In my last two articles, I have explored with you, the topic of integration. So far, we have tackled what it is, what it isn’t, an alternate definition for it, and its stages.
In this article, I would like to discuss with you the final stage of integration, fusion.
There is a lot of resistance to this stage among the DID community, but there need not be.
Hopefully, by the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of fusion and feel more capable of working towards this important step towards ending the chaos that comes from remaining fragmented.
The Fragmented Self
Upon entering therapy, multiples begin traveling the long road of self-discovery of not only our pasts but also who we are in all our incarnations. We learn our alters names, their preferences, and the memories of what we endured that caused them to form.
To be sure, we owe our alternate selves our deepest respect and love because, without their existence, we could not have survived with our bodies and minds intact. They took the brunt of the fear and pain that was inflicted upon our bodies and minds when we were too young to defend ourselves.
However, it is also vital to understand that the alters in our fragmented minds are not strangers or even separate people. They are us and we are them.
The Chaos from Being Fragmented
I don’t think any person with the diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder would deny that being fragmented is very chaotic. Money, clothes and even relationships come and go as the alters in our systems ebb and flow.
I have had more than my fair share of chaos from being fragmented, as I have been accused of doing and saying many things down through my adult life.
Once I was told by a woman friend I worked with that I had threatened to kill her. After my actions, she would have nothing to do with me any longer.
I once woke up married to a man I barely knew and remained with him for over eight years because I felt obligated to do so.
I have also broken the law and had to sit in the police station pondering when and how I had done what they said.
These and events like them, are only some of the reasons I sought to end the chaos and literally pull myself together as closely as humanly possible.
I sought and worked towards fusion.
The Fourth Stage of Integration: Fusion
As I have written in a previous post (see it here), a lot of multiples are afraid of even discussion of integration let along its final stage fusion.
I think a lack of information on what fusion entails is probably the main reason why. In fact, if you google fusion as a stage of healing in therapy with dissociative identity disorder, you’ll find very few choices.
Unfortunately, many of those choices you do find during a google search on fusion are written by people who haven’t lived through the process themselves. This lack of first-hand information means google will bring up several conflicting explanations and misinterpretations.
Fusion, simply put, means accepting the alters in your system as parts of you but also beginning to think, speak and act as one person instead of many.
You incorporate all the wonderful parts of yourself that were never allowed to coalesce into one personality. Their talents, memories and skills and yours, merge as closely as possible to form one vital entity.
You also take full responsibility for your actions even if you should dissociate due to stress and no longer make statements such as, “she did that” or “he did this.”
Fusion does not mean the disappearance or death of the alters. The only reason I can say that is because doing either is impossible. The alters are you and you are the alters. If one dies, so do all of you. You are and will be together forever.
Fusion is NOT Becoming a Singleton it is Something Else
Fusion is not becoming a singleton, that is also impossible.
I have explained in other posts (see it here), during early childhood (usually agreed the age of 5) there is a stage when the personality of children coalesce was missed by people living with dissociative identity disorder. Our brains have been altered in structure and cannot re-enter the missed developmental stage and become one cohesive entity.
However, we can progress through the four stages of integration to become close, if not perfectly, to an approximation of being one whole person.
Fusion, as I have been experiencing it, means growing closer and closer to my alters and the gaps between us growing ever smaller.
This is possible because by working through the traumatic memories in stages one through three, the amnesiac walls that separated us have fallen. We have already reached cooperation, co-awareness and co-consciousness and fusion is the next step in that process.
As the gaps between all the parts of me have grown smaller, I have been able to think as one person going in one direction without the chaos I have known all my life.
The Powerful Article That Redefined My Thoughts on Integration and Fusion
I read an article four years ago written by Rachel Downing, L.C.S.W.C. It had been posted on the Sidran Institute website and until recently I didn’t understand what she was talking about.
In fact, the first time I read her piece, it disturbed me and made me angry.
Ms. Downing was polyfragmented and in her mid-40s when she began the final stage of fusion. She feared that she was too old, and she had too many alters to fuse, yet her therapist reassured her she was not.
For those of you who are new to DID lingo, polyfragmented means there are hundreds of alters in the system. This comes about by many years of horrendous abuse and/or torture.
Ms. Downing was speaking of one of the fears I’ve had, and I’ve heard others express, that we are too old and polyfragmented to fuse and should just not try.
Another fear Rachel Downing expressed to her therapist was that she would find it too difficult, if not impossible, to remember memories of her past and successfully work through them without her alters.
Once again, her therapist intervened, reminding her that people who have not any alters are still able to successfully process trauma memories.
I remember thinking that the memories were trapped in my alters, so without them, I would be unable to remember let alone put them into the context of the past. I have, like Ms. Downing, found this is not true.
Upon remembering a number of memories through my alters, I eventually found I didn’t need to become them to remember what I had been through as them. It was okay to not force alters to remember traumatic events for me, I could do it on my own and perceive them from an adult’s point of view.
This new perception was powerful.
Making the Decision to Speak in the First-Person
I realize this section may seem to some to be nit-picking, but I cannot express how important referring to yourself in the first-person is to the healing process and fusion.
