Who’s to blame? Innocent? Guilty? Temporarily Insane? Do Alters Know Right From Wrong? Who’s Fault?

Dissociative Identity Disorder & Diminished Responsibility

How Accountable are People with Multiple Personalities?

Grantley Morris

We will explore this statement in greater detail, but for those anxious for a quick answer, here it is:
    Although, for most of the time, people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (multiple personalities) are morally accountable, there can definitely be occasions when a part of them that cannot be held morally accountable takes over and does unacceptable things that their accountable parts are unable to prevent. We remain responsible before God, however, to do all we can to heal.
Although, with Dissociative Identity Disorder, instances of diminished responsibility often occur without having peculiar gaps in their consciousness, some people experience this. They occasionally have times of such little conscious control that they might as well have been sleepwalking. They have apparently been awake and actively doing things but when they finally become aware of their surroundings they have no idea what has happened in the previous minutes or perhaps longer. For some, it is so common that they accept it as a normal part of life.

I know a devout Christian who for thirty years was a highly respected therapist who helped people with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Almost until the very end of this time she had no idea that she, too, had alters; let alone one who was literally a demonized witch who sometimes did ungodly things to some of her clients. The discovery shocked her beyond words. She was especially horrified over having had a negative impact on some of those she had poured out her life to help.

Having had the privilege of getting to know this woman, I have grown to deeply respect her integrity and devotion to Christ. The real shock is not that for all those years God could have used this woman. The shock is that many of us are too blinded by our failings to realize that it is equally mind-boggling that God dares let his name be blackened by allowing any human be involved in any form of ministry. All of us remain unworthy to be regarded as representatives of the exalted Lord who is the personification of perfection. Anyone thinking otherwise is deceived.

Degree of accountability might sometimes have serious legal implications for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (also known as Multiple Personality Disorder). Just as important and far more common, however, are the heartbreaking relationship and emotional implications.

Suppose, for example, someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder has a part (often called an alter or insider) who commits marital infidelity without the awareness of the rest of the person. To what extent would that person’s partner be justified in holding the person responsible for the adulterous act? I am not talking about making excuses, nor forgiveness, but precisely how responsible for their actions are people with multiple personalities?

Understanding the extent to which alters are responsible for their actions is also a huge factor in whether someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder blames, despises or feels compassion for his/her parts (alters). And this attitude, in turn, profoundly influences healing.

Clearly, issues of diminished responsibility are of critical importance and need to be fully grappled with.

In our investigation we will push aside the divine command that obligates us to love even our enemies. We will likewise disregard the Bible’s emphatic insistence on the necessity to forgive those who have treated us appallingly. We will leave out of the mix the horrifying fact that all of us are such atrocious moral failures that only the cross stands between any of us and an eternity in hell.

Love works wonders within the lover. As it flows, love heals, beautifies, empowers and glorifies the one it comes from. Love softens a dry, twisted heart. The alternative – allowing oneself to have a judgmental spirit – hardens one’s heart. Like the blazing summer sun sucking the life out of a neglected bed of flowers, a judgmental spirit shrivels one’s soul until it loses its beauty and value.

But none of this will be considered here. For this webpage we will throw out of the window love, mercy and divine obligation. The sole focus is whether we can justly condemn alters for the offenses they seem guilty of.

Most of the time, even when switching ‘personalities,’ almost anyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is highly responsible and capable. Are there occasional exceptions in these people’s lives, however? Could there be rare times when they are no more capable of knowing right from wrong than an infant? If a person is usually quite sane but on rare occasions loses control and is taken over against his/her will by a part that is incapable of assuming adult responsibilities, might it be appropriate for the person at such times even to be regarded, from a legal perspective, as temporarily insane?

Dissociative Identity Disorder is all about one part of a person being cut off from significant knowledge that another part has. Any universal statements beyond that, however, are in short supply because the degree of ignorance varies immensely. It varies not just from person to person but from alter to alter and according to how healed an alter is at any moment.

