March 28, 2009
Ok. So I was all kinds of optimistic and hopeful that the Showtime series, United States of Tara, would be a positive statement for dissociative identity disorder. After all, Showtime interviewed Dr. Richard Kluft, an informed psychiatrist, one of the founding fathers of the treatment of DID/MPD. That was a good sign, wasn’t it?
As a trauma therapist with 20+ years of clinical experience working with multiples, I have to say I’m quite frustrated that Showtime has presented multiplicity in this way.
First of all, the word is dissociation. Pronounced di-soh-see-ay-shun. The word is not disassociation. There is no additional “a” sound in the word. Saying dis-a-soh-see-ay-shun is the wrong pronunciation and a different word altogether.
Secondly, there is not a medication that can remove or prevent or end dissociative identity disorder. Medications can address various symptoms, and can even slow the thinking down, but medication cannot remove multiplicity. The idea of drugging away the parts is particularly offensive to me, and as far as I am concerned, it is totally opposite to genuine treatment. Insiders are there for a reason, and promoting the idea that the inside can be drugged into silence seems abusive to me. This idea is absolutely absurd and smacks of perpetrative behavior.
I understand the idea of “creating additional drama” for the sake of entertainment and to get a viewing audience. Fine.
And I can understand that the visual presentation of the various alters is metaphorical for how switching feels from within. It is true — or can be true — that when insiders surface on the outside, they “feel” like they look on the inside. Insiders are often confused and upset about looking externally very different than they feel internally. They are convinced they are shorter, or wearing different clothes, or have different hair, or are even a different gender, etc. And yes, internal parts are very often adamant about being a very different person from the host personality.
For the Tara show, the insiders get to look as extremely different on the outside as they feel on the inside. However, it’s not typical for DID’ers to actually present so drastically even if they wish they could.
The different presentations of Tara are excessive, but it makes the point, and it helps the viewing audience to catch on to a switch to one part from another. I would have hoped the viewing audience did not have to have that much help in recognizing switching, but maybe they do.
Now to my biggest beef about United States of Tara: the criminal behavior.
I suppose that somewhere out there in the world, there are multiples that beat up teenagers on school property, break in to and vandalize homes of others, urinate on others while sleeping, froth and drool in public, and sexually assault their child’s underage boyfriend. I suppose I cannot say that no multiple in the world would ever do that.
But really?!!! Is this the kind of message that we want the viewing audience to have about DID? Do multiples really present as the criminally insane?
Not to me!
The multiples I have met in the past 20+ years are not out-of-control monsters like this. Their inside parts know that there is a legal body age, and while they typically feel younger than the body age, the insiders have an understanding that they are not actually the same as outside people of that age.
DIDer’s might have flashbacks or a hard time functioning or emotional outbursts, but typically, trauma survivors will have enough self-control to manage their behavior without committing a crime in public.
Showtime crossed the line by making Tara a sex offender.
It is true that many multiples have been tangled up in sexual crimes, but typically, multiples that are in treatment have not chosen the life of a sex offender. All too many trauma survivors were forced to perpetrate as part of their victimization by organized perpetrator groups, or even by violent single abusers, but being forced to hurt others is not anything near the same as purposefully deciding to sexually offend in the day world.
Most multiples are not sexually inappropriate of their own volition.
For the writers of United States of Tara to present multiplicity in this light is cruel and inaccurate.
I’m disappointed, to say the least.
What a slam.
A great big huge insulting ridiculous slam.
I am not impressed.
- What do you think?
- What are your thoughts about the show United States of Tara?
- Are you criminally insane?
- Would you do the behaviors that Tara is doing on this show?
- If you are multiple, what are your feelings about being portrayed in this way?
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 27, 2009
I am writing this blog article in response to a blog comment / question sent to me re: the frequency of ritual / cult abuse. I am also going to clarify what the term “organized abuse” means to me.
For the purposes of this blog response, I am going to give an answer based on my personal experience as a trauma therapist that specializes in dissociative disorders. Some day I will check into the official statistics for how many trauma survivors with DID have ritual / cult abuse backgrounds versus how many do not. For today, I can more quickly pull from my 20+ years of clinical experience in working with multiples from all different areas of the USA and from different countries of the world.
