DIssociative Identity Disorder Blog
Monday, 11 February 2013
Reclaiming Your Sense of Self
One of the deepest causes of damage to self worth is the repeated conditioning that what the abuse target thinks is somehow inherently wrong. Repeatedly hearing that showing kindness, for example, is weak or that a simple expression of support isn't enough can create in the abuse target's mind the idea that what she feels is somehow wrong or deficient.
This can lead to a sense of separation from the self, as the first inclination of feeling and response is seen as somehow "wrong" so the targeted person searches in vain for a "better" or more acceptable response.
This is a lot like the parable of the man, the boy and the donkey, where the donkey was at first pulling a load, and someone judged the trio, saying that the people were being unfair to the donkey, so the man and boy began pulling the load until someone decided that the boy should ride. ... and so on.
A main challenge of this world is that all too often, from very early on, the sense of the self is challenged. Allow critics even a smidgen of room in your psyche and your sense of self can become like a ping pong ball, being hit willy nilly, leaving you with little or no sense of stability.
The bottom line is, as difficult as it might seem, to go with your gut. Let what naturally comes from you, come. Sure, sometimes you will modify this through experience but allowing others to dictate what you should feel, what you should express and how, is self-destructive and also not helpful to the critics, who possibly have a compromised sense of self as well.
What you express IS enough because it is your sincere sense of yourself that is important, your sincere sharing and interaction with the world, that matters. How to reconnect after being targeted? Give yourself space to find the intent behind your expression. If your intent is to support, don't let anyone else judge you in how you choose to be supportive.
If your intent to be supportive is misunderstood, instead of moving farther away from your inner wisdom, stand with yourself and simply and sincerely explain that it was your intent to be supportive.
In this way, day by day, little by little, you can reclaim your sense of self.
Friday, 11 January 2013
Why is Honesty Taboo?
Now Playing: Sharing your truth is not negative
I heard it from my earliest childhood years: "Don't air your dirty laundry in public."
That statement is a blatant attempt at programming children to take the blame for experiences that ideally they should never have had. Think about the kinds of things that are labeled "dirty laundery":
1) Family arguments. While I do see the need to not go public about minor family disagreements, family arguments that deteriorate into shaming, blaming, name-calling or other types of verbal, emotional or physical abuse need to be shared to protect family members. Hiding violence is never constructive or helpful.
2) Punishments. Again, no need to tell the world if a child has been grounded for a legitimate reason or has had a Gameboy taken away for a week. But physical punishments, beatings, and threats of physical harm must be reported. Not reporting abuse only helps to protect abusive actions.
3) Neglect. Children should not feel guilty if they ask for help if their parents refuse to buy them basic necessities like socks, shoes and food. I am not talking top-of-the-line name-brand shoes or trendy clothes. I am talking basic necessities. A child should not have to walk around with holes in his socks or without a warm winter coat.
4) Arrogance. Not reporting levels of abuse and neglect and otherwise protecting family patterns can create an atmosphere of collusion where the abusers are seen as the victims and the victims are "making trouble" by asking to be cared for. This creates an energy of arrogance, where abusers feel no responsibility to treat their children with love and care.
These are just a few examples of what was called "dirty laundry" when I was a child. I hope you can see how important it is to air this kind of laundry for all the world to see. Public outcry can help us as a society learn to treat children with love and respect.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
DID and Denial
Mood: accident prone
One reason that the cycle of abuse is so strong in our world is that the energy and actions behind abuse are protected.
For example, when a child is beaten and yelled at by his parents, he is taught that he somehow "deserved" the rough treatment. This is a form of conditioning that is reinforced not only by the colluding family members and the abusers, but often by school officials and others who could be helpful.
You've probably heard of the Collective Consciusness--when it seems that through consistent, repeated actions and experiences, everyone in a society has come to "know" certain things. The pattern of protecting abuse creates a "Collective Unconscious" that perpetuates the patterns of abuse by ignoring them and denying not only the feelings of abuse victims but by declaring through the Collective Unconscious that the actions of abuse and neglect are so much a part of the societal fabric that they aren't even worth brining to awareness at all.
