Most of us have inner children. Some of us have inner teenagers. With dissociative identity disorder (D.I.D.), those inner teenagers are a little more complicated to deal with. They are more than that impulse inside, where someone can have a feeling, recognize it, and do something to make that feeling resolve, while still understanding the world in adult terms. So when my inner 14 year old is active, she has all the reasoning and coping skills of an actual 14 year old. You might think this would be challenging, and it is. Or, as W. would say, "Boy, howdy."
Although many aspects of this post are about my inner 14 year old almost as a separate entity, and about the ways that D.I.D. can impact a domestic discipline relationship, I do think it will ring a bell with more people. Everyone has different parts of themselves, and those different parts certainly impact our behavior. The only difference is, I actually have a far harder time conveying my adult understanding of the world to my different parts, and I have much less ability, if those parts are strongly present, to behave as the adult that I technically always am.
So, my inner 14 year old. Let’s call her "Jamie," because that’s what she calls herself. When she is present, I operate in the world with the reasoning skills and self-control of a 14 year old. And I don’t mean the kind of 14 year old I actually was, who chose to sublimate my anger and frustration into getting into a good college, and who could analyze my family’s behavior rather than actually feel my feelings about how they treated me. I still believe that was a far better choice than fighting and running away from home. Jamie is the one who held all of those impulses separate from who I was back then. Theoretically, I’m grateful to her for this, because it certainly made my life better, and got me to where I am now.
However. When the 14 year old is in your body, that means it’s a bit harder to separate from her behavior, and it means that, ultimately, I am way more responsible for her actions than I would be if I were, say, her parent, and yet, that I have far less control over her actions (when she is out) than if I were her parent. It’s not a comfortable or appealing situation, for either of us.
Last week, she was in true Jamie form. On the one hand, she is absolutely desperate for limits. And on the other hand, she is terrified of being rejected. So what does she do? In order to get limits, she figures that the best method is 1, to demonstrate that she is incapable of setting limits for herself, and 2, when someone proposes limits for her, she will push against them as hard as she possibly can. And because she is completely certain she is going to be rejected sooner or later, she decides it’s best to get it over with as soon as possible, so she can stop worrying about it.
How this played out is that she was a complete and total jerk to W. She swore at her, she refused to follow pretty much the only rule that has been enforced recently (going to bed on time). She pushed W. to worry about her by leaving the house and refusing to say where she was going, especially late at night. She smoked a lot of cigarettes. And, just to add some variety, she decided to destroy several things, both to provoke W. and to prove to younger parts that W. would not stand up for them (the things mostly belonged to me, but were things W. knew weren’t actually Jamie’s).
On Tuesday, Jamie saw my therapist. My therapist is quite good at what she does, and got Jamie from "I’m mad, I hate it here, I want to run away" to acknowledging that she needs limits. She was palpably relieved when my therapist told her that not only is it entirely reasonable for her to want limits, but also that it is reasonable to ask W. to help set the limits and enforce them. My therapist actually suggested that what Jamie needs is a "strict authority figure," and this was without any of my parts having said something along those lines in the past. And then my therapist offered to call W. and talk with her about setting rules and consequences for behavior. Because of time conflicts, what we actually decided was to have W. come to a therapy session, and we (me, Jamie, my therapist, and W.) would discuss rules and consequences together.
Jamie felt a great deal better after that session, and W. and I had reason to hope things would improve. Unfortunately, Jamie is 14. So when she imagined the conversation she (and I, and my therapist) were going to have about setting limits, she behaved as though that conversation had already occurred. She wrote a contrite note to W. apologizing for her earlier behavior, and waited a bit nervously for the consequences.
Unfortunately, W. wasn’t privy to the conversation Jamie had in her head. And further unfortunately, W. is not naturally a disciplinarian. Neither is she psychic. Nor is she a robot. When she didn’t realize that what Jamie desperately wanted was to feel like there were limits, Jamie decided that the way to show that was to behave worse. Which she did. And Jamie is often unable to realize that some humans respond to emotional violence either by shutting down emotionally, or by getting mad back. Jamie sees W. as an adult who often has things pretty much together, and it doesn’t make sense to her that W.’s first impulse at being sworn at is not actually to say, "Stop that. You are not allowed to behave that way." So when W. shut down, Jamie upped the ante.
She walked out of the house, destination unknown, and texted W. that bedtime should be rescinded "because we’re just going to fight about it." W., not being psychic, didn’t come up with the response Jamie was looking for (14 year olds are not allowed to decide unilaterally that they will no longer have rules). So Jamie’s behavior got worse again.
This continued through Wednesday evening, at which point W. caught on to what was happening. She got Jamie to sit down and talk, Jamie got a hard spanking, and we made plans for Jamie to discuss her behavior with my therapist and come up with further consequences for her behavior. It seemed like Jamie would be ok. She accepted responsibility for her behavior, and seemed to understand that she needed to behave differently in order to get her needs met. Things seemed fine.
