Dissociative Identity Disorder
as a "Not to Know Strategy"

by Mona Barbera, Ph.D.

Amorpha^S.W.: Mona Barbera? Wasn't she one of the people who did 'Scooby-Doo' and 'The Jetsons'?
Jay: I always wished I lived in the 1950s future.

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We were asked what we thought of this article. Here is our response:

In the September/October 1999 issue of the ISSD (International Society for the Study of Dissociation) newsletter, ISSD president Peter Barach

John: He used to get panned all to heck on a.s.d. you know. Few people trusted him. He used to come in there and write these... patronizing screeds, offending the heck out of most people in there.

lists 10 changes in the treatment of DID that have occurred in the past 10 years. Number 3 is "Focusing on the dissociative patient as a whole."

John: What's number two?
Molly: HEeeeyyy... be nice now
John: Why?
Jay: Remember, we're not real people -- just split-up parts of a self-centered spoiled brat who never learned to grow up and cope. Right.

He writes, "Along these lines, I have found that referring to DID as the 'not to know strategy'

Jay: I think she got this from the concept of "need to know items" in business and the military. In other words, there are things you don't talk about to people who don't need to know them.

Andy: I suppose she thinks she's being witty and clever to make fun of people's lives with this... rubbish.

can facilitate this shift in focus."

Amorpha^Ruka: Oh, indeed! Calling it 'Dissociative Identity Disorder' is an excellent way for therapists and researchers to block from their consciousness whatever vague awareness of our quality as individual persons may have been from time to time squirming in their heads. Oh, I'm sorry-- you were talking about the patients?

Some of my patients and I like this

Jay: And some people like bashing themselves over the head with large bricks.
Andy: Probably on Positively Plural.
John: Because ALL we multiples LOVE S&M!
Andy: No, I mean the same people who like to read Positively are the ones who enjoy bashing themselves over the head with large bricks.

and find it useful in treatment because it is non-pathological, describing a strategy rather than a disorder.

Andy: The very fact that you've got patients in therapy FOR multiple personality defines it as a disorder.

DID in adulthood is, of course, a disorder,

Andy: Oh, but of COURSE! Mustn't forget that!

causing much difficulty and dysfunction in daily living.

Gabe: *mutters* Speak f'yourself.

It should stay in the DSM and should be treated as a psychological problem.

Andy: *blink* Has she been reading our website then?
Gabe: No, she's fighting to hold the fort against McHugh.
Andy: Bless you.
Gabe: Thank you.
Andy: But she isn't insisting multiplicity is real as opposed to not real, as McHugh would have it; she's insisting that it is a disorder. We said it should be taken out of the DSM; she insists it be kept in.
Gabe: *looks at it again* You've got a point. Well, let's give her a royal reception! Let's amaze her with it.

But the etiology of DID in childhood, engendered in experiences of abuse, suggests that it arose originally as a strategy, as a way to avoid full conscious experiencing of something intolerable.

Jay: Silence! On your faces! Dr. Wilbur comes! On your faces before the Living God!

Calling it the "not to know strategy" emphasizes the functionality of the dissociative splits.

Jay: Never forget, we're dissociative splits, not people!
John: But we're FUNCTIONAL! *zooms around in a super-suit with a big F*
Andy: *attempts splits* Uh-oh. I haven't kept in practise.

They were, in effect, a way not to know everything all at once.

Jay: You mean singlets know everything all at once? EVERYTHING??? John: Whoosh, they must be gold-plated GENIUSES. Andy: Toaster-powered geniuses, I'll wager!

"Not to know" includes not knowing actual events, and also their attendant emotions, cognitions and behaviors. Blocking all or part of this knowing allows a child to function.

Jay: I know this really is true for some multiples -- but it's completely alien to our experience.
Andy: Well, then, we're NOT MULTIPLE, you see! Because there can only be one kind of multiple -- we merely have a DELUSION that we have a delusion!

This title also puts less emphasis on the separateness of the parts, and more on the functionality and reason for the separateness.

Jay: Wouldn't want to give them the impression that they're people, or that they might exist independently or for any reason other than om*t x**gr *wa*s gr**b; f*gm Cth*lhu f*t*gn.

Along these lines, I am sometimes calling parts "knowing areas."

Andy: Oo! I get to be a country village in County Clare then!
Gabe: I'm an acre of land in Central Illinois.
John: There is a town in North Ontario....

I talk about them more as areas of knowing certain things rather than as separate entities. For instance, one knowing area can know part of what happened, and others can know other parts.

Jay: Now the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.
Molly: No, that's no good.
Jay: What's the matter with it?
Molly: I don't know -- let's hear it again.
Jay: The party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the party of the first part.
Molly: Well, it sounds a little better this time.
Jay: Well, it grows on you. Would you like to hear it once more?
Molly: Just the first part.
Jay: What do you mean, the party of the first part?
Molly: No, the first part of the party, of the first part.
Jay: All right. It says the first part of the party of the first part shall be known in this contract as the first part of the party of the first part, shall be known in this contract - look, why should we quarrel about a thing like this, we'll take it right out, eh?


