Dissociative Identity Disorder: Mapping Your System

Alex Robboy, CAS, MSW, LCSW
Individual, Couples & Family Therapy
IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor
AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor
Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.

Posted by: Alex Robboy
CAS, MSW, LCSW Individual, Couples & Family Therapy IMAGO Certified Marriage Counselor AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor Founder & Director of the Center for Growth Inc.
267-324-9564

“Mapping Your System” is an exercise is designed for people struggling with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder.  Mapping your system will help you better understand the relationships between all of your alters.  Knowing the relationships between your alters can help you increase internal communication and enable everyone to work together more cooperatively.  Understanding these relationships can also help you learn more about each alter’s function or role in the system.  If you are working with a therapist, make sure to share your system map with him or her.  Your therapist might be able to help you make sense of your map or at least share their interpretation of it. 

Making Your Map

Use a large blank sheet of paper to draw your map on.  Always make sure you record the date on the map because it can serve as a record about your system.  Each of your alters will be represented by a circle with their name in the middle.  The host’s circle should be in the middle of the sheet.  The size of the circles should represent how often they occupy the host (not their general influence or importance).  Thus the host’s circle should always be the largest.  Orient the circles based on who they are close with.  The closer the circles, the closer the relationship.  The further the circles the more distant the relationship.  If you find yourself struggling with trying to figure out the proper circle size, just make your best guess.  At a different point in time you can update your map.  Keep in mind that you are record the relationships as they are in the present.  These relationships are not static and will probably change over time.
 

To help you map your system ask yourself, the host, the following questions about each alter:

  1. What percentage of time does [alter] come out and occupy the host?
  2.  Who is [alter] closest too?
  3.  Who is [alter] most distant from?
  4. Who is [alter] aware of?
  5. Who does [alter] spend the most time with?
  6. Who does [alter] seek out when he/she needs help?
  7. Who does [alter] help?
  8. Do different alters have different opinions about [alter]?  Ask to find out.

Interpreting Your Map

Once you have completed your map, step back and ask yourself how well you believe it represents your system.  Over the week make any necessary adjustments or changes to the map.  After you feel you have an accurate representation of your system (at least for this moment in time) ask yourself the questions below.  Make sure to allow for at least an hour to reflect on each question.
 

  1. 1. Are there distinct groups among my alters (as in social cliques)?  If so, what do the members of each group have in common with each other?  What distinguishes their group from others?
  2.  Who tends to act as the leader?  How did this role develop?  Is this person respected?  Does he or she do a good job?  How could his or her job be improved?
  3. Who is the most knowledgeable of all the other alters? What makes he or she the most knowledgeable? 
  4. Which alters seem to be loners?  What does he or she have in common with the other alters?  What is different about him or her?  Why does he or she play this role?
     

Tracking Over Time

Ideally you should map your system about every four months.  This will allow you to track how each alter is evolving.  Your goal as the host is to encourage the growth of each person.  To do so, it is important to properly assess each alter so that you can support each one in the way that best works for them.  It is very important to track changes because they could indicate progress you have made or alert you to problem areas or issues you need to work on.  Take your current map and compare it to your previous map.  With time and practice the actual mapping of your system will get easier.  However, you may find yourself needing more time to reflect on the information you have recorded, especially over time when there is more data to process.  To help you reflect on the changes in your maps over time, use the following questions below to determine changes in your system.
 

  1. Whose circle is larger? How did this develop?  Why are these particular alters coming out more often?
  2. Whose circle is smaller? How did this come about?  Why are these particular alters coming out less?
  3. Who has moved towards others? Why might they be doing this? What is the impact of this new relationship on the other alters? 
  4. Who has moved away from others?  What might be contributing to this distance?  What is the impact of the distance?  Is this distance something you would want to encourage or discourage? 
  5. How have the groupings changed?  When did you begin noticing these changes?  Why do you image this change occurred?
     

Remember…While living with DID can be challenging, there are tools, like the system map, to help you make life easier.  The system map is just one of several useful strategies to get to know your alters.  Other exercises to try include journaling to your alters, setting up a meeting between all of your alters, creating a timeline and completing a role/roll call sheet.  The more you know about your system the more likely you will be able to manage your system.  The changes you see over time can also inform you of areas you need to work on, as well as progress you have made.