Dissociative Identity Disorder and Reality Testing

Real life and Virtual collage of avatar and people to represent the identity fragmentation of dissociative identity disorder
The Reality Test

What is REALITY TESTING?

Psychiatry defines reality testing as follows: Any means by which an individual is able to clearly asses his or her limitations as they relate to biological, physiological, social or environmental realities, or the objective evaluation of sensory impressions, thus allowing the person to distinguish between the internal and external world and between fantasy and reality.

I cannot say this with authority but I suspect that all severe mental illnesses affect the ability to correctly assess ones interactions with others.

Though I rarely say this outright; I believe that my alternates are real.

I have to force myself to think of myself as  ‘I’ and I only say “I” when discussing myself as separate from the people we call our ‘alternates’.

When I am “the self”  I initially have vague memories of what happened before
I took over but they quickly fade

My compromised reality testing also compromises my ability to protect myself from exploitation.

I often feel like a child in a world of adults.

Always lost…

Always waiting…

Below is a video clip that best illustrates how
Dissociative Identity Disorder compromises
reality testing.

This is an excerpt from an interview with Kim Noble.

Kim Noble is a British artist and Mother who has over 20 distinct personalities. This is an interview with an alternate that is a 21 Year old Gay Man. On the couch next to Kim is her daughter. The alternate thinks that the daughter is the daughter of a friend.

Meet the Mother with 20 Personalities

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49 thoughts on “Dissociative Identity Disorder and Reality Testing

  1. It’s so hard for us to imagine the challenges you face on a daily/hourly basis with this, Robert. We have so much respect for your thoughtful contributions here. It can only help with our understanding. Many hugs to you. 💘

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I suspect that all severe mental illnesses affect the ability to correctly assess ones interactions with others.” Truth.

    Without having DID I can only imagine, through your writings, what you must be struggling with every day, just like those without clinical depression can’t really understand my stuff. I have no answers, but a deep desire to understand. Keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, Robert! It is a little confusing for me but you described that well with the example of the person in the checkout line and then the video! That definitely is confusing when the personality that was present in one moment dissapeared. Is that time kind of a black out for you?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for viewing the video, Erika and for leaving a comment.

      When I go away and come back I sometimes know that time has passed, but often I don’t.

      The time away is like a dream in which I watch the actions of the alternate that came out.

      Recently I’ve developed the ability to collaborate with the alternates on projects in
      Second Life. I think I’m going to post the last video that I made for The Neighborhood
      with an explanation of how it was made; a who did what sort of thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand when you explain that with a dream. So sometimes you can join or intervene but not always. That means you basically notice when the alternate is taking over. Is/was that scary or is that “normal” for you? Are there indications that the alternate is about to take over or does it happen unexpectedly and suddenly? Sorry, about all the questions but it is an unknown world for me which I want to understand.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Erika,

        Never apologize for asking questions… For me, the signature experience is emotional numbing. I remember the first time I was consciously aware of it.

        Starting school was a nightmare for me. The people in my neighborhood were violently anti-Semitic and homophobic. I was a small Jewish boy who liked to read. I was perceived as effeminate and that meant daily beatings; usually by children who were encouraged by their parents. I was six. I discovered that if I ‘went away’ in my mind the pain went away. I felt nothing. I didn’t know that I had been doing this since before the age of three. I had never been conscious of it before. after that I forgot about it.

        Now my feelings are mostly frustration. It is an odd sensation to think: I need to post to WordPress today and have my body do something else. While I hate comparing the brain to computer technology (the brain is not as simple as the most complex computer) there are times when the computer does provide the best illustration. With a 64 bit operating system you can run ‘virtual machines’ which means that you can run different programs in different areas of memory. This way if one program crashes it doesn’t take down the entire system.

        I think that something similar is happening with me.

        Each alternate lives in a separate region of the brain. One can be out and in control even as the others are aware of what’s happening.

        Sometimes when an alternate takes over I feel lightheaded, my body tingles and then it goes numb.

        This happened last evening when I was out for a walk with my partner. I had a panic attack and switched to an alternate that doesn’t have them.

        My experience of it was that of losing consciousness.

        Genuine questions that are asked with a desire to understand are always welcomed by me.