And that's how splits happen! [Jay and Molly take hands and bow to audience applause]

This is helpful for some patients who have a sense of wholeness at times -- it doesn't imply that they aren't whole.

John (affecting an unidentifiable Central European accent): Even wholesome humans have holes -- in fact we're hardly whole at all, in fact we're wholly holes!
Andy (picking it right up where John dropped it): As the Holy Book says in the Book of Holes, chapter one, "And they knew not their holes, from an ass on the ground".

When I think this way, I don't use the term integration as much,

Jay: But you still use it, because of course it's still the ultimate goal!

when referring to processes of unification or removal of the dissociative barriers

Andy: or smushing or mooshing or merging or fusing or squishing...

While I do believe that integration should be the goal of treatment,

Jay: she hastens to reassure us...

I think of it more as a gradual process of increasing the sharing of knowing among parts, than as a discrete event. I am substituting "increasing self knowing and self tolerance" for the term "integration."

Amorpha: Because your brain has apparently been substituted with a canned ham. . . maybe by aliens.

Jay: How PC can you GET?!?!

When I work this way, the work often feels more fluid and gentle,


and there is more empowerment for the patient.

Andy: (looks at Gabe)
Gabe: (looks back)
Both: Uh huh. She's been readin' it.

If it serves them, they can choose to share knowing between areas. I notice that more of the work of therapy is done with co-consciousness when we think this way.

Everybody: Huh?

Example: A patient I will call Jody

John: Because her name was Irving?

had been feeling very anxious for a week, and could not discover the reason, no matter how much we explored it. The anxiety was

John: over your BIG BILL!

becoming intolerable. Using the "not to know" framework, I asked if the knowledge about the source of the anxiety was located in a knowing area,

jason: ... a library? a bookstore?
Gabe: *lifts his head* Hello?

and asked if she wanted to increase knowing between herself and this area, in order to decrease her anxiety.

Jay: Get in touch with your Cosmic Consciousness! Increase knowing between you and your Higher Self!

She agreed. She simply asked herself where the knowing about the anxiety was, and if that "knowing area" was willing to share with her.

Amorpha: Remember, kids, if an adult asks to touch you in your "knowing area," you have the right to say no!

She became aware of hearing the information being shared within her...

Jay: No comment.
Molly: Oh, that's what they said?
Jay: No, that's what I said.
Molly: What who said?
Jay: Don't start.

and, by understanding the reasons for the anxiety, was able to take steps to diminish it.

Molly: This is straight plain Colin Ross therapy from about twenty years ago, right out of the package. All she's done is to remove the word "person" or "personality" or "fragment," and replace it with the more politically correct term "knowing area". This is exactly what Ross had people do originally -- he just referred to the "knowing areas" as people or alters, back then.

In summary, I propose that thinking and talking about DID in treatment (not in terms of the DSM)

Andy: *speechless for a minute* How the HELL can you talk about "DID" not in terms of the foogin'..... ?!?!?

can be helpful in focusing on the wholeness of the patient, de-pathologizing the origin of DID,

Jay: Sounds like they're pathologizing it the exact same amount to me!
Molly: The dumb stuff about parts and dissociation and splitting you are about to read about is true. Only the terminology has been changed to protect the doctor.

and facilitating improved daily life through increased co-consciousness.

Andy: Wait a minute, she's equating increased co-consciousness with inte..
###SCREET### *dragged away, howling*

Dr. Barbera (standing there in white coat, sober expression):
Take him away for regrooving.

Jay and Molly (50s suburban couple, big sparkling smiles, American flags): BETTER LIVING THROUGH INTEGRATION! For a new and brighter tomorrow!

**Blackhawk Classroom Films theme, distorted as usual**



Amorpha^Ruka says: I do not think it is too brash of me to estimate that at least as much thought-blocking is performed by therapists these days as by their patients, in attempt to reconcile the full range of behaviours evinced by the systems in 'treatment' with the Gospel of the Saints Wilbur and Ross First Church of MPD. It is, in essence, a preacher staving off a crisis of faith by clinging blindly to the notion of the literal infallibility of his doctrines. We have never been people in their estimation, but these days we are no longer extraordinary by the fact of our existence: merely the delusions of some selfish, narcissistic child, enduring long past our usefulness by virtue of whatever logical shortcomings permitted us to think we were people to begin with. We are no longer expected to heal broken bones by laying-on of hands and to pull train cars with our teeth simply because we think we can, but what merits we might have gained by this shift in attitudes are after their own fashion counterweighed by the fact that, in essence, their concepts of 'curing' us, all told, amount to admonishing us to grow up, stop playing pretend and admit that these 'other people' are all make-believe; and all the while every behaviour under the sun is being blessed with a diagnosis and suppressed via a bottle of pills. - Ruka

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