I have worked in specialized inpatient units for trauma and dissociative disorders, had a busy outpatient private practice, and have been working with multiples online since 2002 via AbuseConsultants.com. SurvivorForum.com group members, and now the survivor writers posting comments on this Discussing Dissociation blog have also written about their ritual abuse histories. I also have collected hundreds of “The Negative Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse” surveys from trauma survivors via AbuseConsultants.com where many survivors have included information about their experiences with ritualized abuses. Between these various opportunities, I have had contact with hundreds of different and unique DID survivors over the past 20+ years.
While individual stories and life experiences have varied greatly for these different survivors, there are a number of overlapping similarities as well. Some multiples have spoken in great detail and clarity about their ritualistic / cult-based abuses, and some multiples have had nothing of the sort happen in their background.
Yes, without a doubt, people can dissociate and split and fragment into different personalities, thus becoming DID, even without cult-type abuses. That is absolutely true. One does not “have to have” cult abuse in order to become multiple – not in any way, shape, or form.
What I mean by “organized abuse” is that the abuse was happening under the controls of an organized group of perpetrators. This could mean a ritual / cult type group. This could mean a governmental / mind control experiment group. This could mean a sex slavery / sexual exploitation group. Organized abuse means that the primary abusers are not working as isolated individuals. The abusers are part of a larger group of perpetrators that have specific plans / ideas / routines / procedures / steps / methods that fit their purposes.
There are any number of organized groups highly skilled in mind control techniques, some more heavily laden in religious beliefs, others just based on making money through selling various versions of sex. Groups such as the KKK, the Masons, and the Illuminati have been named as organized perpetrator groups, with hidden rituals centered on purposeful, planned, severe abuse of children.
The CIA has declassified documents describing various military mind control research programs from the 1950′s through the 1980′s in the USA involving the abuse of children.
For more information, read a lecture series with Dr. Colin Ross and his presentation, “The CIA and Military Mind Control Research: Building the Manchurian Candidate” . Dr. Ross presented this lecture at the 9th Annual Western Clinical Conference on Trauma and Dissociation. Some of the more known military research projects are MKULTRA, BLUEBIRD, and ARTICHOKE.
Some pornography rings — sex slavery groups selling the most extreme forms of sex — claim “ownership” of a variety of children they use, sell, and exploit through various forms of pornography and prostitution. These perpetrators can and do use specific forms of mind control techniques (which typically cause splitting and dissociation) in order to facilitate more control over their “slaves”. The more highly trained a sex-slave is, the more dissociative they are, the more different roles they can play, the more money the prostitution ring can make from selling their services.
Ritualistic abuse and satanic type abuses are an additional complicated type of abuse that is talked about by many survivors. For some people, the SRA is presented as the ultimate goal of their abusers, with the religious beliefs holding the ultimate reward. For others, the cult-like rituals are presented as busy, overwhelming, gory, but purposeful layers of abuse (or screen memories of perceived abuse) that are there to discredit the person and/or to hide the deeper mind-control and exploitation purposes hidden underneath.
In my experience, meeting dissociative trauma survivors with at least one of these types of organized abuses has been the norm, occurring more frequently than meeting clients without them.
Apparently there are a whole lot of real nasty perpetrator types living here in the USA.
At least there are some genuine, skilled trauma therapists that can help the survivors of these atrocious abuses.
Even if you were a victim of any of these kinds of horrific abuses, there is hope for you.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
March 26, 2009
Do you use twitter??
I’m totally new to the idea, but I’ve added it today to this blog.
I think it’s working correctly, so for those of you that enjoy twittering, my twitter name is Kathy_B_from_AC . That’s a shortened version of Kathy Broady from AbuseConsultants.com, of course.
Since I’m new to this, I’m not sure what all I’m inviting you to – but hey, it’s the newest thing, so… let’s have fun with it!
I hope you are all having a great day –
March 22, 2009
We’ve had some very interesting discussions on the “What do you think about Suicide?” blog article. Thank you to everyone who writes and comments on this blog – your participation is valued and appreciated.
One of the topics that surfaced on that thread is the idea that trauma survivors with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) may have child parts within their system that can be suicidal, and that the ability to control the suicidal behavior of these child parts seems overwhelmingly difficult, even for the adults of the dissociative system.
I’d like to write an official response to that.
Typically, one thinks of child parts as a permanently young child – an inside part that holds the trauma memories, feelings, rememberings, and experiences that happened when the body was of a young chronological age. These child parts act like children, think like children, reason like children. Their thinking is often very concrete and their grammar / spelling / speech is child-like as well.