        Thank you for asking them.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I really ponder what to reply since I am still sitting here with open mouth and big eyes. That truly is a hard task to deal with. I will read it again. But as much as I got it by now: That switching to an alternate is like taking an alternative route when the mainstreet is blocked (just as an example). But it happens mostly like a reflex and therefore unconsciously. And the alternate just disappears after a while and you have no possibility to something about it?
        That comparison with the computer is good too.
        Wow, Robert, you really have me thinking!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Erika…you understand it completely. I don’t remember if you saw the excerpt I posted of the interview with Kim Noble. But when that 50 something Mother of a teenage daughter switches to her 21 year old gay alternate that is exactly what she becomes. When she looks in the mirror she sees a 21 year old male…DID is a scary confusing illness and all of the self serving professional skepticism that surrounds it only makes it worse.

        Thank you for working so hard to understand it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It wasn’t hard to understand, Robert. I wanted to know it and that makes it easier to understand. The human brain and psych is so complex…. honestly: What is “normal”? Only because the majority is some way does that mean it is normal? Or is it even advanced to have more separated personalities than one mix of all? I don’t know? It simply is. It only makes it difficult that the majority gives the direction! I honor you for who you are and for sharing this all with us. You are so much more interesting right because you are not one of the majority. We can learn so much from you because you see things different and give us the opportunity to widen our own horizon. You know so much more than we do because you understand both sides!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Thank you Erika. I just finished an lengthy session with my therapist. I always get angry when I see discussions about Dissociative Identity Disorder open with the word ‘controversial.’ I watched one last night.

        Dissociative disorders were the first disorders studied and treated by Freud and Jung. In their day they used the word hysteria. Prior to Psychiatry people with DID were thought to be possessed. The mind controls the body and our perceptions of ourselves. We know that people have conversion disorders. We don’t send a person who is blinded by a conversion disorder into traffic because she is ‘making it all up’. The most infuriating aspect of arrogance is the suffering it causes and it seems as if we in the U.S. are sick with collective arrogance. It is outrageous that the decisions this culture makes regarding health care is based on money and not the quality of people’s lives….it is sickening that we don’t know the difference between hate speech and political discourse…and it’s disgusting that we are so utterly devoid of insight that we can’t see how we have created the horror that afflicts us in the form of terrorism.

        Why should anyone who is forced by a rich people to live in squalor owe any allegiance to the people who cause his suffering?

        Why do we spend more money on weapons than food.

        Why can’t we see the correlation between the violence in our cities and the rising numbers of people with depressions and PTSD.

        And why can’t we simply admit that we still don’t know all there is to know about the brain and therefore have no right to limit access to treatments that might improve the quality of a person’s life.

        What I find controversial is how a species that can land robots on Mars can be so stupid when it comes to the practical economic decisions that affects the quality of our lives.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I feel your deep frustration with the system and I understand it completely. What you say is what I (and many others) perceive too. I donl’t say that other countries are better. But the US truly live an obvious double moral standard – to sum it up! It is about money and power. I don’t know if you and I discussed it once. But there were only few presidents which appeared to me like caring for a higher goal for their people in the first place and everyone in second but not less important place. To me that were Kennedy, Clinton, and (as far asI can judge it from over here) Obama tries his best too.
        It will only change when “the power of love is stronger than the love for power” (Jimmy Hendrix)
        Unfortunately the US (I don’t mean the civil population) is a force which loves to appear as the savior of the world which (as you say) is the cause for a lot of home made problems now!
        I love the US. I love to go there every year and I have so many friends there for decades. And this is what saddens me when looking at the bigger picture.

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      8. You make some good points Erika…And while I clearly have strong emotions on the issue, I think that the problem runs much deeper that one issue.

        Our treatment of the mentally ill is just one aspect of an imperial civilization that has lost it’s moral bearings. I’m not talking about the cheap morality of keeping one’s pants zipped up or procreating by edict.

        I’m talking about the soul wrenching shame of falling for the pleasures of barbarism.

        I’ve just finished watching a series of documentaries on the rise and fall of both the Greek and Roman civilizations and the pattern is clear.

        The decline of both civilizations is marked by materialism, apathy on the part of the people, a decadent and self-serving ruling class, and a profound disregard for the suffering of others.

        It saddens me to think that for all of our technical skill we don’t have the ability to use history as a way to get our bearings as a species.

        Patterns of behavior or patterns of genetic sequencing evolve because they have value to the survival of the species.

        Something works until it doesn’t and then a new pattern evolves.

        How does allowing ourselves to become vulnerable to the emotional manipulations of a professional elite that don’t care about us serve our survival as a species?