Like you, all my life I’ve thought and spoken of myself in the plural. This happened when I was alone and speaking to someone else. I would use the term “we” instead of “I”, which earned me funny looks more than once.
However, speaking in the plural about myself is detrimental in that it invites the fragmentation and chaos to continue. So long as I could say “WE” instead of “ME” I could hide my thoughts, feelings, and emotions behind the veil of dissociation.
Remember, everything you have or will ever do isn’t happening to someone else, they are all your thoughts and behaviors.
One person doing many different actions.
Don’t believe me? Have someone film you while you are dissociated, and then watch the video. Yes, you may see a manifestation of an alter such as clothing or hairstyle but look again as someone without knowledge of DID would see you.
I guarantee you will only see one body, one face, one person, not many.
If they open your skull to do brain surgery, they will not see lots of different brains or people inside.
They will only see one brain.
So long as you keep using the plural “WE” when referring to yourself, you will perpetuate the myth that you are more than one person and keep yourself from healing as far as you can go from dissociative identity disorder.
The chaos will continue.
The Drawbacks of Refusing and the Power of Allowing Fusion
One of the greatest drawbacks from refusing to allow yourself to reach fusion is that you will continue to experience helplessness.
When you were a child you were indeed helpless, but now you are a grownup and the opposite is true. You and only you control your present and your future.
By not allowing yourself to reach and complete fusion, you rob yourself of the power that being all grown up brings into our lives.
We can choose where we want to live, who we want to love, where we want to work and get ourselves away from abusive, traumatic relationships.
By choosing not to finish integration, we leave ourselves vulnerable to and in control of those who harmed us as children. They, through our alters, will forever be in charge and we will never know the power comes from taking charge.
There is wonderful power in fusion that can never be realized in dissociation.
Then there is the benefit from fusion of knowing and accepting yourself with all your flaws and beauty. No matter who you are, as a human, you have flaws.
However, it is also true that all humans are beautiful, even the people society does not like very much.
The chorus of humanity is made up of many different faces, beliefs, and understandings, and we who have been diagnosed with DID are part of it.
When you fuse nothing is lost.
The talents, knowledge, emotions, feelings, memories, and flaws that once were held in compartments called alters, after fusion become who you are in totality.
There is pride and power in fusion.
You Cannot Rush the Fourth Stage of Integration
Fusion occurs spontaneously.
You cannot rush into it, you can’t even understand it very well until you reach it and only after going through the other three stages. I know this for a fact because until I was almost through the third stage, fusion made absolutely no sense.
I wish I could say that fusion is a quick process, but it is not. Depending on your therapist, temperament, and fragmentation fusion can take a few years or decades.
But, you know what? That’s okay.
The healing journey is challenging and sometimes fraught with danger, but the self-awareness and self-respect you gain along the way are priceless.
It has taken me three decades to reach fusion, but I didn’t have someone like me explaining the process and the pitfalls of healing. I had nothing to go on (and neither did my therapist) to help me along my healing journey, so I got stuck many times along the way.
That’s the main reason I share my travels and what I have found with you on this website, to try and help you not fall into the same traps I have.
The important thing to always remember is that even though you might not fuse your last alter until you are on your deathbed, the process of healing will have taught you much about yourself and others.
I have a much deeper understanding about life and the world than most anyone I know. This awareness is directly attributable to working on the issues that caused me to not fuse into one during my early childhood.
The process of integration to reach fusion is a process that leads to much self-love and self-appreciation.
Choosing Fusion is Powerful but Takes Maintenance
Multiplicity is a way of life, and we sometimes get stuck in it because we feel that we will have no specialness or identity without it. What I’ve been trying to share here is that multiplicity is a cage and to escape the prisons we have forged for ourselves as adults, we must make some decisions.
The decisions we make are hard, there can be no doubt about that, and we will make many mistakes along the way. However, if we do not make those decisions, such as to allow ourselves to experience fusion, we are cheating ourselves just and maybe more as the people who harmed us when we were kids.
Fusion can be but most likely will not be perfect nor permanent.
I’ll be honest here and say that I am speculating on the permanence of fusion because I have not been in this stage very long and have not finished yet.
However, Rachel Downing speaks about the permanence of fusion in her article. She speaks of how she must remain keeping herself on guard for triggering situations and be aware of her emotions to keep herself from using her old standby coping mechanism of dissociation.
As I have begun fusion, I too have noted that I must remain on the alert so that I can handle triggering events as a whole person rather than a fragment. I also must keep myself away from extremely stressful situations that are unnecessary and make sure I get enough rest.
These are only a few of the things that I have found to be vital in the maintaining of my fusion.
I realize that integration is a hard concept to swallow, and the fear that keeps many from finishing it. However, there really is no choosing integration as the first time you walk into your therapist’s door for treatment, integration began.
Fusion is the final step in the integration process that DOES NOT mean anyone in your system will die or disappear. Rather, fusion means they become so close to you that their thoughts intermingle with yours and you think as one whole person.
I put it to you, that thinking, acting and being one person instead of many is who we were meant to be and that by fusing our alters we are putting the final nail in the coffin of those who harmed us so long ago.
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” ~ Mary Engelbreit
If you want to ask me questions about integration, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not have all the answers, but I have a whole lot of lived experience I can share.