Often people with Dissociative Identity Disorder suffer the embarrassment of being accused of lying because they have no knowledge of having done or experienced something that part of them definitely did. Many alters not only believe they are little children and act like it, we will see that they can actually have less understanding than normal little children. On the other hand, alters who are healing might gain knowledge, abilities and accountability way beyond that of children of the age they still consider themselves to be. An alter who has been ignorant for decades can rapidly absorb vast amounts of intellectual, moral and spiritual information and understanding. In just moments, alters can go from having mistaken beliefs, to discovering they have been tricked and suddenly being so overwhelmed by guilt that they consider themselves unforgivable. Of course, from that point forward they become much more accountable than they previously had been.

So the degree of understanding of someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is not a constant but hinges on which part of the person was in control and how knowledgeable that part was at that precise moment.

Over very many years, I have kept meeting more and more alters who have seemed evil or disgusting or obnoxious (often all three) – so much so that I would have felt certain they were demons, had it not been for my extensive experience. I have conversed with vast numbers of alters that I initially had to struggle not to despise. After showing them Christ’s tender love, however, each has quite quickly turned into a highly likeable person with an unmistakably beautiful heart. Primarily, the astonishing transformation occurred simply because I explained some matters that helped these alters finally have access to spiritual and other knowledge that other parts of the person already had.

When you learn what ignorance such alters had been kept in, what basic abilities they had never been allowed to develop, what insidious lies they had been fed, and the fear and torment that had driven them, your heart will melt and your every tendency to be critical of them will evaporate. You will not only feel deep sympathy for them, you will probably end up admiring them for enduring an impossible situation as well as they had.

Reasons for Diminished Responsibility

* Formed When Young & No Chance to Mature

This is the most obvious instance of diminished responsibility. Some alters have not even been potty trained and when the alter is in control of the body, the person needs diapers.

It is normal with Dissociative Identity Disorder for a person to have at least some alters that were created during infancy or early childhood. Having been formed in order to store deeply disturbing memories that the child does not want, these parts often get completely cut off from the rest of the person and buried for decades, along with the memories. This denies these alters all opportunity to mature or develop in any way beyond the very early age at which they were formed. Obviously, this makes them no more morally perceptive or intellectually capable than a little child, even though they might have suffered horrors that make them far more sexually experienced than average children.

For observers, the main trap is not realizing how ‘young’ an alter is. Since alters are usually formed because of threatening circumstances instigated by people, it is not uncommon for them to feel the need to act tough in order to try to ward off people perceived to be a threat. If their terror-driven attempt at bluff is convincing, they will usually give the impression of being considerably more mature, confident and capable than they actually are.

* Previous Understanding Wiped from Memory

As seems true of everyone with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Christine’s first alters were formed during childhood. Her later experiences, however, show how even alters formed during adulthood can, at least in some ways, be rendered less capable than a young child.

When Christine was a young mother in her early twenties and subjected to an exceptionally bitter and traumatic child custody court case, the part of her most often in control (and therefore most knowledgeable) suddenly disappeared and never returned for years, and knowledge of her entire past vanished with her.

This intelligent Christian woman was left with a new alter whose memory was so wiped that she had no idea of her birth name, her relationship with God or how to read and write. Forced to take control, the new alter was so traumatized that even when told her birth name, she would keep forgetting it. Gone also were a number of basic abilities Christine had previously had, such as normal depth perception, sequential memory and a geographical sense of direction. This part of her never regained these abilities although, nearly twenty years later, she eventually learned about Dissociative Identity Disorder, and alters have now resurfaced who can manifest these abilities when they take over the body. Some things, like reading and writing and a knowledge of God, were regained sooner, but only by this alter having to relearn them from scratch.

* Defective Moral Training

Average children gain at least a rudimentary conception of right and wrong fairly early on but there is still much they have to be taught. In fact, much of the Bible would be redundant if what is right and wrong were intuitively obvious.

