I’m happy cause the second Balkenende government has finally fallen today as well – after the first had fallen in 2002 and there had been several threats from Democrats ’66 (one of the parties on the government) of pulling the plug before. I must say the reason the government fell is a relatively unimportant issue, namely the problem with Dutch, conservative politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali possibly not being a Dutch citizen and the way she eventually retained her citizenship (she had to sign a form taking the blame for the citizenship problems that is actually with the integration minister). But basically I don’t care what the government fell over, the fact is that it fell and that I want elections, being a socialist and the government being conservative. There is still the possibility that the Christians and conservatives are going to continue governing without Democrats ’66, but it’s a difficult political construct – it makes the parties dependent on the List Pim Fortuyn or another party for approval of their policy – and I don’t want it cause then they can still introduce new, bad, conservative laws. I just want them to resign, but it’s my personal view cause I hate the government anyway.
Archive for June, 2006
Yesterday evening, I decided to read a philosophical article on multiplicity written by Daniel C. Dennett and Nicholas Humphrey – because I like philosophy and I am still interested in the concept of multiplicity. Finally, I seem to have found an article I philosophically agree with – even though it’s not wholly about my own experience – and that also makes a lot of sense in describing my own situation.
I like the “Head of Mind” analogy used to describe the development of what is generally called the self. Agreeing with the idea that a self is not some definite thing and yet also realizing that we’re at least socially expected to have some consistent sense of self, I’ve often used the “representative” model to describe my own situation, because it is utterly impossible for me to integrate all different aspects of myself into one “self” – and this theory claims this goes for everyone.
However, as there are different ways in which a state can be organized, there are also different ways in which a mind can be. There is the “normal” situation, where the interal and external forces, like other people, the (internal) media, etc., construct an ideal self, to which the Head of Mind tries to conform in order to be “elected”. This can be compared to what would be called a stable, indirect democracy in the political analogy: while not everyone agrees with the government (as everyone does not always act “like himself”), there is a general consensus that there is this Head of Mind who will give a relatively consistent voice to the mind and take an active interest in all of its memories, feelings and qualities, even if the Head of Mind is not the “thing” that actually feels or remembers or acts, as the Dutch queen doesn’t play soccer, sit in the court or go to war, uhm sorry, set out on a peace mission, to Uruzgan.
But, as a relatively stable, indirect democracy like the Netherlands or the United States is not the only form of government of a state, so is a single self not the only possible form of government of a mind – though it may generally be seen as the most desirable form. Healthy, functional multiples could be compared to more direct democracies, I think. Some say it doesn’t work, but apparently, it does, if the members of a system trust each other enough to work collectively for the good of all. This is not often supported by political philosophers, but there can be processes in a mind that wouldn’t work in a society.
My own mind has a more dysfunctional government, as has likely become clear already in the past several years. It’s more like a rather unstable system – not even a democracy at all – with constantly changing Heads of Mind. Not the whole structure of the mind is changed when another Head of Mind takes over – ie. when one of the insiders comes onto the front. It happens with most multiples described in the article, who seemingly change everything about themselves when they switch – to the point of having completely different reactions to drugs and having different allergies depending on who is out front. Dennett and Humphrey consider this pretty universal, but I now know it isn’t – I know no multiples who have these dramatic bodily changes described in the article -, cause multiplicity is on a continuum, with me being in the mid-continuum at most.
How far does the stability of my mind-state, ie. my “self” go? At the very least, it includes all somatic processes, like my appearance and my physiological responses to substances. It also, to a certain degree, includes those processes which are partly somatic but influenced by mental processes, like language – and I even wonder whether there’s a real difference of skills amongst the insiders here or just differring preferences among them. The only thing I’m certain about differs is what is called identity, which is a completely psychological process even if it’s influenced by physical and environmental processes.
Dennett and Humphrey wonder whether real multiplicity exists and contend that “real” multiplicity would mean that each different self can convincingly present itself as the authentic Head of Mind, not only to the mind, but also to others. I agree that this is the most extreme form of multiple personality, but it is not the only form, and it is not insurmountably different from the multiplicity observed in most current DID patients, in myself, or even in those who participate in psychotherapies grounded on a theory of multiple selves, such as Voice Dialogue or Psychosynthesis. There are gradual and even some substantial differences – as there are different degrees of democracy and different forms of government -, but no form of government and no form of government of a mind is “unreal”.
