Dissociation is Everywhere

Dissociation is Everywhere

Last week, I wrote about the horrible invalidation that comes with claims that dissociation is not real.  But there is another belief about dissociation (and particularly Dissociative Identity Disorder) which leads to an underestimation of its prevalence.  That belief is supported by movies and programs like Split (horrible) and United States of Tara (not as bad).  That belief suggests Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) manifests in extreme ways.  Of course, most of us know what is wrong with Split.  It portrays those with D.I.D. as criminals.  But even with United States of Tara, there are extreme behavior changes when switches happen.  Does that happen in reality?  Absolutely.  But it is important to understand D.I.D. and its purpose so we can fully understand how it works. D.I.D. (and any form of dissociation) is not about attention seeking.  It is about coping.  It is meant to go undetected.  Most of the parts are trying to fit in, to gain acceptance.  They are trying to behave in a way that will keep others from questioning them.  There are exceptions.  The freedom fighters are less interested in fitting in.  And the defenders will do bold things to ensure safety.  But most of the time, a switch is undetectable unless you are looking for it or know the person very well.  What does this mean for us?  It means that D.I.D. is far more common than we think.  There are many people walking around with parts who have no idea they are switching.  And nobody else around them knows either. Now you may be asking yourself how you know if D.I.D. is a part of...
Dissociation is Real

Dissociation is Real

Recently I was alerted to an article on Psychology Today which denounced dissociation as a real response to trauma.  Not surprisingly, this article made my blood boil.  The most infuriating part of the article was how he kept repeating how dissociation was used as an excuse for behavior.  So basically, he was saying that if someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their behavior, they could claim dissociation caused it.  It was written by someone with the letters behind his name.  I am sure he had went to school and read the books.  I am sure he has worked with some clients with some mildly irritating symptoms associated with some mild forms of trauma.  And suddenly, he is an expert on what does and doesn’t exist. These kinds of articles are irresponsible for so many reasons (most of which I don’t need to tell you).  Dissociation is hard to acknowledge even for those of us who are graced with severe forms of it.  We have learned denial from the best.  That’s why we dissociate in the first place.  Acknowledging dissociation requires us to admit there is another narrative, a narrative we have been denying a very long time.  Of course, we need help with that.  We need to hear from credible sources that we are on the right track, that what we are uncovering is real.  We won’t hear that from our abusers.  We won’t hear it from the general public.  So we have to hear it from trained professionals.  When they throw denial in our direction, they cause more damage than they will ever fully understand. So why...
Rethinking Paranoia

Rethinking Paranoia

Paranoia is one of the most stigmatized symptoms of complex trauma.  It is often viewed as a sign of a serious mental illness.  But the reality of paranoia is different.  It is everywhere.  I believe childhood trauma makes it a guarantee.  Paranoia can be so many things.  It can be as simple as “waiting for the other shoe to drop”.  It can be as intense as expecting abusers to come around the corner at any second.  It can be as unrealistic as waiting for a lightning strike.  But no matter the manifestation, it is debilitating.  It holds us back from our purpose because we don’t feel safe or free to pursue what we want. Paranoia is so confusing because it rarely exists on a conscious level.  Our adult self will often have a mature enough understanding to have left most paranoid thoughts behind (although not always).  But the paranoid thoughts exist in the unconscious with the inner parts who needed to create explanations for unusual and traumatic experiences.  And as they linger there, they can make life very uncomfortable with strong anxiety, panic and hypervigilance as the manifestations.  But why does it happen?  Why do we suffer from paranoia in the first place? Kids are prone to magical thinking. When we are kids, we are creative.  We have the ability to come up with all sorts of amazing stories.  And we are told amazing stories.  Many children believe in a magical fat man who travels the world in one night and a bunny delivering candy eggs.  The line between reality and fantasy is very fine.  My own children are...
The Dissonance of Relationship

The Dissonance of Relationship

There is nothing more complicated after a childhood of complex trauma than navigating relationships.  Why?  Complex trauma is relational.  We don’t have complex trauma without the failure of the primary relationships in our lives.  And while the dissociation we use to stay alive is miraculous and amazing, it is also the nemesis of our adulthood.  We can’t get our relationships to work because we only know extremes.  Our inner parts which are created by dissociation are the source of our “all or nothing” thinking.  And they make sure our relationships won’t be balanced … until we heal. I have repeatedly heard from survivors of complex trauma that relationships are their most significant difficulty in life.  They feel like they are swinging on a pendulum where they either chase people around or they lock the entire world out of their house.  This way of relating is exhausting.  It is also completely unfulfilling.  We can’t live our lives chasing love that isn’t available and/or running from anyone who shows interest or might really love us.  And I am not just talking about intimate relationships here.  These patterns exist in almost all relationships. So what is it that is really happening here?  Our inner parts are battling.  Why?  They have different goals/needs and they will do anything to get them met.  To resolve this battle, we must take steps to resolve the trauma that is driving the behavior.  But that is as complex as the trauma itself.  So I wrote some steps you can take to begin unraveling the relationship dysfunction running your life. Understand who is coming to the table. Your...
See Me!

See Me!

I have been introduced to my second superior part over the past week.  Unlike my superior defender, this part is a rebel who wants to do her own thing.  At first, I found it a bit amusing to listen to her talk about how much better she is than everyone else.  But in this work, no feeling stays for long (especially the good ones).  This part is struggling.  She is struggling with so much futility.  She is struggling to find her way in a world that doesn’t acknowledge her.  She went through horrific neglect and abuse.  She was a child with great ideas who was never heard.  She wanted to be different, but knew the visibility was too dangerous.  And unfortunately, that is only part of her story. She grew up to be a woman in a “man’s career” and the pattern continued.  She was the one with soft skills who was given all the tasks nobody else wanted.  She was the one without the highly technical knowledge who had to prove herself by working harder and longer than the others.  She handled all the stuff they hated.  She struggled to be seen for the skills she really brought to the table.  She was just the token woman in technology who could make them look a bit better, a bit less misogynistic. And then, she became a survivor in an activist movement.  Let’s face it, almost everyone in activism is a survivor.  But she was an “outed” survivor.  And with that comes baggage.  It is not a decision to be made lightly.  Survivors are not given the same clout...