For specific examples of alters’ diminished responsibility I will sometimes draw from my webpage Unwanted Sexual Cravings: Healing an Alter’s Dangerous Lust for Sex These extracts appear in black to help you skip them if you have already read them. Here’s the first:

A child’s most trusted – and virtually sole – sources of truth and moral guidance are her parents and relatives, her school, and her church. From infancy, Violet had been sexually interfered with by her parents and grandfather. Additionally – although for years she had lost all memory of it – a satanic cult had brainwashed parts of her, using drugs, powerful Ritual Abuse techniques and, quite literally, demons. Moreover, this very cult had been in charge of her education and represented the church. Violet’s school was church-based and the satanic cult had full control of it. Her school teacher was the cult leader’s wife and joined him in the torture. The leader of the cult (called the priest, though it was not his church title) was both the school principal and the church pastor. The school janitor dressed up as Jesus and convinced the drugged, traumatized-out-of-their-minds children that he really was Jesus when he tortured and sexually violated them. Children usually regard their school teachers as infallible sources of truth and, in Violet’s school, pupils were regularly taught to sexually abuse each other.

As an inevitable consequence of all these influences, one of her alters ended up certain it was irrefutably true that sexually defiling vulnerable children was not just morally neutral but a necessary act of kindness, on par both with lovingly tending to a child’s scraped knee and with preparing children for life by teaching them to read and write.

* Abnormally Limited Experience

It is possible, for example, for an alter who sees herself as fifteen years old and lives in the body of a forty-year-old, to have experienced the outside world for a total of only a few hours, and be deprived of all the understanding that the rest of her has accumulated.

Although certain alters might be more experienced, some have been unconscious, or unaware of the outside world, for nearly all of the person’s life. And even on the fleeting occasions they were allowed to relate to the outside world, it was in a very limited way, and always for the same purpose. It defies my imagination to grasp what it would be like to try to think with a mind that has been limited to such a miniscule experience of life.

* Deceived

Even if blessed with a finely tuned ability to discern right from wrong (something few alters have had the opportunity to develop) the most moral person can be tricked into doing something that seems right but isn’t. In such a situation, a deceived person must be judged by entirely different standards. To make this moral point crystal clear, I have some scenarios for you to consider. No matter how unlikely most of them are, the mere fact that they are possible rams home the point.

    * It is wrong to knowingly lie; it is not morally wrong to say something untrue that you firmly believe is true.

    * It is one thing to grab a gun and deliberately kill someone; it is completely different to be told the gun has blanks and that you are rehearsing for a stage play.

    * Knowingly having sex outside of marriage is morally a world away from failing to resist someone’s sexual advances after being drugged and conned into believing you have married the person and that it is your marital duty to yield.

    * It is one thing to knowingly attract a crowd by stripping naked; it is quite another after being persuaded by a hypnotist that you are completely alone and about to have a shower.

It is morally reprehensible to judge someone guilty of sin without knowing precisely what the person believed he/she was doing. What makes this point so critical to our discussion is that alters are highly likely to be deceived.

Consider one of the implications that, until they heal, many alters are locked into the limited abilities that the person had as a child: children are easily deceived. They can avoid being gullible no more than they can avoid being less than 6 feet tall. Children are particularly prone to swallow whatever adults tell them. Traumatized children are even more vulnerable to deception. And alters having a more limited life experience than children of equivalent age makes them still more vulnerable. Moreover, abusers are evil manipulators who use deception as a primary tool of trade. For all these reasons, alters have almost inevitably been tricked – often in the most bizarre ways – and must be judged by different standards to people who realize the implications of what they are doing.

It happens so frequently that I now expect it, but I used to be astonished by what atrocious things alters could do while convinced they were helping. Once they discover their error they quickly change. Jesus works miracles and, except for God, no one is good. Nevertheless, for alters who seem pure evil to instantly change into beautiful people the moment they are told a few basic things, tells me that even earlier there was more good in them that I could ever have imagined.