Then things took a slight turn for the worse at bedtime. I think Jamie was testing the limits again, and W. (not at her best when she can’t get to sleep), argued rather than setting firm limits. She gave Jamie a short, hard spanking, and Jamie settled down to go to sleep.
In the morning, she started revving up again. Perhaps because she was the only one who participated in deciding what the consequences would be, she decided W. wouldn’t really keep up with setting limits, that W. would give up on her before long, and that she was pretty much on her own. She went back to raging and provoking W. Jamie destroyed more things, and was generally rude and worrisome to W. (mostly via text message) all day. Then, about an hour before she thought W. was going to get home, she finally thought of sitting down and writing about what was going on. She vented some of her rage onto paper, and got to a point where she was contrite.
Then she realized that W. wasn’t getting home when Jamie had thought she would. As soon as W. got off the train, W. and (per W.’s reasonable request) one of my adult parts would be leaving to have dinner with some friends. Jamie was FURIOUS. She needed limits, and could see she wasn’t going to get them.
And then W. made a tactical error. When Jamie continued pushing at a specific limit we’d agreed to the night before (rude behavior merits getting your mouth washed out with soap), W. said she would wash Jamie’s mouth out with soap when we got to the restaurant. Jamie knew she had won the round. Either W. would have to spend dinner out with Jamie, or another part would be the one to get their mouth washed out with soap. (And, a weird thing about D.I.D. is that physical things often really don’t carry over when I switch parts.) Since W. did want some adult time, she couldn’t wash out Jamie’s mouth.
So, of course, Jamie realized she had an advantage. W. might make a threat, but she wasn’t going to carry it out. But this advantage also terrified Jamie. She didn’t believe W. would be able or willing to set limits on her behavior. So, after we got back from dinner, Jamie started upping the ante further. Over the course of the next several hours, Jamie’s behavior got worse and worse, until the point where she provoked W. into saying (in almost the exact words) the thing Jamie most feared.
"That’s it. I give up. Get out." Obviously, W. didn’t mean what Jamie understood her to mean. W. meant she was giving up the battle for the night, and Jamie could follow through on her stated intention of leaving the room.
Jamie understood her to mean, "I give up on dealing with you or trying to enforce consequences now and for the rest of your life. Get out of the house, and we will not have a relationship any more."
So far as Jamie knew, her worst fear had come true. She gathered up her things and said, "I knew this would happen." W. realized what was happening, and clarified. Things calmed down a trifle, and Jamie was willing at least to grant that W. hadn’t meant what she said at that exact moment.
At this point, it was just after 4 in the morning. We had to leave around 9:30 a.m. to get to a family gathering. And W. had an absolutely brilliant idea. Rather than get too little sleep and go to the family thing feeling wrecked and tense, we should be utterly impulsive. So she suggested getting into the car and just driving around anywhere we wanted to go, with the eventual destination being the family gathering at noon.
Let me tell you, if you’re dealing with a 14 year old whose primary goal in life is to run away, saying it’s okay to just pick up and go somewhere with no destination, in the car no less, skipping sleeping at night… this is a way to make her feel understood, and like you’re willing to do something primarily for their benefit.
Because W. still doesn’t know how to drive that well, and because we’ve both agreed that my younger parts are not allowed to drive the car, Jamie sat in the mental back seat for the ride. This gave me and W. several hours to sort through the tangled mess of our relationship. It was good, if a little grueling. Somehow, it seems like a great deal of the progress in our relationship comes as we’re helping each other to heal from these periods of crisis.
Right now, the situation isn’t resolved, but it’s coming to a close. Jamie’s consequences have been decided, but mostly not completed. She’s getting another spanking, writing 12 pages of lines (feels like a million to her, but I think it’s closer to 400), losing computer privileges, going to bed early, and doing a bunch of chores at a reduced payment rate in order to pay to replace the things she destroyed. Right now, she accepts the consequences of her actions. We’ll see if this continues to be true as they begin to be enforced.
Sorry for such a long post. If you’re still reading, we’ve come to the specific reader-participation part of this post. ;P
So remember how my therapist said that Jamie needed a "strict authority figure" and that a good candidate for this would be W.? And how my therapist was going to help me and W. set up rules and consequences for our household? And how this idea was something my therapist initiated pretty much on her own? (It was the reason Jamie was frustrated and angry, but Jamie was not the one to bring up the root cause of her anger.)
Yeah, that. This means, essentially, we’ll be setting up a system of domestic discipline with my therapist. It’s kind of decision time. Many of the major consequences W. and I use are not things that a therapist who isn’t kink-friendly would bring up–spanking, of course, but also corner time, lines, mouth-soaping, and so on. And, given my history, how on earth do I not only bring these things up, but make clear that they are not caused by my abuse history? Mostly how I am confident this is true is the way my mental energy feels afterwards, and that’s something that’s hard to convey.
So if you have any thoughts on this, I would really appreciate hearing them. And if you’ve had experience discussing kink in general, and domestic discipline in specific, with your therapist (especially if it’s not a therapist you already know is kink-friendly!), that would be even more appreciated.