        How is the evolution of our species served by raising whole populations in ignorance and fear?

        How does it serve the evolution of our minds and our intellects to treat education as a commodity?

        What, precisely, do we lose when we let someone die from a treatable illness?

        How many geniuses have we lost to the social consequences of placing property rights above the safety of our children and communities?

        How can racism and artificially imposed poverty possibly serve the interests of our global community which is not in progress?

        Thank you, Erika, for an excellent and thought provoking comment.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Wow, Robert! Lots of questions which are acutally answers! Each one a book!!! What you wrote here are the words of revolution. Revolution for a world based on a collective development on another and for another. A revolution that looks at history and at the present time in order to make this world a place where everybody has their place and right to be who they are! That was so powerful! You should make a post only of that comment, Robert! Martin Luther King might be smiling!

        Liked by 1 person

      10. Thank you, Erika…

        I’ve gotten some interesting posts that started as comments to people. When people work together and approach each other honestly they make each other better people. No one can create or even evolve in isolation or locked behind an echo chamber of unquestioning agreement. I think that this exchange of ideas more than anything else is how my life is enriched by the community on WordPress.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Absolutely, Robert! Our whole development is first and foremost based on all the inspiration and influences of others. That’s how we see new perspectives and widen our horizon. But …. it only works when we are open for the inspiration. I learned so much here and many of the insights I posted and many, many quotes resulted from interaction, commenting and replying!

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      12. True Erika,

        Life is very stale when one is cut off from the creative energy of other people. I think that one of the most difficult losses of the AIDS epidemic was not just the tragedy of losing friends in the prime of their lives but losing a community of writers and artists who shared a common vision…

        People need each other…that’s not a weakness; it’s a strength…

        Liked by 1 person

      13. I agree…. the problem is discrimination in general for what reason ever! Only when we understand that we all have to pull on the same string will have peace on earth and suffering will end… also diseases!

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      14. Thank you Erika. You’re right. What I don’t understand is why that insight about the toxic effects of discrimination and greed waxes and wanes throughout human history. It’s almost as if our species has a collective failure of memory every century or two. Was it really as recently as the early to mid-20th century that we responded to the greatest economic failure in human history by creating a hybrid economic system called regulated capitalism. Was it really less than a hundred years ago that regulated capitalism generated so much wealth that the U.S. had the largest middle class in the world; jumbo jets packed with average men and women who had the money and leisure time to travel; something that had been reserved only for the nobility?

        Why did we undo what worked? What causes us to believe that we don’t know why we suffer systemic failures that are the direct result of our return to pure capitalism.

        Why can’t we pull each other out of this hole we dug for ourselves as a nation?

        Liked by 1 person

      15. The love for power is still so strong and blinding. I ask myself the same things regarding racism. It still is so rooted in many people although we know what happened in the 1940’s. It is not that all people are making the same mistakes again and again. There are many or even the majority who are thinking like we do. In some ways the “wrong” people have the power and in some ways I have to say that we hear more of the bad stuff because it roars louder. Fear is another tool to keep people quiet. But I truly think that change is already happening.

        Liked by 1 person

      16. Thank you Erika.

        I often forget that many of my thoughts and quite a few of my actions are driven by anxiety.

        I live in constant anxiety…

        I’ve recently been unable to leave my apartment because as soon as I step outside I have panic attacks.

        When I see the news or hear a story about abuse I’m already escalated so it sends me into overdrive and I begin to think that I’m back in that awful little city that I was born to; and that everyone is a proud racist who is willing to gun me down.

        What you’ve said makes sense.

        Fear negates reason.

        And reason is what we need at this moment in the history of our species.

        Liked by 1 person

      17. I think in this case the egg, the brain is the chicken…so-we evolved from cells that asexually reproduced by mitosis…This understanding of the most basic strategy for haven’t heard that one has been brought to full term but it wouldn’t surprise me to discover that it is happening.

        Liked by 1 person

      18. I like your thoughts and it makes sense when the brain is the chicken since our thoughts are responsible for how we feel and what we allow ourselves to feel and to believe in. That was an amazing input, Robert!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. ((((hugs)))
    Can’t imagine, or can imagine and can’t accept, not sure which. Your world(s?) are so different — navigating your life must take strength/tenacity I also can’t imagine.
    Re the checkout line: I’d try to hold the 3rd person’s place. And if they never appeared I’d be apologizing for them to everyone who I kept out of that place during my “place saving” commitment.
    I’m glad you post/share the way you do. The universe is richer for your presence in it, however that presence manifests itself.
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Robin…

      I am sometimes frightened by the magnitude of the illness and its effect on my life but actually the DID is not as lethal to me as the stigma.

