Dissociative Identity Disorder: Fearfully And Wonderfully Made (7)
It took about two months, from the commencement of the first dialogue with Anne, to integrating her memories with Jane. Successful integration implies that Anne no longer ‘exist,’ as her memories have become Jane’s; meaning, when I requested to speak with Anne, there will be silence, or another alter who was co-conscious with Anne, will respond that there is no one called ‘Anne.’
Counsellors are prone to be impatient when their client keeps repeating the same complaining storyline time and again! But there is an important explanation for such compelling repetitiveness, apart from an obsessive-compulsive issue, which needs to be handled differently. There are probably some unresolved emotional matters that lie just beneath the patient’s consciousness keeping him/her from dealing with the problem satisfactorily. In Jane’s case, these usually very painful memories that had been repressed, were kept by several alters. If the patient or alter discerns the counselor’s impatience, they may again suppress their emotions, thereby creating difficulties for future memory integration.
Pearl was extremely reluctant to talk to me when she first surfaced. In fact, her objection to Jane’s counseling created unforeseen repercussions. She would surface three to four times a day at home, and provocatively confront Thomas verbally and physically; throwing utensils and knocking over the rice cooker or frying pan with hot oil. Thankfully, the outcome to these repeated incidents did not escalate uncontrollably. Over several weeks, she raised Jane’s stress levels to the point of literally increasing her blood pressure. On a few occasions, Jane would call me the evening before her appointment, attempting to cancel it, due to her dizzy spells. Suspecting that Pearl may be behind these incidents, I would talk through Jane to Pearl on the phone, to encourage her to keep the appointment.
These three-way conversations became a norm. “Hi Pearl, good morning. How are you this morning?” I spoke welcomingly.
Silence. “Joan, can you hear us?” I said.
“Yes,” Joan replied.
“Can you ask Pearl whether she would allow you to speak for her this morning, so I am able to understand better and appreciate her experiences and able to help you all?”
“OK.” There was a few seconds of silence, then, Joan replied, “Pearl said it is OK.”
Questions and answers went back and forth, and you can imagine how tedious it became, but this is exactly how some alters communicate with each other and with Jane. Thankfully, after two sessions, Pearl decided to speak directly with me, as she lowered her guard, and we conversed in a Chinese dialect. Her initial tone and demeanor were aloof and firm. I struggled with my basic Hokkien dialect over two sessions, attempting to explain psychological terms, before I gave up and requested that we converse in English. With her affirmative reply, I deduced we just came off a power play as Pearl tested my willingness to talk on her terms. Pearl’s memories ranged from 5 years old to about 50 years old, and she was most combative in terms of getting into physical fights with Thomas when she came out in the early morning hours. In one of Jane’s together sessions with Thomas, I had inadvertently mentioned Pearl in an offhand comment, and she popped out immediately and physically attacked Thomas.
Obviously curious, I asked Pearl the reasons for her reticence to talk with me in our next session, and her reply was enlightening, “I am afraid if you integrated me with Jane, I would be very lonely and have no one to protect and fight for. I have helped Jane for so many years, and I cannot imagine how I would live without her around.” Wow! I thought this inverted logic showed how independent each alter assumed about herself. It is like an identity-cum-eavesdropping crisis, where some alters are watching others, and everyone is watching Jane and me from the inside! So, a misstep on my part would be interpreted differently by each one. Knowing and understanding the alters’ particular concerns meant that the rationale for every procedure I implemented need to be repeated fully and credibly explained, and as simply as possible, so that we build confidence on the treatment strategy.
Even though Pearl’s memories spanned the longest among the alters, these were mostly cognitive in detail, with the emotive part excised away and kept by others. Pearl also kept detailed memories of Jane’s demonic deliverances that were conducted by the local pastor mentioned earlier. It seemed likely that she may have surfaced at the deliverance session(s) together with Joan 12 years’ ago, but decided to re-submerge again into Jane’s memory system.
In the next episode, we will handle the many traumatic memories that Pearl was keeping for Jane.