* No Choice

No rape victim physically overpowered by someone stronger is morally responsible for the sexual offence. Little children are easily overpowered. Moreover, there is a debilitating condition known as learned helplessness. Here’s how I have explained it elsewhere:

    To restrain a baby elephant, circus trainers must chain it to a huge stake driven into the ground. When the baby grows into an adult, however, it is many times smarter and stronger. What trainers must then drive into the ground is just a tiny tent peg.

    The baby had tried everything to break free. It had strained with all its might, pulling in every conceivable way, hour after hour, day after day. The huge stake refused to budge. So, rather than mindlessly keep trying to do the impossible, it did what at the time was the intelligent thing: it gave up trying.

    The baby grew into a powerful beast. Convinced by bitter experience that whenever it is tethered there is no point trying to resist, it never bothered to determine whether anything had changed. So it suffers indignities, even though, if only it could grasp the fact, it could easily rip up the peg and trample those who sought to dominate it.

    As an adult, it finds itself bound not by a stake but by a powerful psychological force.

Consider a little boy who is sexually molested, no matter how much he kicks, screams, cries, bites and struggles. And week after week this keeps happening. Eventually, when someone wants to defile him, he complies, not because he wants it, nor because he is weak, but because all his experience has told him over and over that resistance achieves nothing more than bashing one’s head against concrete.

There are times when you might not consider that boy to be literally in a hopeless situation but his situation is hopeless, in the sense that all hope has been beaten out of him.

Then there is another type of no-win situation alters are often tormented with. Abusers often convince alters that unless they do something morally objectionable, they will not merely be tortured, but someone else (either outside their body or another alter – they might not be able to distinguish) will be tortured or killed.

To crush their victims and compel submission, heartless abusers often forcibly subject children to moral dilemmas that would stymie keen adult minds, let alone traumatized children. And until current reality is explained to them, alters believe they are still in this morally unwinnable situation.

* Too Traumatized to Think Straight

In addition to other handicaps, some alters are almost out of their mind with terror or emotional pain. We need only consider suicide, drug addiction, anorexia and other forms of self-harm to realize that emotional pain can drive one to almost unthinkable extremes.

* Driven by Demons

The man with a legion of demons was out of his mind until Jesus delivered him ( Mark 5:2-5,15). Since abusers are particularly evil, it would hardly surprise if some of them were demonized and/or attracted demonic attention and transfer demons to victims. Some abusers compel certain alters to go through satanic rituals that the rest of the person may know nothing of until later in the healing process.

This is no reason for alarm. Once they understand, Christians can easily deal with the demonic. Nevertheless, it could be a reason for some alters having diminished responsibility until a part of the person discerns what is happening and takes a stand with Jesus against the demons.


There are countless different possibilities. Here’s just one:

    An alter gave every appearance of longing to have sex, and wanting to seduce me. This is because her only experience of life was of being severely beaten if ever she didn’t act that way. She had no idea that this happened decades ago and that she was now in an adult body and no longer compelled to have sex with every man she met and to pretend that she wanted it. Upon learning that I wasn’t interested, she was terrified because she was sure it meant she was about to be tortured for failing to seduce me. Once I explained that she was no longer obligated to pretend, she was very relieved and admitted that she did not want sex.

Final Thoughts

Who would be so foolish as to regard tiny children as morally accountable? Their inability is a fact of life, fully attested to in Scripture:

    Deuteronomy 1:39  . . . little ones . . . who do not yet know good from bad . . .

    Isaiah 7:16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right . . .

It takes more than mere physical growth to turn an infant into someone who is morally accountable. Time spent learning and interacting with people and with the world is critical. And this is often in surprisingly short supply for alters.

