Posts Tagged ‘types of alter parts’

Green plant (c) Lynda BernhardtI have heard Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) described as a “create your own disorder” disorder, so it can manifest in many ways. Unless a person’s experience meets the criteria laid out in the DSM-IV for DID, the person is not diagnosed with DID, even though her multiple system might be just as complex. Those situations are labeled as DD-NOS (Dissociative Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified).

Most people with DID have a host personality, which is the part that the person identifies as “me.” That part is not the original inner child. Instead, this is an “innocent” alter part that was created to perpetuate the illusion of innocence despite the abuse. That part stays present most of the time when no abuse (or threat of abuse) is present. However, when the threat of abuse triggers other alter parts to take over, the host personality is tucked away safely inside, which is why people with DID lose time. After a person integrates the host personality, she ceases to lose time. The host personality either has no awareness of the abuse or is only aware of the tip of the iceberg.

Most people with DID also have alter parts that hold their repressed anger. This is the part that creates so much buzz in the movies. When that part is triggered, a lifetime of repressed anger surfaces, and the person can wind up appearing to overreact to the circumstances. In actuality, the reaction is completely rational in relation to the abuse that the child suffered. When this alter part is triggered, the person feels anger in isolation without the backdrop of all other life experiences, so the feelings can be very intense.

Some people with DID have alter parts that are animals. Those alter parts are protector parts to help the child feels safe. They are frequently an animal that the child would have found scary, such as a wolf or a snake. The person might lose time at night because an alter part is present to “protect” the child while she sleeps.

Alter parts come in all shapes and sizes, and they correlate with the child’s experiences. Some are very young because they stopped developing at the age in which the abuse occurred. These child alter parts hold the person’s unmet needs from childhood. Some are protector parts, such as animals or large men. Others hold grief or terror. Truddi Chase, author of the book When Rabbit Howls, had a rabbit alter part that came out to experience the worst abuses. Whenever Rabbit was triggered, she would howl like a wounded rabbit, which is where the book gets its title.

All of these parts together hold the child’s life experiences. All of these parts fit together like pieces of a puzzle. None of the parts is “good” or “bad” – they just “are.” They broke apart because the experiences were too severe for the child to handle in isolation. By creating alter parts, the child had the illusion of not being alone. This is one reason that many “multiples” (people with DID) resist the idea of integration. They see integration as “killing off” their friends. In actuality, integration is a gift that enables all of the parts to be “out” all the time. Integration is the ultimate act of self-love.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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