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 is 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 is 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.