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Dissociative Identity Disorder: Breaking Free and Healing PTSD

Updated on October 17, 2018
Dr Bill Tollefson profile image

My passion is to inspire and coach people to achieve what they want to get out of life.

Understanding of Dissociative Identity Disorder as a Normal Protection Reaction

Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as DID in the healing professions, is very misunderstood, and feared condition that carries a lot of stigmas. In our society, Dissociative Identity Disorder has been feared for decades. Anyone with a DID diagnosis has had to hide his or her condition. Those who carry the label of DID experience shame, guilt and disgrace due to society's view of it. I heard a famous person, an abuse survivor herself; say in regards to Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID, “People fear what they do not understand.”

It is a commonly held belief among both lay-people and professionals that those with DID suffer from a mental illness that carries with it a measure of culpability in the acts. Nothing is further from the truth.

I believe DID is a normal spiritual, mental, emotional and physical response to repetitive overwhelming life-threatening events of sexual, emotional, mental and physical abuse. In essence, DID is a natural survival and defense reaction. The ability to compartmentalize the mind is a total protection of the whole and a gift of the human soul.

I deeply understand that these horrific types of life events wound a person’s Soul. I have had the honor to directly work with many wonderful wounded souls over my twenty plus years. I have guided many survivors with Dissociative Disorders and PTSD through his or her journey of recovery and help to heal from his or her wounds.

After many years of experience, I have clearly learned that DID is feared, misunderstood and even denied by many psychiatrists and helping professionals. The DID-diagnosed women I worked with gave me a profound deep understanding that they all were incredibly strong, creative, resilient, intelligent, resourceful and powerful. Unfortunately, they have been told differently by professionals and media. All were in pain because they felt the need to keep the secret of their repeated abuse from family and a society who would not listen, believe or even attempt to understand what they went through. Acceptance was a foreign concept to them all, so they kept the secret of their wounds in the darkness of their pain.

DID is a normal survival response
DID is a normal survival response | Source
DID is a a gift of collective strength
DID is a a gift of collective strength | Source

DID is a Gift

Many do not understand that DID is a normal survival response to multiple experiences of abuse and trauma. DID is an inner strength and a gift of the human soul to survive.

No one who has survived any kind of abuse or traumatic event should never be afraid to raise their voice or feel the need to hide what happened to them. There is hope for healing the wounds of a Soul. There are specific methods that can be learned to help the wounded survivor to unify their parts and become whole. I have witnessed many of my clients achieve stabilization as well as heal his or her wounds. Survivors with DID can become very fulfilled, peaceful and productive individuals. It is time for anyone with DID who is still living in the shadows of blame, fear, shame, and guilt to step out of the darkness and into the light. Anyone having DID or complex PTSD should be proud of their remarkable ability to survive. He or she should recognize and validate all parts of yourself and the gift of life and protection their system gave them. Recognition is the first step to living a life filled with freedom, happiness, and wholeness.

My book Separated from the Light describes the wondrous journey of survival which is possible for every sufferer or wounded soul. The book describes the first step to understanding DID without blame, guilt, stigma, and shame. I would like to share my thoughts on Dissociative Identity Disorders to increase normalization.

The symbolic concept and the recovery process of dissociative identity disorder is a complex subject. To make it easier and simpler, I believe that Dissociative Identity Disorders, Dissociative Disorders, and Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is a normal human response. A normal reaction to experiencing multiple overwhelming life-threatening experiences of sexual, emotional, mental or physical abuse acts. DID allows an individual to survive and save the whole Self. This natural ability to compartmentalize is a creative protective and defensive processes. Any human who has gone through repetitive abuse or trauma situations knows that his or her personal integrity was threatened. He or she also learns that after experiencing such horrible acts, that "they are never the same as they were before the experience". But self can be recovered and healed.

Any overwhelming life situation throws human systems out of balance and wounds part of the human soul. Abusive or traumatic situations cause the Soul to compartmentalize for survival. After experiencing repetitive life-threatening or abusive acts, a survivor feels profoundly out of balance and understands deeply that his or her life will never be the same as they were. A normal feeling following an abusive or traumatic event is to feel different, broken or damaged. Survivors have reported that they felt personally invaded, like a part of yourself had been ripped away, shattered, empty inside, or sometimes all of these at once. The emptiness is the result of the loss of part of one's soul and the brain's compartmentalizing of the identity to ensure protection.

Core Self

There are many stories throughout history of humans living through life-threatening events so severe there was no possible way they could endure, but they did. So to gain a deeper understanding of the inner symbolic process of survival, one has to learn the importance and function of the “Core Self.” The Core Self is the center of human identity … the deep essence of all human character, and it is what makes a person human. The main objective of a human, when threatened by abuse or trauma, is protection and survival of the Core Self at all costs. The Core Self is made up of three elements: Self, Soul, and Spirit. The Core Self holds human essence, depth, height, order, structure, and substance. When all three elements are functioning and in balance, the person is balanced, healthy, and strong. As a result, the person feels content, happy and whole.