Alice Miller, author of many books incuding Breaking Down the Walls of Silence, says on page 29, when we spend our lives denying and suppressing our feelings, we are left unable to cope with emotions as they come up.
This can mean that a child who is abused is left as an adult unable to handle the energy of her own emotions and also unable to help her children understand how to express and cope with their emotions. This creates a cycle in which the abusers are seen as those who must be protected, instead of the victims.
What this in turn does is create a society with a main reality that focuses on denial. The individual who is unable to handle her own emotions and deal effectively with them in the moment becomes the society that is unable to handle its collective emotions.
The solution is simple, yes, in some ways it can feel as simple as jumping off a cliff. But the reason for that sense is also because the solution of facing and working through the buried and "taboo" emotions and placing the accountability on the people and institutions that have created the emotional dissoance, has been denied by society for so long that it does seem to exist.
But until and unless we are willing to jump off the energetic cliff and shift direction, the dissonance within our society will continue to grow. Violence will continue to seem senseless and fear and strife will continue to be our main motivators.
That in turn can make creating inner personalities in response and often in defiance of accepting that violence just "happens" and is more the fault of the victim than of the abuser, seem tame in contrast.
Miller, Alice. Breaking Down the Wall of Silence. Penguin Publishers, New York, NY, 1993.
Tuesday, 16 October 2012
DID and Shame
Whether we want to talk about it or not, child abuse is a societal issue of epidemic proportions. Our society tends to protect itself by doing whatever is necessary to keep the present cycle going--keep the big machine running
That tends to mean that we put more importance on what adults say, what they need and how they feel than on what children say, what they need and how they feel.
In healthy families, the parents and caretakers help their children to share their voices and have their needs met. But in dysfunctional families, the rule that a child needs to be a certain age before he or she will be taken seriously can leave room for abuse.
In divorce cases, for example, the custody of children is often one of the greatest concerns and causes for conflict. Though often the parents are scrutinized and made to prove that they can care for their children, the children are often not given a choice of who to live with.
If one parent is happier and healthier than the other, the child's word, her protests, concerns and feelings are not heard. No one asks the child who she would prefer to live with.
And while the choice of one parent rather than the other is a big decision, when there is a legitimate reason that only the child knows why she prefers one parent over the other, the way our society tends to handle that is with shame.
The child is shamed for wanting to be with mother or father instead of both. The child is told things like, "You should be ashamed. Your mother/father is doing the best that they can."
This can happen in other ways, as well, when parents are creating tension in the home behind closed doors and friends or neighbors don't want to rock the boat or disrupt what on the outside looks to be a happy family.
Abuse is an addictive habit. As such, the people who abuse go to great lengths to protect their ability to continue their habit. They know that as long as they play it cool in public that only the child or children know what is really going on.
So they preempt the child, "warning" school officials, friends, and others of the child's "wild imagination" or "sensitivity" and privately threatening the child with dire consequences if she dares to tell.
What this often does is leave the child with no voice. No recourse except to create a safe inner world, and endure abuse and even torture until society decides she is old enough to be on her own. And without support and understanding, how is she then to enter society and interact in a healthy way? How is she to create a happy, balanced life for herself when she has learned all her life that society just wants her to shut up about abuse?
What this pattern does is create a net of shame--not over the abusers, but over the children affected. Abused children are taught that what and how they feel is not only unimportant, but invalid. When they can't hold back their pain they are shamed by the abusers, and by others who have been warned that the child might tell stories about their home life.
Shaming a child does nothing to address the issue of child abuse. It does nothing to heal a dissociative pattern and does nothing to prepare a child for adult life except to create a situation where the child will continue to be victimized and possibly vent her frustrations by victimizing her own children or other vulnerable people.
The solution is to give children as much respect as we give adults. It isn't normal, for example in the case of divorced parents, for a child to cry and cling to one parent when the other comes to take her for a visit. It isn't normal for a child to tell school or other officials that she is being yelled at, neglected or beaten.