So, how does a child part, who is likened after an actual child, have the ability to be suicidal when typically, children do not even understand what death is?
How can these child parts have the ability to act outside of the control of the adults in the system?
There is at least one possible answer for that.
For dissociative trauma survivors, their childhood was filled with abusive perpetrators. Some — not all — DID survivors have experienced an organized type of abuse by organized groups of perpetrators. These organized groups could have presented themselves as sex slavery groups, or cult groups, or governmental / mind control experimental groups. Any which way, the abuse was more than home-based, chaotic dysfunctional family-crisis abuse. With organized abuse, there would have been a goal, a purpose, and a long-term plan for ongoing and continued abuse and total control of the victim by the offenders.
Organized perpetrators very often purposefully split off child parts and attach suicidal programming to these children. Even while the children are at a very young age, these organized perpetrators demand complete control of the mind and behavior of the child. These perpetrators know they are committing horrendous crimes to their victims, and are invested in keeping the children silenced about these crimes. They instill these controls early in life, and then have every intention of keeping this level of control over the victim for as many years into adulthood as possible. Organized perpetrators actually want life-long control. They begin their domination during the victim’s childhood with the intention of being able to keep that child under their control for their entire life.
Using suicidal programming as a way to control and manipulate behavior is one of the most effective ways for abusers to protect their secrets. Perpetrators have a variety of horrific techniques that they use to accomplish this goal.
The result is that a child part can be cued or triggered into suicidal thinking, can have a suicidal plan, and could potentially follow the instructions planted in their brain with the same level of intensity as any other mind-controlled person. The child part does not have to understand what they are doing, nor do they have to understand what death is, nor do they have to understand the effects of their behavior. They just have to know what to do, step by step. These child parts have simply been taught clearly defined, specifically detailed behaviors to follow upon command, and they have been taught to follow those controls without thinking.
Perpetrators attach suicidal programming to young children not only at the earliest point of intervention, but also because it goes to their advantage that these child parts genuinely do not understand what death is. The children know what obedience is and the mind control trainers take advantage of that. Children cannot reason past the orders to understand that they are being told to do something that is harmful to them. They cannot grasp the concept of death enough to fear it the way an adult would, but they know what happens in they don’t obey, so the programming is attached to this level of thinking without any risk of interference by “fear of death”.
In effective trauma therapy, these controls can be removed safely, and the person — both the child parts and the adult parts — can reclaim their own power and control of their behavior. However, as long as the programmed responses are hidden secretly within the child part, the person is at risk for suicidal behavior.
If you are experiencing these kind of suicidal controls, please work with an experienced trauma therapist while addressing these issues. It is imperative that you handle suicidal programming with great caution, and do not assume that just any therapist can do this level of work.
Find a genuine trauma specialist to help you remove suicidal programming from your child parts.
Your safety matters. And yes, you can reclaim the control of your own life.
If you are considering individual therapy work to address these issues, please contact me through AbuseConsultants.com. Be very careful about exposing too much of this kind of personal information on a public blog site.
Your safety is important.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 21, 2009
The healing process for Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD) is very long, involved and complex. The article, 50 Treatment Issues for Dissociative Identity Disorder, lists out many of the steps involved in trauma therapy. While that list is comprehensive, it still only covers the surface steps. What tasks do you need to tackle next?
It takes years of time to work through all the issues and complications created from severe trauma and dissociative splitting, and while that length of time may feel discouraging in the beginning, let me assure you that progress truly is possible. You really can heal from your hurt and traumas and lead productive happy, healthy lives.
Therapy is somewhat like the progression through years of school. Therapy work builds upon itself through time to involve a lot of additional steps – the basics needing to be accomplished and mastered first. If the basics are neglected or not learned well, then therapy will get stuck — and if someone goes to school and gets stuck in the fifth grade for three years, they are going to feel very frustrated, especially if the goal is to graduate from high school.
So what keeps a person stuck and unable to progress further in their healing? What blocks their therapy from moving forward?
Sometimes people get comfortable addressing only the surface layers of their trauma. Sometimes they get too afraid to address the deeper layers of their system. Therapeutic resistance can be normal for various periods of time. But will avoiding those areas of your healing bring you the peace of mind that you want?
What if you have been in therapy for years already and are still struggling desperately? Blocks and stalemates in the therapy process usually lead to increased depression, ongoing anxiety, more self-injury, not to mention the added frustration and wasted time and resources. While it is important to tackle the healing process at your own pace, it is also good to make significant treatment gains at every step of the way.
