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The A-Z Blogging Challenge - F for Fronting and Forgetting

By Mia and Berlou

The criteria for dissociative identity disorder includes having two or more distinct identity states within one individual, and recurrent amnesia, within this blog post we will be exploring the phenomenon of fronting - being in the consciousness and control of the body - and the forgetfulness that people with DID have to live with. 


Forgetfulness is a normal experience for those of us with DID and can include amnesiac barriers between system members, memory fragmentation and gaps in recall - each self may have its own set of memories, experiences, and emotions, which can be compartmentalised and fragmented from one another. Memories can be stored separately and accessed only by the identity who holds them, leading to gaps and inconsistencies in memory.

These experiences are not the result of absent-mindedness or being forgetful but are related to the psychological mechanisms involved with dissociation.

Curiously, before we knew about our DID, we don’t recall experiencing the forgetfulness and amnesia that we do now, but perhaps before we didn’t switch as much, we don’t know - we know that there were several people within our system who were living our life, but since we found each other there are many more of us around, we share consciousness and we switch a lot, which causes dissociation and the associated memory loss too.


Often people with DID have very few memories from childhood and can have no idea about the traumas they experienced as a child. It might be that there are trauma holders who are holding their secrets from childhood, but in our case, our memory is strange and inaccessible, we have very few memories from childhood and most of what we do know feels more like information we learnt rather than actual memories of childhood experiences. 

We know where we lived, when we moved, when some significant things happened, and we have emotional connections to people and places from our childhood - but very few solid memories and the ones we do have are more like snapshots - a polaroid of an event, and that is all. 

For us, we had hundreds of dormant fragments, who we believe mostly held specific memories. Those memories weren’t terrible traumas, just normal childhood life experiences, but because we started fragmenting and compartmentalising when we were two, it seems that anything emotionally disturbing we conveniently boxed up and saved for later.

Even after all those fragments had been woken and healed, we still didn’t get all the memories back. The process of waking and healing happened inside, and we think we just processed the associated emotions out here, in the body, while Amber re-lived through each trauma inside, healing those who held them, and fusing them with each other or another system member. (But because we have little to no communication with our inner world, we have no memories of what she did, just the knowledge it happened).

We think this can be explained by the differing experiences of being an adult and a child - when we’re young, we don’t rely on language as we do when we’re an adult, we’re emotional and fluid, then we grow up and we want explanations for everything, we want logic and reasoning - in our experiences, this is not something you’ll get when healing, we’re healing things that were experienced by young brains, that didn’t have the capacity for logic/reason/language, let alone effective memory storage management.

So, we’ve pretty much accepted this as part of our life now, we know we have huge gaps in memory we’ll probably never fill in, and until we have done (even more…) integration work between ourselves, our poor memory is just something we have to live with and manage.


Unlike forgetting, which involves the suppression or fragmentation of memories, fronting involves the outward expression of different selves through behaviours, emotions, and perceptions.

Fronting can occur spontaneously or in response to internal or external triggers, these can be negative triggers (stress, trauma reminders, triggering language, or environmental cues) or positive triggers (feelings of safety and comfort, engaging with activities others inside like, music, or seeing something another is interested in, e.g. seeing soft toys might bring out a little). 

Depending on who is fronting, the system may exhibit distinct changes in demeanour, voice, posture, gait, language, interests, skills, and mannerisms. 

When we’re fronting, there can be different degrees of internal communication. A self might be frontstuck, which is the experience of being stuck in the body and unable to switch with others. Sometimes there might be communication with inside, othertimes we might be isolated, which can lead to doubts that we are a system at all, and can quickly spiral into denial too.

For us we think the experience of being frontstuck happens when there is something to process in the body, but there may be other reasons. Our most recent frontstuck event was after Mona was formed and she was stuck for about a month, processing all the feelings we had buried about moving house (see her blog post, C for Change, for more on her experiences).

Situational vs Contextual Fronting

Situational fronting relates to the external situations that influence who takes control, for example:

  • Home vs work/school: Identities may front depending on the environment - a professional or adult self may be more likely to front during work hours, while younger or more relaxed/playful members might front at home during leisure time.

  • Social interactions: Certain selves may front during specific social situations - a sociable and outgoing system member may front during social gatherings or parties, while a more introverted member may front in quieter, one-on-one interactions.

  • Stressful situations: In response to stress or trauma reminders, protective identities may front to handle the situation, or a trauma holder who holds similar trauma/emotions to those being experienced might be triggered out. 

Contextual fronting revolves around the internal experiences and emotional triggers that prompt switches. This could include environmental cues, emotional states, or trauma reminders that evoke specific identity states. For example:

  • Emotional triggers: Different selves may front in response to specific emotional triggers. For example, a trauma holder may front when confronted with reminders of past trauma, while a caretaker identity may front in situations that evoke feelings of compassion or empathy.

  • Environmental cues: External stimuli such as sights, sounds, or smells may trigger certain identities to front. For instance, visiting a familiar place from childhood may evoke memories associated with a particular identity, causing that self to front.

  • Positive triggers: As mentioned earlier, positive triggers can also influence which identities front. Engaging in activities that bring joy or comfort, spending time with supportive individuals, or experiencing feelings of safety and security may prompt identities that embody these positive emotions to front.

Safety and stability

When discovering our systems, our traumatised selves can need to feel externally safe and have external stability before they make themselves known and can start healing. This can happen within a therapeutic relationship, if we have situational changes which lead to feelings of safety (e.g. leaving an abusive family home), or perhaps if we have a supportive partner. For us, our system wasn't revealed until we had had many years of stability, which got shaken by the Covid pandemic, but we still had our home and husband, and that environment gave all of our selves the stability we needed to explore our trauma and heal.

Where fronting meets forgetting 

Forgetting and fronting are central to the lives of people with DID; they shape our senses of identity, memory continuity, and internal and external relationships. Understanding these phenomena is essential for living with, supporting, and treating people who have DID. 

Forgetting allows us to compartmentalise traumatic experiences and protect ourselves from overwhelming emotions and memories. However, it also contributes to a fragmented sense of self and can hinder identity integration and co-consciousness. It can also be incredibly frustrating when we are healing and the memory problems don’t suddenly vanish - or get worse!

Fronting provides a means for different selves to live aspects of our lives and fulfil specific roles or functions. While fronting may facilitate adaptive coping strategies and allow for the expression of diverse aspects of ourselves, it can also lead to confusion, distress, and impairment in functioning.

Navigating our switches and memory changes when we have DID can feel like a rollercoaster. Switches can cause dissociation and forgetfulness, and there’s variety with how this can happen and the challenges associated - our switches can sometimes be seamless, happening mid-sentence and we don’t lose our train of thought or recent memories, other times they can be dramatic and whoever is fronting now needs to actively try to remember what’s been happening and what they're doing/saying (for minutes to years, depending on how long we've been absent!)

We know there’s more we could say, but we can’t remember what, and the kids want to get in the front and play their game! We’d love to hear how others experience fronting and forgetting - no two systems are the same and we know we have a very limited understanding of our own system, let alone the much greater experiences others have with DID…

~ Mia and Berlou


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