Dissociative Identity Disorder: I'm Not Multiple
When it comes to understanding Dissociative Identity Disorder, most people get too hung up on the concept of the alternate identity. Identity alteration is widely and mistakenly accepted as the essence of what DID is. And so the two most popular theories about the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder revolve around the existence of alters: the Broken Vase Theory, and the Multiple Vase Theory. Neither are satisfactory explanations for how DID develops and ultimately both theories' inaccuracies stem from the same error: the assumption that early childhood identity is cohesive and intact when in fact it is anything but.
Of the two, this is the older, slightly less popular metaphor for the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder. In a nutshell, it states that a child faced repeatedly with situations that completely overwhelm his capacity to cope will create alters, entirely new identities, to help him survive. The Multiple Vase Theory presumes that this child, often referred to as “the core” or the “original” personality, already has an identity and his alters are additional identities. In other words, we're assuming the one identity would have been enough precisely as it was. But conditions being what they were, the child needed more alternatives. Hence the label “alter”, or “alternate identity.”
Dissociative Identity Disorder isn’t Really Multiplicity
Let me say right off here that I’m not suggesting that alters aren't real. They are absolutely real. When you think about it, it's really the Multiple Vase Theory that implies alters aren't real or are somehow second-best. Because despite how it feels to the individual with DID, an alternate identity is not really an entirely separate person. There is no core, no original personality. There never was. The development of Dissociative Identity Disorder is not forming one cohesive identity and then, in order to cope with traumatic circumstances and environments, forming several more cohesive identities. Those of us with DID failed to form a cohesive identity in the first place. Where most people developed a multi-faceted, relatively well-integrated identity, we formed a severely fragmented identity. The latter is an amplification of the former, not a multiplying of it.
The Development of Dissociative Identity Disorder is a Fragmentation, Not a Multiplication
When we apply the Multiple Vase Theory to the development of Dissociative Identity Disorder it looks, metaphorically speaking, like this:
- Vase 1 - a child is born with a personality
- Vase 2 - the child is subjected to overwhelming stress and creates an additional personality
- Vase 3 - more trauma, another alternate identity, and so on
In fact, no child is born with a whole personality. (Temperament, yes. Cohesive identity, no.) The child who develops DID doesn't create additional personalities; his personality develops in a compartmentalized way. The multiple facets of who he is become separated and, over time, begin operating as separate people altogether. So when I say I'm not multiple, I mean I'm no more multiple than anyone else. I am, however, far more fragmented than most people.
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Gray, H. (2011, March 31). Dissociative Identity Disorder: I'm Not Multiple, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, April 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/dissociativeliving/2011/03/dissociative-identity-disorder-im-not-multiple
Author: Holly Gray
Maybe different people develop dissociative disorders differently? Or maybe there are other adaptations that are mistakenly grouped under the label of dissociation by those of us without much expertise? The disconnected self-state complication I've been working through has not yet appeared to be a problem /in and of itself/, so perhaps it's entirely discrete relative to everything that is a disorder. I'm sorry I've just posted all over your web site about DID before making sure I was speaking on the correct subject. :/
I guess the mental image I get is string cheese. You can split off threads of it from the core piece, creating the broken shards of personality. But when you remove parts from the whole, you are left with a damages core/original. I don't think the core personality is some fully developed unblemished untraumatized snapshot of who we once were or who we would have been if the trauma and DID hadn't happened. It becomes, in essence, yet another alter, one not formed by a split, but rather formed by a division to survive.
Yes, it absolutely makes sense that you have relationships and other "normal life" things going on. That's not unusual at all. Dissociation can help with that, as a matter of fact.
I understand feeling like freak. For what it's worth, Dissociative Identity Disorder is just an extreme manifestation of what everyone experiences. It's not freakish or aberrant, though I know it can sometimes feel that way.
Thanks for your comment, Karen. I'm glad you're here. :)
Sorry, looks like I'm grumbling...everything gets so confusing. I get tired.
Gonna shut up now. Liked this article/blog, though! Lots! :-) Makes more sense than the way they've tried to explain it before. Had a priest tell me there are no others, only one soul per body, he said. LOL
k, shutting up...gonna read s'more stuffs. Hope everyone has a happy happy day full of blessings.
I might feel multiple, when I lose time for sure but I am not. My "alts" are my me's. All part of one me we just don't communicate well yet. I often say me's not alts.
It confuses some though and that is not my intention. Sometime ago I heard this when it came to newborns and there "personality".
"Newborns do not have personalities as much as they have personality bends. One may be more mellow or anxious" etc. Having been around so many babies I can say that is true imho. They are great mimics of there environment. Nature vs Nurture has been around a long time. But it explains why 2 children can go through similar things and react with no commonality. A bend would be nature the rest is nurture.
One child may fail to form a cohesive identity because of very little over whelming situations and another my have been in constant over whelming situations. The latter child in the place of the first child may not even blink at the lesser trauma of the first but that means little. Cause for the first child it was enough.
I get over whelmed at the countless amount of me's that seem to be. But if I am looking logically at who I am and what caused issue and how I react then maybe I should be saying "wow only this many me's"
I am blessed with having a therapist who is not interested in the labels. She is trying to help me and using her knowledge to do that. Sometimes she is teaching me. But once in a while I am the teacher, cause it comes down to how I think, how I process information, stress, emotion and so on.
It would be really cool if more people listened honestly without there notions plugging there ears.
"It confuses some though and that is not my intention."
The whole thing is confusing ... until you have a solid grasp on what Dissociative Identity Disorder is and what it isn't. I know I confuse people. I say one thing, do another. Explain that DID is not multiplicity per se, then refer to other members of my system in a way that suggests I'm referring to entirely separate people. I would feel bad about the confusion I know all that creates if there were anything I could do about it that I'm not already doing. As it is I can't really worry too much about it. Still, I totally agree with you:
"It would be really cool if more people listened honestly without there notions plugging there ears."
She was already in therapy and where we live there are not a lot of therapists who know how to treat people who are DID. I told her about a psychiatrist who would just do an assessment so that she would know for sure if she was multiple or not and that possibly she was not multiple, but she was not open to pursuing it at all.
It is VERY hard to admit that you are multiple and then to decide to go for therapy is another whole can of worms. I was afraid to go for therapy at first, being afraid of what I would have to deal with. It took a lot of years of therapy to realize that my parents (the abusers) were abusive. I thought all parents were like them.
I talk about "younger parts of myself" because most of my parts are 4 years old and under, some babies and the odd older one. It can be embarrasing to talk to others about when you hardly understand it yourself. Finding a GOOD therapist you can trust is EXTREMELY important since trust is a major issue because of the abuse that caused the dissociation in the first place.
I LOVE this website and the variety of articles here.
Thanks for reading and joining in the discussion.
"It can be embarrasing to talk to others about when you hardly understand it yourself."
I've found that to be true for me as well. Conversely, talking about Dissociative Identity Disorder isn't embarrassing for me anymore now that I have a much better understanding of it.
I'm a multiple? A multiple of what? That makes no sense to me what-so-ever. I don't accept that. I'm not different people in one body!
Do I dissociate? Yes, I do.
I like how you explain it here:
"Where most people developed a multi-faceted, relatively well-integrated identity, we formed a severely fragmented identity"
This is actually how my therapist explained it to me. It's validating, and helpful for me to hear someone else explain it the same way.
"Again…..these (theories) are more misconceptions that made it hard for me to accept my diagnosis."
When things don't make sense how can I accept them?!