Here’s an idea. It might work for you or it might not, but it’s worth a try.
The parts that hold memories usually share them with the part that is “you” when they feel safe enough. You, however, don’t always feel safe enough to attend to them. What if you are driving? What if you are at work? Or talking to somebody you don’t know very well? Bad idea to switch or to get deep into a flashback and not be able to pay attention to the present. It would be so much easier to have flashbacks come when you weren’t distracted.
So the idea is to reserve a time for the parts who hold memories to share them with you. A set amount of time every day — ten minutes, half an hour, whatever you can manage. Make it at the same time every day so that it is consistent. If you can’t manage every day, choose one or two days a week. Find a comfortable place and bring things you think you might like to have around. A soft pillow, say, or a blanket in case you get cold, maybe some tea or a glass of water. Paper and pencils might come in handy, too. If you can’t see a clock from this place, bring a watch or set a timer.
Having a consistent end to this special time is just as important as having a consistent beginning. If there is no set ending point, your parts may think that it will go on and on and on, and that is not reassuring.
Go to your chosen place and explain what you are planning to do. “This is a special time to share memories. It starts at … o’clock and ends at … o’clock. We will do this every day so that everybody can have a turn. I’ll tell you when it is close to the ending time.” Do this for several days to make sure your parts have heard and understood the plan. (You can even ask if there are questions.)
Then just sit. If a memory comes, fine. If it doesn’t, the parts that remember aren’t yet ready. Don’t worry, you will give them another chance, and another, and another. The goal for now is to set the stage for your parts to be comfortable. Keep an open mind, so that you are receptive to whatever may happen.
At the end, say, “It’s almost time to stop. We have two more minutes.” Then two minutes later, “It is time to stop. We will do this again tomorrow, starting at … o’clock. Please, all of you, save your memories for that time. Thank you!”
If memories start to surface at another time during the day, say, “Please save this for today at … o’clock. I will be able to give you all my attention then. Thank you!”
(Of course, you don’t have to use these exact words. Say what feels natural to you, but be nice to your parts. No name calling, no cussing, no “I told you a million times.”)
For some people, this works almost immediately. They stop getting flashbacks at random times and memories surface during the allotted time. For others, it seems that flashbacks stop completely, as if the parts holding memories were startled and unsure what to do. Some people continue to experience flashbacks during the day and it takes many gentle reminders about the special time for the parts to understand.
The key to success is consistency. Your parts need to trust you in order to feel safe enough to share and to develop the self-control to wait until it is their time. If you don’t keep your word, how can they learn to trust you? You have to be trustworthy!
If there is going to be a break in your routine, figure out how you will handle it and explain your plan. If you have to travel, explain that the place will look different, but they will still have a blanket and paper to write and draw on. And the start and stop time will be the same. If you have to change the time, tell them as soon as possible and let them know if the new time is only for a few days or for always.
You will find that your parts can be very understanding. But remember, the fewer changes the better: consistency is the key.
If nothing happens, how can you tell if your message got through? I don’t think you can tell if it has or not. But there are ways that you can raise the chances that parts with memories hear what you say.
First of all, speak out loud, rather than just thinking the words. It’s clearer that way, easier to pick out what you are saying from the background of internal chatter or from external noises from your surroundings.
Second, it can help to offer a choice to listen or not. “Anybody can listen to me. Nobody has to. If you don’t listen but decide later on that you want to know what I said, you can ask somebody who did listen to tell you. And I will say this again tomorrow.”
How long should you keep doing this? That’s up to you. If your memories appear at the chosen time, you may want to do this indefinitely, simply because it makes life so much easier. If you have tried for a while and it doesn’t seem to make any difference, you might decide that the technique isn’t for you. Or isn’t for you right now, but might be later on. Or you could try exploring, alone or with another person or with a journal, what is blocking your parts from communicating. Is it fear? Fear of what? What would help allay the fear? Maybe a stuffed animal. Maybe a much shorter time, so it isn’t overwhelming. Maybe the reassurance that they don’t have to do this, but they can try it if they want to and see what it is like.
Are any of you already doing this? If so, would you like to share your experience? Do you have any warnings or advice for those who would like to give it a try? And those of you who try it now, let us know what happened!