In Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) there is almost always a huge struggle with the question: Who am I? For many victims, even after considerable therapy, there is very little sense of being “someone”. The earlier and greater the trauma, the more fragmented the dissociated personalities, and the more demonically entrenched the person, the harder it will be to find and develop a cohesive “whole” sense of being. But it’s possible. God wants nothing more. In my own journey I’ve found that the question of “who am I”, is actually a very advanced issue. There are significantly more fundamental questions that have to be addressed first. What I’ve found in talking to various DID counselors is a lack of appreciation for the depth of the deficits that exist among various individual personalities with regard to being a human being, not to mention having an identity. As individual personalities struggle to determine their own humanity and identity, the concept of a final total identity among all the personalities is very far down the road. In order to get there, the foundation must be well laid. That process is outlined in this blog.
Since throughout this blog post I’ll be using terms and concepts that have been thoroughly discussed in previous blogs, before you read on if you are unfamiliar with the concepts of DID, Primary Identities, Alter Identities, and Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA), please check out the Lexicon and/or go back and read What is Dissociative Identity Disorder and What is Ritual Abuse and Satanic Ritual Abuse. Also, note that throughout this blog I’ll be talking about the concept of identity, which is not to be confused with the name of a specific type of personality, such as Primary Identity,
In this post we’ll talk about Personhood, Identity, and Dignity. A discussion of each of these topics could take a book. In this limited space I mostly want to bring awareness to the depth of the struggle. Whether you are a counselor or a survivor, don’t assume that the Primary or Alter Identities with whom you are working have the foundation of personhood. In cases of extreme abuse and programming, personhood is not understood internally. If asked, she/he most likely will say that she/he is human, but at her/his core, what does that mean to her/him? We’ll start there and move to higher levels of understanding following the path of:
One of the foundational struggles in DID can be for the various parts to develop a sense of personhood. In the midst of depersonalization, derealization, and all the craziness of switching, one can be left grasping for a sense of, “Am I even a person?” The definition of personhood is “the quality or condition of being an individual person”. For our purposes, a person is a human being. The concept of being an individual person suggests a “whole”, an internal unity of being human. For someone with DID there obviously isn’t any internal unity. Furthermore, for an individual Alter or Primary Identity, there is often not a constant or cohesive sense of internal unity. Long ago I remember thinking, “Really I know I’M not AN individual person. I’m lots of different possible beings. Maybe I am not even a person, not to mention the sum total of all of us being a person.” In all cases this sense of not being a person is much more nebulous than feeling like there is a lack of identity. It’s really a lack of personhood. Many writers have discussed “identity”, the sense of being a particular person, but few have dug so deep as to understand that the foundation, personhood, is frequently lacking in DID, especially poly-fragmented DID.
At conception and by God’s design, every human being is a person with a unique identity. In God’s eyes each human being is of infinite value. But those who are handed over to Satan, tortured, programmed, and forced to fragment, sometimes even before birth, have absolutely no basis for comprehending this unique original unity of personhood. Despite what well-meaning people might say, at the early stages of healing and self-discovery, it is absolutely impossible to know what the outcome of healing will look like. There is no way to conceptualize a whole. For the Primary Identities, in particular, there is a desperate need to understand self in the context of a sea of shifting emotions, perceptions, memories, access to physical presence, and disparate inner belief systems. I know in our journey, many of us often wondered what sort of monster we were. The more we discovered the less we believed that we were human. When the walls that determine co-consciousness finally start to crack, suddenly there is nothing normal. Humanity itself can be questioned. So lets examine the mechanisms by which a sense of personhood may not be secure.
Obviously, the person God created, the Original Self, the human spirit God sent at conception is a human being. This nascent being’s life work is to unfold, grow, develop, and ultimately become a member of God’s Kingdom. Lot’s of people get thwarted in that pathway. In DID/SRA often this nascent being is attacked by Satan at the time of conception, maybe even sold to Satan by the parents, and by various physical, psychological, and spiritual tortures, this little being’s soul and spirit is crushed. It’s not unusual for the physical baby to be born with various fragmented personalities. In these circumstances, on what basis can a child know that they are one unified person? A child who experiences the process of soul splitting sometime after birth has a difficult enough time assimilating all the pieces together into a whole that vaguely resembles the original intent. In generational SRA, where splitting happens even before birth, there is no foundation. The baby that nurses and sees mother or father or whatever caregiver/abuser combination is presented can’t know that they are a casserole of many ingredients. If you are the spinach, it’s impossible to know that the chicken, the soup, the egg, and the noodles, along with you, actually make a casserole. You are spinach; you don’t even conceive of the casserole. The you that is the soup has no idea of the spinach you or the whole. You are many beings struggling to survive.
