What does integration feel like?


Hi all,

I don't have formal diagnosis but a lot of work in therapy is about my parts and trying to establish who is who, who feels what, separating out all the feelings and recognising them. I haven't figured it all out.
Since therapy I have had 3 occasions where I have experienced this whole body feeling of joy or happiness. It's been in response to changing my name. Is this what integration feels like? Can you have integration when you don't know all about your parts yet?
I have felt happiness (I thought!) before. But I have never ever felt this whole body feeling. It's been lovely and a revelation.

Is integration something that can happen like this - because of a reason and then separate out into parts again?

Or what exactly is integration?
How does it feel like?
How do you know it's happened?


I don't think, for myself, that integration is an 'aha' moment. For me it has been more like a slow and methodical process.

The good thing about recognizing I have split into parts is knowing that I can consciously create a new part as my new container part. The future and integrated me part. My end goal is cohesion. Cohesion, to me, is walking towards a life that is not attracted to the re-enactment of my trauma. It is also about recognizing mind/body splits (things like compulsive eating, attraction towards people who are harmful to me, the part of me who has no awareness of being mindful of my body, etc).

Each day I wake up with an awareness of the container self (yes, I have recently changed names - which labels the container part). I have an awareness of that part outside of me (no idea how to describe that), and build routines around that part that support my body health first and foremosst. That part drinks warm water every morning. Most mornings that part makes fresh pressed juice. That part of me goes for a walk most days. That part of me exercises to relieve the stiffness that comes with the adrenal failure that accompanies trauma. That part of me is meticulous about sleep time. Almost 12 hours of bed time. That part of me is engineering a proper name change. Legal and all.

I take the best of my other parts with me. The part that is dedicated to the wellbeing of those I love. I am conscious of that parts deficiencies in not recognizing m,y history of lack of discernment. The part of me that doesn't recognize when too much is too much but at the same time sticks with stuff that most wouldn't. I guess the idea for me has been to try to balance out the dichotomy of one who has been so traumatized throughout life. The idea for me is to leave the judgement against myself behind and just acknowledge and try to picture a better way moving forward.

I think I recognize that I am integrating myself because my life is working out better now. I feel a sense of peace overall. I feel more in control without having to grasp for it. I have more of an awareness of my body and what it needs. I have a genuine liking of myself and who I am. I have no interest in other people's opinions of me and refuse to get caught up in snippy shit. I am better able to take (and therefore assign) proper ownership to myself and others.

I am not certain if this helps or not.....


In my opinion and experience, integration is not a matter of insight or feelings of happiness but a state of mind so present that you feel truly connected with all both in pain and joy. For me one value I always had was to accept myself in both truly diabolical to caring human being I have become from my trauma and childhood. I did not value one state over the other cause I had experienced both growing up. But yet over the years, I have been dissociating, avoiding anxiety, daydreaming, practicing bravado of reaction formation to fear, to sadness, to shame etc. and I did not even bother therapy cause well I accepted how f*cked up I am as a person (the rotten apple does not fall too far from the rotten tree - my mother). So I lived unconsciously happy, joyful person and consciously difficult, hateful but so conscious of it, I learned how to manage it logically. But to have that is opposite of integration. To manually split unconscious and conscious and continue to imitate and learn without understanding foundations of self and the mind is traumatic and opposite of integration. Trauma is breaking the psychic, body and mind. Integration is when they all aligned at once.

When I went to therapy, I broke down completely cause all dams/defenses were removed and at bare minimum, I felt so much fear and sadness on one side (the true feelings of my childhood) and the other, I felt disgust, hateful and detachment (like I do not care and aggressively wtf like my mother showed me and buried in my body). So in therapy, I was not surprised when both sides started to come to the foreground when I am not in social setting where I am in control of myself. I did not resist. Whenever the therapist focuses on how bad it is to have dissociation, to be so unconscious, I started (after few years) to entertain the benefits of dissociating? What is the benefit for the adult, the animal in me for this?

And weirdly, and randomly, every time I have a deep dissociation, I felt I was breaking through massive barriers psychological and after I would have moments of what I considered deep understanding of myself. It felt like when you hear your absolute favourite song or music, and you feel it so deeply that it touches your gut, and you may have tears of sadness or love or pure bliss just for the sound going through your body! That moment of recognition with the music, with the present, fully mindful and yet experiential is (to me) what integration feels like - I connected with the present. Now you are right it is spectrum cause reality will always interfere...there you are standing fully mindful and hear the cry of your child...shit! worry takes over! but the more you remember integration moments and can recall them to experience another in the now...is healthy state of mind.

IMHO, people who are integrated are more skilled in maneuvering from the harshness of the reality to stay in the present without judgement. They are not jumping to the past or to the future as often. they are not like mentally triggered by a past thing or throw it to the future for unhelpful hopefulness. They just take it like the music and let it go through the body automatically, unconsciously, out of habit, and then feel easier to own their feelings and decision making process because there is no fight inside. They are not fully clouded by a fog. and even when integration becomes elusive, they are not defeated but feel the need for that state of mind like grieving etc. They are not fighting reality. They are utilizing skillfully and taking cues from the reality to reach equilibrium of in my thought right and left brain balance with the body. The most obvious integration is when a baby has a good sleep, diaper is changed, fed and touched lovingly and you leave them alone and they are just cooing! that is moment when all needs met and one just stays in the moment. Very hard for us as adults to do all the time that but we do experience them and if we are not slowing down, it passes very past...imagine learning to cultivate that for longer periods of time.

Long story but that is life again! it is not snapshot...it is a way of living most of the time. I work mental health and I can see when I put my hat at work, I am more mindful,staying in the present and fully listening and paying attention to clients. Of course there are times I become inattentive but I note that as part of the interaction and hold it not berate myself or blame the story of the client. It is almost like when I am with a person at work I am most integrated than when I am in my own life or even in my therapy...the irony! but then that is why I know the difference.


Thank you both for your replies.
I've read and re-read them, and taken a few days to reply as my head hasn't been in the right headspace (not sure it is still, so I don't think I will do your posts justice).

I really appreciate you sharing your experiences. Both make sense and are making me think.


Well the opposite of integration might be when faced with a choice and losing time while two or three parts argue about how to approach it, meanwhile the deadline to make the choice has already passed so the choice was never made, but the chance to choose was missed by default, resulting in frustration and exhaustion. (I speak from experience here).

Another situation might be when only one part is hosting and calls the shots, leaving others out of major decisions.

Another is when there is passive influence: the host thinks she is calling the shots but doesn't know why she is suddenly making a choice that is completely out of character, and later learns it was really the natural choice of another part.

Integration might be when everyone knows what everyone wants and has learned to come together and make a predetermined set of healthy choices that have been agreed upon in advance, or to set aside time to communicate and not put part of the self on the spot when making complex choices.

Or maybe the parts have decided to "fuse or collaborate" and the normal level of complexity in weighing options like a "normal" person who just has to contend with the past, present, and future and contingencies and others comes into play. This is great, until stress comes along, and they un-fuse, and any of the above could be the result again.

I do not think personality or parts are like vertebrae. They are not going to be fused and then permanently combined and invulnerable to disconnection again given the right quality or quantity of stress for a part to wish to skedaddle off on his or her lonesome once again.


I think it largely depends on whether you’re talking integration in a DID-Sense, or in an Avoidance sense.

Most “parts” & “parts-work” with PTSD is being eyeballs deep in Avoidance. Certain therapeutic styles looooooove working with that because it allows things to be worked on by removing them one step away.

Someone who might -without parts work- say “I got a little angry. Why? Dunno. It wasn’t that bad.” WITH parts work, and that distance between themselves will describe an out of control temper tantrum, no punches pulled in their description, selfish, self centered, bullshit behavior... totally honestly. Which would be a win all by itself. But that’s just the beginning. Because it’s not “them” having an out of control meltdown, but their “anger part”? They can ALSO see what led up to it, all the pieces in play, AND (oh yeah, there’s more) what works to get their “anger part” both under control then, and more in control the next time. AND a whole bunch of other things. Both overt and subtle. All because they’re able to take an outside perspective on what happened, becuase it “wasn’t them, but was their anger part”.

What integration looks/feels like in ^^^that^^^ kind of parts work? It’s wasn’t your “anger part” that got angry. You got angry. You had the screaming meltdown, that was brought on by ABC, made worse by DEF, made better by GHI, colored by JKL, and ETC. All the honesty & self awareness, none of the avoidance. Because it’s “you” it doesn’t change what happened, why it happened, how it happened, or how you see/think/feel about yourself. You’ve just become a far more 3dimensional person. Who gets angry. Who misbehaves. Who overreacts. Who does the wrong thing. Who makes mistakes. Who loses control. Instead of a 2D image of a person, with anger hidden behind the 2D image in your “anger part”.

What integration looks/feels like when parts of your past are integrated? Is much the same, but on a broader scope. You know that whole thing where a person would never blame any OTHER 5yo, 17yo, soldier, rape victim, etc., but because it’s them, they do blame themselves? As just one example amongst thousands. When it’s them it’s A, but anyone else it’s B. Or it’s not THEM who likes to climb trees, but their inner child? Or it wasn’t THEM who was assaulted, but “the 17yo?” (And therefore it’s the 17yo who’s angry, heartbroken, etc., not “them”). They don’t blame themselves, like to climb trees, and are sometimes angry and heartbroken.

