Some people who experienced significant childhood disorder go on to develop dissociative identity disorder (DID) which causes the different aspects of the person’s personality to be poorly integrated and fragmented which leads to them operating relatively independently of one another.
These fragmented aspects of the personality are often simply referred to as ‘parts’ by psychologists who treat those suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID).
These parts are often in conflict with each other and may not accept or even acknowledge one another but, nevertheless, influence one another to some degree. They are NOT separate personalities (though may feel like they are) but different facets of the person’s personality which have failed to mesh smoothly together into a cohesive, cooperative, whole personality system.
These different parts of the personality vary according to the particular individual suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID) but usually have the same basic functions. According to the psychologist and expert in DID, Boon, a typical example of the fragmented parts the poorly integrated personality of a person suffering from DID may be made up of are as follows :
– the ‘daily functioning’ part
– the ‘young’ part
– the ‘helper’ part
– the ‘angry’ part
– the ‘ashamed’ part
Let’s briefly examine each of these five parts in turn :
The Daily Functioning Part:
This is often the main part of the personality that operates in order to allow one to function on a day-to-day basis.
The Young Part:
This part of the personality may be ‘stuck’ at the stage of infant, toddler, child or adolescent (this is sometimes referred to as ‘arrested development‘). It contains traumatic memories and may experience feelings of dependence, the intense need for protection, safety, security, and comfort, distrust of others, and extreme fear of abandonment and rejection.
This part may also be in conflict with other parts, which are repelled by its neediness and vulnerability.
The Helper Part:
This part attempts to soothe and calm the traumatized ‘inner child.’
The Angry Part:
This part developed at the time of the trauma for the purpose of self-defense and self-protection. Again, it is in conflict with other parts which find it unacceptable.
The Part That Imitates The Abuser:
This part behaves in similar ways to how one’s abuser used to behave towards one and often, like the ‘angry part’, expresses rage and hostility
The Ashamed Part:
This part comprises emotions and behaviors that the individual has labeled as ‘shameful’
N.B. It is theorized that these parts arose as a result of arrested emotional development and are -stuck in trauma-time.’
According to Boon, these relatively independent parts remain fragmented and dissociated as they are in conflict with one another and some parts find other parts unacceptable.
The individual needs to come to an accommodation with each of these parts and empathize, in a self-compassionate way, with the reason why they developed (ie in response to early life trauma). Only then can these parts become reconciled with one another, amalgamated and healthily integrated into a cohesive personality, and start to express themselves in helpful ways (prior to successful integration they can often generate unhelpful and self-destructive behaviors).
Source: Treating Trauma-Related Dissociation. A Practical, Integrative Approach Published by Norton Professional Books (2017) by Kathy Steele (Author), Suzette Boon (Author), Onno van der Hart (Author)
Rediscovering Our True Selves
As we recover from our childhood trauma, we can start to get back in touch with our authentic selves, untainted by the trauma’s effects. We can start to become the person we always wanted to be. Indeed, although our trauma did us incalculable harm, it is likely that it also forced us to develop strengths that we may well now be in a position to utilize to our advantage.
Whilst, prior to recovery, our lives were dominated by reliving our trauma and acting out its effects, we can now begin to discard our ‘victim status’ and begin to pursue our aspirations, even though, to begin with, we may find this a rather frightening prospect.
We needed to be strong in order to begin our journey on the road to recovery and we can now use this strength, and the self-discipline that went with it, to start living our lives in a productive, positive, and fulfilling way.
At first, this may well involve sensible risk-taking, trial and error, and an acceptance that we might make mistakes.
Also, we can begin to discard those aspects of ourselves, caused by our traumatic experiences, that were dysfunctional and held us back in life. With a new understanding of why we developed these dysfunctional behaviors in the first place, we can also now begin the process of treating ourselves with compassion and understanding; in short, we can start to forgive ourselves.
We now know that these unhelpful behaviors need not be a permanent part of ourselves.