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Archive for June 5th, 2009

On my blog entry entitled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID): Purpose of Maintainer Alter Parts, a reader posted the following comment:

But one only need to look at those who were abused who commit crimes, sometimes heinous crimes and know that parts are not all creating out of love all the time. We often forget that those of us who are out here working so hard on our healing are lucky. There is a whole other group of survivors who go on hurting others, some percentage of them, probably high, have parts. ~ Paul

I think this is a fascinating topic to discuss, in part because I am not aware of any research on the subject of whether child abusers have alter parts like many child abuse survivors do. (I do not consider a child abuser to be a “child abuse survivor.” I will call them “victims” but not “survivors” because, in my opinion, a survivor does not continue the cycle of abuse.)

Here is my opinion on the subject … When someone abuses a child, he does not see the child as a separate person with her own identity. Instead, the child abuser sees the child as an object to be used to meet his own needs. The child must either fight to protect her identity or lose herself, either into insanity or into becoming a mere extension of her abuser. If she is weak and loses her identity, she is prone to continuing the cycle of abuse. As she becomes an abuser, she feels “strong” because she identifies with her abuser, who was stronger than she was as a child. This continues the cycle.

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) and other forms of dissociative disorders are all about protecting the child’s identity. The child is strong enough to fragment her spirit into multiple parts as a way of protecting and saving her identity. Different alter parts might appear to be “mean,” but they are all created out of love. They are all part of one spirit with one goal – to protect the child. Nothing that the child abuse survivor does through any alter part will ever betray the core of who she is.

When I first came to recognize that I had DID and alter parts, I feared that I might “black out” and have an alter part who hurt my then two-year-old child. I told my therapist that I would commit suicide before I allowed any part of myself to hurt my son … and I meant it. He told me that hurting my son would go against my character and violate the core of who I am, so he had no concerns about any part of myself hurting my son, even through an alter part.

I had alter parts that caused me to self-injure and also some that wanted to commit suicide. However, the motivation of each alter part was for a greater good – either to protect myself (self-injury to silence me and protect me from retribution) or someone else (suicide to protect my sister’s life). No matter how disturbing an alter part appeared to be, each part was a part of me, and I am not an abuser. Therefore, I was never any danger to anyone other than myself, and I was only a danger to myself in order to protect my baby sister.

I, personally, do not believe that child abusers have alter parts. I believe that fragmenting your spirit to protect your identity takes an enormous amount of strength, and child abusers are weak. I believe that they lost their identities as children because they were too weak to fight back. I do not believe that they have “good parts” and “bad parts.” I believe that they are too weak and broken to see children as individuals. They have become extensions of those that hurt them when they were young and vulnerable, and they have continued the cycle into adulthood.

What are your thoughts on this topic? I welcome viewpoints that disagree with mine because that is how I learn, so feel free to disagree with me on this issue. I don’t think there is much research out there to answer the question either way.

Related Topic:

Trauma Thursday: Strength of the Child Abuse Survivor

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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