So a quick note here, this below info is based off our experiences with Dissociative Identity Disorder and our understanding and it is barely the tip of the iceberg. We will put links up to proper information sites in the future to help those interested in learning more about dissociative disorders.
Ok, I’ve also got to admit I have had some ‘inside’ help with the formal info below because that’s apparently (obviously) not my forte, also warning, don’t be confused as we interchangeably use the term “part” and “alter” because we have different preferences but we mean the same thing.
So here goes the basics:
What is DID?
DID, or ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder’, formally known as Multiple Personality Disorder is a dissociative disorder that is caused by repeated trauma, beginning in early childhood.
In a traumatic situation, in order for a person to cope with what is happening they may dissociate from reality while the trauma is occurring – this is a subconscious coping mechanism of the brain to protect the person from the fear, pain and general overwhelm of the trauma.
People tend to experience degrees of amnesia surrounding these traumatic events, in DID often the memories of traumatic situations are held by specific parts or alters and the dissociative barriers that form between these parts prevent other parts from accessing the trauma memories. This allows the person to separate themselves completely from the event/s and carry on with their life as ‘normally’ as possible.
In the case of DID the complex and repetitive nature of the trauma/s gives way to dissociation becoming the brains ‘default’ coping mechanism.
While we all have different parts of ourselves that we present to the world, eg our work self differs from our Saturday night out at a party self, most people have a cohesive sense of inner self, their likes and dislikes, beliefs, values and general temperament remain mostly the same and their memories and timeline of events stays consistent within themselves and compared to other people around them.
In DID because the life is “shared” to various degrees, certain personality traits, opinions and tastes may be unique to individual alters, eg one part may love rap music, another may hate it and another might be indifferent to it. Political opinions and stances on social issues can change too.
Generally speaking, alters have different roles within the person or “system” as it is termed. These are often things that are unspoken or undefined in the system to begin with but as you become more aware of each other’s behavioural patterns you can start to see these how parts have taken on these ‘roles’.
An example of a common role might be the ‘host’ which is considered to be the person fronting the most often at the time, or a ‘trauma holder’ that exists purely to experience the physical or emotional memories of a traumatic event, ‘persecutors’ which are widely thought of as the bad guys because they might be more likely to self harm or verbally abuse others within the system.
Another role is a protector that exists to stand up for the system as a whole or look after and protect what is (in their opinion) the best interests of other alters within the system – I specifically say ‘their opinion of’ because many parts considered to be persecutors are actually trying to protect the system they just have a really misguided way of going about it.
There’s a bunch of other common “roles” and many more unique to individual systems.
Some parts roles will change over times and some will kind of “job share”, particularly with the mediocre stuff if they have reasonable communication, for example in my system daily life things like work, looking after the kids, domestic stuff like cooking and cleaning are actually shared between a few of us, not just the ‘host’ and we call that “co hosting”.
This is our experience and while there are definitely issues it mostly works okay, we can communicate okay most of the time and we are often at least a bit co conscious which means we are kind of watching with various degrees of attention as another part is doing things. (Imagine being one the back seat of a taxi, your kinda paying attention to the general direction but trust the driver knows where they’re going)
When this happens we have memories of the stuff going on but they’re often fuzzy or can be different to the memories of the person actually fronting because the memories are affected by the different perspectives of the situation.
Switching between alters is some sort of subconscious magical thing that there is little control over (at least that is my experience). Most of the time there is a trigger, now triggers can be negative, positive or purely situational.
In event of a new trauma occurring or something that causes a flashback or sudden memory of an old trauma, an existing (or sometimes even a new) trauma holding alter may ‘switch in’ to deal with the situation. This is a ‘negative’ switch.
Now dealing with it doesn’t mean they’ll be all cool calm and collected, they might very well be a sobbing emotional wreck but they will store that trauma memory cognitively and or emotionally so that it’s not getting in the way of the systems general ability to function.
Some alters may be triggered out by ‘happy’ things that they just enjoy, like a certain food/activity or song, that’s a positive trigger.
And sometime switches will occur due to bumping into particular person at the store, a particular TV show they’ve been watching coming on or a conversation topic that’s important or related to them in some way – (like my desperate need to fix the educational hole a certain somebody left in her wake on the podcast) that’s a ‘situational’ trigger because it’s due to specific situation.
Alters will vary in the extent they have their own ‘personality’, parts known as ‘fragments’ pretty much hold specific memories, emotions or experiences but don’t have much in the way of opinions about stuff external to the body where as alters that have or currently front fairly often tend to form detailed personalities based on their perspectives.
Alters can identify as different genders and ages to the body, young child alters are common due to that being a time of frequent trauma, but you will get teens, adults and some that identify as older than the body depending on the system.
In our case our youngest parts (technically known as littles) pretty much never front and our cohost group doesn’t really have any decent communication with them, it’s only through random passive influences, flashbacks we’ve been co conscious for and some stuff other alters have written down that we know anything about them at all.
The quantity of alters in a system can vary from one other than the host through to 1000s. We don’t know how many we have, we know names of about15 but there are others.
In regards to names, we do have individual names but everyone responds to the body’s legal name in public because we are not out of the closet about our dissociative disorder. Our co host group has taken on mostly variants of our legal name anyway so it’s not too painful to be mislabeled, besides our husband calls us “hun” and the kids call us “mum” and they’re who we see the most.
While it can be hard at times, we do get a kick out of using our real names at out of town coffee shops or when talking to people we won’t see again.
Although our co host group is co conscious a lot of the time and does a myriad of the same tasks, we still have different strengths and weaknesses and can ‘forget’ how to do something that we’ve been shown repeatedly. For example, we did the same general tasks at our family business work place but a certain someone seems to forget how to do routine things in regards to basic daily book keeping. This stuffs things up and frustrates the heck out of another part who has to fix it and can’t understand how she even keeps making this kind of mistake!
Also while we all write, one is better at descriptive text and conveying emotion while another is better at explaining factual information.
Okay. We will make this better in the future but this is currently just an attempt to make things make more sense for those reading the blog.
Please ask us any questions you have, we are generally better equipped to answer things than spout out information randomly and we can post an FAQ later if that interests anyone.
But also please note while a few things have been discussed in passing on the blog, we won’t be answering any questions specific to our early trauma because that’s something we are still struggling to understand and process ourselves and can be a very negative trigger for us (and others) we hope you will understand that and be patient with us.