What is missing in your therapy process?
What is interfering with your therapy process?
Where are you resistant to change?
Here are some of the common reasons that people get stuck in their healing process:
- A fear of seeing the abuse – wanting to keep those dissociative walls in place
- A lack of resources, and financial constraints to being able to get sufficient help
- A refusal to accept that loving family members were also abusive monsters
- An adamant refusal to look at who the abusers were
- Anger – wanting a “safe target” to fight with instead of a therapist for assistance and guidance
- Being too busy testing everyone over and over instead of getting to the actual therapy work
- Clinging to denial, clinging to denial, clinging to denial
- Comfort Clingers – wanting to stay hurting, even on purpose, to get comforting responses from other people
- Creating distractions from therapy work
- Current-day abusers actively sabotaging the progress you are making in therapy
- Current-day control by external abusers reinforcing the fear of telling
- External life issues become too overwhelming, ie: kids, school, work, finances,
- Fatigue, frustration, and just being tired of trauma issues being the center of your life
- Fear of learning more, of future consequences, of any number of things.
- Fear of other loved ones being hurt or abused if certain secrets are exposed
- Finger-pointing blame at others instead of being self-responsible for movement and changes
- Genuinely incompetent therapy or working with an uninformed therapist
- Interference of addictions – any form of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sex addition, etc
- Internal programming is running interference and not being removed or addressed
- Laziness – thinking that healing happens magically without having to put in the hard work required
- Not really and truly wanting to do the therapy work – simply going through the motions instead
- Outgrowing the therapeutic knowledge and assistance that your current therapist can offer
- Putting more effort into helping / rescuing others than addressing personal issues
- Refusal to speak with the others in your system
- Refusing to acknowledge, admit, or address your own negative behavior
- Sabotage – of self, of relationships, of therapy
- Self-injury, self-destructive behaviors, suicidal behavior
- The front host refusing to speak with the inside system
- The Ostrich Syndrome — denial or blindness to seeing the reality of the problem
- Threats of ongoing abuse if certain secrets are exposed
What is blocking your therapy and healing?
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 19, 2009
Suicide is a difficult topic.
All too many trauma survivors feel drawn to it.
Mental health professionals fight against it.
Insurance companies dismiss it.
Religions disagree about it.
The world out there doesn’t know how to interpret it. The world does not know how to talk about it. It’s controversial and complex. There are no simple answers.
Who’s to blame for it? The individual? The parents? The treating physicians? The perpetrators that caused the initial pain? The spouse or other family members?
And do we have to have someone to blame?
When you think about suicide, do you think that it is…
- A last resort?
- An avoidance?
- Someone’s right to choose?
- An option?
- Never an option?
- A compulsion?
- Something outside of your control?
- Your destiny?
If you have ever truly cared for someone who has committed suicide, your life will be forever changed.
I am convinced that one of the absolutely most painful and devastating traumatic heartbreaks is to have a loved one commit suicide. The surviving friends and family members are left with questions that will forever remain unanswered. Children whose parents commit suicide are forever scarred, and parents whose children commit suicide are forever in gut-wrenching pain.
If you are suicidal, please get help immediately.
Your life matters more than you realize.
There is hope for you.
There is help for you.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 15, 2009
It is no secret that trauma survivors get depressed, and depression is the most commonly known and experienced mental health disorder.
Typical depression symptoms include:
- Suicidal thoughts, recurring death thoughts, death wishes
- Suicidal behavior and suicide attempts
- Self destructive behavior, self injury, self harm
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, self hatred, or not deserving to live
- Loss of energy, fatigue, excessive sleeping
- Little or no interest or pleasure in anything or anybody
- Inability to think, or to concentrate, or to make decisions
- Significant but unintentional changes in weight loss or weight gain
- Significant but unintentional changes in appetite
- For children, not making normal and expected weight gains and physical growth
For trauma survivors, depression can have layered meanings beyond the typical medical symptoms.
Repeated patterned depressions can be very much related to a specific or recurring trauma, or to a significant loss. For dissociative survivors with DID/MPD, the information detailing the specific loss or trauma may be hidden away or blocked off by dissociative walls. Someone in your system might know why you are feeling depressed, and they might know what the loss is, but the host / front personalities might not have a clue.
Do you have a pattern of depression occurring at the same time of year each year?
