Does Dissociation Make Us Special?

| By Paul | | Comments (39)

My answer: Of course it does. But, we are already special. Everyone is special. We are no more special than anyone else. And there are plenty of other things which make us special.

One of the worries I have when I think about and talk to others about recovery from a dissociative disorder and trauma is the special factor. I understand that there's always that natural tendency to want to be part of a group. To be special. Different. And I admit that I sometimes do get caught up in that myself. But when I take a step back, I know that the path of "I'm special because of my trauma and dissociation" is a dead end. It does not help us heal.

Intimately tied to the issue of being special is the language we often use. All of us sometimes get caught up in saying "we" and "co-consciousness" and "switch" and "integration" and "alter" and on and on. When absolutely necessary, I may use one of these terms. But I tend to avoid them. There's a simple reason for that. The language of dissociative disorders and their definitions present narrow views. These views tend to tie us into a particular way of thinking (and sometimes being) and ultimately hold us back.

All of us, I hope, embrace as our main goal to heal. For those of us who dissociate, it's undeniable that this ability was a main reason we survived. But we all end up eventually discovering that dissociation is severely limiting. The only way we heal is by broadening our awareness, often quite radically, from where it used to be.

It's rather easy to say "Personality A did this" or "Personality B was out" and people, particularly treaters, will know exactly what you mean. But that's usually said because of lack of awareness, or strict adherence to the dissociative language and paradigms. As we develop awareness–as we heal–we necessarily find ourselves at odds with these paradigms and with the goal of dissociation.

That's when we've reached a middle ground.

It's a bit harder to try to explain the middle ground. It takes a bit more effort to explain what is perhaps a less clear reality. While this is not always the case, I have come to believe that the dissociative barriers which demark personalities may be only consistently extreme at the beginning of our healing. I've known many survivors who have confirmed this view. Is there really a firm line that marks precisely where one personality ends and another begins? Is there really a distinction between co-communication and co-consciousness? At this point, we've outgrown the language, which is why I don't like it in the first place.

We heal when we begin to view ourselves as whole beings who are constantly changing. We heal when we take ownership and responsibility for our actions, even if we used to blame them on one part of us. We heal when we view ourselves as a little less special and a little more like everyone else.


Paul Author Profile Page said:

Note that this post wasn't made to spark a controversy. It was meant to help people heal. If I offend some, then I am sorry. That is not my intention. These issues are not easy. They require thoughtful approaches.

Michael said:

I do not see myself as special. I see others who are healing from trauma DID or not as special for their courage. I kinda think if a person thinks they are special than they probably are not.

I go with traumatic experiences or I experienced trauma, not my trauma or the trauma. I have had other experiences also. The goal in a way is to make my other experiences have more effect on my life. Sometimes trauma is almost used like a noun.

I think the terms used when discussing DID are often what is observed not what I experience. I have not often used alter, host, inner therapist or littlest nor does my therapist. She has said she has and does with others with whom she works. When I first understood not everyone is DID than I read some about it. I came to the conclusion that the definition of host seemed to be who the therapists see the most often or think they see the most often. Other people my have a host it could be said I have many. I do use the names and identifiers that we have always used; Ice Man, The Twins, The Lazy Boy (who is anything but) some, they we. We have some names that at first seemed insulting like Dummy, Freak and such. We tried changing the names and came to understand that was their name and that meant it was not insulting. Other parts thought they should be insulted and they were not.

I have never used co-consciousness nor inner communication. It is always understand or express.

I have never used not will ever use I was a victim, it is always I experienced. The victim thing to me gives to much credit to the ones that created or let the traumatic experience happen. I was there, I was doing every thing I could. The fact that I did not have many choices makes my efforts more important to me.

I do not use survivor. That feels to all inclusive and excluding. I was doing much more than that. I did not survive learning to ski have birthday parties and learn how to read. There was more than surviving going on with the other children who were with me as we experienced trauma.

Now that is interesting. I wonder if I do not relate to others who have experienced trauma as it feels disrespectful to those that were with me when I was experiencing trauma and disrespectful to those that did not survive. That will take some pondering.

I experience being in a car and not knowing where I am going or where I was for a bit. That has no resemblance to what I experience do to my traumatic experiences.

I sometimes am healing and sometimes experience growth. They are not unrelated they are not the same experiences for me.

You wrote: I have come to believe that the dissociative barriers which demark personalities may be only consistently extreme at the beginning of our healing.

Might be for some not true for me. Some parts of me are totally separate in memory, abilities and in what they experience physically. I was in the studio where I take art classes and there was a paper bag drawn in pen and ink with some kinda water color wash and I said I like that. My instructor who knows I am DID said that is yours.