      The stigma says I am responsible for this.

      The stigma says I am weak.

      The stigma says I am undeserving.

      The stigma would strip me of resources and send me to live on the streets.

      The stigma allows people to vote me out of life while comforting themselves by tossing loose change at me.

      I can learn how to function with DID given some time and resources.

      It is much harder to survive the hypocrisy that creates a problem called homelessness and pretends that it doesn’t know how to fix it.

      Like

    1. It’s confusing and I can see how I could have said it more simply: reality testing is knowing the difference between the internal world of thoughts and feelings from the external world of other people and objects. When Kim Noble’s gay alternate is asked, “Who has trouble with you?” He replies: “The people on the outside.”

      In DID there is little to no distinction between fantasy and reality.

      Thank you for helping me to clarify this.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And what happens when the two run together….or there is no distinguishing between the two? THAT will give you something to think about. LOL
        Always willing to throw a chink in the armour.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Psychosis is sometimes the consequence.

        Many people with Schizophrenia hear voices but know that they aren’t real.

        In an acute state some people with Schizophrenia don’t know that the voices aren’t real.

        The best example I know of is the Mother of two toddlers in San Francisco who became homeless, lost her medication, and threw her children into the Bay because she heard God tell her to do it.

        In my case, I have a pseudo-delusional system that revolves around the belief that separate people with different points of view take over my body.

        This is obviously not true and from what we know, quite impossible.

        Another aspect of a compromised sense of reality is pathological narcissism. The narcissist believes in his superiority even when all of the evidence proves him wrong.

        The narcissist believes he ‘owns’ the people around him and their possessions. Just ask any woman or man who has been unlucky enough to marry one.

        Donald Trump and his followers are great examples of the destructive power of a narcissist who taps into the rage of a group of people. Trumps followers believe that they stand for the values of our Democracy even as they do everything in their power to tear us apart.

        The ability to intellectually ‘see’ the difference between reality and fantasy is crucial to having a life as a functional adult.

        Some people with Schizophrenia regress to an earlier age before the brain acquires the ability to make the distinction.

        In my case, the abuse happened while I was very young. Some aspects of my mind and my sense of reality remain quite young.

        The Narcissist is stuck at the age of two. They know that other people exist but they continue to see those people as extensions of themselves.

        Just as the two year old expects an on demand Mother who meets all of her needs so the narcissist expects the people around him to act as slaves to his desires.

        What we have in common is that our ability to assess reality is compromised which means that
        some of what we think is true is actually a fantasy.

        Thank you for asking questions.

        Like

      3. I am one of the people who married a narcissist…and I have paid dearly. I’m still paying unfortunately. I am clearly damaged….but I never hear voices…never thought about throwing my children in a bay either…so maybe I’m okay?

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      4. I think that you’re definitely OK in the not tossing babies into the bay because you think God wants it. But if I may say so, and if I’m crossing a line please say so, it sounds to me as if you are still giving that relationship. For some reason I think we grieve the people who hurt us the most the hardest. I think that if you don’t do things that once gave you pleasure because of this relationship then he still has a hold on you. If I could wish your suffering away I would. The next best thing is to let you know what I read in your words and hope that you won’t be offended…

        All of this is said with empathy, and I hope that comes through…

        Like

      5. I understand what you are saying and you haven’t been the first. There are two ways to look at it. Yes, it can be looked at as he still has a hold on me but if I still made my quilts, say for my grandchildren, HE would see them. Anything I would do, such as visit, HE would find out about. THAT gives him power…and CONTROL. The thing that pissed him off the most was not being able to get me to tell him where I was going and what I was going to be doing. He couldn’t stand losing that last bit of control that I took away from him.
        Sometimes, you just give things up. I gave up painting. I gave up woodworking (and I was pretty good.) Now, I have given up my quilting.
        I wish you could wish my suffering away, too and it was lovely of you to offer that wish.
        I don’t think I’m grieving so much as I’m seething with anger and almost consumed with wanting revenge. It’s like mass-murderers sitting around bragging about how many lives they’ve taken…and smiling while they’re telling you. Where’s the justice? And the “hereafter” isn’t justice.

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