Think back through all the years. Do you have any hints that tell you how far back this pattern goes? Do you repeatedly feel the need for hospitalization at the same time each year? Do you find yourself struggling more than usual at the same time each year? Do you find yourself having thoughts of suicide or self-injury more often at a specific time of year? Do you know how long this pattern of depression been happening?
If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, be sure to check inside and to ask your various inside parts what they have noticed as well. Some of your insiders might have a different awareness of patterns and events than you do.
For repeated patterned depressions, it is important to find the original starting point of this depression pattern. Once you do, you will get more clues as to what it is about.
My general approach to repeated depressions that follow a pattern is to “assume” that there is a trauma-based reason for it. Unless you have a better explanation, in terms of a bipolar type depression pattern, or a seasonal depression pattern, then quite possibly it is a trauma-based pattern.
Look around inside, ask around inside, to see if there is anyone that knows the depressed time of year to be a particularly bad time for them. While you are talking with your system, be sure to pay attention to the following ideas:
- Who inside feels the depression the most?
- Do you see anyone inside who is showing the depression in the way that they are sitting, standing, laying, not communicating, not being “their usual self”, etc?
- When you look at your internal system, who is showing / feeling the biggest list of depression symptoms?
- If you can’t automatically see an internal someone who is depressed, take a broader look at your internal world. When you walk around your internal landscape, can you find-feel-sense the center of it?
- Is there a place inside where the depression feels the most intense vs. the generalized depression of everyone (similar to finding the eye of a hurricane).
Other trauma-related questions you can ask your insiders include:
- Were there any significant losses that happened at this time of year?
- Who in your system has experienced these losses? (Do not assume that everyone in your system is aware of the same losses!)
- Did you or anyone inside lose a child /children, or a close friend, or a loved one at this time of year?
- Are your feelings of grief and loss repeatedly surfacing as a type of depression?
- Was anyone inside specifically traumatized or abused at this point in time each year?
- What happened? What do you know about that trauma?
For dissociative trauma survivors, a significant period of depression can be a very important clue that there is an unresolved trauma waiting to be addressed. If you have the room in your life to explore its foundations, and to address how the trauma issues are related to that recurring depression, you will be able to interrupt and resolve the depression itself.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 14, 2009
To continue the previous post, here are five more life-lessons I’ve learned from my years working with those with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID/MPD).
By their life example, multiples have shown me:
6. Spiritual Strength even Under Persecution. Most survivors with DID and long-term severe abuse have had various religious / spiritual connotations mixed in with that abuse, creating a version of Spiritual Abuse and a variety of spiritual crises. Every trauma survivor handles these situations in his / her own way, and yet in my experience, most survivors have at least one or two insiders, if not a whole grouping of insiders or even their whole self, that develop a very strong spiritual life despite the trauma and its effects. Maybe these trauma survivors develop a strong spiritual life because of the trauma? My thought is that any survivors that have the personal strength to fight against the vileness perpetrators and horrific abuse have a deep spiritual reason to do so. How they portray that faith in later years of their life varies widely, but the point is still there: persecution and pain can strengthen and deepen spiritual beliefs. What a strong statement of faith!
7. The Ability to Overcome Adversity in Life. Dissociative trauma survivors have faced head-on some of the most difficult challenges in life. They have dealt with overwhelming pain, tragedy, heartbreak, betrayal, abandonment, and isolation. They have encountered some of the darkest trials and tribulations of life, even during their earliest , most vulnerable years. And yet, despite the effects of being attacked and consumed by wickedness, corruption, and depravity, so many of these dissociative survivors have gone on to have incredibly productive, successful lives as gentle, giving, compassionate, caring people. These are inspiring people with thousands of stories of courage and strength. They are true examples of resilience and over-coming the odds!
8. Joy, Happiness, and Fun-filled Laughter. I have been amazed at how many trauma survivors have maintained an incredible sense of humor and an appreciation of fun, good times, laughter, and joy even after being crushed by intense pain and horror so much of their lives. Maybe seeing so much heavy darkness has created a greater appreciation of light-hearted fun? Any which way, it speaks volumes to me that people who have been immersed in pain can and do continue to find humor, fun, and positive excitement in life. Having good times and finding ways to enjoy life have an elevated importance for these folks, and that makes a lot of sense to me. Laughter truly is the best medicine, and trauma survivors that can still laugh (in the good ways!) are genuinely inspirational.
