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Trauma versus Abuse

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When a person with DID says they were never abused, they could be correct.

The word "abuse" implies intent to do harm to another, or a violation of objective boundaries of "acceptable" versus "unacceptable" behavior with another person. Abuse also includes neglect: a failure to fulfill generally accepted role obligations, some of which may be legally enforced, such as a person who fails to feed their children.

Traumatic experience does not require willful abuse or neglect. Certainly if a family gets into a car accident, and it is truly an accident, there was no willful abuse or neglect, but the children could rightfully be afraid and triggered when faced with the prospect of getting into a car again.

Abuse is not a requirement for DID. Trauma is. When discussing DID, especially with parents, siblings, relatives, and friends, it can make a big difference in how the revelation is received if you specifically make sure to word it that you were (probably?) "traumatized" unless you specifically remember being abused. Simply mentioning DID can already imply that someone did something willfully wrong, or grossly neglected or abused their child or children. Whether guilty or not, this can lead to vehement denial and counter-accusations of lying, hypochondria, pretending, etc.

When discussing DID, it's easier for others to swallow when you take the most conservative and subjective approach to the DID equation. Talk about "trauma" — you were "traumatized" as a child. It's harder to argue with. When you're speaking with someone removed from the causal end of the equation, people who did not know you as a child, it also helps with them playing the "is your abuse bad enough" game with you. For example, if you say you were beaten, they may say, "Oh, my parents spanked me. And I don't have DID..." So just keep it to the trauma angle and talk about how you took what happened more than the physical acts, and see if that improves how people accept it.

Never "Abused"

There may not be anything other than repeated unfortunate circumstance that caused someone's DID. This is purely theory, however.

As an example, a child who has a congenital defect needs multiple surgeries as a baby/toddler/young child. Being in recovery, sterile conditions, bandages, a weakened immune system, etc. close parental/caregiver contact may not have been possible. If this child has the dissociative trait, they could be traumatized by the repeated surgeries, pain of recovery, and the loneliness of quarantine for their own protection. Parents and doctors may be doing everything "right" for the child, but from the child's point of view, they are traumatized with fear, pain, loneliness, abandonment, neglect, and a lack of being able to get reassurances, comfort, compassion, empathy, hugs, love, etc. If the child is young enough, they may very well turn to dissociation to escape their situation: create their own comfort, "put on a brave face" for the staff, cordon off different coping mechanisms or reactions, leave their body for a better place, wish themselves dead, etc. In addition, even once the surgeries are completed, fears of their child's mortality could cause parents to poorly attach to their infant. Any such poor attachment, inconsistent care, lack of contact and emotional support, etc. is a known ingredient in the 3-part DID formula. So in theory a person could grow up "without abuse" and "with caring parents" but still theoretically have DID because of so much trauma and no appropriate support to process experiences. It's a catch-22 situation, and even trying to re-forge the relationship between the parents and child could meet with resistance as a pre-verbal infant could be fearful and resentful and not understand the "Whys" of the situation. You can't explain this deep level of "betrayal" away even though everyone — doctors, parents, staff — did everything medically correct. The infant still was subjectively traumatized: betrayed, abandoned, neglected, tormented, in pain, helpless, frightened, and lonely.

We, Crisses, have an example of personal trauma that does not include abuse or neglect. When our family would go into Manhattan and take a car or taxi ride, I would often get carsick. Stop-and-go traffic, fumes from the cars (this is back in the no-emissions-testing leaded fuel days to boot) and streets, and my inability to ground into my environment inevitably would make me lose my last meal. It was embarrassing, and the adults with me were as sympathetic as they ever were when we were sick. Because a lot of these rides were in taxis — the smell of a new car and the smell of those horrible tree-shaped "air fresheners" both trigger instant nausea for us. No one abused us, but those rides were traumatic.

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