The authors also discuss the possibility of MPD being created in therapy and, in my opinion correctly, assert that whether the structure of multiple selves is created in therapy or has been invented by the dissociator herself, with or without help of abusers, doesn’t matter. I do not believe in Allisonian distinctions between multiple personalities and dissociated identities because, in my opinion, an identity problem arises when a person has no established sense of personality in situations where she feels (or it is expected) that she needs one. Whether there is an actual difference between personality and identity, is impossible to tell, because it’s impossible to judge who has or have the power to decide which part of a person’s mental structure is personality and which is “just” identity.
Like Dennett and Humphrey say, a person may, because of dissociation or for other reasons, be in a constant state of confusion about one’s self, and hence, be incipient to multiplicity. I, however, never believed that multiplicity, even in the extreme cases of MPD, is a structure that evolves “just like that” as a child dissociates. A child may dissociate and, while dissociating, “pretend” that the abuse or trauma she endures happens to someone else, but it would require some rational understanding in order to craft a personality, a name, etc. for that “someone else”. Who says that it is any less real if that way of looking at one’s internal experience is developed in therapy or anywhere else instead of during the dissociated experience. Some children do get nicknames or attributes from their abusers (like the example of the woman being abused during games of Nazis and Jews), which may aid in the process of structuring the multiple system, and some, I’m sure, make them up on their own while trying to detach, but some do not, or not at that time. Is multiplicity or dissociation any less real if the insider doesn’t have a name or hasn’t been clearly defined (never mind that no-one has been defined fully at birth) at the time of her creation? I don’t think so.
My own experience, though it does not conform to the standard paradigms of multiplicity or dissociation, is quite illustrative: some insiders were named and defined at least basically when they were first created – these are Elena in 1998, Carol and Jane in 2001 and Brenda in 2002 (though Carol, Jane and Brenda bore different names when they were first created) -, but many were not. These may’ve been named in storywriting about their “birth experience” (Eline in 1999 and Kirsten in early 2004), or they may’ve been named in a rather deliberate attempt at naming them (Clarissa and Morgan). This is not the same as deliberately creating them – I did not, and I don’t even know when exactly I created Morgan (about Clarissa I’m sure because her history signifies it) -, but I’ll freely admit that I deliberately chose their names myself in fitting them into my already existent structure of mind (which had long been established by the summer of 2004). The only one I’m not sure about, is Milou, but that may be cause her name just doesn’t sound like a name I’d make up in 2004.
However, does realizing that I named Clarissa and Morgan (and possibly Milou) in 2004 to fit into an existing mid-continuum plural system, take away any of Clarissa’s governance over the mind – that is sometimes stronger than my own on non-basic issues -, for example? It doesn’t, in my opinion and experience. Fact remains I still cannot take over Clarissa’s governance when she’s in charge and I still cannot own some experiences of 1998 (I remember them and know that they’re mine at an intellectual level, but cannot emotionally grasp it) and callign me a malingerer (if I even cared about the psychiatric model) will not change that.
I visited my parents last Friday for a musical (Midsummer Night’s Dream) played by my sister’s high school students. I ran into my former tutor there and we got really kind of awkward conversing. I was extremely informal partly cause I hate being formal when he’s been very informal ever since my senior year except when discussing really serious stuff like college (something I’ve always hated cause it confused me) and partly cause I didn’t want him to act like my tutor anymore. He knows I’m not going to university this year – he heard it from Renee (who plays hockey with his daughters) and my father – and got to ask really stupid questions about stuff he already knew, apparently – he was likely feeling awkward as well and it probably didn’t help that I was like “WTF, I’m coming here to watch a musical and just cause I sit next to you doesn’t mean you can use up all the time I want to spend having Sigrid rread the programme to me by asking conversational yet unoriginal questions.” Now I hope I didn’t offend the man with my rather unserious attitude and, if he ever gets to read this, I’m not going to offend him with this writing, because I was feeling kind of uncomfortable – for several reasons.