We have never done the blame the other part which might be my therapist doing or it might be my daughter who when I said I sent the guards away she said I like the guards. We each blame ourselves and think the other parts are special. We have always taken responsibility for our actions.

My traumatic experiences may be similar if described. I did not experience them the same way and do not experience life the same way as anyone else.

My traumatic experience made it hard to be me and to express who I am.

I value my uniqueness that I experienced trauma and am DID does not make me unique.

I don’t defend my uniqueness as much as I used to. Best explained by example. I am very proud I solved a legal/engineering problem. Some of the parties involved think I am good at research, some I have a good legal mind, some that I have knowledge. I solved it with visualation and imagination. I am now more OK that is not understood. The other things may or may not be true that is not what I value, not what makes me proud.

I do not worry about being the same as other people. I go with who whom I can share and what I can share. Sometimes if feels to me that someone being traumatized or DID makes it so we can not share anything else.

I may have explained my… theory. He is a male therefore… she is an actor therefore… he is a lawyer therefore… All generations are incorrect.

I solved the mysteries of life. They are mysterious.

Journey on,


jahda said:

Hi Paul, you really get to the heart of things with this post, I think. I just realized that I have been absent and dissociated from the entirety of my life.... This is huge...

I don't know about "special". To indulge in that kind of thinking drives us into narcissisticthink, the thinking of our abusers...the thinking we need to free ourselves from.

Does it put us a few steps ahead on the path to enlightenment? Or do our dissociated states set us back, slide us back to the beginning, like too many games of snakes and ladders?

After countless months of of googling "Multiple Personality Disorder and Buddhism" with no results, I finally stumbled across the following article:

Which put to rest my notion that I was in some way ahead of the game, and made me realize that I am indeed that many personalities or mindstreams behind...

Kate said:

Hi Paul,

I hear what you are saying.

I do believe that as a group, those with dissociative disorders are different than the average person. I think that if you did a scientific study on this there would be many differences. Many therapists and researchers would agree.

Perhaps this is conceit in me, but I do think of myself as special. I do think of those with dissociative disorders as special. And not just because we have a dissociative disorder. However I do see it and it does mean something to me, something very healing. I do beliee that we would all be special even if we had not been abused and have DD. I see it and perhaps that is just me and where I am at in my healing.

I think that we have been so emotionally devalued as people and society. For example; the stigma, the crazy, mental, unstable, nutcase, malingering, liar, stuff that is out there and is commonly thought of about multiples. One way of counteracting that is to see and value the differences that helped you to survive and to continue to survive. I find that very healing.

Learning about being DID and my inner landscape was difficult, challenging, terrorizing, and anxiety-ridden. Being able to see the beauty in each part at that time was a saving grace for us all. Feeling a part of something, instead of just a piece of nothing much so important was and is a defnining part of my life story and brings me a great deal of joy, satisfaction, and healing. I remember early on saying out loud they are a part of me. They are a part of me. One day I truly felt and knew and said I am a part of them. That was a huge turning point.

I understand what you are saying about how it is a dead end. It doesn't bring full healing, no. I agree with you. I think that healing from abuse and disscoaitive disorders don't come from one way of approaching the problems and that it is a very long-term kind of commitment to healing.

I understand what you are saying about the definitons that we use being narrow. I agree. I dont' use them a lot. Probably more so since blogging. It is a shorthand method of saying something very complex in a few words.

I don't think that there is any language or meaning above these terms and ways of defining, so I'm not sure what to do beyond that point. For myself I am still trying to shake loose the awful stigma that I and others go through, just because we were abused and became pieces of a personality to cope, to survive, to live.

I respect you and your blog posts as well. I find that I am at a different place than you, still trying to work on helping myselves to heal. Admitting to any of that online or anywhere is a huge progress in growth and healing for me. Trying to let them know they are loved, valued, and precious for who they are is important and healing for them.

What do you see for yourself beyond the language and paradigms?

Good and healing thoughts to you.


castorgirl said:

Hi Paul,

I've talked to other survivors about the concept of being special because of the dissociation. In particular I've looked with concern at some groups of survivors who are almost in a competition as to who had the worst history, abuse, therapist etc. I've unwittingly entered into online support groups who have acted like this. It was a very negative environment and one that was not aimed towards healing. I left the group fairly quickly.

Does dissociation make us special? In my opinion, no more than anyone else. You're right in that every person is special. We all have idiosyncrasies which provide motivations for how we act. Dissociation influences those motivations in a variety of ways. But so does an allergy to peanuts (yes, very random example).

We use the terminology in order to better understand what we are experiencing. As an example, it helped us to be able to put the label of derealisation to the experience we get as a way to de-mystify it. The use of "I" or "we" is trickier. We know intellectually that we share this body. But we also have huge barriers to communication, so it feels more like a collective experience or opinion. Our blog is the most obvious form of our expression as a dissociative. In our daily life we do everything possible to stay invisible, fly under the radar and fit in. We actively avoid being special.

