Dissociative Identity Disorder: Fearfully And Wonderfully Made (6)
Psalm 139: 13 – 18
Incidentally, to orientate towards co-consciousness, the first step would be to clue-in Jane, when she came out of her trance state after each session, to the spoken content of each alter, so she would be able to integrate these relevant pieces of information within her memory system. It is just filling-in the cognitive ‘informational blanks.’ Full integration of an alter’s specific memory (both the cognitive and emotive memory of a traumatic event) into Jane’s normal memory will come later. When this happens, there is usually an outpouring of strong emotions, somewhat like recognizing a beloved long lost relative, or a deep realization of how a particular trauma had affected her.
I was expecting to speak with Joan again at our next session, but a new alter came forward voluntarily. Anne was not co-conscious with Jane, so the latter cannot hear her. She introduced herself to me. On my enquiry as to the purpose of her appearance, she shared several vignettes of her time as a mother to her three boys, when she was 20 to 30 years old. Anne divulged a marriage that had acutely disappointed her. During her first pregnancy, Thomas got involved with one of his father’s employees, and totally neglected her. She was left to fend for herself on all three occasions at the births of their children, as he remained uncontactable in his dalliances with the other lady. Apart from being an absent father, he also forced her into having three abortions against her wishes. As a result, she went into depression and dissociated further. Anne shed a lot of tears as she related these events.
After Jane came out of her trance state, I shared with her what Anne had mentioned. She was able to recall snippets of information, but Anne held the bulk of these bitter recollections. Jane’s emotionless expression surprised me. In a following session, I explored this strange outcome with Anne to confirm my suspicions.
“Anne, can you enlighten me on something. When we talked about what Thomas had done to Jane, you wept buckets. But when I mentioned your stories to Jane, she showed no emotion!”
“I keep Jane’s emotions for her. She did not want to feel them as it made her very sad,” Anne replied.
“Oh, I see. Do you ever share bits of those sad emotions with Jane?”
“Sometimes when she is watching a TV movie about an unfaithful husband or adultery, I would help her feel some emotions, but that is about all.”
I was glad and thankful for this critical bit of information as I had been planning to apply an alternative procedure in order to shorten the treatment time, which would involve bringing an immediate awareness of both the cognitive and emotional portion of Anne’s memory directly to bear on Jane. This may be too shocking and painful for both. The slower process is less threatening.
With 40 to 50 year-old memories that are as raw as though they happened a few hours ago, it took time to orientate and reason with Anne and Jane separately, in moving them towards acceptance of the inevitability of these historical events, and have them learn to begin to forgive Thomas. Despite Anne’s Buddhist orientation, she permitted me to pray with her concerning her painful memories. Subsequently, at both their concurrence, and with much preparation for Jane to expect a level of pain that she had in the past dissociated away, an integration technique was introduced to combine the two memories within Jane. After Jane was brought out of her trance, tears began to flow naturally as she recalled completely the sadness of those years.
When alters had ‘lived’ separate ‘lives’ for years within a person’s memory system, it is expected that there would be some initial resistance towards integrating their memories. A significant process of familiarizing them that they are all part of Jane’s memory, and so inhabit the same body must be accepted by them. For instance, suicidal alters almost always think that they can kill the person (eg., Jane) without harming themselves. It is extremely dangerous when they come out and threaten suicide. If for some reason, a suicidal alter is not properly sent back into the memory system before the patient leaves the counseling office, a suicide attempt may occur. This was the unfortunate experience of an ex-colleague who did not understand the repercussions of such an alter – her client committed suicide a day after seeing her.
Alters hold limited historical traumatic information, and the treatment strategy is to allow them to completely share their stories. The psychologist’s purpose is to discover, if any, other missing pieces of information related to this particular alter’s story within the fragmented memory system for integration purposes. So patience is of the essence! To disrupt the storytelling process may complicate full integration of the alter later on; in that the alter may not integrate successfully if he/she still possess undisclosed traumatic information. You will notice that I have used interchangeably ‘he/she’ and ‘it’ to refer to alters. This is to distinguish between alters which identify themselves as a male or female. Principally, alters are fragmented memories, not personalities. In the 1980s, psychiatrists and psychologists concluded that each person has only one personality. So the term Multipersonality Disorder (MPD), which was used then for this psychiatric malady, was revised to Disassociated Identity Disorder (DID).