Learning to control switching

by | 24 January 2019 | 18 comments

‘I can’t help it though,’ I complain, with a mixture of forlornness and mild outrage. ‘I just … disappear. And other parts come. I don’t mean to switch. It just happens.’

The therapist looks at me and nods understandingly, but I can tell she’s not finished. I prefer things to be black-and-white, all-or-nothing. She seems to relish the grayscales.

‘Yes, I believe you,’ she says, but her eyes have narrowed determinedly. ‘But that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t learn to stay present and not switch, or that there isn’t an element of choice sometimes.’

I frown, bothered.

Sometimes,’ she reiterates, balancing sternness and sympathy.

I look away because I know she’s right but it feels important to hold to my position of ‘nothing’ in case that means I have to jump to ‘all’. I’m scared that ‘sometimes’ actually means ‘always’.


Find the complete article in Carolyn's new book, 'Unshame: healing trauma-based shame through psychotherapy', available now!

A word of explanation

I had therapy mainly between 2006 and 2015. These blog posts are not verbatim accounts of sessions, but rather the client equivalent of ‘case studies’ - amalgamations of various sessions, ‘narratively true’ rather than ‘historically true’. Although often written for stylistic purposes in the present tense, they are very much from a past period of my life. Ideally they should be read within the wider context of other blog posts, articles and my book, to give a more integrated and rounded sense of where I was at, where I’m at now, and the process that took place between those two points. I have been on a journey of recovery, and the difference in me from when I was in therapy (especially at the beginning) to now is testament to the brain’s ability to recover from even the most appalling suffering.

My primary work now is writing, followed closely by training therapists, counsellors and other professionals to support survivors of trauma. Regrettably I cannot provide one-to-one support but our charity framework PODS (Positive Outcomes for Dissociative Survivors) provides a helpline and a range of other services: please go to www.pods-online.org.uk for more information, and https://support.pods-online.org.uk/start-here if you are looking for support.

For training, please see our range of live courses at www.carolynspring.com/live-training, and our online courses at www.carolynspring.com/online-training. We also publish a range of resources to support recovery from trauma, which you can see at www.carolynspring.com/shop. My first book, Recovery is my best revenge, is available to buy at https://www.carolynspring.com/shop/recovery-is-my-best-revenge-paperback/




  1. Thank you Carolyn for another article that helps explain where and what I am. This is what happens in my sessions too. Ian tries to bring me back by asking what prompted the switch, the disssociation. I can rarely answer him. It is sometimes as if we get uncomfortable with the prospect of recovery. I know one of me is. He is comfortable in his discomfort. May I say thank you to Derek as well, it good to see a male survivor express their thanks.

  2. I live in the USA. I have a 14 year old that has just been diagnosed with complex trauma and dissociative amnesia. There is not enough help here in the US for her. We are trying everything. 8 hospitalizations and many attempts of suicide. I continue the fight for her. Thank you for your articles, it s the only thing remotely close to help us.

  3. Thankyou so much for sharing your journey. I’m able to understand my own journey more, and with that understanding I feel less alone and am starting to be more gentle with myself. Thankyou again.

  4. Thank you. Learning to recognise when I have automatically switched and learning to take control is where I am at the moment. I have described feelings of contradictions and bewilderment because I don’t know which part to listen to. I have a wonderful therapist who helps me to sort things out.
    Thank you for writing this. In a world where no one understands multiple parts it’s wonderful to hear from someone who ‘gets it’.

  5. Oh my gosh! I have never ever before read something that so brilliantly encompasses my experiences. I am speechless and need to read this over again….. I really am not the only one. That same dialogue dominated about 4 – 5 yrs of my therapy…… until finally automatic dissociation in therapy session began to lessen and I started to lean to take control.
    Thank you thank you thank you!!!

  6. My counsellor printed this off and gave it me after our session yesterday. I have read and re-read this. Wow. I am speechless. This resonates so deeply with me and my journey at present. Thank you for writing this and for allowing me to feel less alone. I too am a bundles of contradictions and, at times, feel incredibly stuck. This made me laugh and made me cry. But mostly, it gave me hope. Thank you.

  7. This resonates so much…….it’s so very painful.
    I hated my parts but I know I have to come to accept them.
    I sometimes don’t want to come back after switching in therapy, because coming back meant feeling those pain.
    I just had this conversation with my therapist this week.

  8. 🙂 you do have a way with expressing. I find it soothing and comforting to read and hear your material. I also find myself trying to break away from it, escaping somewhere numb. I trust you. The funny part, is I used to imagine things I had read here or you speaking of recovery when it all seems useless. And now I can imagine all these wonderful ladies in the comments who also experienced the same.
    So empowering and hopeful. I’m about to start my therapy and will remember their comments here.

    I hope despite your busy schedule, that support groups who identify very much with your content and trainings can be brought together around the Uk.

  9. Whenever I am particularly low, I come to this site, because here someone else understands what I am experiencing.

    Today, I stood to teach a class and dissociated 20%+ of the time. I left frustrated, embarrassed, and defeated. I couldn’t stay focused on the material or my thread of thought because of the young men talking in the back of the room, because of memory I was going through earlier in the day, because I had been sick—who knows.

    It’s days like this, when I am looking for any reason to hold on, that I consider that someone has made it through this and is now helping others with their onerous battles.

    I appreciate your work. Thank you.

  10. Thank you very, very, much, Carolyn, for writing this exceptional article that I/We struggle with! Lari

  11. I/We are in the same spot. This part, ” ‘Yes,’ she says, softly. ‘You have dissociative identity disorder. Which means that you are a bag of contradictions.’ ” gave me tears! It feels very emotional and I cry. Thank you so very much for sharing this!!! I have been in therapy since 1988, diagnosed in 1990 and left therapy a few times – been back since May of 2017 and am making good progress.

  12. I may be totally streaming with tears right now, but it’s because what you say is gut-wrenchingly true. I still don’t believe I’ll ever control switching and that if I do, it’ll be like all the therapists that told me my parts were bad infantile behaviour I needed to grow out of. I think my go to point for younger parts is, “I didn’t get to be little back then so why can’t I do it now?” However, I know I need and want that to change.
    The battle for selves-acceptance continues…

  13. It has always felt like a hate/Love relationship. It is exhausting!

  14. Rarely do I read something that strikes me in the gut like your words do! This resonated with me so much, thank you.

  15. Brilliant article, I find this so validating of how Im trying to work

  16. Wow, I remember these feelings so well! I think I even started this process then got too scared of who I would be and how I would cope without parts and abandoned it. Thank you x

  17. This is amazing! I loved reading every bit of it. It made me laugh & cry, as it’s exactly the sort of conversation I have with my therapist, so it’s reassuring to hear someone else have similar experiences and crazy conversations. Thanks for being so brave and sharing this with the world, I would be mortified at the thought of someone being privvy to some of the stuff that comes out of my mouth during my therapy sessions but after reading this it seems a little more normal, so thanks x

  18. What you share in this article is exactly where I am currently in my healing journey. Your thoughts and feelings are the same as my own. Thank you for this post as it normalizes my experience and is encouraging as well.


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