We Are Survivors 

This blog is dedicated to the tens of millions of adult survivors of child abuse and neglect who get up every day and try to work and function in a world that seems to not care about us.

Dissociative Identity Disorder – Part 18

Some major work began to appear in the physical (versus mental) medical field that provided more evidence in the brain’s ability to suppress memories. This is important in the area of child abuse. Remember, researchers in the psychiatric field have been stating this for over 100 years. Another article shown below addresses this issue.

“John Briere and Jon Conte surveyed hundreds of individuals in outpatient therapy, all of whom reported a history of child sexual abuse (CSA).[1] One critical question on their survey asked, “During the period of time between the first forced sexual experience happened and your 18th birthday, was there ever a time when you could not remember the forced sexual experience?” Almost 60% of the respondents answered “yes” to this question. Similarly, Shirley Feldman-Summers and Kenneth Pope published the results of a randomized national survey of psychologists. Of the respondents who reported experiencing CSA, approximately 40% reported forgetting some or all of the abuse for a period of time.”

Additional research outcomes stated below were a very welcome addition in the area of science. “For the first time, researchers at Stanford University and the University of Oregon have shown that biological mechanism exists in the human brain to block unwanted memories.[2] The findings, published January 9 in the journal Science reinforced Sigmund Freud’s controversial century-old thesis about the existence of voluntary memory suppression.” “The big news is that we’ve shown how the human brain blocks an unwanted memory, that there is such a mechanism, and it has a biological basis,” said Stanford psychology Professor John Gabrieli, a co-author of the paper titled “Neural Systems Underlying the Suppression of Unwanted Memories.” It gets you past the possibility that there’s nothing in the brain that would suppress a memory—that it was all a misunderstood fiction.”

“The experiment showed that people are capable of repeatedly blocking thoughts of experiences they don’t want to remember until they can no longer retrieve the memory, even if they want to,” Gabrieli explained.

“Michael Anderson, a psychology associate professor at the University of Oregon said, “Repression has been a vague and controversial construct for over a century, in part, because it has been unclear how such a mechanism could be implemented in the brain. This study provides a clear model for how this occurs by grounding it firmly in an essential human ability—the ability to control behavior.”

Another article elaborates on this issue in more clinical terms.

“Michael Anderson and colleagues at the University of Oregon and Stanford University used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify the neural systems involved in keeping unwanted memories out of awareness.[3]Controlling unwanted memories was associated with increased dorsolateral prefrontal activation, reduced hippocampal activation, and impaired retention of those memories. Both prefrontal cortical and right hippocampal activations predicted the magnitude of forgetting. These results confirm the existence of an active forgetting process and establish a neurobiological model for guiding inquiry into motivated forgetting.”

We now have more scientific proof of the mechanisms involved in the forgetting of traumatic material. It would have been great if the media would have spent some time talking about these new scientific discoveries. That would have helped survivors all over America to get a better understanding of their issues and could have possibly reduced some of the undeserved shame that they still carry around.

Even with all this evidence I have presented in this series on DID, there are still professors in colleges/universities teaching that there are “no such thing as multiple personalities,” or they say that “multiple personality disorder [the original name for the disorder] is rare.”

According to the International Society for the Study of Dissociation,[4] “DID and dissociative disorders are not rare conditions…The primary difficulties in diagnosing DID result from lack of education among clinicians about dissociation, dissociative disorders, and the effects of psychological trauma.”

In this same document, they also address the enormous information I have been talking about in this series of posts, in particular Paul McHugh’s ridiculous pronouncements that any diagnosis of multiple personality disorder has originated only from working with a therapist. The document states: “DID does not arise from a previously mature, unified mind or “core personality” that becomes “shattered” or fractured. Rather, DID results from a failure of normal developmental integration caused by overwhelming experiences and disturbed caretaker-child interactions during critical early developmental periods leading to the development and elaboration of discrete, personified behavioral states…There has been a heated debate in the professional literature concerning the so-called “iatrogenesis” of DID [that is, multiple personalities induced into the patient by actions of the therapist]…No study in any clinical or research population has yet demonstrated that the full clinical syndrome of DID can be produced in this fashion.”

The ones who are hurt by misleading pronouncements that multiple personalities don’t exist are survivors. It is why I started this series on DID because when survivors understand what is really happening, and how hard certain people are trying to deny survivors from receiving appropriate care, then hopefully we will be able to do something about it.



[1] “Recovered Memories,” by Heidi Sivers – Stanford University, Jonathan Schooler – University of Pittsburg, and Jennifer J. Freyd – University of Oregon, Encyclopedia of the Human Brain, Volume 4, 2002.

[2] “Psychologists Offer Proof of Brain’s Ability to Suppress Memories,” by Lisa Trei, Stanford News Service, January 8, 2004.

[3] Anderson, MC, Ochsner, KN, Kuhl, B, Cooper, J, Robertson, E. Gabrieli, SW, Glover, GH, “JDE Neural Systems Underlying the Suppression of Unwanted Memories,” Science, 303 Vol. 5655: 232-235, 2004.

[4] Guidelines for Treating Dissociative Identity Disorder in Adults, 2005, The International Society for the Study of Dissociation.

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