Survivors of Abuse Need Support, Not Rivalry
There's a disturbing trend in some Dissociative Identity Disorder support communities that has always turned me off. I call it the My Trauma Is Worse Than Your Trauma game. What starts as fellowship and camaraderie periodically deteriorates into an ugly rivalry among survivors of abuse. It's a competition that feeds off of and perpetuates the minimizing effects of child abuse.
The Effects of Child Abuse Encourage Rivalry
An overwhelming majority of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have suffered chronic, severe abuse at the hands of people they should have been able to trust. Child abuse doesn't tend to come with recognition, let alone apologies. Adult survivors of abuse, therefore, often have a desperate and understandable need for acknowledgment and validation. But competing for the title of most wounded isn't the way to get it. That's just playing on the effects of child abuse by using other people's need for validation against them.
When you play the My Trauma Is Worse Than Your Trauma game you are:
- Doing what was done to you. By insisting that you have suffered more you are minimizing others' abuse histories. Whether it's your intention or not, you are telling other abuse survivors, "What happened to you wasn't that bad." Where have we heard that before?
- Making astonishingly bold assumptions. Regardless of what other people do or do not share about their trauma histories, it's never fair to presume you know the extent of what someone else has been through.
- Missing the point. The whole idea of Dissociative Identity Disorder support communities is to, you know, support each other. One-upmanship undermines the purpose of coming together to share our stories and struggles.
When Abuse Survivors Compete, No One Wins
Rivalry has no place in Dissociative Identity Disorder support networks and communities. Even so, there's no doubt that somebody, somewhere will try to play the My Trauma Is Worse Than Your Trauma game again. And when they do it might be tempting to respond not to them but to the minimizing voices from long ago. Instead, I encourage you to:
- Refuse the bait. The way I see it, if you have DID you've been through some pretty rough stuff. Don't let anyone goad you into trying to prove that.
- Correct the ignorance, not the assumption. My personal trauma history is private. I'm not going to pull out all my war stories as evidence that your assumptions are wrong. But I will point out the folly of drawing conclusions about something you know nothing about.
- Remember - they're hurting too. The effects of child abuse have left them feeling invalidated and unheard. Underneath their minimizing words I hear, "I'm hurting badly and have been for a long time. I need people to see that what happened to me was terrible."
What happened to you was terrible. What you live with now, as a result of that abuse, isn't fair. But no one has the market on suffering. Not you, and certainly not me.
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Gray, H. (2010, October 14). Survivors of Abuse Need Support, Not Rivalry, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 7 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2010/10/survivors-of-abuse-need-support-not-rivalry
Author: Holly Gray
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
"What I do hope, is that they have an open mind and a willingness to accept me for who I am."
I feel the same way. I don't need most people to "get it." I need my therapist to, and it's nice to read a book or blog now and then from someone else whose experiences and feelings resonate for me. Beyond that, I just need people who support and accept me, whether they get it or not.
feelings ,knowing this is a place to come and find solace.To find others who can relate to the pain of past traumas. To know what is is like to be a survivor. It is very difficult to find people on the outside who can identify, and it is very common to feel unheard.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
When I was diagnosed five years ago, a support community was truly my lifeline. I'm grateful to all those participants who, just by their presence, their willingness to share, and their generous listening, helped me make it through a very confusing and scary time. That community also served as an introduction to the My Trauma Is Worse Than Your Trauma game and since then I've seen it played here and there in many abuse survivor communities and networks. I understand why it happens. But it feels like a waste of energy to me.
"If anything other participants playing the one-upmanship games gave me a clearer picture of what I didn’t want to see in myself occurring."
Excellent point. These sorts of competitions are good reminders that it's never ok to validate oneself by invalidating others. And that's a reminder all human beings need from time to time.
Excellent point. I also think this is why it's important to foster relationships with people who "don't understand." I hear that a lot in survivor circles - that people who don't have DID or aren't abuse survivors don't understand and therefore aren't worth investing in. I would say that's precisely why those people are so important, though. If my only relationships were with people with DID or abuse survivors in general I would live from a pretty narrow perspective. Furthermore, if trauma and dissociation is all I have in common with someone, that's what will get the focus in the relationship. Ultimately I think surrounding oneself with only those who are like us is a mistake no matter what the common denominator is. And with abuse survivors, that's choosing - as I see it - to marinate in trauma, trauma, trauma, pain, grief, anger, trauma. Relationships easily become toxic and competitive.
Thanks for your comment.
"Maybe you have been luckier than me but I have found that most people just have no comprehension of horribly traumatic experiences unless they have been thru it themselves."
My experience has also been that most people just don't get it - "it" being several things: severe trauma, the aftermath of severe trauma, and Dissociative Identity Disorder. I've received my fair share of nastiness, ridicule and minimization, both in and out of abuse survivor circles. But what I mean when I talk about fostering relationships outside of abuse survivor circles is cultivating connections that don't revolve around trauma and dissociation. Those connections should still be healthy, supportive ones though.
"Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could be as educated about DID as they are depression and bi-polar?"
Yes. Which is kind of a sad goal, when you think about it. Because depression and bipolar aren't well understood by the general public either. Still, it's a place to start.