The muscial was nice but the night that followed was not. It was spent mostly talking or discussing stuff with my parents. Some political stuff – government benefits and why those who draw welfare still contribute to the economy -, and a whole lot of personal stuff that I found so hard to explain. I still cannot cope with the “it’s over now, don’t think of it anymore” idea about our conflict of two months ago. This is in a way strange, since my parents seem to see it as just one of our regular fights, that used to occur maybe twice a week – none have occurred since that night in April. However, I don’t – can’t – see this as just another fight. My father still sticks with the idea that it was all about behaviour, and I’m trying to believe him, but now I find it hard to believe that my mother wasn’t meaning what she said. I used to believe that she was just being my father’s spokeswoman, but I begin to get some idea that I also had before that discussion with the rehab psychologist in June, 2005: that my mother is more radical in her opinions than my father. Or maybe they’re radical in different ways, my father being the legalistic one who sticks with his opinions and my mother just being focused on my intelligence and what it’s supposed to imply. The latter is highlighted by the fact that, everytime I come across clever, my mother cannot keep from highlighting it. I know there are reasons for this, and she got to higlight them on Friday, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. I hate it when discussions end in “You’re so smart” and “I love you”, often when they’ve become heated and my mother has become emotional. It also happened on Friday. I wanted to support my mother, but I made a big mistake doing so, cause it got Mum to tell me I was smart and that she loved me, blahblah (the only times she says these things are when she is emotional after a heated discussion or fight or when I demonstrate my oh-so-genius abilities to her family members) and I was badly triggered. I know I’m sensitive and I know I betray my
mother by not allowing her to express her love/pride/whatever in this way, but I just can’t believe it anymore. Well, I mean, I do want to believe that my mother loves me even though at times I’ve found it hard (and always have, but that’s probably my own problem), but I can’t believe that all these stupid “You’re so smart”s and “I love you”s are genuine when they are always used in the same context – inevitably and unconditionally linking the two. I do know there are many cognitive distortions that lead me to think that I’m only valuable cause of my intelligence, and probably my using this kind of situations as a reason to build that belief upon is also very cognitively distorted, but so far I haven’t found the key to changing this pattern of thinking. I’ve only admitted this thinking to myself and others since the conflict last April and, now that I know that my parents at least don’t agree, I’m trying to figure out how to make up my mind on this.
Was just reading Sarah’s journal. Her most recent entry had little to do with blindness, but for some reason generated a comment about being “just blind” and why Sarah wouldn’t be able to keep a job. Understandably, she got to explain about her other health problems and then was greeted with an apology. I know I shouldn’t be so sensitive, but it still triggers me.
The “just blind” philosophy is meant to send a positive message: that blindness alone should not keep a person from pursuing higher education, employment and independent living. However, it’s often distorted to the idea that, if your only identifable disability or health problem is blindness, you shouldn’t be having any problems in any of these areas. As I pointed out before, blind people are believed to be “college-bound” without the people who claim this realizing that only 25% of the general population have college degrees. Blind people are also expected to do their own housekeeping, while there are still quite a few sighted people, mainly men, who have their wives cook for them. I don’t agree with this, it’s just that it’s not just about blindness.
The “just blind” philosophy, as I read it, makes me feel as though I have to have an identified disability in addition to blindness in order to be taken seriously in my effort at becoming as successful as I can be, which for me means not pretending to be successful by going to college right out of high school. Obviously, blindness is the reason why I’m in independent living training and blindness is the reason I’m on disability, giving me the financial resources I need while I neither work nor go to school. However, is it the only actual reason why I haven’t felt capable of coping with the college world yet? I think this is only partly true.
