What is Co-Consciousness?

I find the term “co-consciousness” a tricky one to deal with when it comes to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) terminology. It’s taken, literally, years for me to wrap my head around the term. It’s only now, after a conversation with my helpline counsellor that I think I fully understand it.

Co-consciousness typically refers to the sharing of consciousness between alters. Often, it seems, people think of co-consciousness as only being between the “host” (another tricky term) and one or another alter.

From my own experiences co-consciousness can occur between alters, between myself (the host) and one alter, and/or between myself and a group of alters. The degree of co-consciousness will vary with each and every situation. It’s never the same, ever.

Let me go back a step for a moment. Let me explain what co-consciousness actually is. It is a sharing of consciousness but that, to those who are not psychologically minded, may be just as confusing. At it’s full extent it can be the sharing of thoughts, feelings, memories as well as being “front”/”out”. However, this isn’t a black and white issue (I don’t think DID isΒ ever black and white) and the degree to which these are shared can vary greatly.

The extent of co-consciousness can vary greatly. I think it helps to think of it on a sliding scale. For example – I (Rach) could be 90% present, but Miss 5 could be 10% present. The way that this presents can vary as well! With the previous example it would usually present with me (Rach) as being present and Miss 5 in the background.

How do I know someone is in the background? I think of it as “foreign” thoughts or feelings. Thoughts that appear from nowhere and don’t seem to fit with my usual way of thinking. Feelings that occur out of context and don’t fit with my usual feelings. It’s rather difficult to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it.

It can be that I’m 40% present, but a group of littles are also around and the remaining 60% of consciousness is split, not necessarily equally, between the group of littles. Let me repeat – there isΒ no black and white with DID. It varies for each individual system and varies within each system. There are no rules, no generalisations. Although DID is a very specific diagnosis it can, and does, present in a myriad of ways.


45 thoughts on “What is Co-Consciousness?

  1. Reblogged this on Crazy In The Coconut and commented:
    A big part of my DID centres around co-consciousness. Rach here has written an extremely good piece on what co-consciousness is and how variant it can be. Please give it a read – she’s explained it much better than I ever could! Thanks Rach xx

  2. OMG THIS is my constant state of being at the moment. It explains so much, as to why I’m struggling and being the way I am. Thanks for writing this !

    • I’m glad it’s helped you feel like less of a freak, that is awesome! …but I highly, highly doubt you’re even a tiny bit of a freak πŸ™‚ Dissociation doesn’t make someone a freak!

  3. Dear Rach, I think your blog is helpful to many people. You articulate what others are unable to do. In your psychlogy studies I hope you have read “Sybil” by Flora Schreiber. I knew her, Sybil/Shirley Mason and Dr. Cornelia Wilbur and have written about them after Sybil/Shirley’s cure in “SYBIL in her own words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple Personalities and Paintings.”

  4. Thanks for this post. It’s helped me understand it a lot better. I do have a question though. Are co-consciousness and co-awareness the same thing? Sometimes I see it used together as meaning the same thing and then sometimes I see the terms being used by others to mean too different things.

    • Hmmm… Looking at the two words “awareness” and “consciousness” individually does suggest different meaning. I haven’t come across “co-awareness” before. In my mind I’d make a distinction between the two based on the different definitions for each word.

      I think co-awareness would refer more to sharing an awareness with each other, of others inside… As opposed to the sharing of consciousness. But the consciousness does also involve awareness!

      Hehe, I think you’ve opened a can of worms with that one! I’ll have to think about it in more detail at some point (currently lying in bed after waking up & checking thing on my phone).

      • When I think of the words I think – Co-consciousness is them being there with you. You can share thoughts, feelings/emotions, communicate with each other. For some reason when I hear Co-awareness, I think you’re aware that the alter is present but don’t share the same emotions. For instance, when I’m co-conscious with an alter I can communicate with them, keep doing what I have to. But if I’m co-aware of them, then I can sense that they’re present but I can’t stop whatever they’re doing – I can just see them doing it, watch them but not interfere. Hmmm, great now I’m confused even more…lol.

        • That’s interesting. I think I’d combine the two that you describe… but, cover the differences between them as the common variation that is present across the spectrum of co-consciousness.

          Does “co-aware”, for you, mean that the alter/part is also aware of you? Otherwise that is simply awareness. For me, co-consciousness can vary from an awareness of another part inside to them being out/front and me being aware of that, as well as the potential sharing of thoughts and feelings.

          • I had an incident last month where I was co-conscious with a child alter that was feeding himself. I could stop it and had to because there was food all over the place. Another alter came out and ate but I couldn’t stop him, just watch. I’m not sure if he was aware of me or not. I didn’t try to communicate with him, I think I was in shock because of how he was eating.

            If co-consciousness is on a spectrum then they could very well mean the same thing, just different levels of consciousness. That makes it easier to understand as well. Thank you.

