Dissociative parts at their most amusing/confusing/frustrating

We came across a metaphor in another blog regarding everyday coping and our reaction to it was so typical of many of the metaphors that have been told to us in a healing context.  I would reply to the person who has the metaphor in their blog, but this is more about our reaction to it, rather than anything that could help them…  It might have helped them smile, but I didn’t want to run the risk.

The metaphor…
There is a smooth soccer field that represents daily experiences, with the triggered unconscious memory creating a gopher hole in the field.  You watch for the pattern of gopher holes and use a feather to gently smooth the disturbed dirt back over the holes to smooth them out.  The important part is to look for the gopher hole patterns.


Young parts – But won’t that hurt the gophers?  They need the holes to get out and feed and everything?  Gophers are cute, we need to save them.

Protectors of the young parts, trying to reassure the young parts – The gophers aren’t really there, they’re just pretend gophers.  We don’t even have gophers in New Zealand.

Perfectionists – We must smooth out those holes at any cost.

Organisers after hearing the young ones concerns – So if we re-locate the gophers, can we fill in the holes?  Suddenly a re-location plan for non-existent gophers gets under-way.

A cynic – What do we care about soccer fields for anyway?

The frustrating thinker – But if we cover up the holes with the gophers in them, aren’t they just going to create more holes elsewhere on the field?  Isn’t covering them up just like repressing the memories that has got us into this mess?  This will trigger our need to be perfect.

M – this is similar to the metaphor we used to describe our life a few years ago with our first therapist.  But we said the field was like the Killing Fields in Cambodia as they are now – it’s lush and gorgeous on the surface, but the unexploded land mines are just under the surface waiting for us to step on.

B – Well OK, I just sat back and observed.

This incident does help us understand why we seem to go in circles with our healing so often.  This sort of thinking and conversation all happened at once.  Within minutes of the metaphor being mentioned, a field had been created internally and the organisers were drawing up plans for the re-location (of the non-existant gophers).  A complication came in when the perfectionists said that no one was allowed to walk on the field because they might make the mess worse.

Ohhh we’re so literal at times!


22 thoughts on “Dissociative parts at their most amusing/confusing/frustrating

  1. It was really amusing and frustrating to observe…

    The metaphor was not told to us in a healing context, but we seemed to take it and run with it. But we couldn’t get past the gophers to the part of the metaphor that is meant to be the purpose of the whole thing – the pattern of the holes 🙂

    Take care

  2. I couldn’t get past the damned gophers, either. Actually this metaphor seems so profoundly unhelpful that I think I’m going to ask my therapist why anyone uses it. It seems pretty universally bothersome.

  3. It does seem a particularly bizzare metaphor. If you are going to talk about metaphors, it would help if it had some relevance for the person – and preferrably not include the destruction of cute furry animals homes!

    Sending positive thoughts and wishing there was something we could do to help…
    Take care…

  4. I smile, only because i can relate to this 🙂 save the furry ones lol.
    On a more serious note, i get ya. I go in the same circles at times

  5. That’s why I prefer to use metaphors involving inanimate objects only.

    But. Since inanimate objects are simpler then living beings, i.e. lack the necessary complexity in order to be metaphor for something alive and complex…as human psyche is, I always end up with the most complex inanimate objects (i.e. computers and software)

    I don’t understand why would anyone want to (ab)use any living being in order to create a metaphor. It is triggering to us due to the fact that our inner children would always identify with a living thing.

  6. Re: “Actually this metaphor seems so profoundly unhelpful that I think I’m going to ask my therapist why anyone uses it.”

    Why would any therapist who should have known better want to (ab)use any living being in order to create a metaphor! That’s the real question! Good one David!

    (And, please, Samo, it is my job in our system to be bold, with so many bold lines above you clearly exaggerated – an insider joke).

  7. What a great post! I had to laugh out loud, especially at the perfectionist part. It reminded me of one of my parts so much. Are the part “types,” such as perfectionist, protector, organizer, names you gave them yourself (or titles maybe I should say)? Or is this something out of therapy lingo? My old therapist told me about “Managers,” “Firefighters” and “Exiles.” I can’t remember where he got those titles, but I think it was from some training he got. They fit some of my parts very well.

  8. Just as an FYI about the treatment metaphor … my therapist didn’t invent it; it’s used in the training book which was written by a very experienced trauma therapist, so I’m even more curious as to whether my/our reaction to it is unusual, or whether I’m simply not explaining it correctly, or it didn’t go into my brain correctly, or what.

    My therapist is very experienced with DID clients, so it’s interesting to me that so many people to whom I have related the metaphor are so disturbed by it. I think that perhaps the metaphor, as written, doesn’t have gophers, but rather just “gopher holes” that appear. However, I can’t get past the gophers. *sigh*

  9. Those responses are dead-on from your system. Sometimes I feel I can’t relate very well to other DIDers, but that proved me wrong.

    Gophers drive me batty! Down with gophers! 😉


    • I’m glad you can relate Lisa… I got a bit of flack about this post on some other blogs, but this was the internal conversation within minutes of the metaphor being suggested. It is what it is…

      Having never met any gophers, I consider them the cute furry animals you see in pictures 🙂

  10. I remember watching CADDYSHACK with my son, who thought the war between the gophers and Bill Murray was hilarious. I thought it was futile.

    Reading the replies along with the post, this morning, cracked me up.

    Thanks for putting this up! What a great read.


    • One of us is still thinking over the computer metaphor that you used in your blog… It’s a great one.

      Just reading the small part of the metaphor that David provided created a trigger response for us – as can be seen by the number of ones involved in the discussion. Everything was to try and ease the fears of the young ones – the gophers aren’t real, the soccer field is meaningless so let the gophers trash it, let’s re-locate the gophers so that they can live and we can fix the field… It was such a strong response to something that wasn’t even aimed towards us or our healing.

      So many other things could have been used in the metaphor instead of the gophers…

    • The comments got a bit muddled up as in the transfer from my old blog – it seemed to lose all the “reply” ordering…

      I just remember snippets of Caddyshack… that’s where I get the image of the cute little gopher 🙂

      Take care,

  11. P.S. This metaphor would never work well in the area where I was born and raised. Gophers holes are a hazard to livestock. If horses or cattle accidentally step into one they often break a leg and have to be put down.

    Lost income, crabby cowboys, rodent identification… My brother’s head would explode if he were ever given this metaphor to ponder.

    I must be very tired. This just gets funnier the more I think about it.

    Who on earth would use a feather to fill a gopher hole?


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