Each week, at least, I check my Google blog’s stat page, and in the process, I check the list of words or phrases that have brought people to my blog.  Today I found that somebody had reached my blog by typing “Ego-State Therapy–I don’t understand it” into a search engine, and because this particular therapeutic modality has been so essential to my healing, I decided to write a post on the topic.  If you type “Ego-State Therapy” into the search engine on my Google blog, you will find that I have written about the therapy in many of my posts, but I have never described my journey through the process from start to “finish.”  I put “finish” in quotes because I’ll never be completely finished with Ego-State Therapy.  I learned in therapy how to use this modality to achieve inner peace and freedom from my PTSD symptoms, and I will continue to do this work with my ego states as long as I live.  My C-PTSD will never be completely “cured,” but I will continue to heal for the rest of my life so long as I use the skills and techniques I learned in therapy.  

Listed below are three articles on the topic of Ego-State Therapy that might help you understand the basics.  If you read them before you read the description of my own process, you can see the theory and how the modality works.  My own process differs in some ways from the traditional process, but the principles of my process remain in line with those of the traditional process.  My process has led to healing, and that’s what is important to me!  (A brief, to-the-point definition of Ego-State Therapy)  (A site with lots of helpful articles about Ego-State Therapy.)  (A page with links to helpful articles on Ego-State Therapy.)

Finally, I have found Ego-State Therapy to be an excellent preparation for EMDR.  The insights I received during Ego-State Therapy amplified and enhanced the insights that came from my EMDR sessions.  I think of that saying “The whole is composed of more than the sum of its parts.”  Ego-State Therapy + EMDR= Healing!  And healing is, indeed, much more than merely “the sum.”  

My Own Trip Through Ego-State Therapy:  Background Material

For seventy years I had suffered the misery of Complex PTSD symptoms–the nightmares, the anxiety, the dissociative episodes, the derealization and depersonalization, the flashbacks–all the miserable symptoms that made my life so difficult and caused me at times to wish I were dead.  By the time I was five years old, I felt as if there was a full-blown war taking place inside my head, and the war stopped only when I was asleep, at least my conscious awareness of the war stopped.  At that young age, I didn’t know that nightmares and horrible dreams could reflect the activity of the unconscious mind.  By the time I was six, I experienced my “Alice in Wonderland” days, the times when the ordinary appeared weirdly different from usual and when I felt myself to be living in a world where I seemed to be the only person who knew I existed.  Like Alice, I often felt myself to be so tiny that I was afraid I would disappear completely.  

As a young child, I knew my life was a struggle, but I assumed that everyone struggled as I did.  I didn’t know this for a fact because I said nothing to anyone about the abuse I had endured, and I said nothing about what was happening in my mind.  I said nothing because the important adults in my life were also my abusers.  One and the same!  I kept myself to myself, observed the acceptable social behaviors of other children, and did what I needed to do to fit in.  

I credit my Sunday School teachers and other welcoming and accepting adults at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church for giving me the nurturing environment I needed to stay afloat and not give up on life.  Looking back, and I am reluctant to admit this, it wasn’t faith in God or Jesus or the Holy Ghost that kept me going so much as it was the kind and loving attention I received.  But, then, I was a child, and God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost were abstract concepts that did not mean as much to me as being treated with kindness and respect meant.  My parents were nonbelievers and seldom stepped foot into my church, and for that I was grateful.  In church, I was happy coloring pictures of Jesus holding little children on his lap, singing songs about how Jesus loved me, putting pennies into my mite box for poor people, and learning about martyrs and saints and how I could be a saint, too, if I said  my prayers and obeyed the Ten Commandments.  In church, I learned how to see myself as being a valued child of God, and I learned what might now be classed as “old-fashioned” values and how to be a good person, something that my parents did not teach me.  What I learned as a child at my church sustained me and gave me the desire and courage to survive.

As an older child and a young adult, I struggled to cut through the chaos and noises in my head that threatened to block my thinking, and I managed to force myself to ignore the anxiety that threatened to rend the fabric of my inner stability.  Somehow, I kept myself together through the flashbacks and functioned well enough to meet the expectations of my parents and the other people in my environment and graduated from college.  And then I got married.  Then came twenty years of repetition of the abuses I had endured as a child.  Only when I had reached a point where I was no longer able to reassemble the fragments of my mind by myself–I called the days when I felt impossibly fragmented my “Humpty Dumpty” days–did I get help.  After six months of therapy, I slowly realized that I was not the cause of every bad thing that happened in the world–and in my home.  My eyes opened, and I caught my husband in the act of molesting our daughter.  I reported him to the police, and then I knew I was free to help my daughter recover her life and also free to make my own life whatever I wanted it to be.  Thus began my journey toward healing.

Looking back, I believe the most important piece of advice I could give to anyone with a background of abuse similar to mine is this:  LOOK AT THE ENDING OF YOUR ABUSIVE MARRIAGE/RELATIONSHIP AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHAPE YOUR LIFE INTO WHAT YOU HAVE ALWAYS DREAMED IT COULD BE!!  That’s what I did.  I asked myself, “If I could have any life I wanted, what would that life look like?”  I answered that question. And then I set out to make my dream a reality.  And I succeeded.  I have no regrets.  

I made that decision in 1981, shortly after turning my husband in for child sexual abuse and filing for divorce, and then I planned my course.  I knew I needed to include therapy in my life’s plan because I had experienced so much benefit from working with my first therapist.  From 1983, when my therapist retired, until 2010, I tried to find the help I needed to bring about peace in my psyche.  I saw no fewer than 15 therapists before I found the person I saw from 2010 until recently.  One person along the way gave me an accurate partial diagnosis of PTSD–C-PTSD was pretty much an unknown at the time–but then he relocated to another part of the state before he was able to help me.  Otherwise, I saw a lot of well-intended therapists and a few who, it turned out, were not so well-intended, but I survived and continued seeking a definitive diagnosis and appropriate help.  Without an accurate diagnosis, how, I reasoned, would I find appropriate help?  Good question!  However, in April of 2010, after following up on a referral by a well-known Portland, Oregon, psychiatrist, I found the right person and had my first appointment with her.  Thus began my trek toward significant healing and peace.

Next time:  My ego states begin introducing themselves to me, and we commence our work together.