal meeting space where residents can retreat and relax, or hold group meetings.

Many plural/DID systems created their internal landscape subconsciously, often as a retreat from danger or a place to hide away from the physical world. Regardless it generally emerges as a sense of place where headmates can interact, and as such is exceptionally useful and usable. Not everyone realizes they have the ability to alter it.

How do Systems Change their Inner World?

Sometimes inner world changes are a matter of allowing New — which is a skill of not-trying. This might work for some folk, just agree on the changes and then allow your inner world to change. Perhaps you don't have to try so hard. Sometimes we over-complicate things or push ourselves because we've been sold the idea that anything worth "doing" requires blood, sweat & tears. Relax.

Traditionally speaking, how most folk change their inner world, it's a little more complicated than "just imagine it" but not extremely hard. The inner world is a persistent world similar to the external world. So usually it takes more than "just picture it" or "just imagine it" — but not very much more. Usually it's "how would you do that externally?" and do the same thing (or something very similar) internally.

You can add a framed picture on the wall in a room by going over and hanging the picture. There are certainly systems where they can just picture it and it will happen. Others need to cast a spell, get out a hammer and nail, or actually paint the picture first. Most often, if you actually do the things internally that would make the thing happen by that world's rules it will work.

But what about moving walls, adding more space, or other larger changes?

This is where modeling and the principle of As Inside, So Outside & Vice Versa can come in very handy. Basically you can use things in the external world to represent internal world changes, so long as you have the intention of the thing in question representing what's being changed in the inner world, draw an internal landscape map, and then add features to it with the intention of the changes to the external map representing the inner world changes (add in a good dollop of "Allowing New" to this method). Changes may take some time but we have found it works.

Behind the scenes our request is carried out when we allow it to happen. Internal people or the background system is moving the walls, or making spaces larger. Maybe there's mental critters, or non-player-character (NPC - a role-playing game term for "extras" on the set of the game) work crews who go in with ladders and lumber and do their thing.

Whatever the mechanics, likely subconscious mechanics, somewhere between the belief that it can happen, the faith that it's possible, and the act of creating it in any form even external, then allowing the instructions to be carried out — it happens.

The more things you do to affirm these changes and the more confidence you have that the plan will be carried out the better.

Changes can be near-instantaneous, or could take time (hours, days, weeks) to complete. Some inner world changes may come with neurological shifts, like lowering amnesiac boundaries between headmates, so it can take some time.

We Crisses made massive changes from an apartment, which had myriad additions over the years, to a huge spaceship. It was a lot of changes to implement: a big size change, moving rooms, creating several levels rather than a single level, and changing the entire metaphor altogether from a land-bound idea (apartment) to a vehicle (spaceship). The same objects are there, the same rooms still exist, but there's also additional rooms, the look has been changed, some of the functionality is better defined, we have 2 flex rooms (one switches between types of meeting rooms, the other is more recreational or work-related and is usually set up as a test kitchen). We have a lot more space and no longer feel cramped, which is very important if we want all our lost headmates to come forward without feeling like they're imposing.
We first laid out a stack of index cards we keep with each of our names on one card each. We moved them outwards to represent making more room, we sketched a new internal landscape map, we built a small Millennium Falcon model, etc. It took about 3 weeks for most of our changes to be fully implemented and a little longer on some of the cosmetic changes. It was a very massive undertaking, usually our internal world changes don't take anywhere near this long to implement.

Other ideas for modeling inner world changes:

Help! I can't change my internal landscape!

Some systems have "laws" of their internal world that limit who can or cannot change the inner world. For some it's only a certain elder headmate. For others, it's only the children. Some aren't sure if or whom can or cannot change it (perhaps they never tried), and don't even know how to start.

For now, we'd say start from where you are. If you need permission to change your inner world, then ask for permission. If only certain folk change it, then work with them. You might eventually be able to change the laws so anyone or the whole group can work on changing the internal landscape.

