I have encountered a handful of child abuse survivors who split into an adult and a child alter part. They would not be classified as having dissociative identity disorder (DID) because there is no loss of time or an interchange of personalities. My guess is that they would receive a label of dissociative disorder not otherwise specified (DD-NOS), but the label is irrelevant for the purpose of this blog entry. I want to provide a place where people who experienced this split have a place to be recognized.
The people I encountered in person, online, and through books who experienced the type of split I am talking about explain their experience along these lines … They might have experienced some level of abuse or trauma in their early years, but the trauma that caused the split seems to have happened in the age range of five to eight years old, with age six being the most common age for the split to have happened. Admittedly, I have only been able to observe the experiences of a small sample, so this is definitely not written in stone.
At the time of the split, the person “buries” the wounded child part and continues on with the part that grows into an adult. The person has two parts, but the child part does not come out, which is one reason this person would be unlikely to be diagnosed with DID.
Someone who split this way might remember some or all of the abuses experienced by the now-adult part. When some talk about the abuse, they might seem detached, such as explaining something horrific that they know happened to them without attaching emotion to this experience. Also, at least one person I know who split this way succeeded in dissociating away some particularly traumatizing abuse that happened after the split, storing the memories of these experience with the buried child.
As we have talked about many times on this blog, I don’t think this form of splitting or healing from this type of split is “easier” or “harder” than other reactions to abuse, just different. From what observed from one person who invited me into watching some of her healing process, “unburying” the wounded child seemed to be more daunting than what I experienced in integrating one of many alter parts because of the depth of the pain. Because my pain was fragmented into many different parts, I seemed better able to pace myself whereas the other person would feel as if she was drowning in the unmet needs of this one huge needy inner child.
I would encourage anyone who split this way to try different tools that have been useful to other child abuse survivors, such as reaching out to your buried child and inviting her out. Love her. Accept her. Heal her.
I would recommend doing this healing work alongside a qualified therapist with experience working with child abuse survivors who were severely traumatized. From what I have observed from the outside, dealing with the very deep pain of the wounded buried child can be overwhelming at times. A good professional therapist can help you along the process.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt