March 28, 2010
Isn’t this an interesting picture?!
Assuming the artist of this picture is a trauma survivor with dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD), this drawing shows many of the system insiders.
How many insiders do you find represented in this picture?
When I look at this picture, the different parts that I see could include the following.
The front girl, on the light side, is probably the one that presents the most to the world. She is neat, trim, clean, dressed nicely. Maybe she is the leader of the parts on that one side of the system. She probably is the one that goes to work or school, etc. She doesn’t seem to be too happy, but she has an air of strength to her. I see sadness in her eyes.
The dark, shadowy side of the face, with a wilder hairdo represents a different side of this person. It’s hard to know, without asking, if the left side represents one part, or a combination of different parts. I would assume that more than one part is represented. This side of the drawing appears to be male. My guess is that the male parts are quite dominant for this survivor.
The shoulder of armor and chest guard, along with the hand holding the sword shows a strong, determined, protector part. Notice that this part of the person comes out towards the front of their physical presentation. It could mean that these protector parts are very close to the surface, and they may be the first ones you meet when encountering this dissociative survivor. Even if you don’t meet them directly, they are right there, watching everything, and paying very close attention to what’s happening.
The strong protective hand and sword are out in bright light. I’d have to ask to be sure, but my guess is that this survivor fights strongly for the things that are good. Their heart doesn’t belong to the darkness. They fight for positive, for goodness, for safety, for healing.
The outer leg, dressed in jeans with running shoes implies a male part. I know that girls wear jeans and tennis shoes, but when trying to show the male parts, this clothing is different from the other more female items, so I would ask about the boys. In fact, that whole left side could be more about boy parts while the other side could be more female. (Or is that shoe a steel-toed boot? I can’t quite tell, so I would be asking about that.)
The mix of male-female clothing (male-female parts) is also emphasized through the waist area, with the draping of the skirt versus the leg of the jeans. It is extremely common for most dissociative survivors to have a mix of both genders in their systems.
The cat part is obviously a strong part of this system, holding a place of balance in the center of the system. This cat’s role in the system is important and significant. The cat is young, probably a child part. This part is one of the most obvious parts of the system, and yet still hides its identity from the outside world – we can see it’s there, but we can’t see who it is. Does this part hear more than it sees? Why is this the only part that is looking the other direction? What does that mean?
It appears that the cat-child is directing intense self-hatred to at the female host via self-injury and cutting. The self-injury is probably related to a number of different issues, but notice that it seems to be aimed towards one female part. Explore that further.
Does the woman feel pain? Is she capable of dissociating pain easily? Does she dissociate the pain involved in cutting and self-injury? The staring, flat expression in the woman’s face could indicate that she is dissociating and not feeling the cuts that are being made on her shoulder and leg. Is she aware that it’s happening? Is she amnesiac for times of self-injury? Why is she the one being hurt? What message is the cat-child trying to give her?
Since it appears that the woman does not feel the pain, maybe the cat-child is the one that feels the pain. The strong, dramatic striping on the cat could indicate intense feelings and waves of pain. It has the look of heated flames (and tiger-stripes), but the feel seems more painful than peaceful. How wild and out of control does this cat-child act? How many times this cat-child has been hurt? My guess is that this little part has endured a lot of the trauma.
Even though this young cat-child part appears to be angry, hurting, hurtful, and self-destructive, notice that the female leader has an open palm, a friendly, gentle acceptance of this troubled young cat-child. This is the only paw of the cat-child that does not have the claws sticking out. This is a good sign, and it shows some gentleness and compassion between system members.
The small hand of the cat-child could also indicate that there is a definite connection with feeling like a small child, and not just as a small animal. Maybe the child can come more forward during times of feeling safe and comforted, while the cat-side stays out at other times.
It is not uncommon for dissociative survivors to have animal parts within the system. There will be reasons for way these parts are presenting, and it will be important to understand the life-stories of these parts the same as with any other part.
While it’s a little hard to see, it looks like there is a small, crying child part (or two?) hiding under the blanket. These child parts appear to be scared, and deep in hiding. Even the teddy bear helps to hide them. These little parts can still see a lot, but they may not come out and interact with the world very often. They are probably kept inside and away from people for the most part.
There is a tiny small area of dark-purple with the child part and the teddy bear. This is the only area of color in the whole picture, and is an important topic for discussion. What does it mean? What does it represent? Why did the purple need to be colored while the rest of the drawing could stay in blacks and whites? What do these child parts know that is still a secret? What does the darkness around them represent in their life?
I would ask if the cat-child part is also a protector of the young children hiding under the blanket. Both the cat and the woman show gentleness on the side with the child parts, so maybe the woman and the cat both feel protective of the little ones.
The protective covering of the hidden child parts is full of mystery and warrants further questioning. There are layers of something, intertwined together, with a few straggling strings at the bottom of the blanket. What does all this mean? Does the DID survivor work extra hard to protect these parts? Do the adult parts of this system know the secrets that are held within the shadows of this blanket?
Overall, the insiders in this DID system seem to be close to each other. They sit near to each other, and have an obvious comfort with each other. The do not seem to be afraid of each other, and they appear to be close enough to be able to talk easily together.
My guess is that the switching between the woman host and the others that are represented on her personhood is not as obvious as it would be between the woman and the cat-child. Some switches are much less visibly different, and I would guess that the woman and her male parts are in close communication, and switch fluidly and easy between each other. They seem to have a good balance of sharing and cooperation, and while their roles are very different, there seems to be a strong level of comfort and familiarity with each other.
I would ask, in this case, if the necklace and female shirt area represent the sexual parts. While there is the obvious female statement, my guess is that the emphasis on the bright chest area indicates that some parts inside have a strong sense of sexuality. Or, the white color could mean the opposite – a numbing or lack of feeling. Either which way, this is an issue that should be explored with this dissociative system.
It is important to note that the kneeling knee and the bare foot are on the same side as the female / sexual parts of this system. Putting these indicators of submission together with the chain necklace could symbolize some history in sex slavery. This is a difficult topic, so ask questions gently.
As always, please remember that my guesses and interpretations of this DID artwork could be completely wrong. However, please take the ideas as presented, as use them in the ways that fit for you. Let these ideas create questions for you as you explore your own art, or the art of your clients.
Kathy Broady LCSW
Copyright © 2008-2010 Kathy Broady LCSW and Discussing Dissociation
June 28, 2009
Trauma survivors know all about perpetrators. Dissociative trauma survivors know all about sadistic perpetrators. Dissociative trauma survivors with a background in ritual abuse, or mind control, or sex slavery organizations know all about truly evil perpetrators.
Those of us in the world who were not directly exposed to such darkness have a hard time grasping its depth. It seems surreal to us. Unfathomable. While many therapists may truly believe “in their heads” that abuse and evil exist in this world, having that head knowledge is still a far cry from truly knowing and experiencing yourself as the target of evil.
I’ve been working almost exclusively with dissociative trauma survivors for over 20 years, and I have listened to and believed what my clients have told me. I know the politically correct answer is to say that I can neither confirm nor deny the abuse of others, but let’s face it. Either trauma therapists believe their clients were genuinely abused or they need to get out of the field and go work somewhere else.
But do therapists really know what evil is? I dare to say, no, most do not.
They have head knowledge, but most mental health therapists have not experienced evil. They haven’t been the target of a predator. They haven’t had their soul ravaged or clawed into. They haven’t had their body destroyed or ripped apart. Of course, there are some wounded healers that have truly been able to rise above their own traumas and actually do have a genuine sense of how deeply evil can wound, but these are a rare find.
(But be careful, there are far too many wounded who should spend more time on their own healing before jumping into the helping profession. If you happen to find a therapist that truly has done their own healing, then you are very fortunate – that person will be able to help you. But please watch out for the professionals who are still mid-process. They can cause a lot more harm than they might mean to cause.)
Despite my sheltered upbringing, in the past few years, I have been getting a deeper grasp on how cold and evil people can be. I’ve had a closer look at the destructive handiwork of predators. Initially it took me off-guard, because I really believed in the goodness of people. I was raised to trust, to forgive, to love, and to see the best in others, and I do that easily.
So being targeted by the calculated coldness of predators has been quite an eye-opening experience. I still shake my head in surprise, completely amazed at how vicious people can be. The lies, the twists, the deception – the depths to which people will sink when they have no conscience to guide them – it’s totally mind boggling to someone raised by a family who truly believed in goodness.
How does someone protect themselves from blatant attacks by a predator trying to destroy them? When someone is trying to rip at your very core, how do you stay safe and solid within yourself?
First, know that they don’t know you. They know what they want you to be, but they don’t know who you truly are apart from them. As a result, they don’t speak the truth about you, or about anyone. They speak through the tools of their trade. They tells lies, they create deception, because these are the things they know. They know darkness, and they know cold, calculated, purposeful destruction of people. Yes, they purposefully work to destroy good people. But they are not you. And they are not me.
You don’t have to listen to them. You don’t have to believe them. You don’t have to be who or what they say you are. You don’t have to do what they say to do or think what they tell you to think. They are flat wrong in their words, their actions, and their motives. Learn who you truly are, apart from their lies and their manipulations and their tricks. Learn to think for yourself, neither in obedience to them nor in reaction to them, and that will help you to separate yourself from them.
And believe in your true self. Your life, your beliefs, your heart, and your soul belong to what you are willing to fight for and to what you stand for when there is nobody but you yourself telling you where to stand. You don’t have to give any of yourself away to the dark, cold emptiness of a predator. If you know and connect to your true self, that alone can be a protection against any predatory attack on your self. Knowing who you truly are is an armor against the lies and tricks intended to destroy you or hurt you by telling you who and what you are.
And learn how to compassionately love. Hold onto that gentle love you feel, and never let it go. Evil does not love. If you can genuinely love and care for others, you are not one of them. Stand solid in the knowledge of your own goodness, your spiritual faith, your strengths, and your ability to think and to feel and to love. Let that repel the evil away from you.
Separate yourself from them. Know who you are apart from them.
And stay far away from them. The best protection you can have is not to give them the opportunity to say or do anything to you. Protect yourself. If you know that somebody is a predator or a perpetrator, stay away from them.
Because you are not them. And they are not you.
You do not belong to them, no matter how much they come after you.
You do not belong to them, no matter what they did to you or what they said to you or what they made you do.
Stay true to yourself, and be who you are. Be who you truly are. And let the power of compassionate love overcome any darkness that tries to change you.
If you forget, remember the beauty and simplicity in an opening quote from the movie, “The Notebook”:
“I am no one special – just a common man, with common thoughts. I’ve led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me, and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect, I’ve succeeded as gloriously as anyone who has ever lived.
I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and for me, that is always good enough.“
Kathy Broady LCSW
June 7, 2009
One of the hardest areas of healing work in trauma disorders is dealing with shame.
For many survivors of sexual abuse, healing work involves learning about a lot of intense memories that leave them feeling a great deal of shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. These are difficult emotions to process, and the memory material is typically very overwhelming.
Some survivors feel immersed in shame from the very beginning of their abuse. They are appalled at what is happening for them and hate every minute of it, even if they can’t get away from the predators. With every incident that happens, they feel worse, and worse, and worse. The more degraded the survivors are during the abuse, the greater shame they feel.
Shame can become all consuming. It drowns any feelings of self worth and erodes at self-esteem. It leads to self-injury, increased dissociation, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behavior, depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions, etc. Shame, at its most intense, can destroy lives.