I think one of the easiest traps to fall into is believing that we can "blame" an alter for a behaviour. Today we were assertive and raised our voice. This is very out of character for our daily living, and it is very easy to pass this off as the actions of an alter. But that alter is still part of this brain. We need to learn how to harness that ability and use it appropriately, we need to lower the barriers and work towards a healing balance.

This may just be an excuse, but we feel as if we need to know what our jigsaw puzzle pieces look like before we can start constructing the puzzle. We're not saying that we need to know all of them, but rather enough to be able to understand our actions and be able to work consistently with that knowledge.

Healing from any trauma takes time and effort. Sometimes we all get a sidetracked and caught up in the trivial as a way to avoid the larger monster in front of us.

Take care

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

You all brought up excellent points. Thank you. I know these concepts aren't easy. My post was not meant to, in any way, devalue our experiences, challenges, or efforts to heal. We are different. But most people I know are different in various ways and degrees. I guess I posted this because I want to be thought of as someone who is more than my label or more than my "disorder". I want to celebrate my efforts and progress, but it's important to me that I value a bit more highly being a father, for example, than being someone who is healing from childhood abuses.

Michael: I understand what you are saying. And it goes back to what we've talked about before, that everyone experiences dissociation differently.

Jahda: I think if you are able to realize you've been dissociated for a lot of your life, then this is a big step towards changing that. So, you are on your way. Thank you also for the article. I read it through once quickly, but I can tell it's one of those things you really have to read a few times to understand. I'm a slow learner!

Kate: My main point about special is that people with autism, schizophrenia, OCD or eating disorders all are, to me at least, as special as those of us who dissociate. I think all of us have been devalued and stigmatized. All of us tend to become known by our label and not by our being. It's healing to celebrate what makes us different. But I am only challenging us to be more than that.

B: I didn't bring up this issue of competition, but I was tempted to. I don't have much experience with it these days. In the early 90s, when I was beginning my healing, I saw this a lot. And I was so naive and vulnerable that I got caught up in that too, I think. This is not, in any way, healing. Rather, it's harmful. I do understand that many of us can view dissociation as special without our heads getting too big. But the key is to make sure our heads don't get too big. I'm a big believer in moderation. This is something I was not brought up to learn very well, but I am working at it now. You are so correct that we do need to know what our puzzle pieces are like if we are to heal. I am challenging people to do that in a mindful way which does not devalue the dual reality that we are both puzzle pieces and whole beings.

Thank you all again for your very thoughtful comments.

So, should I make more posts like this?


You might not have meant for your comments to cause controversy, but they are controversial. I've read your post and the comments. Some I agree with, some raise the ire in me.

I don't think it unhumble of me to think of myself as special because of my dissociative disorder. How can I not? When I don't cope with life in normal manners, when I switch and lose days of time, when I hear voices, those things seperate me from the realm of "normal" experiences that humans encounter. It makes me feel "normal" to think of myself as special, otherwise I would say degrading and deriding comments to myself about how I'm not good enough, not like everyone else, etc. So it's important to think of myself as special and with a different capacity to handle life's situations.

I do agree with you about finding the middle ground. I agree that the demarkations, boundaries, and walls our alters build are more predominate in the beginning. But this seems more common knowledge. The goal is, of course, to overcome these walls and demarkation, allowing ourselves to meet our alters and working together to get through life. But before that is possible, it IS NECESSARY to revert to saying "Personality A" did so and so and "Personality B" feels such and such. I have to thread out my alters before I can move on. I have to know who feels what and who does what. That's how I get to know them, how we start to work together, and how we move on together.

You wrote: The language of dissociative disorders and their definitions present narrow views. These views tend to tie us into a particular way of thinking (and sometimes being) and ultimately hold us back.

I disagree that "dissociative" language holds us back. For me, and I've been in therapy for my dissociation for three years, it is this language that has helped me make sense of what is going on with me. It hasn't held me back but has propelled me forward. And so what if the words co-conciousness and co-communication are used interchangeably? What difference could that make in the long run?

I feel anger toward your post. Not sure why. That is for me to discern later. But I would hate to be one of your alters. I would feel totally disrespected and unappreciated.

Missing In Sight

Paul Author Profile Page replied to missinginsight:

Dear Missing In Sight,

I thank you for having the courage to post what you did. I am sorry you feel anger from what I wrote.

My comments were meant to be encouraging, healing, and empowering. They are not a put down. I think I did say that we are special, but just not uniquely special. But, I think, we all want to heal what we know is not normal in us. In order to do that, you eventually need to get to a place where we are more normal. And you can only get there when you realize that our specialness is not unique.

