Dissociative parts at their most amusing/confusing/frustrating

We came across a metaphor in another blog regarding everyday coping and our reaction to it was so typical of many of the metaphors that have been told to us in a healing context.  I would reply to the person who has the metaphor in their blog, but this is more about our reaction to it, rather than anything that could help them…  It might have helped them smile, but I didn’t want to run the risk.

The metaphor…
There is a smooth soccer field that represents daily experiences, with the triggered unconscious memory creating a gopher hole in the field.  You watch for the pattern of gopher holes and use a feather to gently smooth the disturbed dirt back over the holes to smooth them out.  The important part is to look for the gopher hole patterns.


Young parts – But won’t that hurt the gophers?  They need the holes to get out and feed and everything?  Gophers are cute, we need to save them.

Protectors of the young parts, trying to reassure the young parts – The gophers aren’t really there, they’re just pretend gophers.  We don’t even have gophers in New Zealand.

Perfectionists – We must smooth out those holes at any cost.

Organisers after hearing the young ones concerns – So if we re-locate the gophers, can we fill in the holes?  Suddenly a re-location plan for non-existent gophers gets under-way.

A cynic – What do we care about soccer fields for anyway?

The frustrating thinker – But if we cover up the holes with the gophers in them, aren’t they just going to create more holes elsewhere on the field?  Isn’t covering them up just like repressing the memories that has got us into this mess?  This will trigger our need to be perfect.

M – this is similar to the metaphor we used to describe our life a few years ago with our first therapist.  But we said the field was like the Killing Fields in Cambodia as they are now – it’s lush and gorgeous on the surface, but the unexploded land mines are just under the surface waiting for us to step on.

B – Well OK, I just sat back and observed.

This incident does help us understand why we seem to go in circles with our healing so often.  This sort of thinking and conversation all happened at once.  Within minutes of the metaphor being mentioned, a field had been created internally and the organisers were drawing up plans for the re-location (of the non-existant gophers).  A complication came in when the perfectionists said that no one was allowed to walk on the field because they might make the mess worse.

Ohhh we’re so literal at times!


16 Responses to “Dissociative parts at their most amusing/confusing/frustrating”

  1. 1 thevaguecollective March 19, 2009 at 1:36 pm

    aahhhhhhhhhhhh, we SO relate…. very clear explanation of what’s going on in our head so often…. we are linking to this!~ :D

  2. 2 castorgirl March 19, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    It was really amusing and frustrating to observe…

    The metaphor was not told to us in a healing context, but we seemed to take it and run with it. But we couldn’t get past the gophers to the part of the metaphor that is meant to be the purpose of the whole thing – the pattern of the holes :)

    Take care

  3. 3 David Rochester March 19, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    I couldn’t get past the damned gophers, either. Actually this metaphor seems so profoundly unhelpful that I think I’m going to ask my therapist why anyone uses it. It seems pretty universally bothersome.

  4. 4 castorgirl March 19, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    It does seem a particularly bizzare metaphor. If you are going to talk about metaphors, it would help if it had some relevance for the person – and preferrably not include the destruction of cute furry animals homes!

    Sending positive thoughts and wishing there was something we could do to help…
    Take care…

  5. 5 Amie March 19, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    I smile, only because i can relate to this :) save the furry ones lol.
    On a more serious note, i get ya. I go in the same circles at times

  6. 8 Samo March 19, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    That’s why I prefer to use metaphors involving inanimate objects only.

    But. Since inanimate objects are simpler then living beings, i.e. lack the necessary complexity in order to be metaphor for something alive and complex…as human psyche is, I always end up with the most complex inanimate objects (i.e. computers and software)

    I don’t understand why would anyone want to (ab)use any living being in order to create a metaphor. It is triggering to us due to the fact that our inner children would always identify with a living thing.

    • 9 castorgirl March 19, 2009 at 11:37 pm

      One of us is still thinking over the computer metaphor that you used in your blog… It’s a great one.

      Just reading the small part of the metaphor that David provided created a trigger response for us – as can be seen by the number of ones involved in the discussion. Everything was to try and ease the fears of the young ones – the gophers aren’t real, the soccer field is meaningless so let the gophers trash it, let’s re-locate the gophers so that they can live and we can fix the field… It was such a strong response to something that wasn’t even aimed towards us or our healing.

      So many other things could have been used in the metaphor instead of the gophers…

      • 10 Samo March 19, 2009 at 11:49 pm

        Re: “One of us is still thinking over the computer metaphor that you used in your blog… It’s a great one.”

        Thank you, Castor Girl, for your kind words.

  7. 11 Sam's the most (too much) righteously bold & creative alter March 19, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    Re: “Actually this metaphor seems so profoundly unhelpful that I think I’m going to ask my therapist why anyone uses it.”

    Why would any therapist who should have known better want to (ab)use any living being in order to create a metaphor! That’s the real question! Good one David!

    (And, please, Samo, it is my job in our system to be bold, with so many bold lines above you clearly exaggerated – an insider joke).

  8. 12 MarjakaThriver March 20, 2009 at 4:05 am

    What a great post! I had to laugh out loud, especially at the perfectionist part. It reminded me of one of my parts so much. Are the part “types,” such as perfectionist, protector, organizer, names you gave them yourself (or titles maybe I should say)? Or is this something out of therapy lingo? My old therapist told me about “Managers,” “Firefighters” and “Exiles.” I can’t remember where he got those titles, but I think it was from some training he got. They fit some of my parts very well.

    • 13 castorgirl March 20, 2009 at 11:50 am

      Hi Marjaka,

      No these were just names that I assigned to the different functional roles that the different ones fulfill in this life. We do have M or Management who is named based on her primary role, but the rest of us have names that were given for a variety of reasons. I haven’t heard the terms “Firefighter” or “Exiles” before… Interesting concepts…

      Ohhh I was laughing at the whole thing too… which is very unfortunate because I know how frustrating the whole thing was for the person who was originally told this metaphor.

      Take care :)

  9. 14 David Rochester March 20, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Just as an FYI about the treatment metaphor … my therapist didn’t invent it; it’s used in the training book which was written by a very experienced trauma therapist, so I’m even more curious as to whether my/our reaction to it is unusual, or whether I’m simply not explaining it correctly, or it didn’t go into my brain correctly, or what.

    My therapist is very experienced with DID clients, so it’s interesting to me that so many people to whom I have related the metaphor are so disturbed by it. I think that perhaps the metaphor, as written, doesn’t have gophers, but rather just “gopher holes” that appear. However, I can’t get past the gophers. *sigh*

    • 15 castorgirl March 20, 2009 at 11:44 am

      I think it’s the child’s logic – if there’s gopher holes, there must have been gophers to create those holes.

      Looking at the comments from the others in the blog, it does seem that there is enough of a reaction to the metaphor that your therapist might want to re-consider the elements of the metaphor. It could also be a “problem” in that your intelligence meant that you jumped along the tangent of the gophers when other people may not have seen it.

      I’ve only ever seen photos of gophers and that was enough for us to go off on the gopher tangent. But for me it became humorous with our organisers sorting out a relocation plan for these poor non-existent animals. Anything to ease the fears of the young ones.

      Take care…

  10. 16 jumpinginpuddles March 22, 2009 at 11:22 am

    hmmmm a soccer field or a huge bloody big football stadium where the seating keeps getting changed LOL

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