A Primary or an Alter Identity trying to put her/his own self-awareness in the context of all the others inside the body cannot know there are all sorts of lies purposefully fed into the system to prevent any one part from discerning the whole. In the process of healing, as I begin to understand that 1) I’m not alone in this body, 2) there are seemingly an infinite number of extremely different personalities around me inside, and 3) none of them are vaguely like me, on what basis can I understand personhood, even just for me? I have absolutely no context for understanding what I am. So in the process of helping a person with DID to heal, be aware that not only is it important to find and heal the pieces, it’s important that synthesis of the puzzle to whom all these pieces belong is considered. I’m talking about more than integration. Clearly, many Alter Identities when they are identified, deprogrammed, and healed of lies may spontaneously, or with some help, coalesce into the Primary Identity from whom they were derived. Synthesis is more than that. Synthesis happens when the Primaries can examine what happened and put that information in the context of everything they know so far at an executive level. What does knowing about all that happened to that fragment of me say about what and who I am right now? What does it mean to me if all of what happened to that other personality is true? If that Alter Identity just integrated into her, what does that say about me? If God spoke to her but not me, does that mean I’m not a person?
The foundation for each Primary or Alter Identity is personhood. Let’s talk about some of the blocks to experiencing personhood that need to be removed. The most devastating is the degree of fragmentation. An Alter Personality may only know of one, usually horrific, event. Within that event the sound, the pain, the interaction with the perpetrator, the programming, the smell, the horror, the observation from the ceiling may all be held by fragments of that Alter Personality. Once the fragments experiencing that event are all woven back together, the event is known, the Alter is safe, and lies are replaced with Truth, there is a brief opportunity to value the humanity of that Alter, whether she/he is going to spontaneously integrate into another or not. Despite everything that happened, this small part of a us has humanity, served an extremely valuable purpose in survival, and deserves to be appreciated. When you as a major Alter or Primary Identity are eventually composed of hundreds, if not thousands, of fragmented parts, assimilating the essence and significance of all that happened into a sense of being can be extremely difficult. Experts will argue about how important it is to know all or most of the Alter memories. Either extreme is probably not helpful. Nonetheless, the journey will uncover much more than most anyone can handle; that’s why all the fragmentation. So be aware that processing this information as a person, is critical. “I’m a human being and this happened to ME.” Extreme fragmentation is a barrier to personhood. Fight that by validating your humanity as either an Alter or Primary Identity at every step along the way.
The norm in cult systems and government programming is the specific creation of Alter Identities to be used for the will of others. If your soul is split and Alters are assigned an identity, then they can know nothing else. It’s common for there to be sex slave personalities. They have one function/ one role. The sex slave will reflect being an object, not a person. Animal personalities are another egregious example. For a variety of reasons, cults make Alters that “are” animals. In healing they may have no capacity to identify with humanity. Worse, they often believe they are beyond God’s redemption because they are not human. For them learning the truth of humanness and personhood is extremely healing. Only slightly less disruptive are Alters who are the opposite gender to the physical person. Books could be written on this subject. While biological gender is genetic and determined at conception, the psychological underpinnings that allow an individual to live that out MUST be guided cooperatively by those nurturing the child. A child doesn’t decide to be the opposite gender. Psychological forces in development produce a child or an Alter Identity who “believes” they are not who they really are genetically. It can be devastating to learn that You are not, your body is not, the gender you were told by some malevolent force to be. The point is care must be taken to validate humanity no matter whether the personality believes they are a machine, an animal, an ancient person of the opposite gender, a zombie or whatever other lie they have been told.
There’s another reason that some Alters are not the same gender as the biological sex of the person. Once DID is established and dissociation is learned as a coping mechanism, independent of any purposeful creation of parts by outside forces, the child may manufacture Alters of a different gender. Why? “Boys are strong and don’t get hurt.” Protector parts are often male. “Daddy only loves girls.” Parts needing special affection may be female. There’s an endless variety of rationales as to why one or the other gender may be preferred in the life of a severely traumatized child. Again the confusion of being the wrong gender is an affront to understanding one’s very humanity. Even though both genders are obviously human, discovering the mistake can be so catastrophic that one then doesn’t have any idea what sort of being one is.
Many Alter and even some Primary Identities in the early stages of healing have no sense of a body at all. To be a person you have to be attached to a body. In some systems the body is the sole property of one personality. The others don’t take any responsibility for it. They don’t own it. They don’t look like it. They may be appalled that they have a body (especially THAT body). When they look in the mirror or they look at their hands, they have no connection that what they’re seeing is them. For some Alters and Primaries, this is extremely difficult to correct. There are always associated lies. Programming is often involved. Nonetheless, it’s hard to conceptualize being human and in some way equivalent to all the other human beings with whom one is now interacting, if you don’t have a body. It may take a lot of mind/body connectivity work to form full acceptance, but don’t skip that step. Remember, personhood is foundational.
When you look at extreme cult or government programming, personhood is assaulted because Primary and Alter Identities may not have any capacity for existing in this time/space dimension, or they may have been specifically placed in another dimension. It’s way beyond the scope of this blog to characterize other dimensions. Physicists comprehend other dimensions. In the spirit there are other dimensions. There are numerous documented examples of people traveling in time and space through other dimensions. Cult survivors know there are places outside of time and space in which parts of one’s soul and spirit may be placed. Whether you, as the reader, believe this or not, the Alter Identity placed there knows that they are not part of this world. They may even be resistant to coming into this world during healing. They have no concept of anything in this world, having never seen it or experienced it, even in the moment of being made. Often they have no sense of being embodied. The fantastic thing is that they are not lost to God. He knows where they are and how to get them back. But these Primary and Alter Identities desperately need to hear and be affirmed in their humanity and in their personhood. They live, and they are a part of a greater being who is human.
Before moving onto Identity as the next building block, I want to talk about shame and humiliation. There is a huge literature on shame and humiliation and identity. There is little out there on shame and humiliation and personhood. In extreme trauma and programming in a child, even before birth, the shame and humiliation lead to a state of nonexistence. You are so evil/worthless/unwanted…..that you can’t or don’t exist. For us this was related to the discussion of other dimensions. Alters were so extremely odious that they occasionally had to go to another dimension. Their existence was intolerable. This crushing of soul and spirit through shame and humiliation totally obstructs the Alter’s understanding that they really are a person. They don’t know that they have the essence of humanity that gives them a right to exist. If an Alter Identity is punished by placing them into suspended animation or some other dimension in which there is no sense of self, other, or physical reality, this Alter will have a huge problem with personhood.
Let’s move onto Identity. If personhood is the realization of the fact of being a human being, identity is the realization of being a specific human being. Legally a PERSON has various rights, such as the right to live and not be murdered. You exist and you have foundational rights. Having an IDENTITY confers a complex array of possible encounters and interactions with creation, which are defined by “preference”. You have a unique character and personality. Once I perceive the right to identity, I begin the process of self-definition. For 99.9% of humanity, this is so obvious that no one thinks about it. Kids grow up with a constantly evolving understanding of who they are: loved baby, boy, younger sister, smart, pianist, track star, etc. For the Primary and Alter Identities who are Presenters during development, they may also have some self-identification based upon the roles they’ve played. It’s common for Identities to see themselves, and possibly even be named, as the function they perform. Mother. Caregiver. Worker. Etc. Discovery by one Identity of the other Identities, however that realization happens, is a HUGE affront to the individual Identities’ sense of who they are. In the crisis of comprehending one’s multiplicity, everything one understands about oneself is threatened. Then, upon realization that there has to be some accommodation for the others and eventually a merging of self-concepts, another crisis occurs.
Some would argue that in DID the Alter Identities shouldn’t be allowed to experience a sense of identity. Even some Primaries shouldn’t have a sense of identity. Only the whole integrated self should have an identity. I couldn’t disagree more. True, once healed many minor Alters and fragmented personalities integrate so rapidly that who they are is less of a concern than what they contribute to the whole. But MANY Alter Identities and ALL Primary Identities usually already have a strong sense of self, especially if they’ve coexisted in a state of non-conconsciousness. It’s insulting and denigrating for someone to tell them that either they don’t really exist, or they shouldn’t exist, or they have no right to believe who they are. I had a very short-lived relationship with a psychiatrist who screamed at one of my Primary Identities, who was not the Presenter she met at our first appointment, because she had no right to exist. She must immediately “go into” the Primary Presenter. This psychiatrist wouldn’t accept Identities believing that they were people with a right to exist. Despite all the things one could say about this unfortunate interaction, each Identity knows they have no capacity to suddenly not exist. It’s an absurd misunderstanding of DID to think that Identities can force themselves to all be one person. On the contrary, in the long hard process of healing, if the major Alter and Primary Identities are never encouraged to explore self-discovery, the final whole – whatever that looks like re integration – is diminished.
In simple DID, personhood is not usually a huge issue, but identity may be completely masked by a life-time of lies told about oneself. For example, if you’re constantly told, “You’re a worthless, hopeless bum,” eventually that’s your identity. At the other end of the spectrum, in extreme abuse, programming, and the creation of many parts – whose very existence is to serve the purposes of others – attaining personhood does little to reveal who you are. Therefore, most people with DID will eventually say, “I know that I am, but I don’t know who I am”. It’s a HUGE problem. Most people with DID have a Primary Presenter, and it’s often assumed that this person is “who all of you are”. False!!!! She/he may or may not be closely related to the Original Self, but it doesn’t really matter, because in these EXTREME cases the Original Self has no identity either. My suggestion for those in this state of healing is to be patient. It’s possible that ALL of what you’ve been through and done and learned about yourself, to date, is not you at all. It may be the traumatized you, but it’s not the essence of you. In the process of finding all the parts and unraveling all the programming, each major Alter or Primary Identity may have independent, evolving ideas of who each other in the system are. That’s not surprising or unexpected. It’s also not unexpected that the opinions of one about the other will evolve, hopefully from negative to positive. Understand that in these complex systems, all that one knows about oneself is because of what happened to you and what you were told about yourself. That is NOT a basis for true identity.
As a major Alter, or even more so as a Primary Identity, how do you figure out who you are? How do you figure out how you all fit into a whole? The classical answer is that you find the Original Self, the person whom God made before all the splitting, and she/he holds the keys to your identity. Generally in DID/SRA, the Original Self shows up after the major programming is undone, all parts are retrieved from other dimensions, and most, if not all, of the deliverance is accomplished. That’s a lot of work. Before the arrival of the Original Self, when everyone is still in major flux and struggle, there are things that help. First, reject the lies. If you were programmed and made to do all sorts of bad things, know that you had no choice. That’s not who you are. You exist today as a major part in a system for a good reason, because you represent something essential of the whole. You have value. The whole cannot be who she/he is designed to be without your attributes. Figuring out what you do best, like best, think best, etc. helps in that definition. Relative to the others in the system are you a leader, a follower, relate to people better, kinder, like kids, patient, fearless, etc. Second, deal with denial. Get to the root of it. At a time of life when nothing seems real, all assumptions in life are blown to bits, and getting grounded to reality can be difficult, look at the immensity of the disruption as proof that something extremely bad happened to you. KNOW that what you’re learning from the other parts is true. It may seem impossible. It may seem beyond absurd. But you’re not in this state for no reason. Horrible things happened, and you were part of it. Figure out how. Accept it. THEN recognize that you are more than a survivor. You were meant to be someone who has never yet had the opportunity to live.
Eventually, you find the Original Self. Sometimes when you discover the Original Self for the first time, or become more aware of who she/he is (usually, but not always, very closely related to the Primary Presenter) there will be a sense of “who I am”. It’s an inner knowing. I’ve asked several “normal” adults, and they always have known who they are. They don’t understand the issue. “I am who I am and I’ve always been this person.” People with DID rarely have that luxury. Now ask a teenager and you might not get that definitive an answer. But even in the teens, normally there is a sense of identity as defined by relationships. A teen may not know where their life is going, but they have an innate sense of identity. The Original Self, esp. if she/he has lived any of life, will have that innate sense of identity. But if she/he never lived at all, as in extreme fragmentation before birth, even she/he will have no innate sense of self. In this case, the system is going to struggle for quite awhile to figure it all out.
Let’s consider the worst case, where the Original Self never lived any life, the Primary Identities were separated in utero (If this is new to you, accept for now that it happens. We’ll talk about that sometime in another post), and there have literally been subsystems headed by Primaries living independently in the same body for decades. We represent such a case, [and while I know about many other cases, I’ve never had extended conversation with anyone else who has lived through this. I know there are MANY of you out there, and I would LOVE to hear your stories]. After an enormous amount of healing, our Original Self came, and out of that we had a much, much deeper connection with God. Her presence helped heal that huge gulf between being heavily demonized and cult loyal/programmed vs. connected/received by/loved by God. Although by that point each of us as Primaries were wholeheartedly seeking Him, the spirit-level connectivity was elevated by her presence. In our case knowing our Original Self never gave us that innate sense of KNOWING who we are. While I accept that being God’s child is everyone’s REAL identity, children come in many flavors. Each one of us as Primaries seemed to be acutely different in flavor and type. In fact, our life goals, outlooks, and opinions were exceptionally diverse. It seemed that we would never be able to reconcile all the conflicts among us. As we continue to peel back the seemingly infinite layers, God IS revealing that our Primary Presenter system really isn’t at our core after all, and who HE made us to be is very different from anything any one of us has experienced. In other words, the core of our essence was so completely smashed at the beginning, it seems to be unrelated to any one of us.
The bottom-line message about Identity is this. First, since God designed and created each person, only He can truly reveal who you are. Second, some people with DID don’t struggle hugely with this issue, and that’s a great blessing. Third, for most with DID, figuring out who the Primary Presenter is and then getting healed enough to find the Original Self will often yield that sense of comfort and KNOWING that I am ME, a sense of I AM SOMEONE, albeit a bit fragmented yet for the moment. Finally, if all of that doesn’t get you there, God is not done with you. Some multiples never get to full integration, yet they exist as a “whole” with a fulfilling, deep, knowing that they are SOMEONE, individually as a specific part and in aggregate. If you are willing to continue on the journey, God will keep digging down to the beginning in all of your subsystems until His light illuminates more and more completely who He made you to be. Don’t rush it, but be persistent in the search.
The final step is to take our place in the human race. I call that Dignity. It’s a gradual process. People around you are important in that process, but even without life-giving affirmation from others, dignity can be acquired. Dignity is the “state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” Personhood gives you a sense of being human and then necessarily, legal rights. Identity, as a part or as a whole, is the sense of being a unique individual with specific attributes and life plans. Dignity is the sense that I’m worthy enough that others “should” treat me as a person of value. My unique “specificness” is worthy of value. It’s who I am rather than what I do. God loves to confer dignity. He’s all about respect and honor. For those of us who have been tortured and pummeled and belittled our entire many lives, that’s HARD to comprehend. Many of us feel, “I’ve been hated, reviled, used, abused, and programmed. Of what value can I possibly have other than as a slave?” Overcoming this false understanding is the final step toward dignity.
No Identity within a person with DID will experience dignity if the lies related to their specific creation are still in force. Splitting comes from irreconcilable physical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual conflicts. There is always a lie embedded. Once formed, an Identity must believe a complex range of falsehoods in order to maintain their existence, but the most damaging lies relate to personal value. People can explain to you the Truth of who you are. They can tell you that you were programmed, and it’s not your fault. You can read what the Bible says about shame and guilt and condemnation. But until your various Identities are able to take all those lies to the cross and let God speak into your heart who you really are, you will not be able to comprehend your true value. He made you. He is the final arbiter of value. Breaking off ALL the shame and guilt and condemnation so that you can RECEIVE dignity is a life-giving victory that no one can ever take away again. Yes, people can say nice things about you, try to love you, and validate you in the journey, but when you know WHO YOU ARE and you KNOW that you have infinite value in the sight of God, no matter what has happened or what people may even be saying about you at the moment, there is LIFE.
Don’t quit until you get there. Pursue God with all that all of you have. Seek life-giving people to speak into you. Let Jesus take away all the last vestiges of shame and condemnation on the cross. This goes WAY deeper than self-talk. Go inside of yourself to the place of your deepest shame and invite Jesus to come into your situation. Go to the cross. He bore ALL that shame for you, naked, bleeding to death on the cross. You can hand Him your shame, and He’ll gladly take it and destroy it forever. Let your soul and spirit be free of it. God alone can do that for you. I’ve seen Him do it over and over. He WANTS to do it for you.
Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear about your journey through personhood, identity, and on to dignity. If you’re a counselor, I’d love to hear how this has or hasn’t played out in your experience. If you have any questions, please ask. I know this is a rather superficial treatment of an immense topic. As always, feel free to Contact Me for any reason. God Bless