HELP! My Friend Has Multiple Personalities How can I help?
By James Card
"I don't know what to do." With this comment one of our friends, a lay leader in our congregation, expressed her frustration regarding her interactions with my wife and her alternate personalities. Here was an experienced Christian who had overcome many difficulties in her own life, confused about how to express her concern and loving support for a Christian sister who was a wounded and suffering child of God.
How do I express my love, care, and concern in a supportive, uplifting way? How do I keep from causing further pain or confusion? What needs does this hurting friend have that I can help her fulfill? How can I help? We will attempt to provide useful, honest, meaningful answers to these questions.
There are several theories currently under debate among mental health professionals regarding the origin, nature, and effective treatment of the set of behaviors referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder. Please understand that only God can provide authoritative answers to the many questions we have about multiple personalities. The information presented here is based only upon the authority of our own experience, and the understanding we have gained from that experience. While the ideas expressed here may seem "wise" or "authoritative" please remember the intent of this book and the fact that we are not psychologists, psychiatrists, or theologians -- we are everyday people who are learning to live with the experience known as "multiple personality disorder". We will present the information which best matches our experiences and understanding, with little concern for how it may or may not fit with any of the formal theories regarding MPD.
How can I help? What do I need to understand?
"In the beginning God... created man in His own image,... and it was very good." (Genesis 1:1, 27, 31) It is interesting to note that as you read through the first chapter of Genesis it is mentioned several times that God looked at what He had created and proclaimed that it was good. It was only after He had created man and woman that He said it was VERY good. We are also told there that He created man in His image -- to be like Him in every way possible.
Since man is created in God's image, what is God like? "God is love." (I John 4:16) is probably the most concise answer possible. Although this answer does not fully describe God's character it is probably the best, most accurate, and most-encompassing three-word answer available. Love is the most enduring theme throughout the Bible -- from Genesis to Revelation. The simplest presentation of the Gospel message often begins "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) and for many of our toddlers the first hymn they learn is "Jesus Loves Me".
Yes, God is almighty, omniscient, holy, jealous, merciful, and the list goes on. And yes, we have each inherited those attributes as part of our human character -- at least to the extent which is allowed by our finite, temporal existence on this earth. And unfortunately, this image of God in us has been marred by sin: we have deliberately rejected God's loving plan for our lives and have attempted to remake ourselves, destroying or distorting substantial portions of God's image in the process, seeking our own glory and satisfaction. Most reasoning men would conclude that love is perhaps the predominant theme of the Bible, certainly of the New Testament. The work of Jesus was to restore the image of God within us, His Spirit dwells within to empower us to overcome sin so that we might share His glorious image within us. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so!
This portion of God's image in us, the capacity to give and receive love, is critical to our health and well-being -- we do not function well at all without love. Dr. Gerald G. May, a Christian psychiatrist, in his book "Addiction and Grace" asserts that love is the most basic and prominent feature of our inherent image of God:
"The love that creates us may be haunting, but it is not enslaving, it is eternally present, yet endlessly open. It seems to me that free will is given to us for a purpose: so that we may choose freely, without coercion or manipulation, to love God in return, and to love one another in a similarly perfect way. This is the deepest desire of our hearts. In other words, our creation is by love, in love, and for love. It is both our birthright and our authentic destiny to participate in this creative loving, and freedom of will is essential for our participation to occur."
Love is a critical element, a cornerstone, in the foundation of our lives.
How do multiples develop, what causes this? In nearly every case multiple personalities are developed as a response to severe trauma (usually abuse) of a child. It is often the result of physical abuse (especially sexual abuse) and sometimes caused by emotional abuse or neglect. This response to trauma is not universal, it seems to depend upon two factors: a high level of intelligence and a high level of "dissociative ability".
Dissociative ability is present in all of us to some degree. In its milder form it resembles daydreaming -- the ability to "detach" ourselves from our current surroundings and temporarily create a separate "reality" or consciousness in our minds. This daydreaming dissociation is often a response to being compelled to remain in an environment which is uninteresting or unpleasant. The development of multiple personalities is a more complete manifestation of dissociation. With daydreaming there remains some awareness of the current surroundings -- the consciousness or self-awareness is unbroken. With multiple personalities there is a break in consciousness, a "loss of time", a period of amnesia. In this form, dissociation modifies not only our current experience or consciousness of reality, it also modifies our permanent memory.
The segregation of the current experience of trauma and its resultant emotional pain into a separate area of the mind allows the primary, normal conscious state of the mind (the core personality) to function relatively normally. This ability to separate oneself from the pain and damage of the trauma enables a person to go on as if the damage had not occurred, at least there is no conscious memory of it. This response, the suppression of memories associated with pain, is normal. We all use this memory suppression technique, that is why we find it much easier to remember the "good old days" of our childhood. We block out the memories of painful things and focus on pleasant memories.
Persons with multiple personalities have refined this ability and used it to protect themselves from pain and to enable themselves to continue functioning in spite of it. In their abusive environment they may be forced to endure almost unimaginable pain, and there is no way for them to get help or to take time out for the wounds to heal. The memory suppression and amnesic dissociation of multiple personalities is their means of survival. The emotional, mental, and spiritual injuries which they have neither the opportunity nor the ability to heal in the midst of their abuse are attached to separate personalities (who then may become specialists in handling that type of trauma or situation). This insulates these experiences from consciousness (except for when that alternate personality is active) and allows the individual to continue with life in a seemingly normal way. The injuries do not heal, they are stored away, sealed off until some later time when they can be processed.
This coping mechanism, of developing and switching to an alternate consciousness, may cease to be used when the abuse stops or it may continue to function throughout the person's life as a response to the stresses of daily living. In almost all cases the person (at least the core personality) is unaware of the process. In some cases the functioning of the system of alternate personalities is interrupted by further trauma or stress which either forces a switch to an alternate coping mechanism (e.g. seeking professional counseling) or requires such an adjustment of the person's patterns of stress management that the existence of alternate personalities becomes obvious.
Although mental health professionals refer to this pattern of behavior as Multiple Personality Disorder we prefer to call it Multiple Personality Gift. We don't intend to imply that this is a desirable or preferred response to stress. We don't see multiple personalities as a manifestation of evil spirits living inside a person or influencing them. (We'll discuss the role of demons or evil spirits in a later chapter.) We don't view multiple personalities as a flaw or weakness of character. We don't consider multiple personalities to be an indicator of spiritual weakness or lack of spiritual growth. We understand this response to be a natural function of the incredibly complex physical / emotional / mental / spiritual creation which God designed in us.
It is this gift, the ability to dissociate from unbearable pain, which enables the fragile developing child to overcome incredible physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual damage and go on living a useful, productive, nominally normal life. It is a tool to be used until better means can be developed of coping with life's stresses. It is a normal, natural response to trauma in the life of a growing child which can be "outgrown" or replaced with other, more effective, means of stress management.
A large percentage of multiple personalities individuals ( we shall refer to them simply as "multiples" for the remainder of this book) are survivors of satanic ritual abuse (SRA). They have been forced to participate in the rituals performed by groups who worship Satan. These rituals are often centered around sexual activities and sacrificial killings of animals and people, especially infants. The satanic cults, because of the illegal nature of their activities, operate in secrecy; protecting the privacy of their rituals by using some fairly sophisticated means -- but primarily by fear and intimidation.
One of the skills these cults have developed is the intentional generation of alternate personalities in their young victims. This gives them a much greater degree of control, by training or "programming" the alternate personalities (we shall just call them "alters" from this point forward). It is common for alters to be trained to believe that if any part of the system of alters has conscious memories of the ritual abuse they had participated in, or especially if any report of those activities was made to any other person, the person (core personality) must be killed. It is like having an internal assassin. This is why many SRA survivors commit suicide, as the memory repression and amnesic dissociation begins to break down in later life they may be weakened enough to succumb to the cult-programmed command to kill themselves.
In addition to the fact that victims who remember will often self-destruct, the cult is further protected by the fact that multiples are usually not deemed to be credible witnesses. Even if they report the cult's activities and manage to get enough people to believe them to get a case to court, which jury is going to take seriously the testimony of this "crazy person"? After all, there are dozens of psychiatrists and other expert witnesses who will testify that this person is suffering from a terrible mental disease.
Beyond the above factors, it is generally recognized that these cults often include in their membership some of the most prominent individuals in the community -- doctors, judges and lawyers, educators, police and other law enforcement officials, and even ministers and other leaders of Christian churches. Even if the cult's activities are reported to believing and non-cult-influenced officials, and even if they manage to gather enough incriminating evidence for a trial (which is usually very difficult) the evidence and/or witnesses often disappear before the trial. In short, they have developed very effective methods of protecting themselves from public scrutiny and prosecution.
Perhaps the most devastating part of SRA is the deliberate destruction, deprivation, and desecration of love. The Satanists deliberately and systematically distort and destroy the victim's understanding of love. Children are told that Satan is now their father, that their parents and families don't love them, that the Satanists do love them, and that they are worthless and deserve the terrible tortures which are inflicted upon them. They are forced to renounce any loving relationship which they may have developed with friends or family members -- and forced to watch the torturous murder of their friends if they don't comply.
The key to recovery is re-establishing the capacity to give and receive love safely. Since our lives are dependent upon love, and that foundation of love has been distorted or destroyed by the abuse that multiples have suffered, it is reasonable to conclude that love will be the key component of rebuilding a healthy life. Multiples must learn to love and accept themselves as precious children of God, learn that love is not built upon fear as they were trained to believe, learn that letting someone else love you does not mean that you have to let them hurt you, and learn that there will be no tragic consequences if they allow themselves to feel and express love for other persons.
We have tried to build safe, loving relationships in every part of Carol's life. Since her life was centered in the activities of the church (and especially since we are both members of the church's pastoral staff) it was natural that her first level of support (beyond the mental health professionals providing her care) was found in selected members of the congregation. These people were accepting, believing even the most bizarre stories about abuse and the mechanisms developed to defend against it. They were loving and supportive, not shying away because they were uncomfortable or unwilling to listen, holding her hand during frightening times, praying earnestly and fervently at a moment's notice. At first they didn't know any of the details of her abuse or exactly what she was dealing with, they often did not understand why she reacted to them in strange ways -- but they were always loving.
Later in the process of recovery we shared more details about the abuse and its current effects on our lives. We invited all the members of the congregation to attend a fellowship time during which we explained the basic issues involved (essentially a brief summary of the material in this book) and answered questions freely about multiple personalities, SRA, and specific alters and their functions and needs. This enabled these fellow Christians who had been faithfully praying for us for many months to take a more direct and active role in rebuilding the love necessary for healthy survival. It gave the alters freedom to interact with these loving, caring people directly, without having to shield all their activities behind a false front which represented the core personality. It made it more safe for every part of her to learn about real love.
Family members are also a critical element of rebuilding the capacity to give and receive love. This can be extremely difficult for survivors of abuse. Even if none of the family members were involved in the abuse there may be feelings that the family should have protected the child. If the family was dysfunctional in some way -- even though they were not directly connected to the abuse -- it is probable that some aspects of the relationships between family members will feel unloving or abusive to the survivor. And even worse, in many cases part or all of the abuse was inflicted by family members.
These family relationships developed over many years, are deeply ingrained, and are difficult and traumatic to change. Some survivors find it necessary to cut themselves off from any contact with family members in order to protect themselves from relationships which still feel abusive. This is painful for everyone involved -- family members often feel that their actions have never been unloving, unkind, or abusive in any way -- and the rejection they feel at being "accused" and cut off by the survivor is tremendous.
Survivors find it difficult to discuss the issues of abuse from the past with their parents, siblings, and other family members. They must proceed carefully, exploring how the others will accept their current experience of multiple personalities and the implications that it makes about their shared past. If some family members can learn to accept and love the survivor, including all the alters, it will be a tremendous boost in the process of recovery. The willing and loving participation of family members can help clarify some of the awful memories which surface during recovery. It can be more helpful in some ways than months or years of professional therapy.
Coworkers and others in secular or casual relationships with the multiple often must be shielded from any knowledge of the existence of alters. This is primarily due to the stigma attached to any form of "mental illness". When society learns to view the development and functioning of alternate personalities in some persons as a natural response to trauma, and learns to react to multiples in an accepting and caring way, it may be possible for alters to freely perform their functions in assisting the survivor to cope with the stresses of life.
For now, most multiples find it absolutely essential to hide that fact from society. They have alters who develop the ability to speak and act very much like the core personality in order to disguise their existence and functioning. They may live in constant fear of being exposed and having to explain their unusual behavior or situation. This condition tends to add to the stresses of recovery, and makes the process more difficult and time-consuming.
It is our recommendation that multiples and their friends be cautious about revealing the existence of multiple personalities. We feel that if there are "outsiders" who can be trusted with this knowledge and trained to respond in positive, helpful ways it could go far in assisting the process of recovery. We view that as one of the best ways to help rebuild the foundation of love for the survivor. Unfortunately, these people represent a much greater risk, they have less motivation to be helpful and supportive and may actually cause further trauma.
How can I help? What can I do?
DON'T try to be a healer, helper, or hero. She needs you to be a friend, not a doctor, therapist, or rescuer. She has a doctor and therapist, and it is too late now to rescue her from past abuse -- and she is able to protect herself now from any current abusive situations.
Listen. She will let you know what she needs.
Above all else, try to maintain a calm, assured attitude of friendship and loving support. If you are interacting with one of the alters reassure them that it is OK for them to be here now, unless it is a situation which really does require the core personality. Most of the time the alters work together in a cooperative way to ensure that the needs of the whole person are met -- and if one of the alters is active it is probably an indication that it is time for them to accomplish their function. Occasionally, switching to an alter is a response to an unusually stressful situation. In either case, it is probably not important to ask for the core personality to return. If the alter is uncomfortable being "out" in a particular situation then they will most likely retreat to the safety of being inside and send one of the others or the core personality out. Our goal has been to allow each of the alters as much time "out" as possible, to allow them to perform their function freely (sometimes providing some redirection of efforts in more positive directions), and to build new and healthy relationships based on love rather than fear.
We are happy to answer your questions about what happened in the past and what is going on now, especially when it can help you to understand our needs and how you can be supportive. Your curiosity is natural and expected but please don't pry -- be sensitive to her reluctance to discuss painful or private matters.
Frustrating, demeaning, awkward, painful, -- anything but fun. While the functioning of alternate personalities can be fascinating (and perhaps frightening) for us to observe, it is no fun at all for the multiple. Switching from one personality to another causes severe migraine-like headaches, especially when a series of switches is made during a short period of time. Imagine the frustration of setting out for a walk through the neighborhood and returning to consciousness more than an hour later to realize that you are hanging in a somewhat unbecoming position on the playground equipment in the park, and one of your child alters has been playing and having a good time for the past hour -- to the amusement of everyone around. Or imagine that you are a leader in a church which forbids the use of alcohol and tobacco and sets high standards for Christian conduct and you realize that one of your alters spent last night drinking, dancing, and smoking in one of the town's favorite night spots. Imagine one of your alters getting angry at your neighbors and telling them off in no uncertain terms, then leaving you to repair the Christian example you have been trying to maintain.
While some multiples have only a few alters, most have several, even dozens of alters. Each alter was created to fulfill some purpose. In some cases the creation of an alter can be traced to a specific event in the young child's life. Some alters are created to play and give the appearance of being a normal, happy child. Some are created to be protectors, to try to protect the young child from harm. Some are created just to endure physical pain, they know no other existence except to "come out" when there is pain to be endured without crying out or otherwise reacting to it. Some are created to play the roles expected by the abusers (e.g. a sexual abuser may desire a "saloon girl"). Other alters may be created later in life (after the abuse has stopped) in response to some particularly stressful or traumatic situation.
Each of the alters has a unique set of feelings, attitudes, skills, abilities, and desires. One may be a good singer, one may have artistic talent as a painter or sculptor, one may have a strong mechanical aptitude and be able to fix nearly anything, one may be deaf or blind, they may each have different allergies and other medical problems. It is not uncommon to find alters who have knowledge or abilities which the core personality has no awareness of and can't explain where, when, or how the alter may have learned them.
There are some sights, sounds, smells, etc. which act as "triggers" to remind the survivor of the abuse. These may cause a variety of reactions ranging from a mild, vague feeling of uneasiness to a flashback which has the survivor convinced they are currently enduring the abuse (complete with crying, screaming, physical pain, striking out against abusers, etc.). This will obviously vary depending upon the specific situations encountered during the abuse.
For SRA survivors common triggers may include anything which resembles the Satanic rituals: people standing or sitting in a circle, especially with their hands joined; chanting or rote repetition of words; candles or open fires; sacrificial altars, or tables which are similar to or symbolic of altars; ritual drinking or eating; coffins, funerals, or anything related to a dead animal or person; snakes, goats, insects, owls, or even household pets may have been sacrificed or used in rituals or torture. It is tragic to realize that this list includes most of the common activities encountered in the worship meetings of many Christian churches. This is because the Satanists have deliberately profaned the elements of Christian worship. This makes it extremely difficult for most SRA survivors to seek help and support from the people who should be best able to provide it. Our suggestion for survivors who wish to participate in Christian worship and service but have trouble finding a church which does not trigger all these old memories is to try one of the denominations which deliberately avoids rituals as a normal part of their worship. We suggest The Salvation Army (which happens to be where God placed us to serve Him), the Society of Friends (Quakers), or the Mennonite churches.
There may be times when you encounter alters who are unpleasant, uncooperative, or destructive. You may have times when an alter is hostile toward you and says or does something which seems intended to hurt you. While this has not been common in our experience, it is not unknown either.
We have learned to recognize that some of the alters may not realize that many years and many miles separate them from the abuse they have known; when they come to consciousness they may only know that they are surrounded by strange people in a strange place -- it is not surprising that they might be frightened and angry. Even if they know where they are and who they are with we must remember that they may have been trained to distrust everyone, especially anyone who claims to be their friend. It may take months or years of consistent loving and caring contact to overcome that programming, and it may have to be repeated with each alter.
Our best advice for friends of intractable alters is this: remember that I love this person, all of this person, no matter how unpleasant they may be right now. We have had to fight the tendency to prefer those alters who are usually pleasant to be around and to shun or discount the fears and feelings of those who cause us discomfort. We spent some months shrugging off the tongue-lashings we received from one of the alters, saying "Oh, that's just the way she is." We finally realized that she is part of this complex person that we love, and her feelings, needs, and concerns were every bit as important as those of any of the other personalities. It was after that that she began to feel that perhaps she really was loved, and she became somewhat more cooperative and pleasant to work with.
In our minds these two questions are similar and the answer to both of them is the same. While living out the rest of our lives with "someone else" (maybe even a four- year-old alter) would require some adjustments, the answer to these questions is that it really doesn't matter. It took us several months of thought and discussion to reach this conclusion. To our daughters, it doesn't really matter -- this person, whoever she may be, is their mother. To me (her husband), it doesn't really matter -- this person, whoever she may be, is my wife; I will love, cherish, and protect her in sickness and in health, in good times or in bad, until death do us part. To our family members, it doesn't really matter -- we may have to adjust how we interact with her from time to time; but our relationship to her, whoever she may be, remains unchanged.
We have not done any research to support this answer but our experience says that it is extremely unlikely that she would "get stuck" as an alter. As for the "real person" -- the real person is, and always has been, a composite of all these alternate "modes of consciousness". The goal we are working toward is the re-integration of these "splintered" personalities, toward a time when the skills and feelings of the various alters are always and constantly active and available, not hidden away until each alter has their time "out". The real person is the one who will have all the attributes of each of the alters available to them constantly rather than on a time-share basis.
No. Remember that alters do not have a separate existence. It does mean that, while that alter will cease to have a separate consciousness, their feelings, concerns, abilities, and desires will be available and active on a full-time basis. After several months of developing a relationship with one of the alters it was rather disconcerting to think that they might be "gone forever" -- until we realized that instead of being gone forever she would be always with us.
This was one of our first concerns -- after all, the first alter we had any regular contact with was only three years old. We soon understood that each alter has a "job", an assigned task to perform. Some jobs are somewhat general, others are very specific. Some alters' jobs will overlap with those of others. They all work together to ensure that the person can function in whatever situation may arise. If the situation requires the ability to drive a car, then only those alters who have that skill are permitted to be active during that time.
The simple (but incomplete) answer to this question is "no". This is another question we wrestled with early on in this process. We have no scriptural or other authority for saying this, but we have the certainty of its truth nevertheless. The alters all understand that they have no separate existence, if one dies they all die (that's why they work together so well to ensure the person's survival). They each were created to help ensure the survival of the person, and they are each an integral, inseparable part of that person. They are not separate persons inhabiting one body, and therefore deserving of individual and separate rights to do whatever they wish. They are each a part of one incredibly complex person, composed of this interrelated group of "personalities" in the mind, a body, and spirit.
Almost none for the friend of a multiple, DO NOT BE AFRAID. All the multiples we know have not been a threat to others, although almost all of them are self- abusive at times. You are generally at very low risk when interacting with a multiple, almost all of the risk is on the opposite side of the relationship. Multiples are cautious about allowing themselves into situations where they might be hurt. This is why it may be difficult for you to demonstrate your care and concern -- it is risky for them to trust you.
If they feel a sense of rejection from you, or any sense that you may have betrayed whatever trust they have placed in you, it may be traumatic for them. However, such a setback in the healing process is certain to be less damaging than the original abuse, and the process of working to overcome that breach in the loving relationship you are both trying to establish will provide further strength and understanding for both of you.
Remind her in a gentle, non-threatening, non-demanding way (not "you have to open your eyes and tell me where you are") where she is, who you are, and that it is safe to be here. Be cautious about touching, if she shrinks back from your touch then back off a couple of feet. It may help to offer to hold her hand ("Would you like to squeeze my hand when you are frightened or hurting?") or suggest a gentle hug (hugs are risky, they may be rejected if the alter associates them in any way with sexual abuse, BE VERY CAREFUL).
Any SRA survivor will be quick to tell you that not only is Satan real and very powerful (he is not just some cosmic bogey man as he is portrayed by many) but he also controls a host of demons or evil spirits. Scripture makes it quite plain that such demons are able to inhabit a person and influence their life. It also seems clear that Satan and his agents can influence our lives without inhabiting or "possessing" the person. Remember that demons have access to similar power as Almighty God's, they are supernatural beings. If there is any question about the possibility of demonic activity in the life of a survivor you must seek out holy persons whom God has given the gift of discernment and who have experience in exorcising demons -- this is not something to toy with or to ignore. Also remember that if you determine that there is some demonic influence involved, God is Almighty, there is nothing to fear. He sends his Holy Spirit to dwell within us and fill the places of darkness where demons were exorcised from with His light and peace.
It is VERY IMPORTANT to distinguish between demons and alters. Some events, activities, or attitudes may seem to have a demonic origin (and at their root may indeed have) but actually be coming from a powerful, frightened, and angry alter. There are two dangers here: the first is that many mental health professionals will deny or severely downplay the possibility of demonic activity in the life of a survivor. There are several good reasons for this from their point of view. Perhaps the most important one is: how would you like to be told that the evil which is the source of your problems is located inside of you and that it is beyond your control?
The second danger lies at the opposite extreme. There are some spiritual advisors, claiming to have the gift of discernment and power to exorcise, who see demons everywhere; some who even claim that there is no such thing as multiple personalities, only multiple demons. There is no way that an alter can feel loved if they are accused of being a demon! There is not enough space here to allow a full discussion of this subject, we recommend Dr. James G. Friesen's book "Uncovering the Mystery of MPD" for a more detailed discussion. Our best summary is this: recognize the reality both of alternate personalities and of demons, be careful to distinguish between them, and take the action which is appropriate for each (love the alters, exorcise the demons).
Help for special friends
While the material presented so far has been directed to a general audience of persons who may have interactions with multiples, the following sections are written to offer some suggestions for persons who have a closer relationship with the survivor.
Be willing to accept and love any alter. The period of recovery will probably require a number of adjustments in your daily lives.
You may be called upon to assist your multiple spouse in controlling and limiting the activities of certain alters. Alters who are children may require special attention like trips to play in the park, ice cream cones, teddy bears or other toys. We encourage these activities by alters at appropriate times and in appropriate settings. In order to preserve some sense of dignity it is important that child alters have limits placed on their activities. After all it would seem strange to see a 30+-year-old adult sitting in the floor playing jacks or marbles in the middle of a shopping mall -- when there are no children nearby.
Other alters may choose activities which violate the wishes of the core personality, or agreements which you have made for your marriage. An example of this might be an alter who wants to smoke cigarettes although the core personality is a non-smoker and you have an agreement in your marriage that neither partner would smoke. You may be called upon to mediate such disagreements and to help implement the decisions made.
If your spouse was abused sexually it is quite possible that modifications to your (the couple's) established patterns of sexual activity may be required, perhaps even total abstinence for a period of weeks or months.
It is difficult to provide much guidance for the children of multiples. We have had times when our daughters (both in their teens) have had to assume roles of parent- like responsibility in relationship to their mother when child alters were active. This role-reversal created some confusion at times, and was a topic of discussion in our family therapy sessions on several occasions.
Another source of problems was the development of differing relationships with the various alters, some of whom undermined the parental authority of the core personality. It is hardly fair to place upon our children the burden of ensuring that they are seeking permission only from the core personality.
Our policy with our children, as well as with everyone else, is to provide them with as much information as is practical regarding the nature of the problems we are dealing with, our goals and methods of recovery, and the ways they can help the process. It can be very frightening for a child to realize that there is something wrong with their parent, they are "sick", and not know if they are going to die or if other terrible things might happen. We have found that education is the single most important step in enlisting the loving support of others. We have also found that children are generally much more accepting of the oddities in behavior which multiples often present. They are more free and open in their relationships with multiples than many adults we have encountered, they just accept everything at face value -- when they have some understanding of what is happening.
For children of multiples it is especially important that they have a clear understanding of the needs of multiples and the plans and goals for recovery. It is helpful for them to understand some of the background which caused the development of multiple personalities.
This process of educating children must take into account the age, development, and stability of each child. Older children may wish to know more details regarding the abuse, for younger children it is probably best to answer questions in a more general way. A statement like "When Mom was a little girl there was someone who hurt her very much, and she needed the help of the alters in order to help her keep growing." may be adequate for young children. With one young child of one of our friends it was most convenient when she saw a "grown-up" talking and acting like a four-year-old (who called herself "Karen") to explain that she was playing The Karen Game. This was enough explanation to put things at ease among all of us, and each time she visits she asks if we can play The Karen Game. Our best suggestion here is to make sure that there is freedom for the child to ask questions about the past and about the current process of recovery, and to answer those questions as openly and honestly as possible.
We will assume that since you are reading this book, you have a desire to be helpful and supporting in some way to your child. This may be extremely difficult for you because of the feelings this situation may generate within you. The realization that if your child has multiple personalities there is an implication that you failed as their parent to protect them from abuse can be overwhelming. Most of us as parents try to do our best for our children, and we hate to think that we have failed them in some way -- or that other people might think that we failed. This may generate in us feelings of guilt, shame, resentment, or anger.
It is possible that you, as a parent, may have been an abuser or may have been passive in not protecting your child from the known abusive actions of others. In this case your sense of guilt may be even stronger. It is also possible that your own memory repression mechanisms are blocking your memories of that period in your family's life. While recognizing the likelihood of these difficulties, we must point out that there is hope that you can build a new, healthy, and stronger relationship with your child. God is in the business of changing lives, that's why He sent His Son to intervene in our lives and restore us to love.
Your child, as a survivor, may harbor strong feelings of resentment, anger, or even hatred toward you --and what may make it worse for both of you is that you may not understand why. Some of these feelings are based upon actions, attitudes, and perceptions which are decades old, it may take much effort and a strong commitment from both of you to develop a new loving relationship. Revising the ways you interact with one another can be difficult, even painful or traumatic, but it is essential to rebuilding the love in your lives.
The changes required will not be easy to discuss, there may be periods of intense disagreement, and the changes required can sometimes be quite subtle. As an example, we are aware of a parent who often told their child "You are sure lucky that you married the person you did, they are so good to you." What the child heard was something like this: "You sure don't deserve to have such a fine person as a spouse, I don't understand why they put up with you." At the same time the parents intended message may have been something like this: "I am proud of you. I am happy to see that you made a good choice in selecting a spouse." Resolving such difficulties in the communications upon which we build our relationships can demand a good deal of patience, tolerance, and commitment to stick with it.
Most of the information provided here for parents of multiples holds true for their siblings as well.
One of the greatest benefits that family members can provide in the healing of survivors is the clarification and verification of memories. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult things for family members to do because it may require them to think back to times and events they would rather not remember, especially if they are also survivors of abuse.
For some families, it may be necessary to focus on the present issues of healing and rebuilding loving relationships, and deliberately choose not to discuss the times of abuse. If the family members decide against this plan, we would suggest that each member of the family have some source of non-involved support available: either a therapeutic relationship with a mental health professional or perhaps a pastor who has an understanding of the issues involved and agrees to provide counseling.
The author is the husband of a wonderful lady who was diagnosed in 1991 as having Multiple Personality Disorder. This booklet was prepared primarily for members of our support team. Because of its origin and original purpose it necessarily contains information specific to our lives. We are happy to share it with the larger community of survivors and their special friends, for whatever value it may have for them.
In preparing this for submission on-line, it became obvious that it is due for revision. Most of this material was written about three years ago and we have grown quite a bit since then. We have also developed contacts with other multiples and their friends -- and our knowledge of the problems that others encounter has expanded. Therefore, if you (the reader) are a multiple or the friend of a multiple, and can offer suggestions about how to make this information more accurate, useful, complete, or easy to read -- PLEASE offer us your suggestions.
COPYRIGHT -- Although I have no intention of selling this to a publisher (I could not feel good about profiting from the pain of others, and God provides adequately for our material needs) or otherwise sell it, I do maintain it as copyrighted original work. You are welcome to copy and/or distribute it freely to help others as long as it remains intact (including this final section) and unaltered.
REVISIONS -- I view this as very much a "work in progress" and will be making revisions from time to time to reflect our continuing growth and increasing understanding. I feel that one person should remain ultimately responsible for the content of this document so, although I am actively seeking input from others in the community of multiples and friends, I would ask that you respect my authorship rights and not distribute your own revisions directly.
DISTRIBUTION -- I have distributed printed copies of this document to various friends over the past three years. We also use it as an introduction when we are beginning work with therapists or hospital nursing staff who are new to our case -- it helps explain how we are handling our healing process. This particular version was specially prepared for electronic distribution.
May you and all your friends (whether multiple or, like me, an "only") find something here which helps. We wish you peace and REAL (safe) LOVE during these difficult times.
© Copyright 1994 James Card, Post Office Box 864, Newman, CA 95360 firstname.lastname@example.org
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which, in some cases, has not been authorized by the copyright owner. This material is made available for educational purposes and not for profit. This constitutes fair use in keeping with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
If you are going to work with ritual abuse survivors, you must also get educated if you want to be effective. And you must learn to be humble. Trauma survivors do not need to be around ignorant, modern-day Pharisees. Survivors in pain need people who will connect with them on an emotional level, get right down in there where they are, and listen. --Kathleen Sullivan