This article is a Stub. Could use more examples and more discussion.
What is a Rescue Mission?
A rescue mission is an internal effort to free up lost system members who are stuck in the There & Then they may be seen in the internal landscape as being stuck, frozen, hurt, they may be perceived as being in the dark, in a room or house alone or they don't respond to others in the system, or only respond with emotional flashbacks and imagery that is essentially overtly defensive in nature. Whatever the appearance they have is, it can become obvious when you attempt to interact with them that they're not at all in the Here & Now.
In technical terms, these are the "emotional parts" in structural dissociation. It's a term we strongly disagree with. These are people who are stuck in PTSD, reliving the past, having recurring flashbacks, and do not fully understand or know what they're doing or to whom, and they are very very dissociated.
If they can be worked with in the ordinary internal landscape, that is best and easiest, and probably doesn't need this page at all.
The ones we're talking about not quite "all there." They could just be projected or shadows in the ordinary internal landscape. The rest of their personal essence is someplace else. Stuck in time and space outside of the ordinary internal world that plurals have.
When are you ready for a rescue mission?
What goes into a rescue mission?
In many ways, you can plan for a rescue mission like you would any adventure or escapade in fiction or fantasy; mainly dependent on the paradigm your system uses for its internal landscape. Here are some sample steps. They don't need to be done in this exact order. Sometimes the plan comes before recruiting. Sometimes gearing up before the planning.
- Recruiting - who will go on the mission and what role/s will they serve on the mission
- Planning - where will the adventure start? What are the major and minor goals of the mission? Contingency planning, such as: If everyone scatters, where is a regroup or rally point?
- Gearing Up - what physical or mental preparation needs to be done, gathering tools and supplies, getting mentally prepared.
- The Attempt - carrying out the mission.
- Debriefing - how did it go? What lessons are there? What went well, and what needs work? Document the adventure.
How do you know whether your mission worked, or even what to do when you get where you're going? Have a goal and make sure the whole team is on the same page and has full buy-in on what the goal is.
It would be unrealistic to expect that you will rescue folk from the There & Then and then they're immediately completely onboarded and comfortable (fully coconscious, one of the trusted host group or those who have bought into all your system agreements, fully able to communicate, and able to share all their memories fluidly).
Rescuing someone from the worst of their PTSD symptoms will help them be able to onboard, though. For the deepest trauma-holders, it will still be a challenge to onboard them. And this is a good thing. You won't be suddenly flooded with the full force of all their trauma memories and have to accept them in such a sudden cascade, though for sure you may be exposed during a mission to features of the memories, and bringing them to the Here & Now will certainly open up more deliberate sharing and processing of what they have to share.
Our mission had 2 major objectives and 2 contingency plans.
The two major goals were the same: rescue Nikki and Shawn. The 2 contingencies for each were the same: if we cannot rescue someone, attempt to improve their living conditions, and attempt to improve communication with them.
We didn't set very many of any type of goal. What we didn't realize was they were in very different places, and not attached to each other. So we thought we had one objective and 2 contingency goals. The mission ended up split between two locations. So don't make things more complicated than they need to be. You can do a separate mission with other or additional goals later.
Parallels in other disciplines
This adventuresome mission very closely resembles "Soul Retrieval" a shamanic concept where a trusted shaman journeys to find lost soul parts that (by way of conferring with spirit guides) are ready to return back to the "patient's" body (Here & Now) and convince them that it's safe to return. It's an intervention that leaves the client (for want of a better word) able to remain anchored in the Here & Now without having to descend into the lost parts' There & Then. The shaman, who is skilled at Soul Retrieval, is usually someone who has already been to their own personal underworld(s), is versed in navigating the other worlds, and receives additional wisdom and training to walk this risky path. Also, they specifically seek out soul parts that are "ready."
For more about the shamanic lens of trauma, see our page on the Shamanic Perspective.
Tips for Rescue Missions
- Not everyone stuck in the There & Then is ready to come back fully to the Here & Now. If you embark on a rescue mission, be prepared to journey back to the Here & Now without them.
- Since they may not be able to come back, consider carefully what gifts or tools your might be able to leave in the There & Then for them if they aren't coming back. Reminders of the Here & Now waiting for them, items of comfort, their favorite things, tools for their own self-work while they're there.
- Consider metaphors. You could bring glasses that allow people to see more clearly, communication equipment so they can reach out when they're ready or if they have something to say to you.
- Choose the adventuring team carefully. See if you can get them to approve the team members or use the Litmus Test to check whether anyone in the system is anxious about the proposed adventure team.
