Is It Possible to Know All of My Alters?

July 17, 2019 Becca Hargis

Do you know how many alters your system contains? Can you ever really know how many parts you have?

It is important first to understand how our parts are created. According to the theory of structural dissociation, alters are created when an existing part cannot cope with the new trauma and stress in the system, so a new alter is created out of necessity. The first time the abuse occurred to you as a child, you did not automatically split into your current system of alters. You initially split into two, and, as the abuse continued, more parts were created to handle the trauma. 

I Know of 30 Alters

I don't think I know all of my alters. In my system, we have roughly 30 members, but 30 of us were not created all at once. As we were continually subjected to abuse, a new part needed to be created to handle the pain.

What about now? Do we still split when there is stress in our lives? As a result, could there be even more parts of which we are unaware?

The answer is yes.

When my mother unexpectedly died recently, the existing members of my system did not have the emotional resources to cope with the level of stress her death brought to us. The trauma of losing my mom could not be integrated with my emotional state, so spontaneously a new headmate was created to handle the grief ("How the DID Host of Our System Protected Our Lives").

So as you continue on in life and inevitably encounter more stress and pain, it is possible you could create more alters if your current system is unable to handle the stress you encounter. If this happens, you might never know how many headmates your system contains.

Not Knowing All Your Alters

Another reason you may never know all your alters is that some parts may stay hidden because they are too damaged to come forward. The trauma your alters suffered may be so severe and damaging that to evidence themselves to others would cause too much instability and make life unsafe. 

So in a system of alters, there is not a specific number you reach and then you are done splitting. That does not mean you will still be creating alters for the rest of your life. As healthy coping skills are developed and therapy and treatment are undertaken, the system can cope with each day's stress and additional alters are no longer needed. 

I recommend keeping a list of your system's members. One day I sat down and went through all the journals that my headmates and I had written in and made a list of all the members who have come forward and made themselves known. We compared our list with a list our therapist made. We discovered that he had names of parts who have come out in therapy, the names of whom I was unaware. This reflected that there were still headmates in our system who had not come forward to me. As a result, it is impossible to know every alter or to have a final count of all the members in your system. 

Communicating with the Alters You Know

But all is not lost and one would never give up on trying to meet and understand each part. A system of communication must be set up in order to meet your alters. Keep a journal and write to your system. Use their personal names if you can. Artwork is also an effective tool used to communicate with them. You can also leave sticky notes around your home with little messages of compassion or genuine questions you have for them. Listen carefully and without judgment when they reply. Be open and curious with what your headmates want to share, and always show them you care about them regardless of what they have to say.

Showing Gratitude to Your Alters

It is true that while I wish to know every alter in my system so that I might feel more complete and whole as a person, the reality is knowing all my parts will probably never happen. Your system and however many alters it contains has worked hard to keep you alive and functioning. They have taken on the suffering and pain that you were not able to hold. So, no, you may never know all the members of your system. However, we can still be grateful for our system's existence and protection, especially the alters we may never know.

Tags: know alters

APA Reference
Hargis, B. (2019, July 17). Is It Possible to Know All of My Alters?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 22 from

Author: Becca Hargis

Becca is a mental health advocate who is passionate about ending the stigma against mental illness. She is currently writing a book on her experiences with dissociative identity disorder. You can connect with her on her personal blog, TwitterFacebook and on Instagram.

S. Johnson
December, 7 2023 at 12:29 pm

Hi, Ms Hargis. My name is Scott. I know that I have something, but not fully. I have been told I said things during conversations that I don't remember saying. It's like I blinked and people were looking at me, telling me I said something bad. I will give more details in email. Does this qualify me? Thanks.

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