Survivors will internalize the harsh destructive words of their abusers, and if they hear those messages with enough repetition and intensity, they will believe the negativity as truth.
For the host alters of the dissociative systems, there could be nothing further from the truth than hearing what the other alters in the system are saying about abuse. The fronting, daily-life dealing alters are typically not at all aware of the depths of the abuse, and the horrors expressed by the parts much further behind them does not feel real.
However, the alter parts hidden deeper in the dissociative system often have a very different experience than the front alters. Dissociative walls and consistent amnesia keep their two worlds apart from each other.
Sometimes the abuse-laden parts have become so entrenched in their abusive worlds and so blocked from any kind of participation in the outside world that they do not understand the extremity of the worlds they know. For dissociative survivors who have been sold into sex slavery or prostitution or pornography, this dynamic can be all too true.
System parts that are taught by their perpetrators to feel pride in being used as sex slaves know that to be their world, their truth, their reality. They own that pride, and do not think twice about it being a difficult or questionable lifestyle. They have been encouraged to handle the pain, they learn to believe they like the pain, pain becomes associated with pleasure, and they have a sense of accomplishment for completing various sexual tasks, no matter how extreme.
These alters strive to make accomplishments in that world. They may feel quite successful at their “jobs” and have few feelings of shame.
Reclaiming those parts from their abusive worlds means that these parts will eventually connect with the horror and shame that they pushed away years ago. The parts that have been sexually passed around from person to person to person will start realizing how much that trauma actually affected them. What once gave them pride, will lead to painful agony, shame, and distress. They will realize how much they have been hurt.
However, once they realize they are being abused (or have been abused), they can make decisions to stop the abuse.
They can work with their therapists and the host parts of their system to get away from the abusers, inside and out. This is done through internal system work, freeing each part from the ways they have been trapped in their memories. (Remember, people with DID tend to keep internalized realities, dynamic re-enactments of the abuse with introjects of abusers in what feels like the current day timeframe.) This work can also happen in freeing the dissociative person from a real-life, current day abuser.
Once survivors feel more distance between themselves and the abuse, they can begin to heal from the barrage of shame-inducing, horrific traumas that happened. They can gradually begin to understand what things belong to the perpetrators vs. which things are truly about them. They can begin to develop a separation between themselves and the world of sexual abuse.
Healing from that internalized sense of badness is a big part of the therapy work. As survivors learn they are truly victims of crimes, and that they are not to blame, they can begin to let go of the sense of shame that has surrounded their lives for years.
As survivors remove the overwhelming trauma from their lives, they can then, in turn, fill their lives with positive activities from their own unique preferences. They can begin to feel better about their lives. They can feel healthy pride in what they are doing, and feel pleased in their accomplishments. They can replace the feelings of deep dark shame with a sense of happiness and self-worth.
Overcoming shame is not easy. It is hard, grueling, intense emotional work.
The intensity of the shame felt by a trauma survivor can be a type of emotional barometer for the amount of healing work that needs to happen. The more that shame overwhelms the survivor, the more healing work is still needed. As the depth of this shame lightens, the more the survivors have progressed in their healing journey.
1. As a trauma survivor, know and understand that you are not a bad person.
2. Come to terms with how the abuse was not your fault.
3. Be brave enough to look honestly at the trauma that happened in your life.
4. Find the strength you need to get away from your abusers.
5. Work hard to be safe and to end any and all abusive relationships in the current day.
6. Realize that you will be able to build a happy life that you are proud to have.
7. Believe that you don’t have to let your shame destroy you.
8. Recognize the perpetrators for what they are – nasty violent sex offender criminals.
9. Let the perpetrators keep the responsibility for their own behavior. Don’t take on what belongs to them.
10. Do your healing work – process your trauma, grieve the way it has affected your life.
11. As you heal, be willing to let the resolved issues settle into the past.
12. Fill your life with activities and people that you genuinely like.
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