I’ve tried to be “just blind” for a long while and, after that, have been searching for that all-important additional disability of mine to blame the fact that I didn’t conform to the “just blind” ideal on for another long while. Maybe, had I not been blind, I would’ve done the same and I might even have succeeded more than I did now, because for most of my life, people have blamed all of my flaws on blindness or “dumbness” (an incorrect assumption that I must be intellectually disabled). Maybe, had I not been blind, I would’ve landed in a child psychiatrist’s office ten years ago and been on disability for some behavioural/emotional disorder now. Maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe my mild physical difficulties would’ve been considered more significant than they were now when I was young. Maybe they wouldn’t. Do I care? For a long while, I did, but I’m trying not to anymore. I want to be who I am and to stop constantly conforming to what people expect me to be. At the moment, this is quite a major struggle for me. I find it hard to balance out what I really want or don’t want because I want or don’t want it with what I want because others want or don’t want me to want it and what I don’t want cause others want or don’t want me to want it. I also find it hard to balance the often rigid yet quite contradictory perceptions others have of me with what I suppose should be a fairly well-rounded me. It may feel this way, but rationally I know I’m not many rigid yet contradictory parts of a person, but a whole person that may include these parts. I don’t think this is a rare problem amongst people my age, but it does surprise me how many people seem to have already defined their “philsophy” of who they are and what they want at this point. I see so many people on blind-related lists barely older than me who seem to be perfectly okay with the “just blind” philosophy and feel it totally fits them. To me, it’s a duty type of philosophy cause I am just blind disability-wise, but it still triggers me hearing those “Why the hell wouldn’t you get a job when you’re only blind?” type of conversations. It’s not about blindness or any other identified or unidentified disability, it’s about me.
By the way, I don’t mean to offend Sarah or belittle her medical problems, all I mean to say is that I as a person want to be more than my identified disability and what it’s thought to imply.
Have been reading a rather skeptical article on MPD and recovered memories and I agree to some extent. I see where the guy gets the idea from – that some cases of MPD were diagnosed on rather uncertain grounds (like “simple” mood swings) and many multiples have been hypnotized, a technique that raises suspicion in itself because it is more useful for creating new memories than recoverin old ones and, furthermore, people who tend to be easily hypnotized are also often creative, imaginative and prone to suggestion. I have always wondered why multiples need to undergo hypnosis to get to know their others. Obviously it may be the only way to overcome the memory barriers, but if other selves can make themselves known to the therapist, there should be other ways of knowing that they’re there, like writings or statements you allegedly made. I’m admittedly far from the extreme end of time-losing multiplicity, and this allows me to learn about the others by reading their writing in another online journal and offline pages. I do not remember writing some of it (probably just forgetfulness, not real time loss) and it’s usually not my writing style, but at least I know that I did and I did without being manipulated through some questionnable technique like hypnosis.
I’ve read about cases where people were diagnosed with MPD while initially coming for treatment for depression or something. And did they ever drive on the highway and forget how they reached their destination? That would surely be the alters taking over. Well, not!: it’s a fairly common and completely normal form of dissociation. In most cases, however, the person him- or herself has at least some knowledge that they have insiders and/or the person’s relatives report on the patient seeming like they have multiple personalities. A DID/MPD diagnosis usually is *not* the first sign of a system, and if it is, then the diagnosis is invalid, cause a person becomes a multiple at an early age, not when they’re diagnosed in adulthood.
The repressed memory thing is something different. I do feel that it’s quite possible to be led to believe you were abused when you were not – and I don’t even feel you have to be deeply hypnotized to be. When you’ve been told that you might be an abuse survivor long enough, you’ll at least be quite likely to interpret some of your actual experiences as such and I’m not at all convinced that people cannot fabricate memories when they are led to believe them.
It is one reason why I’ve always resisted the DID/MPD paradigm (and would even if I did meet the criteria). I don’t care what the DSM-IV says about my experiences – whether they’d be called DID, DDNOS, “simple” adolscent identity development, or not significant at all -, but I do care about the reality of my experiences. My system is there, whatever it is called, and its relation to what I’ve been through is there no matter what. This is significant in two quite different ways: firstly, people would assume that, if I had a dissociative disorder (or if their interpretation of the DSM-IV claimed I did), I’d have been through severe childhood sexual abuse, which is incorrect and hurtful to everyone around me, and secondly, once they’d find out I didn’t go through enough traumatic experiences thought to cause DID, they’d conclude I was making the whole thing up – or that I “have nothing in my history that warrants my having a dissociative disorder” to put it politically correctly -, while I’m not. Just because a few scandals involving false memories have occurred, doesn’t mean multiplicity is unreal and just because I don’t fit the standard model of a trauma survivor and don’t have DID does not mean my experiences are made up, whatever the DSM-IV says about them.