You might have noticed that I started telling the story of Anna, a person with multiple parts to her personality. If you want to know how Anna’s parts came to exist, and why, you will find many books, websites, and articles that talk about DID and alternate parts. I am getting a bit tired of all these clever explanations like the one in Wikipedia: “a single person displays multiple distinct identities or personalities (known as alter egos or alters), each with its own pattern of perceiving and interacting with the environment. The diagnosis requires that at least two personalities routinely take control of the individual’s behaviour with an associated memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness”.
The other explanation spread around abundantly is that DID is a result of the child’s inability to cope with too many traumatic experiences in the absence or lack of nurturing and care. Of course, these explanations are not wrong, but what do they mean? I am sure we can find a biologist or neuro-psychiatrist who can explain the shift in personalities or the creation thereof with the transmission or interaction of hormones or chemical compounds in the child’s brain. He too would probably be right.
My question is: How can you capture the miracle of the creation of a new part of a person’s personality, a part that has been created by or within the mind of a 2 year old child, for example? Think about it! A child who is in need of care is able to ‘create’ as it were a copy of it’s Self that will take care of the child’s needs, whether that is need for love, for containing the hurt, for keeping the thread of consciousness, for learning, being angry, being social, performing every day tasks, and so on, even with it’s limited ability for understanding, reasoning, and conceptualising. That is a miracle! Is that not what the prophet Kahlil Gibran means as “Life’s longing for itself”?
In my opinion it’s an amazing act of love and courage that deserves our deepest respect. Whoever calls it mental illness or a mental disorder is truly going mental! It’s absurd. Whoever says “It does not exist” is blind, because if you have an open mind and are able to listen, people will tell you about their parts! To those who say “it’s a creation of overly zealous therapists” I would like to respond “I wish I were that powerful that I could create a self-loving and caring part in a person who has given up hope, or create an assertive part in a person who is dominated and victimised by a cruel partner. I wish I were that powerful. I would create resourceful personality parts so that recovery from childhood abuse and neglect would take only weeks or a few months rather than years.
Regrettably, that’s not how it works. All I can do is to assist Anna strengthening the different aspects of her personality. As that takes place and all parts of Anna come closer together, they share their history and the associated feelings with each other. They teach each other to tolerate their painful past and difficult feelings, making the need for dissociating or splitting obsolete. Only than can Anna grow and learn from her experiences. Only then will she know what is safe and what is dangerous. Only then can she distinguish between the past and the present. Only then can she become part of a community in which she actively and confidently participates. And she did.
When Anna finished her therapy she stated “The biggest thing for me is that I can go to places socially and work. Everywhere I go, I feel now that I do fit. I am not broken and people don’t see me as broken anymore. I know I can slot into almost any situation and I am confident that I am not going to draw negative attention. That’s a cool feeling”.