It's time that we stand up for children. Believe them. Listen to them. Don't decide for them what they must endure.
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
DID And Suppression of Truth
It should come as no surprise that people who choose to abuse their children don't want others to know about this behavior.
Our society has protected this behavior in many ways, first and foremost by placing children on a different plane from adults.
Examples of this are:
--The word of an adult carries more weigh than the word of a child
--If a child makes a mistake, that "deserves" punishment
--It is assumed that adults know more what they need than children do
The simple fact is that abuse against children is a crime, no matter what form it takes and no matter how the child responds (with anger, silence, dissociation, or any other response).
Allice Miller states in her book, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, "The suppression of the truth about the crimes committed against children is a crime for the simple resaon that it attempts to prevent us from saving both our children and our future. " (page 59)
I agree with Miller. In my own case, my parents abused because they were abused. Their continued pattern of expressing rage, frustration, impatience and anger on their children over and over again did not help them, and certainly didn't help me.
What was needed was for my parents to face their own abuse, work through it and heal from it. No amount of "childr rearing techniques" were going to "turn around" their children while the pattern of abuse was still going on.
That was a common way to "deal" with children renedered "difficult" by lack of consistency, love and healthy parenting when I was a child. Find someone who had written something to "fix" the child while leaving the parents as sovereign in their right to express themselves however they chose.
Even twenty years ago, many US parents still felt they had the right to discipline their children with physical punishment. Why? Because by continuing the cycle of abuse, the parents could avoid looking at their own fears and vulnerabilities.
But until those aspects of our lives are dealt with on an individual and societal level, child abuse will continue.
Sad, very sad.
Reference: Alice Miller, Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, Penguin Books, USA, New York, NY, 1993.
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
DID and Awareness
Our society is all about conditioning. From earliest childhood, parents are pushed to 'make' their children behave in certain ways.
Some aspects of conditioning aren't meant to be harmful. For example, teaching a child not to touch a hot stove protects her even though it is a form of conditioning.
But man forms of conditioning are harmful because they limit what we are consciously aware of. This limiting of our conscious awareness creates an outer silence that in turn creates inner pressure and conflict.
In abusive homes, one of the most common areas of suppression is that of reporting abuse, telling what is said behind closed doors and telling when the child has been frightened, hurt, neglected or intimidated.
Each time a child is forced to remain silent when she is abused, it creates inner tension. If the inner tension is too strong, she will need to create an inner escape valve. One type of escape valve is to dissociate.
Maybe, for example, it isn't Kriss who is hit or threatened by her parents. To create distance between herself and the unrelenting abuse, she may decide that Stacy is the one who is being hit or threatened. She might decide that Tommy is the strong one who can 'take a beating.' She might decide that Tina is the one who goes without dinner.
Since she cannot separate herself from the abuse in any physical way, creating inner personalities can provide a sense of distance at least from the most intense aspects of the abuse, as well as take down some of the overwhelming sense of fear and pain of the moments of abuse and neglect.
Alice Miller, author of many books on awareness, including Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, calls those who practice abuse tyrants, and says "Those addicted to power--the tyrants of the world--pay (for their actions) with the lives of others." (page viii)
Why are tyrants allowed to continue practicing such draconian measures? Again, according to Alice Miller, because, ". . ..there are many people in this same society who absolutely do not want to know the truth." (page ix, emphasis Miller's).
The real issue, and one of the strongest indications of the hidden value of people who dissociate is that society is running from itself, from its own deepest fears and feelings.
I agree with Miller when she says that our deepest conflicts can only be resolved by "experiencing, articulating, and judging every facet of the original experience. . .." (page 1)
Though this blog can only scratch the surface of this deeply embedded pattern, the silence that is enforced when children are abused not only damages the child. It damages the abusers and society as a whole.
Silence is never the answer. The pattern of covering up messes, not 'airing dirty laundry' as I was taught as a child, only brings more pain to children who are abused and to society as a whole.
The solution is disclosure, no matter the cost. Often the attempt to hide mistakes or abuses creates situations that end up being far worse than the original abuse.
