Embracing Communication with Alters

February 7, 2024 Kristian McElroy

Every morning, I think about communicating with my alters. I embark on a journey within myself, stepping onto the internal bus where my alters await. With a roll call and a gentle reminder that I'm the sole driver, we set out on the day's path. Over the years, my alters, and I have traveled a winding road of unproductive, hostile communication, marked by fear and instability at the outset. But with time, understanding, and perseverance, we've learned to navigate this intricate terrain, fostering a dialog that supports our overall wellbeing by communicating with alters.

Communicating with Alters Is a Journey

I've found living with dissociative identity disorder (DID), communicating with alters is a fundamental aspect of daily life. These alters may manifest helpful, supportive, logistical, disruptive, confrontational, or harmful behaviors, posing challenges to stability and functionality. Yet, through patience, empathy, and creating a toolbox of strategies, we found a way to cultivate better communication and collaboration among alters within my internal system.

Communication with Alters Toolbox

In my journey living with DID, I've discovered several tools that have proven invaluable in facilitating communication with my alters.

  • Listening actively -- By offering an empathetic ear to each of my alters, regardless of their demeanor or language, I validate their experiences and emotions, fostering a sense of respect and acknowledgment within my system.
  • Establishing boundaries -- Setting clear boundaries and communication protocols provides a structure for my system. This lessens the yelling and fire alarms I internally experience, which makes it easier to communicate with my alteres and build trust and stability.
  • Providing space -- Allowing each of my alters the space to express themselves without judgment encourages authenticity and paves the way for building trust that I will help alters get their needs met and shows that we can support each other as a team.
  • Attending therapy -- For me, therapy has been a mixed-bag experience. However, having a therapist whom I connect with, whom my alters feel safe with, and who has experience with DID and internal family systems (IFS) work has offered me invaluable tools for managing conflict, addressing trauma, and promoting communication among alters.
  • Being self-aware -- The way I talked about myself and having DID was pretty negative until the past year. This negative self-talk about me and my alters sent a message of hostility, which did not help establish safety or trust. I have learned it's okay for me to have a bad day, but being aware of how I am engaging in self-talk and how my self-talk is impacting my alters helps lessen the animosity within my system.

Moving Forward Communicating with Alters

Through my experience,
Through my experience,
Through my experience,
Through my experience,
Through my experience,
Through my experience,
Through my experience,
Through my experience,

I've learned navigating communication with my alters involves acknowledging their individual struggles and needs and viewing them not as adversaries but as fellow travelers who have supported me through my trauma and in life. This has helped me foster empathy and understanding for my alters, laying the foundation for constructive dialog and collaboration. 

While progress may be gradual, embracing the diversity and complexity of alters within my system enables me to work towards healing, everyday functioning, and improved overall wellbeing. 

APA Reference
McElroy, K. (2024, February 7). Embracing Communication with Alters, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Kristian McElroy

Kris McElroy, diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) at 28, shares a transformative journey from a decade-long mental health struggle to fostering understanding and navigating life with DID, embracing parenthood, coexisting with alters, pursuing professional endeavors, and fostering interpersonal relationships, inviting others to share on the journey of dissociative living. Find Kris on Instagram, X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and his site.

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