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Co-Fronting with Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder

February 28, 2024 Kristian McElroy

Co-fronting with alternate personalities (alters) in dissociative identity disorder (DID) is something I only recently learned about. Sharing my mind with multiple identities, each with thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, lends itself to interesting conversations. These internal complexities can lead to co-fronting (when two or more alters are in control of the body at the same time) while significantly influencing how conversations unfold internally and externally, depending on the factors present at the time. 

Co-Fronting and Conversations with Alters in DID

Until a few months ago, I had never heard of co-fronting. I learned about it in therapy. Co-fronting is:

"a specific type of co-consciousness in which two or more alters are in control of the body at the same time to varying degrees."1

For me, co-fronting with alters in DID makes every conversation become a delicate dance of managing identities and external interactions, working to ensure everyone feels heard and respected. However, even seemingly mundane discussions can trigger co-fronting between alters, disrupting the flow of dialog externally. It's like juggling multiple conversations at once, maintaining coherence while staying present in the moment and accommodating the diverse voices within. All of which can be disorienting. 

While my consciousness switching between alters ("switching") has decreased significantly over the past few years, co-fronting still impacts my relationships and everyday conversations. We've found the impact comes when triggered alters begin co-fronting, but they may not have the same skills or emotional regulation as I do. These conversations can look like a mini rollercoaster with twists and turns.

Learning to Co-Front with Alters in DID

To learn more about the impact of co-fronting with alters in DID, watch this video:

Co-fronting has taught me each alter may have different preferences, opinions, likes, dislikes, and communication styles. Co-fronting with alters in DID makes collaboration essential for navigating daily interactions smoothly. Picture a roundtable discussion where every voice has a seat and decisions are made collectively. However, the ins and outs of the day provide little to no time for roundtable discussions, which is why my system exists more as a mini rollercoaster, with two or more drivers at the wheel as we continue working to navigate co-fronting. 

Moreover, conversations can serve as triggers for switches or co-fronting, especially when the topic touches upon past trauma or deeply held beliefs within my collection of alters (system). What may seem like a harmless remark to one alter, could evoke intense emotions or memories for another, prompting a sudden shift in demeanor or communication style. 

Learning from Co-Fronting with Alters in DID

Despite these challenges, everyday conversations also provide opportunities for growth and understanding. Through dialog, I've gained more insight into the experiences and perspectives of my alters. Over time, this has fostered a deeper sense of empathy and cooperation within the system. Not every alter may be comfortable co-fronting in external conversations. Other alters may have much to say or be easily triggered, making for a bumpier co-fronting ride. Nevertheless, continuing to learn from my experiences has allowed me to understand what co-fronting with alters in DID means for our internal system and how this relates to our everyday conversations. 

My experience continues to show me that, while complex, everyday conversations while living with DID are a dance of managing internal and external dialogs. It's a journey of self-discovery, communication, and collaboration among alters, with each conversation offering opportunities for growth, insight, and understanding. 

Source

  1. Dissociative Identity Disorder Terminology. (n.d.). Multiplied by One Org | Trauma and Dissociative Disorders. https://multipliedbyone.org/dissociative-identity-disorder-terminology/

APA Reference
McElroy, K. (2024, February 28). Co-Fronting with Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2024/2/co-fronting-with-alters-in-dissociative-identity-disorder



Author: Kristian McElroy

Kris McElroy, diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) at 28, shares a transformative journey from a decade-long mental health struggle to fostering understanding and navigating life with DID, embracing parenthood, coexisting with alters, pursuing professional endeavors, and fostering interpersonal relationships, inviting others to share on the journey of dissociative living. Find Kris on Instagram, X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and his site.

Jimmie Thompson
May, 22 2024 at 3:31 am

yes what is a good book for the partners of a person with DID to read to better communicate with the love one?

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