Children are acutely aware of their surroundings. To say they aren't is yet another bit of evidence of conditioning on a societal level. When brought into the light, the choice is clear: Take responsibility for your actions. If you make a mistake, own up to it.
Paying the price in the moment is a lot like doing the dishes after breakfast instead of waiting a week and struggling with a stinky mountain of filth.
The changes we need to make as a society need to be made in each moment. I urge you to step up to your life moments with integrity, courage and honest awareness. By doing that, we will be creating an atmosphere of awareness and gradually cleaning the mountain of reeking silence society has created.
Miller, Alice: Breaking Down the Wall of Silence, Meridian Publishing, New York, NY, 1993.
Monday, 9 April 2012
5 Benefits of Being DID
Dissociation is a defense mechanism brought into being as a result of extreme stress. The stress can be emotional, energetic, sexual or physical but often is a combination of all of the abovementioned stressors.
Dissociation is a choice, a desperate choice, but a choice, to retain at least some individuality and ability to survive and remain in the individual integrity in the face of unrelenting stress. Stressors can be anything from war, abuse, a sense of contstant danger, or constant emotional stress.
Though dissociation is listed in the DSM-IV TR as a mental disorder, there are benefits to the choice of dissociating. Here are five:
1) Dissociation is highly imaginative. Many of our most brilliant thinkers in history have been extremely imagnative. Think of C S Lewis, Lewis Carroll, J R R Tolkein and others. No, I am not saying that any of these famous writers were dissociating, but they did tap deeply into their own imagination, tying in themes from the societies in which they lived. Many of the themes these writers illustrated are energetic ideas that we are still wrestling with today. People who dissocicate create a rich inner world to combat the chaotic, often violent outer world that they aren't equipped to deal with. This has two benefits: a) It helps them survive the worst of the abuses and b) It gives them the opportunity to explore deep life themes.
2) People who dissociate are deep thinkers. Wrestling with deep life themes isn't something most people choose unless they have to. The benefits of thinking through the energetic themes that are extant in our society can allow for creative solutions to everyday issues.
For example, creative thinking about how emotions flow between people can lead to thoughts about traffic flow, which can lead to innovative solutions for city planning.
3) People who dissociate are excellent multitaskers. Creating separate inner awarenesses can be a challenge due to the extra steps needed to connect to the separate awarenesses in order to perform routine tasks. But this can be an asset too. Because dissociative people need to access many points of view to perform daily tasks, they can keep track of many points of view at once. This gives them an edge in orchestrating complex projects or keeping track of many details at once.
4) People who dissociate think outside of the box. Because peopel with dissociative identity disorder follow a different path to live their daily lives, they can come up with creative ways of doing things that others might not think of. Becuase the 'normal' way of living didn't work for them, due to abuse or other traumatic circumstances, people who dissociate have had to figure out different ways to survive. This means they are not limited by a specific pattern of how things are done. Simply put, because life didn't work for them as it does for many others, they have a more highly developed and more freeform structure of problem solving. This ability can encourage creative solutions.
5) People who dissociate are excellent at discerning what others want and need. Because many who dissociate grew up in dysfunctional homes, they learned to read the body language and also learnd to anticipate the needs of their abusers. As they interacted with people outside of their family, the family "code of silence" that protected the abuse necessitated that they learn to read others as well.
This can create a keen ability to intuit and observe, that can help people who dissociate to know without asking how a coworker likes her coffee, or notice which friend is quietly struggling. If shared from a perspective of philanthropy, this gift can create and strengthen interpersonal ties, which can, in turn, help the dissociative person heal from the early abuses.
So I hope you can tell that connection is the key. The catalysts that caused the DID person to dissociate in the first place can create ways that the dissociative person can reconnect in the future. To the extent that a dissociative person is able to tolerate interaction and inner and outer connection is the extent to which the DID person will be able to choose to reconnect her inner sense of self.
Tuesday, 20 March 2012
DID and Chronic Shock
The catalyst that brought my own dissociative identity disorder to the forefront of my mind and life occurred after I panicked at a podiastrist's office. He was draining a cyst, a procedure he had done before.
