Dissociative Identity Disorder: Fearfully And Wonderfully Made (8)
In this Episode, we will begin to handle the many traumatic memories that Pearl was keeping for Jane.
What will cause submerged alters to reemerge? A high level of sustained stress would normally cause certain alters to resurface. When Albert, Jane and Thomas’ favourite son, informed them of his plans to migrate to the USA, it raised considerably Jane’s stress level. Once Albert left Singapore, the alters reemerged after a 12 years’ break, and hence Albert’s referral for his parents to see me. Apart from that, Jane would be triggered from time-to-time with disconnected thoughts and emotions that would appear, for example, like watching a TV programme portraying events of her life. But she would always be unsure whether these memories were actual events or imaginary. It would also not be unusual for her to hear voices speaking to each other and to her, in her head – just like listening to an audible conversation between two or more people. So, when she had problems making a decision, several alters would offer their opinions, with the domineering ones trying to influence her. At times, these voices may cause more confusion than clarity, as you can imagine. Dissociated persons tend to regard their condition as normal as they have lived with it for so long, and are usually curious that normal people do not ‘hear’ their own voices! On the other hand, those suffering from schizophrenia would generally hear voices coming from an external source. Furthermore, these voices may confuse dissociation with demonization. However, it does not mean that there cannot be a dual diagnoses, as there is every possibility that a dissociated person, being a very troubled fragmented individual, will seek every avenue for a cure, not barring the spiritist or mediumistic avenue. However, any attempts made to exorcise an alter will be counterproductive. The psychologist would need to distinguish the differences and communicate simply, to further understanding and facilitate treatment strategies.
Although Pearl was co-conscious with about a dozen other alters who hold Jane’s traumatic emotional memories, these were not co-conscious with Jane herself. So when permission was given by Pearl for Jane to listen-in to our conversations, Jane was only hearing the cognitive details of Pearl’s stories. We will handle these losses in the order Pearl addressed them. Jane experienced her first dissociation when she watched helplessly as her mother laid struggling and dying after drinking weed poison at home; she was alone with her mother. The traumatic shock for Jane was catalytic in enabling her to dissociate that horrible memory from her consciousness into her subconscious, and the process created Jane X (5 to 7 years old). For Pearl, delving into this incident was just like narrating a tale from a storybook with no emotions involved!
How does a child learn to dissociate? A child’s brain in the early years of development is still malleable and he/she is still incapable of rationally processing logical thoughts and ideas as an adult would do. So confronting traumatic events at this juncture of their life, and rationalising through them is virtually non-existent. Most dissociated identities possess a pronounced capability in being easily hypnotizable, and it is this trait that allows them to remain sane by dissociating hideous or unacceptable memories from their consciousness.
A few days after her mother’s death, Jane’s father (Pete) separated her from her younger brother, and left her in the care of one of her uncles. He assured her he would return for her soon. Jane would wait daily at the gate for him, and her uncle (Eddy) kept on assuring her that his brother would return. Her father never came back! A few months later, she came to know of her brother’s death. Her aunty (Doreen) resented having Jane in her home. So Jane was made to take on all the household chores, and would be beaten and tortured incessantly when her aunt felt unhappy with her. Due to financial constraints, her uncle stopped her primary education after two years.
A few years down the road as a teenager, her uncle’s son (Fabian) raped her twice (15 to 18 years old). Around this time, she was informed of her father’s death. Jane suffered in silence, but soon the changes in her personality, as a result of the accumulated traumas, were picked-up by one of her uncle’s daughters. The son was sent away. Jane’s school friend (Osborne) broke off their relationship after news of her rape went public. A few months later, her aunt attempted to sell her off to a local brothel, without her uncle’s knowledge. The alters (in brackets) did not appear until they surfaced on their own later. We will discuss a further group of alters connected with Thomas’ infidelity, and events concerning their middle son (Charlie) later.
All this time, Pearl continued to create difficulties for Jane at home; throwing utensils around, fainting spells in the middle of cooking, surfacing 3 to 4 times in the early hours of the morning each week, and physically attacking Thomas. The stress level was at its peak during these weeks. Sessions were expedited to twice a week to process what had been going on at home, and to orientate and instruct Jane and Thomas in coping with Pearl’s tantrums. Sessions with Thomas were also extended as he retaliated physically against Jane. Both were cautioned against spousal abuse. Their medication levels were maintained.
In the next episode, we will handle the alters that kept Pearl’s emotional memories.