9. The Pure Hearts of Children. Children have a natural joy and wonderment with life. Even though dissociative trauma survivors have had tragic childhoods destroyed by sadistic criminals, these trauma survivors typically split off a part of themselves that totally protected the purity of childhood innocence and beauty. Through dissociation, they were able to keep a part of themselves totally separated from darkness, evil, horror, pain, trauma, and abuse. That is amazing to me. It shows the importance of these childhood feelings and that even the worst viciousness of predators does not take this precious innocence away. This creative, incredible ability to maintain self protection is extraordinary.
10. Loving Others More than Yourself. Trauma survivors were typically forced to put their abusers’ needs ahead of themselves in a harmful, tragic, devastating ways. There is no doubt about the harm that happens to children when their own needs are ignored and neglected. However,many trauma survivors seem to turn this abusive extreme around. In a less abusive context, they maintain the awareness that others are as important as themselves, and they can be extremely compassionate and selfless towards other people. The examples of selfless generosity, giving, and caring can be awe-inspiring and genuine examples of how to love someone else.
In my opinion, trauma survivors that retain the ability to genuinely love and connect with others have risen above the worst effects of the abuse they suffered. Maintaining the ability to bond correctly with animals, and/or people, and/or spiritual powers despite the years of forced darkness and evil is truly amazing and inspirational.
Those of us fortunate enough to experience less trauma and abuse in our lives should take note. Trauma survivors can be incredible role models of what is truly important in life.
- Do you have the depth of character and strength to withstand a war against evil?
- Would you handle persecution and pain with as much grace and strength as DIDer’s do?
- Would you still be a good person even if you spent years of life being controlled by darkness?
I encourage everyone to look deeper than dysfunctional symptoms and mental illness. What can trauma survivors teach you about life?
What can you learn about the power of good over evil?
I see examples of that every single day in the trauma survivors that I know.
Kathy Broady LCSW
March 7, 2009
Many dissociative trauma survivors have issues with time.
Sometimes the past sneaks up into the present. Sometimes the present disappears. Sometimes there are two time zones (or more) occurring at the same time. Sometimes there are huge gaps in time. Sometimes time stands still.
It can be confusing to say the least.
- Have you ever had a flashback from some year gone by overwhelm your current day?
- Have you ever been overwhelmed by such huge feelings that for them to make any sense, they must have roots in something much deeper than your current-day conflict?
- Have you ever woken up in the current day and wondered where you were?
- Have you ever lost hours of time, with no awareness of what happened, and no explanation of what you have been doing?
Losing time can be very difficult. Many folks with DID get understandably upset when this happens — struggling with the after effects of their behavior, left confused, bewildered, possibly angry, waking to their plans being destroyed, their relationships damaged, their money spent, their body feeling weird, their day interrupted. Most singletons cannot even begin to fathom what life would be like with so many missing gaps in time.
There is a huge sense of loss of control when there is lost time. Is the amnesia that is covering that lost time still important? Is it covering up some huge secret that the host of the system cannot know about? Or is it just an old habit – an old familiar way of life, and nothing to worry about? Either way, the not-knowing, and the apparent “not being allowed to know” what happened in one’s own life can understandably be very upsetting for many people.
Sometimes the effects of lost time are minimal, barely noticeable — maybe a small bruise, or scratch that came from nowhere, or a change of clothes, or maybe you’re simply sitting in a different place than you last were. Lots of people with dissociative disorders are so used to losing time that they don’t even notice it anymore. Switching and the coming and going are so normal for them, and the covering for a “bad memory” are just natural parts of the day. In fact, it can be so natural, that many people with DID/MPD are firmly convinced that they don’t lose any time at all. However, a close examination of that belief can usually prove otherwise, but that is not an uncommon initial assumption.
Sometimes lost time cause a lot of anxiety and panic, and sometimes the effects are quite devastating. The host of the system may have no awareness that one of the insiders participated in a sexual activity the night before, but the host might be able to feel body pain and stiffness, and just not have an explanation for that. The daytime alters may not have realized that “the body” is now pregnant, and they may not absolutely no idea who the father is. Or the host of the system may have no idea how the car got wrecked. The dayside people can see the damage done to the car, but might not have any awareness of what happened. Or maybe they have absolutely no idea why their spouse and children are so angry with them. Maybe they don’t remember being involved in a knockdown drag-out argument last night where the spouse and the children were repeatedly insulted, ridiculed, and denigrated.
