Dissociative Identity Disorder: Normal Or Not?
D.I.D. is a natural response to repeated life threatening experiences
Time to Change How Dissociative Identity Disorder is Viewed
Do you carry a label of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? Do you feel like you are being looked at by other people or professionals as weak, broken, damaged or just plain less than? If so, you also have felt as though everyone around you who knows you are scared of you? Maybe it is time to change your view of yourself and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Take on a whole all new positive mindset and productive view of DID.
The label of DID carries with it a lot of stigmas. DID has a negative image because of the way DID is depicted in movies and television. Societal beliefs, religious beliefs, and psychiatric beliefs do not cast a favorable image of individuals with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Some professionals, particularly psychiatrists, do not even believe DID is real. Other professionals are not trained to assess or conduct therapy on such a complex condition. Anyone who has received a DID diagnosis has felt extreme pressure, real or imagined, to hide his or her condition and symptoms. Actually to lie about what they are going through due to the negative light on the condition.
Therefore, those who carry this condition, experience feelings of blame, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and humiliation. Survivors with DID are routinely told they are damaged inside or crazy.
Traditional types of treatment do not seem to be effective with survivors who have a diagnosis of DID. Conventional accepted therapies focus on past life experiences looking for the specific “event” that caused the “problem.” Many survivors with DID are misdiagnosed. Then treatment is done incorrectly with a subpar protocol connected to the inappropriate diagnosis.
Nothing could be further from the truth. DID is a normal and natural response to surviving exposure to repetitive life-threatening experiences of severe abuse and trauma. In reality, the development of dissociative identity disorder is a demonstration of creativity, intelligence, inner power, and strength.
Dissociative Identity Disorder is a Strength
One of my specializations over the years has been with survivors who had been labeled Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I have a passion for working with survivors of complex trauma in all forms. The creation of a DID system to survive repeated abuse or trauma is an "alternate world" in response to overwhelming life-threatening physical, emotional, mental, sexual or spiritual acts. In order to survive such horrible situations the individual's personality fragments for protection and survival. This act of fragmentation of self is a "normal reaction" rather than a mental illness or personal weakness.
DID is a highly creative internal method of survival.
While working exclusively in an inpatient psychiatric hospital setting with survivors of abuse and trauma I created a method called Incorporation Therapy which helped him or her to stabilize and restructure their DID system. Incorporation Therapy was extremely successful with thousands of survivors with a DID diagnosis but it was not a cure. Incorporation Therapy did aid in the stabilization process and stopped the inner crisis and chaotic cycles, which were the result of surfacing PTSD symptoms. But more was needed to shift survivors from survival mode to adapt to regular life.
So a whole new mindset was needed. Survivors with DID need to acquire new coping skills to function better in his or her life. A new method was needed to be developed that would be a more effective way of healing in order to facilitate internal stabilization, therefore, enhancing life coping, emotional regulation and socialization skills.
DID is a Symbolic World and Steps to Heal
Go back to the idea that a survivor’s inner identity structure shatters and creates a symbolic world of a DID in order to survive. But at that point wholeness is lost. Now consider this; "that which is born out of pure creativity, power, intelligence, strength, and resilience to survive overwhelming life-threatening experiences then it is only rational that a return to wholeness would occur on the same path". The shattering of a victim’s identity that happens due to being exposed to multiple life-threatening experiences does not happen literally. Meaning the shattering of the identity does not show up his or her outer shell. It occurs on the inside of the victim to save the life of the whole.
Professionals need to stop viewing DID as a disease and see the human power and beauty of the creation of a DID system that saves the individual from death.
If DID is not viewed as a mental disease then how should it be viewed? I found after 30 plus years of working with survivors with complex Post-traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) and who carry the diagnosis of DID, his or her shattering or compartmentalization of their identity did not occur out of weakness but through symbolism and strength alongside an incredible desire to live.
So the questions are as follows.
Can the same strengths that a victim used to survive help him or her to heal? Can a now survivor use his or her own creativity, power, intelligence, strength and resilience to restructure his or her identity and achieve a level of wholeness again? Can the shattered and compartmentalized identity be reversed? The answer to all these questions is yes. Those powers of survival, which were used to shatter, can, in fact, unify to heal.
Before entering into his or her inner symbolic world, a mind shift needs to happen. His or her system needs to be viewed as a gift and not a weakness, damage or disease. The survivor needs to see their DID system in a positive light and stop blaming, doubting, hating, mistrusting and judging their own system and themselves. Rather they need to embrace a positive mindset of acceptance, growth, healing, and empowerment.
Recognize that all parts together plus themselves make up the original identity that was present when born. Once this positive mindset is achieved the system can work as a whole team.
If the system is unified and works as a whole team rather than separately then anything is possible. Think about what the whole system achieved and overcame in the time of severe abuse and trauma.
Accept a view that life is growth an opportunity. Rather than life is a constant threat to protect against.
Unification is Healing
Return to Wholeness is Possible
How is wholeness possible?
To answer the question first one needs to know how the compartmentalization happened. In order to survive such horrific and repetitive experiences, the brain symbolically unhinges a person's identity. The brain constructs compartments to place parts of the identity into so that the whole identity will not be captured, damaged or trapped by the abuser(s), or traumatizing event(s).
This incredible inner re-structuring, in fact, is a mirror of how the brain actually functions as an organ. The brain is one organ but operates the mind and body from many different compartments within the brain. To name a few voluntary and involuntary functions: balance, hearing, sight, breathing, balance, digestion, physical sensations, feeling emotions and identity.
Think about this. If the brain can compartmentalize self for protection against life threats then it can also re-structure into a symbolic wholeness when the threats are gone. A tool is that can accomplish the re-structuring is termed System Unification Method (SUM).
System Unification Method or SUM is a symbolic method that can offer a way to re-structure the created compartments into a way of adapting to a non-abusive or traumatic life. SUM enhances cooperation, sharing of talents, the grouping of all qualities and the development of a new identity as well as a feeling of increased protection.
SUM also eliminates the haunting traumatic emotionally charged memories or flashbacks of past events and shifts old core beliefs to new positive beliefs which kept the system limited and connected to the past. SUM opens a new door to a future of strength, power, creativity and healing without destroying the integrity of the parts or compartments. SUM uses the strength, power, creativeness, resourcefulness, and resilience of the individual and system. All of this is accomplished through a safe and protective protocol.
The philosophy of System Unification Method or SUM is based on the idea that DID compartmentalization is a "normal" response and reaction to multiple life-threatening abuse and traumatic experiences. Therefore if the initial compartmentalization process is a normal response to danger then once the survivor is out of danger, the system can be re-configured into a symbolic wholeness.
A life of wholeness, fulfillment, and strength is possible after exposure to repetitive abuse and trauma experiences.
© 2011 Bill Tollefson