Writing by Snake, with help and art from Worm

You may have heard the term "inner conflict" before, usually referring to someone having conflicting emotions or opinions. With DID/OSDD-1, that phrase goes to a new extreme, as members of the system can be in conflict with each other as well!

An orange goat is making a frustrated expression, and holding their hooves over their ears. Above them, a thought bubble shows them arguing with another member of their system, a purple duck. The two of them are yelling at each other.

All systems will have inner conflict at some point. It might be over something trivial, like what to wear for the day. Or it may be something serious, like major life choices, trauma, or even destructive behaviors. Even if you're all on good terms now, it's good to learn how to handle it in a way that's healthy for everyone, in and out of the system.

The first, most important thing I want to stress is that just like any other conflict, brute force is just as likely to cause problems as it is to solve them. Often, systems will talk about "locking up" or "punishing" system members that are being uncooperative, but this generally backfires. Please remember that the others in your system are a part of you, and vice versa! By punishing another system member, you're only going to delay the problem, and also make it worse.

If there's conflict, there's a reason for it. Even if you aren't sure of the reason, or see the other side as unreasonable, it's important to understand that no one is being uncooperative just for the sake of it. In DID/OSDD-1, there is no opportunity for us to separate ourselves from the rest of our system, so we have to take the harder, but more rewarding approach: conflict resolution!

Basic Conflict Resolution

We'll start with basic advice on how to work through a conflict, assuming you have ways to communicate and system members that are willing to talk things through. A lot of this is advice you could give to anyone, but there are a few particulars to being in a system!

Start out by figuring out what it is that each side wants. Don't propose solutions at this stage, just go in with intent to listen, get to the core of what each of you need, and figure out why it's important enough to cause conflict. If you're able to communicate with words, use statements that start with "I" – make it about your feelings on the situation, and avoid blaming the other party. Sometimes at this stage, you might find that you have a common goal, just different ways of approaching it! This is especially common with conflicts between protectors.

Once you've found the conflict between you, the key is to change the way you look at it. This isn't you vs. them – it's both of you, tackling the problem together! This is especially true in a system. By default, you are a team, and if something is getting in the way of your teamwork, it's something you need to work together to resolve.

Now that you have those out of the way, you can start working on solutions. Let both sides have a chance to propose solutions, and talk about what might work best for the both of you. Be sensitive to the other side's needs, and gently assert your own when needed. In an ideal situation, you'll find something that works great for everyone! But be prepared to make compromises, or agree to try a few different strategies until you find one that works.

Let's look at a low-stakes example (or, skip to the next section). Two members of the same system disagree on their weekend plans. One is really excited to go to a concert, but the other doesn't want to go. We'll call them A and B.

A explains that music is very important to them. This concert is their favorite band, and their music has helped them through some rough times. They've also felt restless and lonely recently, so they want to go have a fun night dancing with friends.

B explains that concerts tend to overwhelm them, if not trigger them, because of all the loud noise and movement. They're worried they could get hurt in a mosh pit, or judged by their friends for shutting down. They want to be safe.

While the original conflict was over whether or not to go to the concert, their wants reveal that B's issue isn't with the concert itself, but with being safe at it! In the end, they decide the best solution is to go to the concert, but take precautions. A and B plan to let A front for the concert, but they bring earplugs and sunglasses in case B ends up switching in. They let their friends know that they might get overwhelmed, and tell them how to help if it happens. And, A agrees to stay out of the mosh pit, and instead to dance further back in the crowd.

A is very happy that they still get to go to the concert to get some energy out, and B is reassured knowing they have a backup plan, and that their friends are there to support them!

Working Around Communication Issues

Unfortunately, communication isn't always so easy with DID/OSDD-1. Your system might not co-front much, so direct communication is difficult. Or, one member of the system might be difficult to reach, or fronts infrequently. You'll have to get creative in situations like this.

The simplest strategy is to leave notes for one another! We call this asynchronous communication. It's slower than having a real-time conversation, but with a little patience, it's just as effective. If you have a system journal that you use regularly, you can try writing it there, so that other system members will be sure to see it. Or you can try using something specific to important conversations, such as sticky notes in an easily visible place.

You can even try doing this digitally, through avenues like Discord (Pluralkit is a bot that even allows you to send messages as individual system members)! Antar is another app that may be helpful, it allows for conversations with different "personas" that can help you work through tough issues, including example conversations. For smaller conflicts, you might also be able to use a poll. Simply Plural has this built in, if it's something you already use!

If you struggle to control switches, you can also practice some exercises to try to call another system to the front. You can use positive triggers (things they enjoy or are associated with, and so are likely to make them switch in) to try to bring them forward to communicate more clearly, or have them front to respond to messages another system member has left. It's a good idea to keep track of your system's positive triggers, they can come in handy for all sorts of situations!

If you have an inner world, it can also help to have a designated "meeting space" that you can invite other system members to. Imagine yourself at a table, blanket fort, or any other space that's comfortable for you, and simply ask for the system member to come talk with you! Be sure to be welcoming, even if your relationship is tense at the moment. This can take some time and work to do consistently, you may get little to no response the first several times. Keep trying, it's one of the best internal communication tools you can have!

(We have more in-depth articles planned for asynchronous communication, positive triggers, and meeting spaces in the future. They'll be linked here as we make them!)

Here's another, more complicated example (or, skip to the end). One member of a system was invited to a party, and agreed to go, but another member of the same system is apprehensive about it. We'll call them C and D. C fronts more often than D does, and they have poor internal communication, so they're struggling to work through their feelings on the situation.

C is excited about the party, and has already made the commitment to go and bought a whole new outfit to wear to it. They were planning to be the only one fronting for it. D is also excited about the party, and was hoping to front for it as well, but doesn't like the outfit C picked out. They're also frustrated that the decision to go was made without them.

C tries to reach out to D to work through the conflict, but because D doesn't front very often, they have trouble getting through to them. As the party date approaches, C gets frustrated and impatient, and ends up being the only one to front at the party. When D comes back after the fact, they're further upset that they didn't get to go at all!

C leaves a note in their system journal for D, apologizing for going without them. They also leave a Discord message explaining that they weren't sure what to do when D wouldn't respond, and want to try to figure out a better way to handle events like this next time. D responds, thanking them for the apology, and asks if they can have help fronting more often.

Over the course of a few weeks of trading messages, the two of them work out a plan. Since C fronts more than D, C works on using D's positive triggers to call them to front more often. The two of them also set up a new room in their inner world, where they work on trying to meet internally so they might be able to have real-time conversations. They also spend some time shopping around for a fancy outfit that both of them would want to wear!

Finally, D sets up a guideline for what they'd like to happen next time: whenever C is invited to a big event, they should wait three days for D to have some input. If they don't respond by then, then C can make the choice alone so that it doesn't pass them by.

The next time that C gets invited to a party, they say they need to check their schedule before they can commit to it. That night, they try to meet D in their inner world, and are able to get D's input on going. This time, they wear the new outfit that both of them are comfortable with, and they use their work with positive triggers to make sure both of them have a chance to front and enjoy the party!

In the long term, it can be helpful to improve your system's internal communication for situations like this. Here are a few articles we wrote on that, we'll add more as we write them!

This covers the absolute basics of handling conflict in your system, but unfortunately, intra-system conflict isn't always so easy to resolve. Trauma can introduce all sorts of complications into these methods, and a lot of these strategies require a lot of trust and communication! In a future article, we'll cover some more serious kinds of conflict, such as with self-destructive or abuse-mimicking members of the system.