Alters names

People often ask me how do I name my alters; the various parts of me, do I choose their names or do they. I know in the beginning names seemed to just come but in an odd way, mostly I had no idea I was switching but others would tell me I had and that they’d spoken to x or y. As therapy began a few years ago every time a new alter would appear there seemed to be a pressure from my then Therapist to name the parts. So it wasn’t uncommon for me to go to a session talk about events, about a certain memory or situation and then be challenged to name the part whose memory it was. This at the time didn’t seem wrong or too unhelpful, but then as the number of parts grew and names seemed to add to the complexity of the situation.

I had some alters who named themselves, often randomly and without warning I find they’d give me a name of their choice, but many didn’t and so they were given names by me. But then I stopped naming them, I think it was a culmination of events that brought me to the point were I stopped giving alters names, one of which was the breakdown in my therapy at that time. I no longer felt able to trust what had been apparently brought up in my sessions, I felt an unease and I wasn’t moving forwards.


When I began the process of internal dialogue shortly after starting with my psychologist last year I had a whole wealth of feelings that stemmed from different parts. I would know certain alters were around by the feelings I had, so my teen overwhelmed me but I didn’t know her name. Internal dialogue gave me an opportunity to understand the parts better and to work at getting to know them. I recall the discussion my psychologist and I had about names, I said I didn’t understand why the parts didn’t talk to me, didn’t listen or respond. I made reference to their names and he asked me whose names are they, yours or theirs.

I realised quite soon that the alters wouldn’t respond to me when I called them by the name I had given them, simply because it wasn’t their name. I realised how frustrating I have felt when people have referred to me by the wrong name and I wondered if the alters felt the same way. Then began a whole new turning point for us, I stopped trying to control these alters with names I chose and instead listened to them.

Now I’m not the most patient person in the world, so I still kind of expected them to give me the name instantaneously, which of course they don’t. I have parts who when I’ve communicated have simply said their name, but then I’ve had parts who haven’t told me. Instead of naming them I wait these days and if needs be I keep on waiting until they are ready to share with me their name. Now some have no name, but many I know do they just haven’t felt able to share yet. It is in truth a great deal to do with trust, trust between them and me.

A few weeks ago I had encountered a young alter, who had begun to communicate and I asked if she had a name. In my head suddenly came a name but instead of accepting it I tried to amend it. The name given was a name from my past, of another child I once knew and as a result I didn’t want a part called that, well that’s what I thought at the time. I responded to the part with a slight variation on the name I had first heard, but then she just went quiet. Perplexed I wondered if I was trying to name her and if so was this so wrong, so in my next session I explained things and said how do I know for certain if it is X or Y . I was told to be patient and told to use post it notes with the names written on so she could tell me.

The past month or so those post it notes have been stuck in my lounge, the names with different variants of spelling visible for all to see. The post it notes gradually disappeared and so there was  just two left, hard as it was I knew I had to keep hanging on waiting for the time when she was ready to tell me. I kept talking to her whenever I sensed her around, but I didn’t put any pressure on her to come up with her name. It was and still is important for the parts of me to feel safe, to trust me implicitly and to feel comfortable talking to me.


Yesterday I was in town looking at furniture in the shop I suddenly realised I was competing for control, as this little part of me was transfixed by a rag doll on a display stand. I used the opportunity for dialogue and I made every effort to try and share time, this is never easy especially when you are out in the big wide world. However my little me was clearly vulnerable, the world to her was frightening. She so wanted a dolly and she so wanted to talk to me too, I made an agreement about the dolly and I told her she deserved one, that she was an important part of me. As she appeared to gain in confidence, she said she didn’t mind if I wanted her to be called Y she could do that. I realised she was trying to please so I responded with the phrase ‘I want you to be called by the name you choose’. Then she shouted out loudly the name X, I had heard all those weeks ago but tried to ignore. This is her name, the one she has chosen and It is a name that I know I will grow to like, in fact I already do and yes it does reflect her personality.

I’ve learnt over time that for me at least names are important, I really don’t want my parts to have no names ,they deserve to have names and yet I want them to be their names. I want the alters to have the chance to identify themselves, to name themselves and not have my choices forced upon them. So currently there are parts who I had previously given names to who now have renamed themselves, parts who currently don’t feel able to share their name and parts who have told me their name. The reality for us now is that names come from them not me, and I am continuing to exercise patience when I need to. My little part yesterday finally trusted me, she now has a name and she is continuing to communicate with me. You could say my patience has finally paid off.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015


5 thoughts on “Alters names

  1. One of my family members informed me that none of them inside actually have names, they just give me names to make it easier to communicate. Which I can see that and how it would make everything run a little smoother.

    I have a Little who I call Peanut. She won’t tell me her name, maybe she doesn’t have one, but she likes Peanut and answers to it. The only family members that I named are the ones that I originally had no contact with – The Hider, The Holder, The Hummer – The Hider told me that she likes her name though so it doesn’t need to be changed.

    Some names are actually roles/personality traits. For instance Butch, is a butch lesbian. That’s where her name comes from.

    It’s interesting how your T was trying to push you to name them. There’s nothing wrong with having Child 1, Child 2 until communication and trust are built up. It just seems more respectful that way. I don’t like giving my name out to people I don’t fully trust, so why would it be any different for alters.

    Great post.

  2. Very interesting read. Great post.

    None of my parts have actual names, I gave them one at the beginning of my therapy as it was easier to talk about it with my therapist. They don’t mind their names, even if it’s more of a word or description for most of them.

  3. I’m very new to my DID dx and was having trouble communicating with a few alters because their names were related to movies, books or people I’m familiar with. Feeling I’d “made it up” caused me to reject the names. Reading your post made 3 of them to start crying through me because I’d been rejecting their chosen identity. Thank you for helping to open my eyes. I had no idea I was causing them such pain.

  4. I have had my first experience just recently how do I know who my first alter is it was a very stressful situation at a loss for now.

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