I understand what you say about vocabulary. I truly do. I am merely pointing out that that vocabulary (the dissociative language) can only get us to a certain point. And for many of us, we need to get somewhere further than that point. I am not denying that you need that vocabulary now and if my comments were written in such a way, then I apologize.

We are at different places in our healing and understanding. So, you have to appreciate that I am writing from a different perspective. As we heal, and I know this not from just me but from many others, things become much more fluid and complicated than the language describes. The language eventually doesn't do justice to our experiences. It is in this way that I say it's limiting. I'm not saying it's not helpful. I'm merely saying that it's not the whole story.

I hope that helps. Thank you for posting your blog link. I will be sure to check it out.

David said:

The "survivor-competition" that I see on the Internet, particularly among DID folks, has always been extremely distasteful to me, and is, I think, inimical to healing. I also really have issues with DIDers who allow their littles to comment in "littlespeak" on other people's blogs. I too believe that while it's important to be honest with ourselves and others about the disorder, it's also important to learn how to function in the world.

However, the more I observe people other than myself, the more I do think there is something very special indeed about people who develop DID. We would have been extraordinary without the DID... that's not what defines us. But there is a difference between us and people who respond to abuse by breaking rather than dissociating. Unlike, for example, a narcissist, there's nothing actually wrong with our core selves... the picture is still good; it's just in pieces. The narcissist's picture isn't good anymore and a different kind of fundamental change has to happen for that person, because they have fundamentally broken and been destroyed in ways that we, as dissociatives, have not. There is something in the wiring of our brains that allows this protective fragmenting, as neural imaging is beginning to prove. I don't necessarily think that makes dissociatives special or better, but it does make us different, and I'm grateful for that difference, as it prevented me from ending up like my dad... who was abused as a child, and who broke and became a destroyer because of it.

Unlike many folks with DID, I am very open about having it. My mother knows, and several of my friends know. I talk about the experience of having DID pretty freely, but I am also someone who has never lost time, and who has had 30 years of full co-conscious interaction with my primary switch. I'm able to explain the disorder very clearly, with an analogy that people understand easily. In a way, I feel like a bit of an ambassador for dissociatives, because I am very functional, responsible, and seemingly perfectly "normal."

I do tend to identify with who is "out" in my brain at any given time, not to reinforce those walls, but because doing that provides useful informational clues about triggers, sensitivities, and lost memory. If I can identify that Jamie reacted to X event, then I know it was a life-threatening trigger, and looking at the situation helps me to identify where more communication and reassurance needs to happen. However, I don't identify my switches to other people, though my very observant girlfriend sees them easily, and asks about them when she notices, in an effort to meet my emotional needs.

However, I also think it's important for readers of this post to realize that you are further along in your healing journey than many of us are. I can certainly easily envision a time when it will no longer be helpful for me to use language that reinforces the concept of fragmentation, and will want to see the parts of my brain in a more Jungian sense, which is how everyone's brain functions; everyone is full of personae and facets and archetypes... they just don't have the walls up that we have. I'm looking forward to the day when it's a fluid watercolor, rather than a mosaic. And I agree with you that language is part of that. Language creates perception, and if I refer to my alters for the rest of my life, then I'm always going to have them.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to David:

David, I do appreciate the specialness of DID. I really do. And we should celebrate that. I just want to challenge people to appreciate that there's specialness all around us. I am not sure how open or not open I am about DID. It used to be a giant secret, not even for my wife to talk about, even though she knew; if she brought it up, I would stop her. My parents and siblings have known for almost 20 years, but we never ever talk specifically about it. Maybe I'm too embarrassed about it. I'm not sure. The ability to write here about it, even though I'm writing anonymously, has been a big deal for me. And, perhaps like you, I talk about it here because I think it's an important subject and needs to be understood. This is why I think most of the models that have been put forth by some clinicians can be rather weak. I don't think the complexity of this condition and the fluidity has been adequately represented. I don't think, by the way, that I am necessarily further along than others. I struggle mightily with some of these issues. Just because I write a coherent position statement now, doesn't mean that it's always the case for me and that all of me always agree with what I write. That is so not true. I've more or less accepted that there will be no final healing destination, only more challenges. But the challenges spiral. I revisit many I thought were long ago solved. Although, each time I experience the same challenge differently and learn from it. Healing is all about learning, I think. And being open to new ideas. This is why I don't like to be constrained by the language. Thanks for your very thoughtful comments.

David said:

When I say you're further along, I mean you've been in active therapy longer than many of us have, and you've reached a point at which some form of integration no longer looks threatening or like a loss of self. That is why, I think, you are seeking to move past the language of dissociation -- not because you want to disregard the parts of self, but because you want to include them differently.

