December 8, 2008
Do you feel like you can be very different people?
Do you have trouble remembering what happened through your week?
Do you have minimal memories of your childhood?
Do you feel a lot of conflict within yourself, and have unexplainable extremes in your behavior, thoughts, or attitudes?
Do you have conversations in your head, and do the voices in your head talk about you?
Read on…. This article is for you. And no, you are not crazy.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD) is an adaptive response to a very maladaptive environment. It develops in response to trauma severe enough that people can only handle the experience by mentally splitting themselves off from it. A common thought becomes, “that’s not happening to me – it’s happening to somebody else.” By forming other selves to handle traumatic situations, the person compartmentalizes the experiences and dissociates themselves from their occurrence. This allows the person to maintain a separated sense of self, safely secluded away from danger. even when their physical body is obviously forced to participate in intolerable activities.
The treatment for DID is based on reversing and repairing this splitting and separating. This amazing coping skill, once highly adaptive in traumatic situations and originally a life- and sanity-saving strategy, eventually causes great disturbances in a person’s life. Over the course of time, the depth of pain, the volume of emotionally laden memories and experiences, the constant conflict between too many opposing needs, the hidden loss of original self, and the chaos of having many separate selves all become too overwhelming to manage. The dissociative walls that once neatly separated these areas begin to crumble — complications, confusion, disarray ensues.
By this time, therapeutic treatment for dissociative disorders can be highly beneficial.
As these survivors gain safety from any ongoing abuse and any ongoing reason to dissociate, they can begin the process of healing and re-associating themselves with their parts. This occurs gradually, as they connect with the painful, emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual experiences that forced them to split and separate in the first place. Only as they re-learn about their traumatic history, meet the needs that went unmet at the time, find comfort for their pain, and develop a safe life without trauma, can they heal the emotional wounds that have been left unattended for so many years.
The dissociative treatment process is long and complex because of the depth of the issues involved. Typically for those with DID, the abuse occurred for years, with a wide variety of offenders, and a significant lack of comfort or assurance of safety. Pain, crisis and trauma became an “everyday normal reality” and no area of life was unaffected by such extreme trauma. Healing from this depth of injury takes time because there is so much healing to do.
If you are dissociative and you’ve carried your hidden pain within your hidden selves for too long, healing through the reconnection process is beautiful. It is not easy, but it is very much worth the effort.
Kathy Broady, LCSW