No, I’m not a multiple. I do not have multiple personalities and I do not have dissociative identity disorder. But I know multiples very well.
I am a trauma therapist who has worked almost exclusively with people with dissociative disorders for 20+ years. I have met more multiples than I can count, and I have spent hours and hours and hours each week — and most days — with one multiple or another. Sometimes I talk to multiples in person, sometimes online, sometimes on the phone. I have led in-patient hospital-based groups for multiples, outpatient groups for multiples, online groups for multiples, and spouse groups for the supportive loved ones of multiples. I’ve met multiples from various countries and several different continents around the world.
At this point in time, I don’t think there is anything someone with DID/MPD could say to me that would be shocking, or more horrifying than the already horrific stories that I have heard. I do not mean that to say that I’ve heard everything because I haven’t. Everyone’s story is absolutely unique to itself. It never ceases to amaze me how many different versions of trauma exist out there in the world. But after a while, the versions of evil and horror and terror and exploitation become equal to each other as another chapter in my Listening book. There is no way to categorize which traumas are worse than the others – it is all abuse, criminal, and painfully life-altering.
I haven’t heard it all, but I’ve heard enough to not be surprised anymore.
For some, I’ve been at the very beginning of their DID/MPD healing process, being the therapist that diagnoses the Dissociative Disorder and the first person to explain what dissociation is to the struggling survivor sitting in front of me. For most, I’ve become involved mid-journey to the healing process.
I’ve seen all the stages of healing, and I’ve witnessed many of the adjunct disorders, struggles, and complications that often appear alongside dissociative disorders. I’ve sat years and years of time alongside some multiples, and had brief exchanges with others.
And with each dissociative person I meet, I am reminded of some of the things that multiples have taught me:
1. The Strength of the Human Spirit. No matter what happened, no matter how severe the abuse, no matter how much the perpetrators try to use mind control and programmed thinking to manipulate someone, there is still a real person in there. Dissociative survivors have always maintained the ability to think for themselves, even if they had to hide that deep inside a variety of complex dissociative layers. With some gentle encouragement and safe support to be who they really are instead of who the abusers were trying to force them to be, all DID survivors can overcome the roles that were coerced upon them and decide to have the life that genuinely fits them. The strength you have to be you can overcome any of the garbage piled on you by a perpetrator. Despite all that has happened, dissociative survivors can maintain a sense of themselves. How utterly impressive is that!
2. The Creativity of the Mind. The mind of a dissociative person is completely creative, complex, and unique. To be able to solve such serious life problems while so very young, alone, powerless, and resource-less is awe-inspiring. Finding ways to exist and to maintain sanity without mentally breaking or totally self-destructing, even if that meant finding ways to co-exist with evil as safely as possible, is awe-inspiring.
3. The Strength of the Mind. Dissociative people have a mental strength. They developed and perfected this strength during the years of mentally withstanding their abusers. They can think past the twists and turns of manipulation, they can see through lies and half-truths, and long ago realized they don’t have to totally become what is being forced upon them. The years and years of fighting off abusers that play twisted mind games have created a mental strength that is admirable.
4. The Incredible Ability to Withstand Enormous Physical Pain. As sad as it is to think that any person has had to learn how to withstand various physical tortures, people with DID/MPD have learned how to survive through these kinds of ordeals. It is mind-boggling to me that people can have such strength and ability to overcome such physical pain and torment, and not be completely psychopathic and violent afterwards. Dissociative people can maintain the ability for gentleness, kindness, compassion, and caring even after being physically tortured. That’s truly amazing.
5. The Strength of Connection and the Power of Love. Even though surrounded by too many abusers and violent sadistic criminals, most of the dissociative people I have met have retained the ability to love and to connect with someone else outside of themselves. The ability to bond, and to love, and to have compassion for someone else was not squished out of them, even though the predators of the world would have tried repeatedly to destroy that ability permanently. This is foundationally important. Unless someone truly becomes an antisocial sociopath, they cannot completely belong to dark evil organizations. If trainers and abusers cannot make a person absolutely willing to hurt others, without remorse or regret, then they cannot make a true abuser out of them nor have complete control of that person’s deeper true self. Maintaining the ability to love and to connect, even when beaten to near-death by abusers is truly inspiring.
If you are a dissociative trauma survivor, please ask yourself:
- Do you see these strengths within yourself?
- Have you recognized the depth of strength and character it takes to mentally fight off the invasive effects of abusers?
- What strengths do you see in yourself that are not yet listed?
- Which of these listed strengths is a surprise to you?
- Do you have what it takes to continue separating yourself from the actions and beliefs of your offenders?