Abusive and traumatic acts throw a person out of balance behaviorally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. The result is physical unhealthiness and feeling out of balanced, along with a host of other negative feelings and thoughts that manifest out of him or her.

The miracle of survival is the ability to hide the Core Self by traveling up the dissociative continuum by compartmentalizing on a minimal base or complex compartmentalization which is known as DID. The act of survival is a gift from God or a Higher Power. Yet some survivors do not view his or her survival as a gift - but rather as a curse or burden.

Don’t be fooled. Addressing, restructuring, and healing is realistically possible with understanding and recognizing the symbolic process of survival. Therefore the path of healing is reversing the symbolic compartmentalization and uniting the parts of Soul once again.

What is PTSD?

Story of a Survivor with DID Recovery


A dramatic example of a DID healing can be viewed through the story of a 44-year-old female who survived repeated acts of emotional, physical, mental, sexual, and spiritual abuse that started when she was a very young child. Her knowledge of these events started surfacing to her consciousness in her early thirties through many years of self-work and therapy. She worked very hard in her therapy. Despite the many years of therapy, the older she got, the more dysfunctional her life became as well as an increase of flashbacks. Her dissociative and PTSD symptoms intensified through the years. She went through periodic inpatient hospitalizations for unexplained loss of time (dissociation), depression, emotional outbursts, and severe flashbacks as well as episodes of self-harm and inappropriate behavior. Her thoughts became more diluted, intense, confusing and fragmented. She had difficulty stopping negative self-defeating thoughts and vivid images from invading her mind. Her negative thoughts bothered her and looped constantly in her mind yet became addictive because she could not stop focusing on them. She kept attempting to fix her past to no avail. More and more she felt a loss of ownership of her own body and her life. During the same period of time, other people and family members told her about many inappropriate behaviors which were out of character for her and she had no recollection of.

Due to her increasing loss of time, her private therapist had asked her to begin to journal as a way to keep track of her time, daily events and feelings. The result of months of journaling brought her additional shock and disbelief. She started to find disturbing entries. Entries she did not write, bizarre behaviors she swears she never performed, and entries signed with names that were not hers. Her job, marriage, and relationships began to unravel. With extensive help from her private therapist, she came out of denial and recognized the possibility that she had Dissociative Identity Disorder.

She was determined to not live that way, so she looked for an alternative way. She searched and found a method called incorporation for DID systems. Incorporation was not only therapy but a life coaching method. She learned that incorporation was a safe procedure, no drugs or hypnosis. She came to understand that incorporation would not threaten her system or "kill" her parts. She studied, increased her understanding, began inner communication and began to recognize her system from a positive perspective. She worked hard toward the goal of incorporation. In the course of life coaching sessions, while getting ready for her incorporation, she was taught that her reactions in childhood to experiences of sexual and physical abuse were normal. Through the acquisition of new education, new skills, and writing assignments, she was able to change her victim mindset to a healthy mindset, accept her past as history, shift core beliefs, make closure with past destructive emotions and for the first time, love herself. She learned that she was much stronger and more capable than she ever thought or imagined.

Once ready, she committed to the incorporation process. She reported at the start of her incorporation session, “I have all these other parts that live inside of me that interrupt my life. I felt like they ruined my life. I cannot keep living like this. My goal is to get me back and get a life.” “What I found through my efforts was that my parts were the result of my effort at coping and they were not my enemy.”

At the conclusion of her successful incorporation, for the first time in her life, she accepted all her parts back and united her system. Her initial dream of being whole was realized. All of her parts of her Soul were together again and safe. She knew what she did was only a start but she was back in balance once again. She recovered her personal authority which her abusers had robbed from her.

Of course, incorporation is just the first part of her journey to health, but now she felt in balance, empowered and complete. She had recovered her Soul parts, stabilized her PTSD symptoms and was on the road to being healthier and happier. Due to the incorporation process and Personal Philosophy Method, she was no longer living a life of anger, distrust, fear, or lost time. At that point, she was able to work with all of her parts, stay more present, and yes, plan for a future. Hope was in her own hands now.

DID is a Gift

DID is an Innate Gift
DID is an Innate Gift | Source

Believe that DID is a Gift

Here are three beliefs DID clients should adhere to.

The first belief is that the act of surviving repetitive acts of abuse and trauma through complex compartmentalizing is a gift. The gift is not only a path of surviving but also a path to recovery. There is hope that a survivor with DID can heal and live once more.

