If you're questioning, newly discovered, or just want to know more about your system, one of the easiest and most helpful things to start is a system journal. It can help with internal communication, self discovery, and identity building, and is also an invaluable resource for future therapy and figuring out your system timeline!
Your journal can be a physical book that you write in, but it doesn't have to be. You can also use a notes app, voice recordings, sticky notes, a personal Discord server, a private forum, or something entirely different! You can draw instead of write or type, if that's easier for you. You can even use multiple avenues, as long as you can keep track of them.
If you already know some things about your system, try to pick something that all or most of you will be comfortable using. If you don't, then pick whatever is easiest for you personally! One of the first things you can start logging is how you feel about your journal, and the medium you chose. If another system member wants to use something different, you'll have paved the way for them to express what tool they'd like better.
When you're first starting out, avoid signing journal entries with specific system members, and instead go in with intention to observe! I always recommend noting down your current emotions, but you can also consider writing what you're most interested in, what's currently frustrating you, how you feel about your body and name, or anything else on your mind. Try to make a short entry in your journal each day, either as part of your normal routine, or whenever you need to get something off your chest.
As you start to grow more confident with your journal, and as you start to learn more about your system, you can start to draw connections. Are there any journal entries that seem similar? Are there ones that are drastically different? If you have memory barriers between system members, are there any that you specifically remember writing? Conversely, are there any entries that you disagree with, or otherwise feel like you wouldn't have written?
If you're first getting to know your system, this can be a starting point for a list of system members. If you're already past that point, it can be a great way to get to know your system better. And in any case, make sure to be open to new patterns! Sometimes you might realize that "one" system member was actually two similar members, or that "two" system members are one that just has a tendency to be fickle. You might even find system members you didn't know you had! It's okay to be unsure of the details of your system and its members, and hopefully keeping up with your journal will help the picture become clearer over time.
As time has gone on, we don't journal nearly as much as we used to. These days, our system just writes entries as needed. But you might keep up a daily log, or even try to journal more frequently! Whatever ends up working best for you, I hope it helps you learn more about yourselves and each other.
If having a template would help, please feel free to use this one:
- Date, time of day
- Your current emotion (if you're not sure or have difficulty expressing it, then write about that!)
- One thing that you enjoy (something you're interested in, something good that happened recently, someone you appreciate, something you wish you had)
- One thing that frustrates you (something awful that happened recently, a specific person you dislike, something you wish was different)
You can elaborate as much or as little as you'd like, and you can also write down things you've already written down another day. In fact, that might help with finding patterns between entries in the future!
You can also ask yourself other questions. Here are some examples that might help!
- How do you feel about the name people call you? Do you like it? Is there another name you would rather be called?
- How do you feel about your body? Do you experience any dysphoria?
- What pronouns feel like the best fit right now?
- What does your internal voice sound like? How about your external voice? Are your speech patterns different from other system members?
- Do you like any particular stims? What are they?
- Are there any memories that stand out to you? (Be sure to trigger warn for the rest of your system, if necessary!)
- What is the last memory you remember clearly?
- Do you have a favorite color? A favorite animal?
- What foods do you like? Are you craving anything? Is there anything you refuse to eat?
- If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?
Good luck, and happy journaling!