I think that those of us who are still at the stage of learning to reliably recognize and accept the parts of self are more likely to find that idea threatening or disrespectful, because we're not yet at the point where integration or greater fluidity seem possible; there are parts who have been ignored for so long that removing the framework of language seems to be equal to removing the framework of their existence.

That is not, I sense, the place you're in -- you're further down the road.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to David:

Thanks! I'm just saying that there are parts of me who disagree strongly with what I wrote. I'm not aware of them right now, but I know eventually I will. I can tell you that there are parts of me I absolutely do not accept and actively reject and want to excise (which is as mild a term I can use). So, no, I don't have all the answers. But, yes, I do try to challenge myself and think that one can do so and even have a responsibility to do so, and still have major difficulties with doing so.

jahda said:

Paul, you asked,

"So, should I make more posts like this?"

Most definitely! :-)

castorgirl said:

I agree Jahda, more posts similar to this would be interesting. It always helps to see others views on any issue. Possibly space them out so that we still get to know you as well though :)

I admit that when I first read this post I had a negative reaction. It took sitting and reading it through several times before I could reach a point where I wrote what I did previously. For me, the dissociative terminology and the concept of being special because of my dissociation is helpful up until the point where it creates a barrier to further healing.

Like David, I'm incredibly thankful that for some reason my brain dissociated as it's way of protecting me. At times I step back and am amazed at what the brain can do. But I'm still not sure if that ability makes me special. I would hope that there is something about me other than my dissociation that makes me worthy of being here. There are times where I severely doubt that. So I do need the construct of dissociative framework to be able to put my experiences and feelings into a context of normalcy.

I have been in situations where the dissociative terminology has hindered my healing significantly. But this has been more about acceptance of the dissociative disorders as a valid diagnoses, rather than their limitations to describe what we are experiencing.

Kind regards

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

Ok, thanks Castorgirl and Jahda. I'll post more in this vein and space them out. To be honest, this post has not been easy for me and not without internal consequences. So, I need to space them out for my own well being. That's why I posted today that picture.

Ivory said:

I felt un validated by many of your comments and then I realized that "men are from Mars" (I don't mean that in a derogatory way). Your experience will be a great deal different from mine as well as the processing/meaning/healing you receive from therapy. I'm assuming that since most men don't like to converse a lot, that may be why you think there is competition.

But, I also see in this post, belief and phrases from someone who has either had a lot of therapy (you admit that) or someone who has a degree in Psych. For instance, many Psychology departments now believe that DID doesn't exist, that it is only on a sliding scale on the PTSD spectrum. Also, many many of them will not allow their clients to use DID terms, such as "we", "us", or to talk about alters in any sense of the experience. They believe to do so is allowing the client to hide behind a wall of validity that society wants to break down. What it boils down to is that if they force us not to cry, then, we cannot insist we are hurt.

I don't think it works that way. I especially was not intending to "compete" with anyone. Blogging is the only avenue for me to "talk" to others about their experiences. Sometimes, when I read posts from other DIDs, it reminds me of something I want to share, be it good or bad. What brought us all to DID is the worst that could happen, there is no competing for something more.

Someday, I wish no longer to say "we", because there will only be "me". Goodness to you.


Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Dear Ivory, I'm sorry you felt not validated. I've made public and private impassioned cases for the existence of DID for well over a decade (one of which is reprinted here on this website, entitled '15 Years Ago and the Great Debate'). So, I am in your camp. I was not at all making the case that DID doesn't exist or that we cannot use these terms. I am saying that these terms have their place and I admit to using them when I need to. But I am also saying I don't tend to rely on them because they have limited meanings to me and don't encompass my full experience. Someone else brought up competition, but as I have said, I have seen it loud and clear mostly in inpatient settings and mostly in the early 90s when there was a different philosophy on how to treat this problem.

David said:

I'm the one who mentioned competition, I think, and it might not be a bad idea to clarify what I meant by that. I've noticed, in some discussion threads on the Internet, and among trauma survivors in general, that when a topic is broached, there is a tendency among some survivors to take the attitude of "I understand this topic much better than you do, because I've survived [fill in the blank] and you haven't," ...or "I understand this better because I'm in better touch with my child parts," or similar lines of thinking.

Rather than simply letting each survivor have his or her own unique experience, some people feel the need to one-up by showing how they understand more, or have felt more, or they "really" get what DID is supposed to be like, or something along those lines. I myself have been summarily "corrected" by people in blog threads who thought they knew more about my experience than I know about it myself, because they were somehow "better" at having DID than I am.

I don't think this is a gender issue, but I guess I could be wrong about that.

jahda said:

Paul you said earlier in this thread:

"Thanks! I'm just saying that there are parts of me who disagree strongly with what I wrote."

