Dissociative Identity Disorder: Fearfully And Wonderfully Made (10)
Suddenly, in the middle of our conversation with Mike, a new alter muscled his way in.
With her eyes still closed, Jane went through a choking sensation, as though someone had their hands around her neck, as she tried to free herself. Shocked at what was happening and not knowing the ‘identity’ of the culprit, I calmly but firmly said, “Please stop what you are doing. Jane is finding it difficult to breathe, and your action does not help you clarify your anger in order to resolve it. Can we talk about this?” As suddenly as it began, it stopped. Jane caught her breath for a minute or so. Then, Charlie (45 to 48 years old), the youngest of Jane and Thomas’ children, came out.
Charlie introduced himself, and on my enquiry, admitted his culpability in choking Jane. In fact, he had been doing so for a couple of days through the preceding week in the early morning hours, inevitably waking Jane up and frightening both herself and Thomas. This alter was created as recently as two weeks ago. Charlie had given his parents an ultimatum: either they vacate their apartment and move into his home or he would not allow them to see his daughter, Natalie (12 years old) again. Unknown to Jane, he had borrowed money from his father over the past months to the tune of several thousand dollars, and Thomas was trying to have his son return it, to no avail. Further probing revealed that Charlie intended to rent out his parent’s apartment so that he could pocket the rent, as he was having cash flow problems in his business. When Jane found out what was going on, it infuriated and traumatized her.
Apart from empowering Thomas in his dealings with his son in separate sessions, Jane, Charlie and myself were in a three-way conversation ironing out boundary issues and working through forgiveness. At the end of the third session, Charlie sought forgiveness and Jane relented. This may seem odd given the understanding that Charlie is also part of Jane’s memory. Why would Jane need to forgive herself? That is the dynamics of a dissociated memory, where Jane’s memory fragmented and Charlie assumed a ‘life of his own.’
Concurrently, over the three weeks since Mike’s appearance, the anger that he kept against Thomas’ infidelities, surfaced at home on a number of occasions: his signature appearance would result in a fainting spell for Jane – always in the washroom. This was dangerous, as Jane did hurt herself when she collapsed, and Thomas would be at his wit’s end trying to determine the level of her injuries and to wake her up: contusions were common, and a hairline hip fracture was sustained in one of these falls. Jane would normally remain unconscious for up to thirty minutes. Mike explained that he was punishing Thomas, not realizing that Jane was equally victimized. It took a few sessions of having Jane show Mike her wounds, reasoning with him, and having Thomas confess and seek forgiveness from Jane for his infidelities, and communicating this back to Mike, before this series of vicarious chastisement ceased.
Pearl was not absolved from these outbursts, whenever Jane became angry thinking about Thomas’ betrayals. She would surface and begin throwing kitchen utensils at him, sometimes a frying pan filled with hot cooking oil. These unpredictable actions would occur whenever Thomas walked into the kitchen unaware of Jane’s mental state. Again, Pearl’s orientation towards awareness of potential injuries to Jane and Thomas by her behaviour was key to bringing some peace at home, with less violent dramas.
Fabian (15 to 18 years old) appeared next, and without much probing, confessed to raping his cousin on two nights, while on an errand by his father to accompany Jane back from work. He confessed his guilt in causing her so much pain. Three sessions were devoted to Fabian’s memories and an on-going conversation was begun between him and Jane, which culminated in Fabian seeking forgiveness and Jane extending it.
Coupled with the issue of forgiveness, it was necessary to bring awareness to the respective alters how their outrageous behaviours impacted Jane and others around her, and teaching them to respect Jane’s space and mental integrity, prior to integration of their memories with Jane. At this early stage of therapy, I held off integrating alters until I was certain that the traumatic memories that they held were not related to other alters’ memories. If there were any relationships with other alters, then any attempt at integration now would fail, as further possible unrevealed memories remain extant. So either the counsellor has an encyclopedic memory or he/she learns to take copious notes!
As usual, after each session, a check-in with Jane to grasp what she had heard from each alter was carried out, and it was often accompanied by an outpouring of emotions and weeping.
Is a counselor to believe everything that a dissociated person and their numerous alters tell him/her? Unless a third party can independently corroborate these stories, it is best to hold the honesty of encountered stories loosely during the process of therapy. Embellishment of stories can likely happen, and one can question within oneself the skewed perception of the patient in their encounters with various traumatic incidents. But generally, for therapy to proceed smoothly, the patient’s word ought to be taken at face value. It is pertinent to emphasize that in dissociative therapy, the patient’s fractured memory system is the focus, and hence the proper identification, integration, and eventual assimilation into the latter’s main memory system remains critical. The integrity of the individual stories will be resolved once the patient’s memories are fully intact and recall is normal and natural.
In the next episode we will continue with more revelations from several alters under the purview of Pearl.