Dissociative people often lack coherent narratives of their pasts (Mary Main & Dan Siegel). I'm finding that they often lack coherent visions of their futures. Today I "installed the future" in a formerly dissociative client, who has given me permission to tell this story.
When "Linda" was 6 weeks old, her mother became gravely ill and was hospitalized for several weeks. Linda was passed around to different relatives, none of them parents, until her mother returned home. After that Linda, was different, sometimes frantic, sometimes shut down. As a teenager, she was in and out of mental hospitals, overdosing on drugs, and acting out in big ways. Later she settled into a long-term relationship with some good earned attachment, became a respected professional and had two kids. She came to me two years ago, functional, but prone to huge swings in mood, perspective, and ego states: DDNOS in presentation, possibly DID.
After two years of intensive EMDR, Ego State Work, Brainspotting, and great therapeutic alliance, Linda, in her late 30's, is stable, adult, and integrated. A few months ago, after a violent death in her family, Linda had the normal reaction of fearing for her own mortality. In discussion, she revealed that she couldn't see her future. Her future felt like one second away, even thinking of herself as 90 years old, felt like a momentary blip. Her past, too, felt like a blip. Dissociation had stolen a coherent sense of time.
I stole a piece from Lifespan Integration (Peggy Pace), which leads kid parts up past years, year by year to the present. Instead of doing it in the past, I led Linda through the years from now until her 90's, including the changes in her body, her kids, her partner, her parents, her work life, her age-appropriate world view, and technology. In 20 minutes we visited developmental stages from now until old, old age, while I administered bilateral stimulation.
When we were done, she said something like, "Wow, that was great! You've given me the future. I feel much calmer. For the first time in my life I can imagine what it would be like. It's not just a blank, like my childhood. . . I feel safer and less afraid of dying, since I can imagine living. I know that anything could happen, but I had no alternative in my mind to something happening. Thanks!"
At the end of session, we agreed to go back and use Lifespan and the bilateral stimulation to bring coherence to her life, up until now.