...and I just wanted to add there are parts of me who disagree with what I wrote too..

it gets confusing, doesn't it, lol.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to jahda:

Yes, Jahda, It does get confusing. What a wonderful gift we've made for ourselves, huh?

Ivory said:


I am so sorry that I came off sounding like a super snob. Really, I'm not usually so quick out of the gate. Thank you for explaining a bit further what you meant, and of course, when I had calmed down a bit, I realize I responded too quickly. Happens sometimes, so please, I apologize.

Something you wrote really did struck a nerve with me, tho, and that was the part you explained more in your later post. -- I HATE labels, (terms, too) but I do recognize the need for the scientific communities use of them, I just don't like them because they generalize too much. Also, I have spent most of my life hiding my DID. I have forced myself to become hyper-aware of my speech to make sure the "we" and "us", etc never comes out. When it does, I feel like a failure at my own life.

Blogging has been a great release for all of that, so I realize I was defensive.

@ David,
Thank you for clarifying what you meant about competition. I've read that on another blog, too. I have managed to dodge the institutional group nightmares, so I didn't even think that's what you might have been talking about. I have a very protective T. I am thankful for that sometimes. I think my newby blogging status has turned around and bit me in the ... ;)

Ivory (I'm going to sit down and be quiet now)

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Ivory:

Ivory, That's quite okay. When I wrote this, which was a bit of a risk for me, I knew it would hit some nerves. I understand the bit about spending our lives hiding it and the desire to not anymore. I try to do that in a very modest way so as to ensure that it is safest for all of me. Glad to have you here Ivory. Don't worry, not all posts will be so tough. I promise to post some easy ones!

Ivory said:

I feel vindicated.

May I add you to my blogroll?


Michael said:

On the competition thing. I feel there is no scale of the effect of trauma, that to look at it outside of a personal experience is not reasonable.

I do feel there is a scale of personal trauma in that some experiences are more traumatic than others to each person. As a simple example, totaling a car where no one is hurt might be traumatizing to one person and to another means they have to buy a new car.

I do feel that the effects of trauma on the brain and body is related to the age of onset, duration, physical severity of the trauma and the relationship of the person experiencing the trauma to the one(s) responsible for creating the trauma. This is not disallowing that ones experiences might make some events less traumatizing than had they not had the experience they have had.

I have known many multiples that will never be in therapy, never have the chance. I think it takes a person who is lucky in circumstance and ability that can do what it takes to get qualified help which is also competent. I personally think there is a bias created by the fact it takes a special person to get help which makes people with DID seem special.

Those that get therapy are sadly a privileged minority. In my opinion.


GirlInterrupted83 said:

*looks around* I didn't read all of the comments or anything but... my first reaction was this : I hate dissociating (I don't have DID but I'm still good at dissociating)... it makes things harder sometimes... oh never mind, I don't know what I'm talking about.

Thanks, Paul, for commenting on my latest blog post; I appreciated it very much and look forward to being able to explore yours more fully in the future.

Shen said:

I am so glad I found this site. I have been floudering around trying to find others who are blogging about their DID experiences and recovery, as I am.

I hear so much truth in what all of you say.
The fear of integration, this is something I have been dealing with. It has also been a hot topic of conversation at a support group I belong to. I have at least one blog entry devoted to this, as well (I may have titled it Fear of Integration, or something of the sort, can't remember at the moment.)

I hope you don't mind me peeking in here and seeing what else you have in store.

All the things you say about avoiding using words like "we" and "alter" and so on, that is exactly how I feel, and I felt like I was in the minority. It doesn't feel helpful, to me, to use those words. It feels like I'm hiding behind the language instead of using it.

I have gotten more open about my DID with people who I feel are safe. My husband, my siblings, several friends, etc., but I also have learned to set up boundaries to keep myself safe. This means not sharing it with people who don't feel safe, or who might look at it as something "special" as you put it.

Thank you for writing this, and thank you to all who commented. I hung on every word.

One Survivor said:

General random thoughts that come to mind after reading this post and skimming through the comments.

1. I am not disorder...I HAVE a disorder. Big difference. I am a person WITH a disorder...not that I think it should be called a "disorder" at all. See number 2.

2. I AM normal. What I experience and the way I am is a NORMAL response to a very abnormal situation...and thus not a disorder other than in the sense that my brain and life are a bit disordered because of it. Yet...even within that disorder...there is order. You just have to understand what the order is based on.

It is also normal to heal. Healing may mean less and less separation...possibly even resulting in no separation at all. Less separation can also result in less "disorder". :-)

3. Survivor, to me, means I got out alive. I do not see "survivor" as being a negative thing. It simply is a statement of fact. I survived some horrendous things. I made it out alive. It also means to me that I am functioning and do not need to be permanently locked up somewhere. and it means that I can learn from what I have gone through so as to not be victimized again.