Normally, after the first time or two, the nervous system would calm down and adjust to the procedure. In my case, each time was more and more stressful until I broke into a cold sweat and panicked, resulting in the podiatrist judging me rather harshly.
Not only was that the last time I visited that particular doctor, but the experience brought my system into a state of constant flashback and terror. The waves of strong emotion literally came every few minutes for weeks. I tried to contact my primary care physician but her schedule was full.
I finally found an explanation in an article on chronic shock. At that time in my life, I had buried the abuse of my childhood so deeply that the only way it could come out was through circumstances that triggered similar energy. I had become so used to avoiding circumstances that could potentially trigger the memories I'd been conditioned to repress that it took the relatively noninvasive procedure of draining a cyst on my toe to bring the symptoms to the forefront enough to remind me that they were even there.
Because my conditioning was so deep and so consistent, the flashbacks when they came were strong, insistent, severe and extremely disruptive to my daily life. In short, my nervous system when it finally expressed itself openly became stuck in a cycle called "chronic shock."
What is chronic shock?
The medical definition of chronic shock is "subnormal blood volume resulting from debilitating disease" according to Dictionary.com. In my case, I was experiencing the emotional/psychological aspects of chronic shock.
According to The Many Faces of Chronic Shock by Kathleen Adams, PhD, chronic shock is an unbearable, perpetual stimulation of the nervous system that can be a result of abuse, abandonment or other traumatic experiences.
I experienced 21 days of constant chronic shock symptoms before I figured out a way for my primary care physician to understand my needs and fit me into her busy schedule. By constant, I mean 24 hour a day symptoms. I was averaging about an hour of sleep at a time at night between attacks.
And the symptoms felt like attacks. My system would begin to relax and calm itself when another wave would crash down, throwing me into a tailspin of memories, feelings, body sensations and pain. This was my body and nervous system's attempt to process all of the repressed pain, memories and trauma that I couldn't handle and had been forbidden to process in my younger years.
My chronic shock was the result of over 20 years of abuse, neglect, torture, control, extreme punishment and denial. My abusers constantly reminded me as they physically abused me, that they knew how to inflict the pain without leaving outward marks.
But the marks were imprinted on my nervous sytem. Not even deep conditioning that I was worthless, bad and somehow "deserving" of extreme punishment could erase the damage that was being done to my body, mind and spirit.
Thankfully I found a therapist who understood not only the damage that had been done to me but who also knew how to reconnect my memories in a way that I could process them bit by bit. Gradually my symptoms eased and my nervous system healed.
Chronic shock is a real and painful condition. For more information about how I was able to heal, check out my memoir, Sky Eyes: Dissociative Identity Disorder from the Bottom Up, available at Amazon.com or through AKW Books as an e-book.
For more information about chronic shock, check out The Many Faces of Chronic Shock by Kathleen Adams, PhD.
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Learning to Trust
Mood: crushed out
One of the main life areas that is affected by dysfunctonal families is trust. A family is a place where all members, including and especially children, are supposed to be safe.
Safety can mean physically being safe from danger, but safety in a healthy family also means emotional and energetic safety that extends to all aspects of the child's life.
Healthy family safety implies that all members of the family are free to express who they are, whether or not their personal preferences, likes and dislikes agree with those of other family members.
In dysfunctional families, the sense of trust and safety is violated. This is often because the parents themselves have had experiences where it wasn't safe for them to express who they were. They may have grown up under strict rules that forced them to deny their own selves, conditioning them to believe that being "safe" means denying their own authentic selves, including their personal preferences, likes and dislikes.
An example could be a family where most or all members are a certain religion or poliotical orientation. A childo who chooses a different religion or choose an independant stance politically can be judged, ridiculed and shunned. The family members enforcing the strict adherence to a certain set of beliefs might think that they are doing what is best for the child or family member.
This betrays trust at a basic level by dissociating the child or family member from what he or she believes and from their own inner widsom and insight.
A healthy family is stable enough to know that each person is unique and special and that each person has the right to make their own choices.