Alters are so good at hiding that most people take decades to know they have any alters and even then it is usually many years after discovering their first that they eventually discover every alter. So in most cases, the life experience of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder is divided between more alters than they currently realize. Consequently, each alter is likely to have had even less experience of life than these people suppose.

Until people are fully healed from Dissociative Identity Disorder, their brain is riddled with no-go zones, each of which is the exclusive domain of an alter. This means alters can access only a part of the person’s full intellect, and the result is very uneven.

The intellectual landscape of people with savant syndrome consists of one awe-inspiring mountain soaring above the lowlands of the rest of their mental capacity. In a certain musical, mathematical or some other ability, they are a genius but the rest of their intellectual powers languish under the weight of a developmental disability. Although extreme, this illustrates how ability in one area of life does not necessarily predict abilities in other areas, including one’s capacity for moral discernment. Until people or alters are fully known or understood, it is easy to misjudge them.

To quote another example given in Unwanted Sexual Cravings: Healing an Alter’s Dangerous Lust for Sex: For whatever reason or reasons, certain alters, despite later ending up quite intelligent, seem as if they are intellectually impaired or in a mental haze before beginning to heal. It took several of Violet’s alters, for example, quite a while to be taught the meaning of even fairly basic words, such as the word ‘safe’. I should point out that it took me a surprisingly long time to discover that I was not being as well understood as I thought and, even then, it was only because a more knowledgeable alter explained to me that others were having this problem. Conversing with anyone of such severe limitations is so foreign to us that we are strongly biased to presume alters are more capable than they actually are. Moreover, Dissociative Identity Disorder often compels alters to become adept at being thrown into situations they know nothing about and forced to give the impression they know what they are doing.

Even little children know what gender they are, know what they look like, know if key people in their lives are still around or have been gone for years, and know the difference between events they experienced ages ago and what happened yesterday. Many alters, however, are completely mistaken about such elementary matters, and some believe astonishingly bizarre things. Some have no idea that they are even human, but believe they are animals, aliens, stuffed toys, decapitated heads, or whatever. Some, even while talking with you, believe they are dead.

It would not only be ungodly but ridiculous and cruel for anyone so messed up to be held even to the same standards of accountability we would expect of little children. As explained, this does not mean an alter will forever remain so frazzled, but one cannot justifiably apply higher standards until after the alter catches up with reality.

Even without these considerations, however, the spiritual fact remains: to bask in the warmth of God’s approving smile, our own cold, judgmental attitude must thaw. This sobering reality leaves us with no wriggle room: we should neither despise nor resent any alter. If there are alters you find less than lovable, then you know neither them, nor God, nor even your failings, the way you should. In the eyes of the universe’s terrifyingly holy Judge, the most perverse, disgusting alters are so lovable that the glorious, eternal Son of God left heaven’s Throne to be tortured to death as a human sacrifice to forgive, dignify and cherish them for all eternity.

I get down on my knees and beg you to keep drawing closer to the heart of God, praying for revelation and spiritual transformation until you ache with love for the most obnoxious alters, seeing them as the all-knowing Lord of the universe sees them. Love “believes all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7, literal translation) means love chooses to believe the best of a person. To see through the eyes of love – the eyes of God – is to see everyone in the best possible light.

* * *

Related Pages

Healing an Alter’s Dangerous Lust for Sex

Addictions & D.I.D.

Love One’s Alters? God, the Bible, & Christian Factors in Healing Dissociative Identity Disorder

When Sexual Abuse Causes an Unhealthy Craving for Sex

Learned Helplessness: Robbed of the Mental Strength to Resist Abuse

Angry, Bad, Mean, Nasty Alters

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Not to be sold. © Copyright, Grantley Morris, 2016, 2018. For much more by the same author, see www.net-burst.net   No part of these writings may be copied without citing this entire paragraph.



Multiple Personality Disorder & Diminished Responsibility


Grantley Morris 












Dissociative Identity Disorder & Moral Accountability







Temporary Insanity? Are Alters Innocent? Guilty?