Archive for January 21st, 2009

Many people mistakenly believe that Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is obvious. This is likely due to the media’s portrayal of DID in movies such as Sybil. The whole point of DID is for the abused child to be whatever she needs to be in any situation. The child needs to be seamless when she switches between alter parts in order to save herself or someone she loves. (Most child abusers of children with DID have threatened the lives of someone the child loves.)

Considering that people believe that DID is obvious, they really have a hard time wrapping their minds around the multiple system for someone with polyfragmented DID. After all, how can a person switch 50 times a day without anyone noticing? It is actually very easy for a person with polyfragmented DID to do this. I only recall one time in my entire childhood that anyone ever “caught” me, and I had no idea what my friend was talking about when she called me on it.

Anyone with DID is very compartmentalized. After all, that is the point of developing DID in the first place – to compartmentalize the trauma so you can appear not to be a victim of abuse or trauma. DID is also very organized with each alter part and personality fragment having a role to fill.

Each multiple system for DID and polyfragmented DID has a “gatekeeper” that determines who comes out when. Unlike the representations in the movies, alter parts are not vying for position to run the show and be “out” all the time. Instead, the environment triggers who is needed when to fill a particular role.

Most people with DID, whether polyfragmented or not, have a host personality. This is the alter part that stays out whenever the abuse is not taking place. It is typically the host personality who seeks therapy because she experiences loss of time. Lost time is simply when the host personality is pulled inside and protected while an alter part experiences the abuse. This enables the host personality to interact with the world as if no abuse has ever taken place because, from the perspective of the host personality, no abuse has occurred.

The important thing to remember is that all of the parts, whether there are two or 5,000, are parts of one spirit. So, all of the parts are interconnected. They are not fighting for power. Instead, they are working together in the best way possible to protect the body from further harm and to make sure that the essence of the person is not destroyed by the abusers.

The best way to understand this is to think of a block of ice. You can shave the ice, break it into pieces, or divvy it up in a number of ways, but it is all still water. When you melt the ice, whether as one block or as 50,000 little pieces of ice, it will still return to one fluid bucket of water, and you will not know which part was originally which. All parts are intertwined.

This is what integration is all about. No matter how many parts a person has, they will merge back together as the person warms the parts through self-love.

Suggested Reading:

Safe Passage to Healing

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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