The second belief is that a survivor is creative, intelligent, strong, resourceful, resilient and powerful.

Lastly, the third belief is that the unbalancing and wounding caused by the abuse or trauma can be put back into balance and restored in a healthy way.

My strong beliefs are that significant healing cannot be accomplished until an individual has returned the Soul parts back into a state of balance and safety. Without the return of the Soul parts lost to abuse and trauma, a survivor remains out of balance and in a state of confusion, crisis, chaos, as well as constant scanning for threats and living in the past.

System Unification Method or SUM

Healing is possible.

In 200, I created an guided revisiting method to help unify DID systems I termed Incorporation Therapy. 7 years ago Incorporation Therapy was updated to System Unification Method or SUM.

SUM was developed to be intuitive and mindful as well as addressing more inner complex elements of compartmentalization to facilitate healing. System Unification Method is a safe guided protocol designed to assist a survivor in connecting and unifying his or her Soul parts. SUM utilizes advanced connection capabilities, enhancing inner balance, recognition, acceptance, reduction in triggers, addressing negative core beliefs, and restructuring the whole system. This process facilitates taking back all Soul parts of his or her core identity allowing him or her to achieve a new level of empowerment, confidence, strength, and a new state of balance as well as healing.

SUM facilitates a DID system to unite and commit to working together to regain wholeness.

© 2012 Bill Tollefson


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    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Tollefson 

      16 months ago from Southwest Florida

      Dear Gupi, I really appreciate your comments on this Hub. Thanks for following me.

    • Gurpinder Vir Singh Rai profile image


      16 months ago

      Thank you for sharing this article. I found reading it very useful. It is very detailed.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Tollefson 

      7 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Judy Bateman - Thank you for your nice words about my website. It attempts to normalize DID and express that healing is possible. I have dedicated my professional life to it. I have devleoped many specific tools that help DID clients understand and appreciate their strengths and qualities. Please enjoy my book. It was written for the person, not the professional. Thousands survivors and family members have learned a lot from it.

      Please continue to follow and read more of my HUBs on DID and PTSD. Blessings

    • profile image

      Judy Bateman 

      7 years ago

      Very educational website about DID, I was diagnosed 20 yrs ago after a lifetime of strange reactions with my emotions, memory gaps from childhood and strange feelings of not feeling all there. later in life depression, aniety and so much body pain not all explained. have had christian counseling and over the years have developed a faith in Jesus Christ, I have been told my altars need to be brought into the light with me. So I look forward to reading the book, God Bless, Judy Bateman

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Tollefson 

      8 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Living earth - Thank you very much for your comments and supportive words. My passion is in educating others on the normality of PTSD and helping survivors to heal. I believe strongly that there is hope.

    • living earth profile image

      living earth 

      8 years ago from UK

      I am a firm believer in holistic healing, whether it is to treat physical conditions or emotional imbalances. Your approach to treating this condition sounds very positive and makes a lot of sense. I sincerely hope that many people who need help with overcoming PTSD or DID will find this page, so that they can benefit and find hope through reading your inspiring article.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Tollefson 

      8 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Pollyannalana - Thank you commenting on this HUB and the Vote Up.

      Please share it will all you followers, friends and those who might need the information. This information needs to be shared with everyone so the fear connected to this issue can be broken.

      I hope you read and share more of my HUBs.

    • Dr Bill Tollefson profile imageAUTHOR

      Bill Tollefson 

      8 years ago from Southwest Florida

      Happyboomernurse - I really appreciate your wonderful comments and the clarity of your thinking. You have such good insight. Thank you for your recommendation to others. You have been such a strong supporter of mine.

      More people need to know that survival is a normal process in order to break the fear and help survivors find the voice and work toward healing. Healing is possible.

      I am grateful for the strong Vote Up.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      8 years ago from US

      A very good hub and hopefully will be a help to many. Voted up.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      8 years ago from South Carolina

      Your compassion, knowledge, experience and research in the area of recovery for those with Dissociative Identity Disorder and PTSD shines through in this informative article that also shows the way to healing and recovery.

      This article is a must read for anyone suffering from DID or PTSD or for those who love someone suffering from them.

      Your belief that Dissociative Identity Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder are normal human responses to overwhelming life-threatening sexual and physical abuse as well as traumatic life events is empowering to those who have been diagnosed with these disorders as are the three beliefs that you adhere to in your Life and Trauma Coaching practice:

      1.) That survival is a gift and with this gift also comes hope and a path to return.

      2.) That a survivor is creative, intelligent, strong, resourceful and powerful.

      3.) That the lack of balance caused by the trauma can be put back into balance.

      Thank you for sharing your beliefs and experiences and for your dedication to continue helping others through your coaching practice.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.


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