4. Thriver, to me, means that I am able to find joy in life and keep moving forward and getting better. It does not mean that I can do life perfectly. After all, no one can! It does not mean that I do not struggle. It does mean that I CAN do a lot of things and that I can experience joy. I am working on moving more and more into the thriver mode.

5. Victim = what I once was...when I had no choice. I am no longer a victim. I now have choice. If I am abused now I am a volunteer. I may, from time to time, be victimized if programming is accessed or if I am caught off guard or am simply unaware of something. After all, people of all sorts get victimized every day in all sorts of ways. However, I have the choice to remain a victim or move over into being a survivor.

6. Labels are a helpful starting place for me. They help me to understand some things and gain some perspective, but that is all they do. I am not a label any more than I am a disorder. I will not limit myself with labels. I am who I am and I am the way I am...uniquely ways that no label will ever do justice to. :-)

7. I have already struggled enough socially without adding the label of having DID to my name. I admit that I dissociate, but I remain private about to what degree that is in my life. I choose not to risk without having a HUGE degree of trust...and even then...perhaps not.

This is, obviously, a huge evidenced by all the responses. I think that it is awesome that each one of us can be true to who we are and can express that...even when it is very hard and even when others might not understand. I applaud each one for sharing of your heart here.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to One Survivor:

Thanks OneSurvivor. I think what many people think of when they say "not normal" is that they think of the harmful aspects of DID which results in our body getting hurt intentionally. I know many with DID experience this. But I also know many who do not. I agree with all your other points. Thanks for contributing!

OneSurvivor said:

I hear what you are saying, Paul. In saying that DID is a "normal" response given what we experienced, I am not meaning that it cannot be, or become, counterproductive. Not at all.

Regarding self-injury, there are many who do that who do not have DID. Therefore, I am not sure whether or not it should really be considered a negative side of DID other than a person who does not SI can have an alter (or aspect of themselves) that does. Obviously, the goal in such a situation, I would think (I am not an SI'er) would be to gain co-awareness so that the SI can be stopped. Ultimately, of course, the SI'er needs the chance to work through the issues that cause them to do it in the first place.

Thanks for the dialog. You write things that make me think...and that is a good thing!

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

OneSurvivor. Of course DID is a normal response. I get that. But knowing that doesn't solve things for me. I mean that's just a statement. I guess what I'm saying is that, for me, a good deal of my dissociative reactions are reactions that are not at all healthy. When they impact only me, that's one thing. But when I switch and end up leaving my kids unattended in public spaces (i.e., I lose them, or a part wants to run away) when I'm supposed to be in charge of them and keeping them safe, is not what I consider "normal". Also, for those who SI, there are different degrees of SI, and for many SI can be life threatening when alters are intent on destroying the host (usually through suicide), don't recognize the structure of the system, etc. There is no way that I could characterize suicide as normal. I can understand it. I can empathize with someone who is suicidal. But it's not normal. But at some point labeling something as normal or not normal can become irrelevant. I get that too. I am only saying that I would like a life that I perceive is more "normal"; acknowledging that I don't really know what normal means.

OneSurvivor said: "normal", I don't mean that we were meant to live this way. We were not. I also don't mean that it is healthy to stay this way. I know that some might disagree with me, but I don't think it is necessarily healthy to continue on with DID...and especially not when there are things happening such as you describe.

I so hear the difficulty it is causing in your life...and in the lives of many others I know. Please forgive me if I came across sounding in any way like I was minimizing your struggle. I certainly don't mean to. There are things that happen to people as a result of DID that really are unhealthy and even downright dangerous...whether to the person or to others around them. Those things need to stop...clearly. If only it were that clear (and easy) as to how to actually stop them. *sigh*

What you are going through is scary! (I did read your recent post and followed the link to this one.) I hope that you can find the way to heal and bring stability to your system.

I meant my comments on this post to be a rather general response to just this post and others' comments here.

Shen said:

Sure, DID is a normal reaction to very abnormal situations... That doesn't mean its something we have to live with forever or like! Screaming and vomiting are also normal reactions, but people still strive to live without them when they can.

OneSurvivor said:

Agreed, Shen.

I seem to be failing to get across very well what I mean by "normal". Before I understood what was going on in my life, I used to think I was abnormal...some kind of freak. I mean, for example, how "normal" is it to not remember living with my sister when we grew up together and lived in the same house for over 10 years? (And I have the photos to prove it!)

What a relief it was to find out that I was actually "normal"...that I was experiencing the normal results of some horrendous things I had been through. (At the time, I had no idea just how horrendous they had been, but I don't think that matters.)

