After speaking with a system with Dissociative Identity Disorder, my eyes have been opened to the vast complexity of the human brain.
As many of you know, in the novel The Pawn and The Puppet, one of the main characters is a patient in a brutal asylum out of a dystopian world. This patient has a disorder inspired by DID. You may have heard of it through severe cases in history such as Sybil or The 24 Faces of Billy Milligan. Or perhaps, you saw the movie Split. Allow me to assure all of you, these extreme cases and fictional stories do not adequately represent the disorder. The individuals that have DID are the victims of obscene trauma and abuse starting at an early age.
It’s important to me that I lead with that. We should strive to learn more about this.
I had the privilege of speaking to a young man in a system with over 100 alters. And before you say, “no way, it’s not possible to have that many,” it’s time to do updated research. It is possible, and it’s more common than you think. Have you heard about the trial where a woman with over 2,500 alters testified against her abuser? That’s more than two thousand times her brain had to split in order to protect itself. So yes, one hundred is normal, despite the misconception of a 24 alter limit.
Here are some things you may not know (each alter and system experiences these differently)
- When an alter is not in the front, they reside in the inner world to enjoy and live their life.
- The inner world is a place created inside the mind of someone with DID. It looks and feels just as real as the world we live in now. There are houses, buildings, telephones, and the alters can choose to live separately or apart.
- It is a misconception that alters all want to become a host and front all of the time. They are content living their normal lives, and many even prefer to stay in the inner world.
- Alters that split may not always be human. They can be animals, deities, even mythological creatures. Because alters split in response to their trauma, sometimes the specific trauma causes an alter to split as a non-human to cope. For example, if a child were forced to eat literal garbage, they might split off a pig alter who would find the experience much less horrific, or even normal.
- Once the brain splits for the first time, it becomes a natural response to dealing with trauma that will continue to occur even in adulthood. Different brains split with varying frequency, but after the initial split it will always retain the ability to split in response to trauma.
- An alter can choose to remain in the inner world in order to avoid trauma they might sustain when fronting. The system can also assign caretakers to alters who stay in the inner world and need help with daily life because of disability, trauma, or any other reason.
One of my main curiosities was I wonder what it looks like for someone to switch between alters? Talking to a system and watching a switch for the first time, I saw that the change makes it look like the person’s eyes have gone vacant. A brief moment when no one is home to respond. I waited patiently and knew the moment a new alter had fronted. They not only smiled differently, but they even had an English accent. Their body language, mannerisms, and response time during the conversation have completely changed.
Overall, the experience was enlightening. I learned far more intricate details regarding DID than what surface-level research could offer.
If you’d like a part-two to learn more about DID and in return better understand Patient 13 in The Pawn and The Puppet, please let me know!