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Archive for October 23rd, 2008

Over on Isurvive.org, my favorite message board for child abuse survivors, a member posted a question about whether somebody with dissociative identity disorder (DID) could have an animal alter part. The answer to this question is yes.

I had never read or heard about animal alter parts until discovering one in myself. I was lying in my bed, and I felt myself transforming into a wolf. I could feel the fur on my body, and my hands shaped themselves into paws, with my fingers being the claws. I “was” a wolf. To say this freaked me out is an understatement.

Then, I learned that this happened the night before the full moon. At this point, I determined that I truly was crazy and beyond help. Fortunately, I had knowledgeable friends over at Isurvive to talk me through this. Most ritual abuse takes place at the full moon, when there is better lighting for seeing and photographing the abuse, so it makes sense that I would need a protector part as the full moon approached.

People with DID have protector alter parts. Think about DID from a child’s perspective. The point of having alter parts is to protect the child from being harmed. While the child flees the body through dissociation, she leaves behind a protector part to fight back and provide the child with the illusion of safety.

Whatever you, as a child, felt was strong or scary was likely incorporated into an alter part. For me, the wolf in the story “Peter and the Wolf” was one of the scariest creatures I could think of, so I created a wolf alter part. That part comes out every night to curl up around me while I sleep. To this day, my wolf protects me as I sleep. I have tried to integrate this part multiple times, but I guess I still do not feel safe enough to “retire” my wolf.

I also had a snake alter part, which I integrated. Other people have alter parts that are lions, bears, dogs, or other animals. Animal alter parts can be anything that seemed scary to them as children.

I have also heard of people with DID having other types of nonhuman alter parts, such as dolls. Any inanimate object that had significance to you as a child could have been incorporated into your multiple system.

If you have a nonhuman alter part, you are completely normal. Your nonhuman alter part served a function as part of your DID multiple system. Love this part just as you would love any other part of yourself.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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