March 6, 2010
Here is the next picture in the series about DID artwork.
Even the title of this painting indicates dissociative identity disorder (DID / MPD).
Masks are a common metaphor used by the dissociative survivor. In this picture, where are the masks? What are the masks covering? What does the “real” person, or the rest of the person look like? Where are the others in the system? Are they hiding behind the mask too? If there was no mask, what would we see?
The dual nature of the picture is strong and complex.
I’ve purposefully picked this picture to follow the blog previous picture, as a further example of the left vs. right split within many dissociative trauma survivors.
The most obvious element in this picture about dissociative disorders is how the person is divided into at least two distinctly different people. The left side of the face is different from the right side of the face. It might be that this person feels divided down the center into two different parts, or two different systems with different internal worlds. This visible division is an important issue to discuss with the artist.
The hairstyle, while similar, is not the same on each side. Besides the color difference, notice how the red side is curlier, wilder, appears to be longer, and comes closer to the front. The red hair covers more of the face, specifically blocking the right cheek, part of the right eye and the right edge of the mouth. System-wise, who wears the red hair, versus who owns the yellow? In the places where the colors are little mixed, what does that indicate?
The red hair seems a little more unruly or wild than the blond. Are the ones on the red side more angry? Do they feel more intensely? Do they feel more out of control? Are they in more pain? Yet, the red hair side is the one that covers more of the face, so does that side have more to hide? Do they have more secrets? Or does this side control what is or isn’t said?
When you look at this person, which side do you notice first? To me, the red-hair side seems to be more prominent. The colors are brighter, and the hair is bigger, and it is more forward than the yellow side. What is that about? Are these red system parts more visible than the other parts? Which side is more active than the other?
The yellow is still strong. What does it mean? How does it feel differently than the red?
Does the light red / pinkish-colored hair on the top of the head have any significance? It is a blending / mix of the blond and red? Does that color represent a unique system group? Are these parts that bridge the red and blond in some ways? Can they communicate with both sides? Who can do that?
Notice the two different eye colors, along with the two differently angled eyebrows. The blue eye is noticeably darker and heavier in appearance than the green eye. What do the two different colors represent? Who looks out the green eye, and who looks out the blue eye?
These eyes have the appearance of black eyes. Are these eyes indicators of having been beaten up? Has this person experienced a lot of physical violence? Have there been other kinds of violence? What violence has she seen?
There are big white spots in the center of both eyes. They may look like normal reflection spots, but examine that further. What do they indicate? In some ways, these spots make the person look dissociated, or staring, or in a trance-state. How does this relate to the artist-survivor? How often do they switch? How often do they feel ungrounded?
If you look closely, the eyes have color on the right edge, and the white is more on the left side of the pupil area. What does this indicate? Does the person see half of what happens, and dissociate the other half of what happens? Do some parts remember what they see, while others white it out? Who knows, versus who doesn’t know? Explore these ideas.
There is a blank emptiness to the eyes, and in some ways, the eyes show sadness. What is this about? What emotion do you see connected to the eyes? What feelings does the survivor have?
The nose, while drawn like a normal nose, has the shadow on the same side as the darker eye and the darker hair. Is this shadow simply artistic? Possibly so, but it is worth including in as an element of the discussion of the left side vs. right side differences.
Look at the mouth. A significant portion of the mouth is covered and hidden, indicating there may be secrets being kept. The lips appear to be pretty tightly closed – maybe even tense – indicating silence, or just not talking, and little appearance of feeling comfortable with speaking. What is this mouth not allowed to say? Why is the hair covering that side of the mouth? What does that side of the DID system know about that they aren’t talking about?
Notice the subtle line drawn horizontally across the base of the neck. What is the purpose of that line? Is it the neckline of a shirt? Is it an indication of being choked or other neck-related trauma? Is it another indicator of how the head get dissociated away from the body? So many DID trauma survivors separate their heads from their bodies, or feel disconnected from their bodies, to this line could be an indicator of that. Explore that more, in case it is.
The background behind the face is also divided into two different designs. What do the two different backgrounds represent? One side is purple with small black lines, and the other is black with purple curvy lines. What do these colors and designs represent? Are they indicative of trauma or intense feelings? Ask a variety of questions about these designs. They are telling a story. I don’t know this survivor, but the background indicates that there is good reason to ask this survivor about having experienced shock trauma.
What is the overall emotion and feeling you see when you look at this picture? I see sadness, pain, some anger, a heaviness, and a lot of trauma. This dissociative survivor very likely has a lot of abuse stories yet to talk about.
I wish her the best in her healing journey.
Kathy Broady LCSW
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