- Parts-Work dealing with emotions (anger, joy, fear, whatever), morals (protector, perfectionist, etc.)... I tend to think of as unfolding the origami. You start out with a 2D picture of a crane, and end up? With a 3D crane.

- Parts-work dealing with events? I tend to think of as not lighting the crane on fire ;) IE accepting that the crane got here, and exists as beautiful &/or banged up as it already is; and not only doesn’t turn to ash because it didn’t spring full formed into life, but got here, somehow... but also doesn’t have to be set on fire to turn it into ash because it “shouldn’t” have a past. Yep. The 5yo, 17yo, rape victim, soldier, etc. are all parts of its past. As it sits here. Being all crane-y, and not a pile of ash. The past doesn’t have to be avoided & disavowed for it to be a crane. It’s still a crane. Regardless of what it’s past was. <<< Alternatively? Like a book. You don’t have to rip out whole chapters of a book, in order for it to be a book. It’s still a book, even with all of it’s chapters.
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What integration looks/feels like in ^^^that^^^ kind of parts work? It’s wasn’t your “anger part” that got angry. You got angry. You had the screaming meltdown, that was brought on by ABC, made worse by DEF, made better by GHI, colored by JKL, and ETC. All the honesty & self awareness, none of the avoidance. Because it’s “you” it doesn’t change what happened, why it happened, how it happened, or how you see/think/feel about yourself. You’ve just become a far more 3dimensional person. Who gets angry. Who misbehaves. Who overreacts. Who does the wrong thing. Who makes mistakes. Who loses control. Instead of a 2D image of a person, with anger hidden behind the 2D image in your “anger part”.
This I understand ^^, parts work I don't. I suppose since even if I felt like a 5 year old, or was reminded of how I think I thought or felt at 5 I wouldn't be processing without a 5(0) - year-old's mind.

So integration of 'parts' seems to me acceptance of the complexities of a human person(?). Some wounds are old, yes, but we have adult free will and reason (unless talking about DID or multiple personalities proper).

I always feel like these things could be explained in different ways: wounding; attachment styles; triggers; avoidance; self-sabotage; denial; physiology; co-morbidities- you name it. But no matter what precisely is the mix, it seems to me integration is honesty, acceptance, accountability, emotional regulation and self-responsibility. Otherwise we suffer +/or bring suffering on to others. JMHO without great understanding though. 😶

For example, with joy at changing your name, I would ask myself, what meaning and emotions did it represent to me, and what meaning do I assign to do it, or to a new one? Is it the self-autonomy that makes me feel joyful, or putting distance (mentally) to my past? Did I always dislike it, or do I yearn to be someone else or do I feel it's a new start? Etc. Or maybe it's something I longed to do, and now have (for yourself)?

So maybe integration is authenticity, and self awareness and honesty, being true to yourself, and also accountable?
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That was a very good post @Friday .

I've been trying to formulate a post myself but you said it so well I don't need to.

I just want to add that DID isn't excluded from what you said. It's basically the same,alters are just"parts" and avoidance to the extreme. They're not actual,real people inside afterall. And integration is basically the same too.


Thank you all.

I feel like I need to mull all this over. I wonder if that is becuase I'm not anywhere near any of it?

Re my name change. I did a lot of work with my T before I did it, to work out if I was trying to be someone else and distance me from trauma. I think there is an element of trying to distance myself from it. But mostly it feels like reclaiming me. My parents didn't "choose" my name, they just made do (in my opinion) and it never fit me at all. My chosen name feels like me.
And I wondered what this whole body feeling was.

But to be honest: I'm not sure I know anything at all! What I think I feel and know, turns out I don't.


For me, integration involved a slow progress, but it didn't need for me to be aware of all of my parts. I don't think that I am still aware of all my parts. In a way, I'm not sure whether you can ever be sure you know them all, in my experience that is, might be different for others.
I have only had one part 'integrate' and disappear. It was a child part and it involved a long process of talk therapy and working through memories. It involved that part being able to finally feel safe and accepted. How it worked with my child part is that they actually grew older the more we worked through things. Eventually this part became an adult and then wanted to explore the world. My other child parts still refer to her as being on 'holiday' as they couldn't handle the idea of integration. Integration can often be a difficult word for people with DID and their parts. It can be viewed as a form of death and sometimes I think it's important to be careful with the word as depending on the person and the parts it can work detrimentally if they see that the ultimate goal of therapy is for them to 'disappear' or 'die'.