What can a person who has grown up in a restrictive, dysfunctional family do to reclaim the basic right of trust in their own self?
1) Get to know yourself, honestly and openly.
One way to do that is to write out a list of what you like and what you don't like. Try one new food or book or item of clothing each week and see if you like it or not. Don't ask anyone else what they think. Just give yourself time to learn what YOU think.
2) Make your own choices and experience your own daily life.
It's easy to think that it's "safer" to get a lot of outside opinions before making plans, but ultimately YOU are going to experience the results of your choices. So while it is of course wise to look at pros and cons to determine what your best choice(s) are, you will be better off if you make the ultimate decision yourself, knowing that even if you don't like the results, that you have learned valuable lessons.
3) Let go of the idea that if life isn't "ideal" that you are somehow wrong.
This is a big conditioning technique in dysfunctional families--that all of the restrictions, judgements and rules are "neccessary" to keep life "perfect". In that view, any struggles you undergo as a way to learn and grow are automatically seen as "wrong." A healthier outlook is to offer support when a person is struggling but to TRUST that the process is necessary in order to grow and learn.
4) Learn to Trust the Universe again.
We all need human contact, but to let that contact take the place of the greater connection that we all have to the Universe is where the idea of loss of trust really comes in. If you have trust in the Universal Laws and connections, the Oneness with All That Is, you can put human misdeeds into perspective.
No, that won't make it hurt less when someone chooses to betray you. But think of it this way--when you dare to trust and another person betrays that trust--whose trust is really in question? Is it not the person who betrays trust who has an issue with trust?
You who dare to trust even when others have proven themselves to be untrustworthy are more together than you might think. You who dare to reach out again and again, until you find people worthy of trust, are the hope of our world.
Monday, 9 January 2012
Learning to Make Decisions
Making decisions is a learning process for us all. For survivors of abuse, it is even more challenging.
For a person recovering from years of abuse, especially for those who have chosen to deal with the abuse by creating inner personalities, making decisions involved breaking old programming, which can seem daunting.
In the first place, survivors of abuse have most likely spent years if not decades of their lives being told what to do, what to eat, what to wear, what to think. As adults, survivors might ask advice from many friends, and still feel that they cannot make a decision.
Because though they have been given a lot of ideas, directions, etc. no one has definitively TOLD them what decision to make. Once a person is programmed to feel that she needs to be told what to do, no amount of helpful suggestions will "click" with her.
What she is looking for is absolute certainty, which doesn't exist in the human world. The control exerted on her during childhood seemed very sure, very clear, very absolute. So she continues to look for that certainty in adulthood.
What can break this cycle is for the survivor to realize that what she has been looking for simply does not exist. When her choices were dictated to her as a child and young adult, that didn't make those choices the "best" or "only" choices. That just shifted the responsibility from her to the one or ones controlling her.
For a person who has been brought up to think for herself, asking advice from several trusted sources and friends gives her bits of information that she can put together to inform her decision. That way, she can have confidence in the direction she has chosen.
A survivor of abuse must come to the place where she recognizes that those who insisted that she feel, act and choose certain things, did not know what was best for her. Only she knows that.
Another challenge that comes up for survivors of abuse in making decisions is that some of the inner personalities tend to mimic the control pattern. So even if she has a clear choice between three kinds of soap, it can seem simpler to just buy all three when one inner one wants the lavender scented, one wants unscented and one wants soap that floats.
A key here is to look for the underlying thread. If she is at a place in recovery where she is beginning to give herself the freedom to make choices, then choosing all three soaps could be healing for her. But you can probably see that doing this too often can result in hoarding or at least in having way too many of any one object.
So the next step is to look for a deeper underlying thread. If the thread is simply that she wasn't allowed to choose in the past, then making a choice even if that means closing her eyes and buying the soap she touches first, can also be healing. This is an important step because she is breaking the programming that said that others have the right to set boundaries for her.
By making a single choice she has begun to set her own boundaries.
This is an important step toward recovery and toward building a more cohesive, cooperative sense of self.
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