We Crisses need at least the full coconscious crew's consent to do changes. Not sure if that's just because it's an internal agreement, or if that's because we need consensus. We wouldn't make any major changes without permission. Everyone can decorate their own quarters/room any time they want.

Working within your Metaphors

Some internal landscapes are thematic. They have their own style, rules, laws of physics or magic, etc. Examples: A medieval castle, a Zen garden with temples and koi ponds, a space ship, a neighborhood, a house, a hotel.

When doing internal landscaping tasks, you should try to operate within the parameters of your inner world's metaphor or logistics.

It is generally easier to keep modifications in alignment with the style or laws of your inner world. To light a medieval castle, you might use oil lamps, torches, braziers, candles. In a Zen garden, paper lanterns. You and your system will probably know whether you want to introduce any anachronisms or paradoxes into your internal landscape. And that's fine as well.

So if you have a contemporary internal landscape, we will say order something from Headspace Amazon. We're not even joking, some people can do that. Other folk may need to drive to a hardware store. Others can make a hammer materialize from thin air.

It's entirely up to your system what works for you. It may never have been a conscious choice until you start deliberately doing internal landscaping work, and that's OK.

Internal landscaping ideas

Internal landscapes experienced as dark empty spaces can be altered to add gentle lighting.
Some inner worlds start out pretty drab, it can be nice to collaborate and paint rooms or have your inner artists create murals or posters to place around your inner world.
If your inner world is feeling cramped, you can remodel and add on additional rooms (some ideas below), or expand cramped spaces.
There's some other ideas for remodeling or repurposing spaces below, but consider that you can simply change things up in any way you'd like. It can serve a purpose or not. Maybe a plain rectangle window isn't your thing and you want a hexagonal window. Go for it. Changing doors into archways, making doorways larger so larger headmates with big wingspans can easily enter, etc.
Modifying Barriers
When there's a wall, consider adding a door or window. It's good to modify towards boundaries that allow things to get through, in a controlled manner. It's not a great idea to just tear down all the walls since smaller spaces may help folk feel safer.
Communication Systems
Consider adding a communication system. Intercoms, telephones, computers, mail slots in doors, etc. Also consider translation devices whether worn or installed in various spaces that help headmates understand each other (whether non-verbal or speaking different languages, etc.)
Information Sharing
If there's not a lot of internal communication, installing a bulletin board can help share brief messages and pictures or flyers can be posted that others can see.
Information Tracking
More permanent information storage systems can be created, such as logbooks, journals, file cabinets, libraries, computers, etc. so that memories and information can be catalogued and retrieved.
Places for internals to occupy themselves when they aren't fronting. This can be libraries, museums, artist workshops, a (teen?) recreation center, etc. All work and no play makes people grumpy.
Safe Spaces
A retreat center, spa, lounge, a nursery or daycare center for the wee ones, blanket forts, decorated fridge boxes, whatever folk need to feel safe when they're upset.
Meeting Spaces
Gathering places large enough to fit everyone and then some. Can be an auditorium, lecture hall, board room, catering hall, dining area, etc. There can be other smaller break-out meeting spaces for simultaneous committee meetings, brainstorming meetings, or trainings, etc.
Any way of safely "imagining" things without affecting the others in your internal landscape. These can be used to more safely play out imaginary scenarios, role-play (also games), play laser tag, etc.
Skill Workshops
Any type of specialized room or workshop where you have the tools needed to work out specific ideas for skills you will implement in the real world. We (Crisses) have a test kitchen where we test recipes in cookbooks we're editing or plan & create recipes to try out in the external world.
Multipurpose Rooms
You can have rooms that can switch format at the push of a button. So a meeting room can become a lecture hall, or a basketball court.
Outdoor Amusements
You can also create water parks, amusement parks, playgrounds, mini golf (or not-so-mini golf) courses, etc. which can be helpful for times like these (COVID-19 lockdowns) where such things are not accessible external-world.

See also:

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