        • That is actually a great suggestion for the destiction between co-conscious and co-aware.
          For me, I am only co-aware when Lacy presents herself. She’s very agressive and takes over. I can see what she is doing and i remember all her actions but it is not how i would ever act. She was also the first personality i became aware of and over the last 4 years i have discovered there are 6 others who occassionally come out. Typically it is as co-conscious, in that I hear “suggestions or comments” from them which are not my usual response to a particular situation.
          Ive been physically ill lately and have noticed more outward presentations of all my alters than in the past. Im thankful I’m fortunate enough to be co-conscious, I have one alter I call the destructive one. I wouldn’t let her take control last night because she wanted me to jump from a moving car going 70 on the interstate while my husband was driving. She scares me, what if she gets agressive like Lacy and takes control? The physical illness has nothing to do with my DID but I’m afraid the weaker I get physically, the easier it will be for her to cause me to do something stupid and destructive. The problem is, doctors still are not sure whats wrong with me physically, so more test to be done. Hopefully I can keep fighting off the destructive one and her bad suggestions too.

        • When your dissociated and watching them act out, do you think / analyse or do you just watch and reflect on it later when your back in charge, as I do?

  5. You explained that, really, really well. We can relate to that, completely. I attempted to explain it, in a similar way- though, I am not a wordsmith.
    Great post!

  6. This is the first time I’ve read something that actually makes sense and explains so much of what I experience. Thanks for your very simple, easy to understand explanation.

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  9. I described how my duality works in my head (I’m gender fluid as a result) to my daughter who just completed a psychology course and she told me I’m co conscious, so Google’d the word and found your excellent artical and would love to publish sections on my blog please.

    • I’m sorry for the slow response. We’re currently in hospital and in over our heads with everything we need to work on.

      I’m so glad you found my post helpful. You’re welcome to publish sections on your blog as long as long as you cite our blog as the source. πŸ™‚

  10. πŸ˜€ I had a looong back and forth between myself and who I think was the “original” occupant of the body, and she committed mental suicide. So… I got left. I totally did NOT match the age and gender of the body… so… yay for reconcilling that. But pretty stable now :D.

  11. I am new to all of this and not sure if I fit into DID or a different form of dissociative. Maybe someone could offer insight. I have always had a feeling if an inner secondary self that usually is pushing me to try to cause self harm ( ie: telling me to crank the wheel when I’m driving, flashing images in my mind of a secondary me that is twisted minded , hurting my day to day self.) It is very hard to push these thoughts out or carry on with the day. Also, during intimate moments, I will suddenly feel very childlike and actually stop and cry and vocalize that I have “been a bad girl” and usually curl up in the fetal position and cry. This mentality is also triggered when my husband says the word “girl” to me during intimate moments. You can imagine how this can cause some tension. There are also times when I feel I am in a dream like state or a drunken fuzz and I am not my normal self, almost like I am glazed over. During these times, I am very detached and laugh and smirk at my first selfs thoughts very mockingly and is very seductive, sexually aggressive, almost dominatrix like. During all of these events I feel like I am somewhat present, remember bits and pieces but seems more like a dream when trying to recall then anything. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Sara,
      Unfortunately I can’t give personal advice. It does sound like you may have DID, but that’s something you need to explore with a trained mental health professional. I hope that you’re able to do that because it sounds like your current symptoms are causing distress.

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  13. i can’t believe this. although i did receive a diagnosis for DID i felt like i couldn’t really claim that since i don’t experience black outs and my other self and i work as a team… but everything you said is how it is for me. the percentages.. being back or front… i relate to this so much and its comforting to know i’m not the only one.

  14. Hi I had amnesia about my amnesia, so was completely unaware of having DIDS until I got all these retro memories. I would say I’m now Co conscious 60/40 in my favour but she has awareness of stuff that I don’t know about, so I don’t know how much were co aware and may never know. We can only communicate about what we’re both co conscious about (so that’s a lot). But if if I’m not aware of some of her memories and her thoughts and feelings on those, so we can’t be co aware about them. It is literally like having two people in my head, with her as my best friend who occasionally takes over. As we can’t communicate about stuff I’m not aware of, I have no real understanding of how it feels to be her, does she feel enfuriated not to be able to be herself, to act the back legs of our “pantomime horse” does she feel imprisoned, resentful, depressed, terrified about not being able to convey information to me of someone who has wronged me in the past, whilst I act all friendly! Generally I feel the more I know of her, the better she feels but If any one has any insite how it feels to be an Alter, I would be greatful to find out.

    • Communication might come with time, and possibly not in the ways you expect. Some of my parts share images in my head, others write, some draw, some talk.

      Unfortunately it’s something that takes time. Sometimes a long, long time.

      • I feel that she is basically living in a walking talking prison. It’s no wonder that there is so much depression, in our system if that is the case.

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