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In the last section, we discussed ‘talking through.’ ‘Talking through’ is a technique to ensure that as many alters as possible are actually listening.
In this section, we will discuss memory assembly. We’ll first identify characteristics of memory fragmentation, and then we will examine two techniques for memory assembly. The two techniques for memory assembly that we will discuss are the affect bridge and the memory bridge.
As you know, even in non-DID clients, traumatic experiences often produce fragmentary recall of an event. In a multiple, the memory of a traumatic experience may be contained within a single alter, or it may be spread across several alters. When a memory is divided among several alters, each alter may contain a fragment of the event, or one alter may contain the memory for the details of the event while others hold the affects generated by the event.
Would you agree that it is the therapist’s job to help the client reassemble the whole memory, both content and affects, and to integrate this structure into the person as a whole?
♦ Characteristics of Memory Fragmentation
For DID clients, memories can be a large, multidimensional puzzle that the therapist and client have to assemble one piece at a time. The client will continually provide clues, but he or she does not know the answer either, and powerful psychic processes are at work that attempt to suppress, distort, or otherwise impair recall of traumas. Time, patience, trust, and working through alter by alter, level by level, will slowly assemble a coherent and chronological picture of the trauma that precipitated and perpetuated the client's fragmentation into a multiple personality.
♦ #1 - Affect Bridge
Affects are often a useful place to start. Braun has described his work with a modified form of the "affect bridge" technique originated by Watkins. This involves identifying a strong, but often contentless affect and tracing it through alter personalities. In the affect bridge technique, the client moves along a chain of affect or sensory/somatic associations rather than idea associations. You might find that this technique is most appropriate when your client reports recurrently experiencing a major affect or sensation that is presently troublesome and has no obvious cause. The affect-bridge can be used with the client as a whole or with specific alter personalities.
Here's how the affect-bridge works:
Would you agree that allowing the affect to change often leads to a better understanding of the interconnection of the complex, multilevel affects associated with specific traumatic events? As with Talking Through to gain the attention of all alters, the affect-bridge can aid in the unification of emotions and memories.
♦ #2 - Memory Bridge
As you can tell, the memories (often recalled as intensely vivid images), together with the affects generated by this experience, were divided among several alters. Sheila had several additional alters connected with this episode who were not discussed above, but all were connected to memories or affects associated with this event. Once the general outline of Sheila’s past trauma was determined, it was possible to deduce some of the missing pieces and search for alters who contained these elements.
Think of your Sheila. Has your DID client presented with unexplained somatic signs or symptoms? Has he or she described partial memories or emotions for which there is no apparent explanation? How can the affect bridge and memory bridge techniques benefit your client?
In this section, we have discussed memory assembly. We identified characteristics of memory fragmentation, and then we examined two techniques for memory assembly. The two techniques for memory assembly that we discussed are the affect bridge and the memory bridge.
In the next section, we will discuss the internal self-helper of the DID client. The techniques in this section can be productive for finding your client’s internal self-helper and working with your client’s internal self-helper.