Dissociative Identity Disorder and Loss of the Sense of Self

Dissociative Identity Disorder and Loss of the Sense of Self by Kriss Erickson


Many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) have created such a complex inner world that the integrity of the self has been lost. Looking from the outside, an observer might say that obviously, the DID person still is a self, but from the inside, the person feels lost.


Being DID can feel like being lost at sea, since the tendency to be tossed one way and the other by inner whims or outer pressure is only one of the many ways that we can lose our sense of self. In DID the sense of self is not so much ‘lost’ as it is scattered.


In an attempt to exist as a child in a situation where the people you must rely on for food, clothing, comfort and safety, refuse to do any of those things, and often do the opposite, bits of the self are separated.


These bits, sometimes called ‘parts’ or ‘inner ones’ are a way to hold onto the core sense of self while coping with harshnesses that cause the necessity to act out of character. The child’s authentic nature might be to be gentle but if yelled at and beaten often enough, and without the ability to escape the situation, the only alternative might be to learn to talk back–rebel against the situation through words.


That behavior is so far from the child’s natural sense of being-ness that she must not only break off the gentle bits of herself and tuck them away deep inside, but also must create a tougher, nastier aspect of herself to deal with the constant abuse.


Since a naturally gentle child doesn’t know how to be nasty, often the aspect of herself that she creates to talk back and verbally rebel comes out warped, either ineffective or so effective that she ends up chasing away the people who could choose to help her.


Yet another reason our world needs to wake up! Adults need to treat children with respect, dignity and love and be accountable for their mistakes. There were times when my son was young that in a moment of impatience I snapped at him instead of guiding him or being interested in his process.


I apologized for that. I remember the first time I did that. His response was, “Well, that’s what you said.”


I saw in his eyes in that moment that even when I was being unfair to him, he still looked for a way to think of me as being ‘right’, of looking out for his best interests, even when deep down he knew that he was sacrificing bits of his own energy to do so.


So when I told him, “Sometimes Mommy is wrong,” his eyes flashed with understanding. He suddenly realized that just because I was older didn’t mean I was automatically right.


This standard of honesty has strengthened our relationship again and again. And by being accountable for my words, I didn’t allow myself to develop an unrealistic expectation that ‘adults are always right’ or other programming so abundantly available in our society.


That also meant that, even though my own parents were cruel enough for long enough that I chose to hold onto myself through dissociating, that my own son would never have to make that choice.


In many ways, the poor choices of my parents taught me the steep price of falling for the programming of this world, including lack of accountability.

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