Sometimes something good has happened – ie: where another part has had the courage to do something that you hadn’t been able to manage. The house may suddenly look cleaner and more organized, or the kids have been helped with their homework. “Good news” isn’t as frequently blocked from awareness, but it can certainly happen. And sometimes, inside system parts can purposefully block the awareness of someone else inside so they can give them a nice surprise. Insider parts can buy nice prezzies for each other, keeping the others unaware of what they are getting for Christmas or Hanukkah, for example.
However, for dissociative trauma survivors, the original foundational reasons for losing time were long ago based on avoiding or escaping the direct involvement in something terrible. While blocking out the awareness of events during their original occurrence was incredibly helpful at that initial traumatic point in time, as a person’s safety increases, and as their dissociative walls decrease, those hidden chunks of lost time often re-surface later in the form of PTSD, flashbacks, body memories, etc.
As repeated patterns of managing traumatic incidents become set and solidified within the dissociative splits, the amnesia between those alters and others inside just simply stay in place. In those original traumatic moments, those insiders were created with dissociative walls firmly intact, purposefully preventing the other system parts from knowing what happened. That same “missing time” protection stays in place until the dissociative person begins to address why it was necessary for them to have that chunk of time hidden from their life in the first place.
Think about the most recent incident or two where you lost time. Part of the healing process is getting more connected with those periods of lost time. Don’t just comfortably sail past the fact that you don’t know what happened in the middle of the afternoon, or that you have no earthly idea where you were last night. Work at that.
These missing gaps of time are pieces of your life that hold valuable information. I can promise you, your body didn’t just cease to exist while you were dissociatively “away” on a mental vacation. Something was happening with some of your parts, and someone was doing something. You might not been out and involved in life during that period of time, but I can guarantee that someone in your system knows exactly what was happening. They were there instead of you.
The terms “missing time” or “lost time” are actually misnomers. The time didn’t get lost. The time is not gone. The person dissociated away from time — someone else in your system was out instead of you. If you don’t know what happened, then you dissociated away and you have not yet talked to your internal system about who was out instead of you. By talking to the others in your dissociative system, you can find out exactly what happened in that “lost time”.
The question is whether or not you would like to know what happened while you were away. Do you want to remember what happened in those missing gaps of time in your childhood? Do you want to know what happened in those missing gaps of time last week? Are you willing to ask your insiders to tell you about their time in the body and their time out in the world?
Becoming less dissociative, less DID/MPD, more integrated, more whole means knowing about ALL the missing gaps of time – the good news, and the not so good news. If you cannot integrate what happened in your own life, you certainly cannot integrate with your other alters inside. If you cannot sit with the emotions and feelings that you had during the difficult times in your life, you certainly cannot integrate with the inside parts that contain those feelings.
Overcoming the amnesia and time loss means that you must communicate actively with the others in your system. Yep, we’re back to system communication once again. Talk to your internal people – they can tell you exactly what happened while you were away.
Work hard to figure out what has happened in your life. Be willing to remember what happened in those missing chunks of time. Don’t comfortably skip over the details that you conveniently dissociated away – go back and really work at learning what happened in your own life.
Here are some questions to ask yourself and your internal system after you notice some missing time:
- What happened? Do you have any guess or sense whatsoever of what happened? What was happening right before you lost time and what is the first thing you noticed when you got back, grounded and connected to the current day?
- How did you feel? How did you feel emotionally before you left? How do you emotionally feel now?
- How does the body feel now? What is different from before?
- What did you do to recover the information in the time that went “missing”? What clues did you find to help fill in the gaps for you? Look around the house or your car. Does anything look different?
- Did you know who in your system was “out” while you were not out? Who can you ask internally? Who saw what? Even if your insiders did not see what happened in the outside world, did they notice any internal movement? What changes and interactions were happening within the inside world while you were away? Did anyone see anyone else “walk by”?
- If you get a sense of who was out, can you talk to that part of yourself without losing time? Have you been able to work more with the others in your system to lesson the likelihood of this happening again??
- If someone else in your system was caught in a memory or a flashback, do you want to know about it? Are you willing to hear their story about their trauma? Are you willing to sit with them and deal with their pain?
Are you brave enough to know what happened while you were away?
Are you genuinely serious enough about your healing to want to know what happened while you were away?
Are you ready to claim all the different aspects of what has happened in your life?
You can get back all the information that was allegedly lost during that missing time.
You can truly know what happened.
Kathy Broady LCSW