Pride and Community vs. Shame and Stigma
by The Crisses
We have plenty reason for Plural Pride and for building both internal and external community, but it wasn't until Dr. Serenity Serseción presented about it (Healing Together conference, 2020, Orlando Florida) that we had words for why Pride is so important for all plurals regardless of what part of the umbrella they come from (and regardless of what precisely they have pride in, actually, so long as it informs confidence and reduces shame). Some of these reasons are contributing to divides in the community, where there could be more solidarity to the benefit of all.
So here's some bare-bones facts that we're likely all aware of but come into play here. They can be documented elsewhere, if needed.
- Not all plurals have trauma. They can be proud of themselves in myriad ways and won't have many of the shame issues below, but they are still subjected to oppression for being "many" and needing to mask in many public situations. When non-traumatized plurals are able to be proud, it's as beautiful as anyone else being proud.
- Society has a whopping huge amount of stigma for having mental health troubles.1
- There’s a great deal of stigma around plurality and normal plural experiences such as childhood playmates. For example telling children that they’re “too old” for imaginary playmates.
- For those who experience plurality as spiritual in nature, there’s a lot of stigma and shame around psychic phenomena in general. Channeling, auto writing, hearing spirits or voices, etc. Our society values science and even pseudoscience (psychology) over first-hand experiences and psychic phenomenon (parapsychology). Which is odd given that US and other governments have invested in research into phenomenon and human experiences generally recognized as “psychic” in nature, and built covert operation programs based on their research.
- Society has a lot of hang-ups about sex, so it follows that when children are exposed to sex at a younger age and act out sexually with what they have been taught, they get shamed for inappropriate behavior, rather than anyone investigating where the child learned the behaviors from. 2
- Hence survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a hella lot of shame.3
- Society somewhat recently realized and mobilized around children's rights to lead a life free of pain, abuse, and molestation (rights laws in the late 1960s enforced in the 1970s and 1980s in the US, with much of the world lagging behind or still waiting for their child rights revolution, despite the United Nations and their Children's Rights Convention (1989). 4
- Thus it's not always comfortable to realize and especially admit to when someone has been abused, before we even get to memory issues and amnesia.5
- If you've been diagnosed with DID, odds are that you were traumatized in childhood, which could mean any of these factors are in play. Abuse is not needed to be DID, it can be trauma alone (such as medical trauma that happened amidst life-saving surgeries that saved you as a child, but still caused C-PTSD).6
- Other factors that may increase shame or guilt include witness trauma New, religious trauma, gaslighting New, emotional and verbal abuse, denial, inability to work or keep a job (especially in a capitalist society), housing insecurity, etc.
Thus many people with DID & plurals in general may understandably carry significant shame. It's a lot of weight on top of other issues that come with C-PTSD and DID. It's especially prevalent if the plural system in question is aware of dysfunction, trauma, sexual abuse, and other factors that play into guilt and shame, as seen above.
A major difference between people who talk about being plural and those who do not want anything to do with the label is shame.
Because many folk who have adopted the term "plural" — regardless of diagnosis or system origins — have internalized pride in their being plural.
Pride is not "proud of what made us this way" — it's not excusing abusers or perpetrators. It's not "this is easy!" either. Whether you have pride or not, C-PTSD is a total bitch and a half, and pride doesn't make the trauma go away.
What pride can do is help with the self-shaming and self-stigmatizing. It can help with selves-esteem. It can put some fingers into the dam and give you some of your spoons back — the spoons you would have spent kicking the tires of your life and struggling with your circumstances rather than kicking butt on trauma, embracing your current circumstances or reality, and looking for ways to move ahead.
Pride in plurality says regardless of how I got this way, I can work with this.
Dropping shame means “I am not to blame for the circumstances that got me here.” It’s putting the responsibility back on the adults that allowed bad things to happen, who didn’t respond with compassion and proper care, rather than pinning responsibility on the child/ren who built up an elaborate defense network against overwhelming odds and ego-crushing nightmare circumstances.
Over and over we hear people who do not have plural pride talk about how they hate DID, they want their headmates to go away, how much they want it all to stop, they want "their old life back" (usually meaning the denial phase where things go missing or show up without explanation, time is lost, people may call them by the wrong name, but they don't realize why all these things are happening and they don't have any idea that DID is present), and they resist the reality of what is going on. They want the magic eraser to come along and want nothing more than to be someone they're not (a singular person) overnight.
And that's Ok — they have every right to be miserable about their circumstances. We're pointing out what we're seeing going on out there. The fact is, we are seeing shame. We're not creating it by plurals existing and being proud — the shame is there already. What’s happening is that with plurals being proud, those who are stuck in shame cycles stand out more. We aren’t making their circumstances worse except perhaps they are adding more shame because of the contrast, they are angry and upset that plurals can be proud, because it means that they could do the hard work to dig out of their shame cycles and become proud too. And being stuck, they don’t know how to do it.
It starts with repairing boundaries and realizing that a child isn’t to blame for choosing a healthy response to circumstances outside of their control. We consider the subconscious choice to be plural to be a healthy response to impossible circumstances.
Again, plurals with pride are not proud of trauma, of C-PTSD, of damage done to themselves or others. What they do have is a sense of "if you can't beat it, join it", of making the best of the situation (since therapy would take anywhere from 8-12 years to do anything about it and that's a long time to live with any issue and feel thoroughly out of control of your life), camaraderie love or compassion for their headmates, working as a group to the best of their ability, and perhaps a sense of adventure for discovery of both internal folk &/or digging up & exploring the mysteries of things they've forgotten.
There are angry folk who accuse plurals with pride of minimizing the hardships, of faking it, of making things up, etc. There's a lot of hostility and anger for people who have pride. When you're eyebrow deep in shame, when your all-consuming need is to become someone who doesn't have DID or C-PTSD, then yeah — people who are like "Hey, I noticed another cool thing about our situation today?" can be infuriating. Why can't you have what they have? Well, there is the rub. You can. People having pride for being plural doesn't take your ability to be proud of being plural away.
There’s a lot more damage that being shamed by being DID brings about, in terms of internal relationships and trust. Being ashamed of fellow system members, being ashamed of your past that you had no control over, being in denial of reality — these push away system members who may be upset by being excluded and increase internal friction, create barriers that destroy communication, and ostracize those who once saved your life.
It’s not possible to move ahead in therapy or trauma work while you are oppressing and fighting with other system members. Therapists who try to move into trauma work and other therapeutic work before handling these internal relationship issues are doing your system a disservice and likely to cause more barriers and harm. There are some attitude adjustments to make and a lot of system trust to build up so that you can work on the tough stuff as a group, with less barriers and a lot less spoons used for internal strife and arguments.
Please see System Trust Issues New for a selves-help series on working on these internal issues, and separating the people from the circumstances, and working on broken internal trust.
1 https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/servicesandsupport/stigma-discrimination-and-mental-illness ⇑
3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/201501/healing-the-shame-childhood-abuse-through-self-compassion and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2748444 etc. ⇑
5 https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/01/you-grow-up-hating-yourself-why-child-abuse-survivors-keep-and-break-their-silence -- and especially AMAB see https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/stop-family-violence/prevention-resource-centre/children/males-sexually-abused.html ⇑