Real Example: Adventure Team & the Rescue Mission
by the Crisses
This idea came to us (The Crisses) from finally digesting the most troubling concept in the book/movie What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson (SPOILER ALERT! sorry this is the climax of the film, but it does not ruin the film):
The scene is 2 people:
Annie lost everything she cared about in her life her children, then her husband Chris and took her own life. Now Annie is dissociated trapped in her PTSD prison in the afterlife locked inside her personal version of the underworld and unable to be in touch with anything that doesn't fit in her warped perspective. The other, Chris the person speaking is her soulmate and has come via a long journey into her nightmare to find her. He cannot be happy without her.
Then Chris fully mentally joins Annie in the underworld leaving the Here & Now to submerse himself in a dissociative PTSD prison "with her" (the There & Then) but unable to see her for who she is. His ability to fully join her wakes her up to rescue him.
This scene is so poignant, so real we Crisses left the movie theater reeling, crying, and angry in a way, and amazed because they had hit on a truth it would take us 20 years to digest. We read the book. We owned 2 copies of the DVD. We watched it over and over again. It took us a long time to really fully digest it.
We couldn't rescue our lost inner children while fully anchored and blissfully present in the Here & Now. All the people in our system who "held it together" when those children "fell apart" abandoned them in a version of There & Then and let them sit with the pain of the trauma, while the rest of us "moved on" with life. We pushed away the pain and the trauma so hard we created their prison. We enjoyed our life while they were frozen in theirs.
For a while we issued open invitations. We tried to reach out to them but in their pain they couldn't be reached in our headspace. They're trapped inside themselves somewhere, somehow or in time/space in the shamanic realms, or in a personal underworld if you will. Everything we have tried just hurts them. We decided for a long while that they had chosen to protect us from these things, and we were grateful, and we thought when they felt we were "ready enough" they would come out of whatever and join with us and be part of our happy head family.
Then we started having doubts. It had been more than 10 years of waiting, and they weren't budging. Maybe us "being ready for them" wasn't the problem.
To expect that they might suddenly be "inspired" to come forward, claw their way out of their There & Then PTSD prison and share their pain all on their own is asking them to do the (nearly) impossible. So we are assembling a team we believe they can trust, people who never failed us including one person who did claw their way out as a journey guide guardians, shamanic practitioners, healers, mothers, etc. And we're going to have this "Adventure Team" go on a rescue mission to find these children, using What Dreams May Come and other sources as the "metaphor" for their underworld, the journey, the tools we're bringing, things we may leave with them if we can't rescue them, etc.
In the meantime, we totally expect our external life to get very rocky, maybe even fall apart because we were pretty sure we couldn't blithely dive that deep into PTSD as a prison or visit the There & Then and not have system-wide repercussions. It may shake us to our very foundations. But those children can't be left fully alone down there to suffer any longer. It's really bugging us that we've left them there this long, but we can't change what we've done (or not done) in the past. We can and will change what we do now.
The Journey Itself
We did the Rescue Mission, we did about a dozen video logs they're behind our Patreon paywall for personal safety reasons. It went much better than we could have imagined.
We're not sure whether we had to vibe with the kids, or if the kids were exerting passive influence i.e. leaking their anxieties to the rest of us to basically kick our butt and get our attention. So perhaps our theory was wrong. Once we finished planning and were going to embark on our journey, we were strangely peaceful and well-prepared. A little apprehensive maybe tentatively excited even. Which is a difficult emotion for us to hold safely. But we were much less anxious or frightened when it came to the doing it.
Our therapist suggested and we always have to consider that it may have really been interpreted by our system in a post-hynotic suggestion fashion which bugs us but was positive if that's the case here that we didn't have to be in the same space/vibe in order to do this work.
Another way of looking at it, perhaps, is that in journeying to their underworld(s), we brought a protective bubble of our Peace with us to them. Which makes a lot of sense in both a shamanic journey way (brought protectors and spirit animals) and in a psychic self-defense manner and thus were "shielded" from the immense pain that was possible to experience when we went there.
It went very very well. The rescue missions proper were held on April 28, 2018. It's now February 2019. We did one rescue (for Nikki) in the morning that day, and one (Shawn) in the evening. We prepared and planned for weeks, and set aside the 27th and 29th as well, and we built a blanket fort, brought things we thought we might need inside, went over a stack of childhood photos, and a trauma journal, and basically made up our own big deal about it.
The results to date were very good. Nikki and Shawn are much more aware of the Here & Now and while they're no longer looping in panic mode with trauma, they will still take a while to onboard. They have not gone back to their old ways; part of what we did the first day was contact them the best we could, to get permission and make sure they wanted to be rescues. If you can't reach them, then go on the adventure and ask them when you get there.
The missions were mostly documented by videos recorded by Lissie, a new-to-us coconscious little (that we can remember, maybe others as well). There's more than 10 videos and they're on Patreon behind the $10 paywall for our privacy and everyone's protection since they may be triggering. They were recorded during breaks in the work as a video journal and backup of the experience.