A reader sent me an email asking me to talk about dissociative identity disorder (DID) and accountability. More specifically, the reader wants to know how to take responsibility for our behavior and actions and not dissociate when you have DID.
I have always maintained that a person with DID is responsible for all behaviors and actions taken regardless of which alter part made the choice to act in a particular way. This is because each alter part is you. While each alter part might “feel” completely foreign to you (from the perspective of the host personality), each part is you.
For many people with DID, the host personality is the “goody two shoes” of the multiple system. This was certainly true for me. My host personality used words like “fudge” as expletives and wouldn’t dream of using a string a “bad words” to express herself. However, as I integrated my host personality into my core, “bad words” became a natural part of my vocabulary because words like “fudge” did not come close to describing what I was feeling as I worked through the healing process. If an alter part used “bad words,” I was responsible for that language, even though my host personality would not feel responsible because an alter part said them. Regardless of which alter part is speaking, I am ultimately the one expressing myself.
The part of the question regarding dissociation is really about the host personality dissociating. When one part dissociates, another part takes its place. Even in a very dissociated state, your body is managing to walk, talk, and interact with the world around you. That just means that another part of yourself is in the driver’s seat, but that part of yourself is still you.
My therapist reassured me multiple times that I am never going to behave in a way that is contrary to who I am. (We had this conversation when I feared that an alter part could harm my child.) While some of you might vehemently disagree with this, read this blog entry and consider the points I made.
The bottom line is that you are always you. You might only be accessing one part of yourself, such as an angry part, a sad part, or a host part, but all of these parts are still you, which makes you responsible for any actions or behaviors you choose. I know what it feels like to have an alter part “take over” and do things that seem contrary to who I am (such as the alter part who would bang my head), so I understand why some of you might disagree with me. However, if you dig deeper, you will see that even those parts of yourself that seem inconsistent really are not.
In the example of my self-injuring alter part, I was expressing my reaction to being in a “between a rock and a hard place” situation. Harming myself in reaction to this stress was consistent with who I am, which is why I did it. Harming my child (or any child) is not consistent with who I am, so I have never taken out my emotional baggage on a child. If you can embrace the reality that every part of yourself is part of you and that you will never act in a manner inconsistent with who you are, you will be able to let go of so much fear.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt