I must slip out of this account for just a little while. I apologize for breaking the flow of my record of events but I feel compelled to justify my decision not to cave in to my yearning for acceptance by omitting the previous chapter.|
My curiosity had been so aroused by what I had just witnessed that when at last I stopped being smacked from world to world to world like some hapless ping pong ball, and my time/space odyssey (that should be spelt oddyssey) finally ended, I researched Multiple Personality Disorder. By so doing, I plunged into a world as astounding as any described in this book. I discovered that having multiple personalities is more common than I had ever imagined. You and I have most likely met such people – and might even be close friends with them – and never guessed it. More surprising still, there is a good chance that the people themselves have not yet guessed.
They are not crazed weirdoes created by Hollywood, but deeply hurting people doing their utmost to suppress their inner pain and live normal lives. They are found in all levels of society. Even though their low self-esteem usually blinds them to their giftedness, they are likely to have above average intelligence or be exceptionally creative.
I learned that the more scientific term is Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.) and that the usual term for the various ‘personalities’ is alters (short for alternate personality). The predominant personality is usually called the host.
Though still in its infancy, scientific research is uncovering amazing things about these people. For example, some people with this condition can switch from having a severe allergic reaction to medication, or some other substance, to having no allergy at all, depending upon which alter is in control. Likewise, heart rhythms (as measured by E.K.G.s), brain waves (E.E.G.s), and blood pressure can vary markedly from alter to alter within the one person. Apparently they can also switch instantly to different blood alcohol levels, and glucose levels and some research suggests that differences between alters can even be detected in CAT and PET scans.
A person can need spectacles and the next moment, when another alter takes over, has to remove them to see. They can speak with different accents or even languages that other alters do not know. Someone crippled with arthritis can switch alters and suddenly run, skip and play like a child. Some of them have great difficulty at banks and so on, because they have a whole range of different signatures and when a particular alter is not available, none of the others can produce the required signature. A person might be strongly right-handed and yet have an alter who is left-handed. People who are hopeless at a particular skill or talent – poetry, art or whatever – can suddenly find themselves brilliant at it when another part of them takes over. It might be decades before they discover that one of their alters has always had this ability.
As is typical of quirky me, I slid into an almost hypnotic fascination with an academic analysis of the topic. Finally, the gut-wrenching human cost flung me back to reality. I grew so intrigued that I felt I had to meet someone with D.I.D. An extensive, on-line search led me to e-mail contacts and eventually I found myself face to face with Karen, an attractive, middle-aged Christian who freely admitted she had D.I.D. This articulate woman was well on the way to becoming an acclaimed poet and had significant other gifts as well. I’m respecting her confidentiality by not using her real name.
Karen looked me in the eye and whizzed through her story of horrific sexual abuse as a child growing up in what everyone had presumed to be a respectable home. As an adult trying her utmost to cope with the aftermath, she spent years under counselors and therapists, both Christian and secular, and they never diagnosed her as having D.I.D. Belatedly, someone correctly identified her affliction but, like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ clothes, she continued to suffer at the hands of professionals. Not only did they take her money, they tried treatments that suppressed her alters and only increased her suffering. The lowest part of all was when she mustered the courage to confide in her beloved pastor that she had multiple personalities. He immediately concluded that her alters must be demons and tried to cast them out. The consequences were devastating.
Imagine being told by a respected spiritual leader, not just that you have demons but that you are a demon! That’s how Karen’s alters received it. They plummeted from having writhed in emotional agony and shattered self-esteem all their lives, to be being authoritatively pronounced totally evil, nonhuman, abandoned by God and beyond redemption. They concluded that the torturous existence they had already suffered was destined to end in nothing less than eternal torment in the fires of hell.
These indispensable parts of Karen were, of course, not cast out. Instead, after having been hurt and suppressed for most of their existence, they fled in terrified horror into even deeper hiding within her. Some ended up spending time with God, rather like what I had witnessed. Not surprisingly, every alter vanishing from her consciousness gave Karen the illusion of greater normality and she temporarily seemed to have more peace, thus emboldening her pastor in his misdiagnosis.
Without as much as considering the agony of her suppressed alters, the cost was far more extreme than was realized even for that part of her that thought she was more at peace. There are parts of the brain that only an alter has control of. To lose contact with an alter is to lose access to that part of the brain. With the alters too terrified to contribute to Karen’s well-being, significant parts of her intellectual capacity were inaccessible. Oh, she could stagger on, but it was years before she had even a clue of how much she had been robbed. Convinced by the pastor’s well-meaning and understandable mistake, she became her own worst enemy; hounding back into suppression any alter within her that ever dared surface. Most tragic of all, the wonderful healing that she eventually experienced was delayed for twelve years until she finally learnt the truth about D.I.D.
Momentarily, I felt some of her grief over what could have been twelve highly productive years being wasted. In fact, such is the range and magnitude of her talents that the moment that pastor decided to ‘help’ her, the whole world lost. As she kept reeling off all the damage this man of God had inflicted by calling her alters demons, I began to express my hot indignation at his foolishness.
“No!” objected Karen. “He was sincerely doing his best. He’s just one of the millions who care but have no understanding of D.I.D. He had no idea how much discernment is needed.
“Alters can superficially seem like demons. Many alters have not only been subjected to ungodly abuse but never allowed access to the rest of the person’s knowledge and experience. So even devout Christians can be expected to have certain alters who, until instructed otherwise, have never had the chance to know anything about the true God. Like most people cut off from a knowledge of the gospel and writhing in intolerable emotional pain, some can be filled with rage and bitterness and bound by all sorts of addictions and sins that are totally contrary to their Christian parts. Some could be terrified of God because they see him as male, and from their experiences with the only males they have known they conclude that all males are potential abusers.
“Until needy parts find healing in Christ they are likely to engage is self-harm, such as cutting themselves. Most likely, they will attempt suicide, which in practical terms means trying to kill their host. Some can even name themselves, ‘Pain,’ ‘Fury,’ ‘Evil,’ or some other demonic-sounding name. Some of them can think of themselves as animals or aliens or the opposite sex, or gay.”
I was flabbergasted. Now even I was beginning to wonder if it was demonic. “Self-harm?” I said out loud. The instant she had mentioned it my mind had flashed uncontrollably to the crazed man in Jesus’ day with the legion of demons.
“Haven’t you ever been so exasperated with yourself for making some mistake that you’ve berated yourself and felt like hitting yourself?”
I had, on rare occasions, but I wasn’t going to admit it. ‘Legion’ cutting himself with stones (Mark 5:5) was still playing on the screen in my mind. “So you don’t believe in demons?” My voice was raised in frustration.
“I not only believe in demons, I’ve had eight demons cast out of me,” she retorted defiantly.
Now I was truly confused.
“Of course demons exist. They are more common than most people realize. But not everything that superficially seems like a demon is one, just as not everything that superficially seems natural is devoid of demonic influence. We must exercise caution and prayerful discernment in such delicate matters. Not just callous demons are involved but highly vulnerable, sensitive people who could be devastated by even as little as a raised voice.
“I’ve met people who have been seriously injured physically – one even had a miscarriage – by kind-hearted people trying to cast out nonexistent demons.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“In the case of the miscarriage, a large group of people, seeking to bless the woman, laid hands on her in prayer. They had no idea she suffers from claustrophobia and she panicked with so many people pressing on her. Instead of them backing off and giving her some space, someone mistook her reaction for a demonic manifestation and began to physically restrain her. She panicked even more and began to thrash in a frantic attempt to burst out of her confinement, and the vicious circle escalated.”
I felt sick. Wow! One really must be careful!
“And don’t be quick to consign psychological issues to some weird category,” she added. “The result could have been the same if, unknown to them, her clothing had covered a physical injury and the pressure of the hands caused her to reel or squeal in pain. We need cool heads when encountering anything that initially seems bizarre.”
Karen must have sensed I was weakening but still far from convinced. So she patiently continued to labor away at the arduous task of trying to convince me that the outlandish aspects of D.I.D. were nothing more sinister than a natural reaction to extreme trauma.
She started with the basics. “Some people talk about the ‘inner child’. People sometimes speak about ‘going back into their shell’. More controversially, you might even have heard talk about men ‘getting in touch with their feminine side’.”
I was nodding, until that last statement.
“Okay, that last one might be kinky,” she added hastily, “but you’ll agree that almost everyone contrasts the conscious with the unconscious, and Christians often speak of head knowledge versus heart knowledge.”
I had to agree with that.
“These are all ways of acknowledging that everyone has more than one side to their personality and that often a part of who they are is somewhat hidden from their consciousness. With D.I.D., this natural aspect of being human is simply more pronounced. It has been pushed to extremes because their trauma has been extreme.”
Karen had clearly thought this through, but I couldn’t help thinking her explanation was over-simplistic. Undeterred, she annihilated my skepticism by speeding through a detailed rationale for peculiar behavior that, at least superficially, could be mistaken for demonic. I’ll just summarize the points that won me over.
Little children are so impressionable and trusting of adults that if an adult continually and emphatically asserts that they are useless or evil or sluts, they typically – and tragically – end up convinced that it must be true.
When children are in such physical or emotional agony that they form alters, they do so because they are scared to let themselves feel the pain. Since humans feel – and feeling pain is the last thing they want – it is hardly surprising if some alters try to use their powerful imagination to convince themselves that they are not human. Likewise, when one considers what they have suffered, it is understandable that in order to feel safe, some alters convince themselves that they are the opposite sex. Sex abuse victims, for example, commonly wish they were the opposite sex because they believe this would have protected them from the horrors they suffered.
Karen bravely confessed to sometimes having had lesbian tendencies until she discovered that it was because parts of her believed they were male. In some of Jesus’ many encounters with them, he gradually and tenderly helped them realize they could be just as strong and as safe being female, and now Karen delights in being fully feminine and heterosexual.
Widening her scope to include the experiences of some of her acquaintances, Karen recounted story after story of amazing transformations. She told of the hearts of angry, bitter, mean alters melting in response to unconditional love and how, often in the space of just a few days, they would fully respond to the gospel and fall head over heels in love with Jesus. Thereafter they often have times of being taught directly by Jesus and regularly have powerful, deeply moving encounters with each member of the Trinity in ways that would make the average Christian highly envious. They develop a deep love for God’s Word and the power of the cross, and in almost no time some of them become fearless in standing up to demons and sending them fleeing in the name of Jesus.
“Alters bear their host’s pain,” said Karen, “thus allowing the hosts, at least temporarily, to cope better. Jesus is, in a real sense, the ultimate alter and he bore on the cross all of our pain. When alters realize this, they release their pain and shame and guilt to him. Their burdens go and they fill with peace and joy. They stop being nasty and become kind and loving and eager to devote the rest of their lives to glorifying God. Of course, like every Christian, they still face trials, battles with temptation and so on, and they work through these just like other new Christians.”
I was convinced, but as I thought more about that pastor’s mistake, it hit me what a hot potato this topic is. I selfishly began to worry about whether it would damage book sales to include this chapter. Why risk making enemies of Christian leaders I respect who, despite their best intentions, are mistaken about D.I.D.?
For a moment I began to think out loud . . .
“No!” she shouted in what seemed like anger. She immediately felt the need to try to salvage that mistake by converting it into a plea. “Please don’t,” she said, with as much calmness as she could muster. “I needlessly suffered years and years and years of turmoil, confusion and indescribable anguish. Besides the almost intolerable emotional pain, it ruined my marriage, messed up my children and hindered my walk with God. So much of my life has been lost. So much good I could have done and people I could have helped – gone forever.
“What disasters I could have been spared if only my pastor or counselors or simply me, had been better informed,” she exclaimed. “And this tragedy is the norm for people with D.I.D. Even those who, like me, have ended up gloriously healed, have typically had their healing deferred by ten or twenty years because of widespread ignorance. And people with D.I.D. are usually remarkably gifted. Have you any idea of all the good just one or two of them – let alone all of them – could have achieved, and how much they could have enriched the entire world, had they been healed many years earlier?”
My mind sped through Karen’s immense talents and tried to grasp the enormity of what could be achieved with ten or more extra years added to such people in the prime of their lives.
“Not a few of them kill themselves before learning the truth about D.I.D. And all the others languish in agony so intense that over and over they contemplate suicide.
“Basic, sane information about D.I.D. must be disseminated as widely as possible to stop this needless tragedy being repeated over and over in thousands of lives.”
I must have raised an eyebrow over those last few words because she came back at me hard, “Yes, thousands of lives, worldwide.”
I was shaken. Having been granted a unique experience had apparently lumbered me with a unique responsibility.
Got Parts? An Insider’s Guide to Managing Life Successfully with Dissociative Identity Disorder by ATW, Loving Healing Press, Ann Arbor, MI, 2005, page 98-97