In saying that I am normal, I am NOT saying that this is the way life should be. No! It is not the way life should be! Nor am I saying that I should not try to improve change it! But for someone like IS "normal"...meaning that it makes sense that it is the way it is given what happened to me. I am NOT a freak!

Of course I will continue to work very hard on my healing. I will continue to work to reduce the ongoing results of the abuse...and even to reverse them, if at all possible. Whatever healing looks like...I am running for it!

It's funny, I guess, but even writing about this is beginning to bring tears to my eyes. Almost my whole life I spent thinking there was something "wrong" with me...that I was "abnormal" and a "freak". It was only about 8 1/2 years ago (I am 53) that I found out that I am NOT a freak...NOT abnormal...NOT weird!

So...I guess it is a hot spot for me. So many people see someone with DID as being abnormal instead of seeing them as simply someone who has gone through a lot of stuff and who needs love and support as they go through the healing process. I want to be be seen for the beautiful, gifted person I am inside...not looked at as "abnormal".

Sorry to step on toes. Obviously...this is a touchy issue for me. I hope that I have been able to clarify a bit here. I understand, and accept, that others will not see it the way I do.

It is my desire, not that you necessarily agree with me, but that you simply understand what I am really trying to say. So far, the responses seem to indicate to me that I have failed to communicate what I truly mean. And I am not sure that I have made it any clearer even now. Forgive me if I have failed. I do not mean to be contentious in any way.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to OneSurvivor:

I can understand what both of you are saying. I am happy to have this dialog. I can also understand that it's important for all of us with DID to find solace that it's a normal response to an abnormal situation. I totally get that. I think I'm just saying that that view will only get you so far. It helps in validating and empathizing. But change comes from seeing behaviors or thoughts within ourselves that are not good for healthy living. I call the things I mentioned earlier "not normal", but maybe that only matters for me. I tend to think that the creation of a DID system from abuse (or even dissociative coping on a continuum) as expected responses. But it's not normal. As an example, if you get electrocuted, you will get burns and possibly a heart arrhythmia. The arrhythmia is not a normal heartbeat. Even good things can be labelled as not normal. I don't consider Beethoven to be a normal human being. Nor do I consider Einstein to be normal. Nor do I consider Michael Jordan normal. Sometimes I relish in the not normal and am so thankful for that. I try not to judge what's not normal in me. Sometimes I am not successful in that effort. But sometimes I am able to be happy I am "not normal", whatever that really means.

I have to admit that I struggle with this somewhat. As an abused identical twin, seemingly born simply to indulge my psycho genius father's twisted ideas of torture for "fun," I always felt like an "extra copy." I felt like a duplicate that could easily be thrown away and tossed aside at any time...with an exact duplicate replacement ready and waiting to take my place at any moment. It's a big rejection issue for me. This is timely as it is the big issue I am working on in therapy right now. Thanks for sharing this post, Paul.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to marj aka thriver:

Wow. That's big Marj. I wish you well as you explore.

Inner Family said:

I'm sorry I have not read all the comments yet. I believe I am "special" but not because of having others inside. I am special because I am loved and accepted, just as everyone is special because whether they know it or not, they have made an impact on the world. Special does not mean "better" to me. It means I have value. I am worthy of love. To this end, I hope everyone can someday see themselves as special if they do not already. This is what I have learned from others inside.

I don't exactly think that having others inside makes me "different" either. My best friend is one way when she is with her children and another way when she is with friends and yet a third way when she is doing a reading for someone. But she does not dissociate. Our roles are more pronounced and not always created by choice. It is like differentiated attentiveness.

One friend gets "nudges" from Spirit. Another is able to hear spirit guides and other entities that have helped her in a healing practice with very satisfied clients. A third friend sees people who have died. I have met two spirit guides, who are unquestionably NOT part of our inner system. There is scientific evidence of strong links between trauma and intuition/psi.

Dissociation is perhaps an opportunity to "go beyond" what Western thought has long considered "normal." In her book Your Sixth Sense, Belleruth Naparstek writes, "These children became adept at protecting themselves during the abuse by altering their consciousness and spending a lot of time out of their bodies in a dissociated, altered state, a kind of 'trauma trance.' This usually results in an extremely confused, frightened, spacey, but very psychic child."

Just my opinion.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Inner Family:

Thanks Inner Family. I agree with everything you've said here. Not everyone shares this balanced view as you, though. There was a context for this particular post, plus I don't think I said things as clearly as I would have liked (hence some of the more recent related posts). The context was some of the experiences I have had with some multiples (and people who treat multiples) in mainly hospital settings.

Paul Author Profile Page said:

Hi- I will soon set up Trackbacks. But in the meantime, MultipleMe posted a reply to this post here:

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