I am an artist

My paintings visually describe the process of dissociation. Our culture is filled with references to dissociative experiences. Dissociation is what allows us to complete one task while thinking about another. One common form of dissociation is known as highway hypnosis. It's the feeling of having arrived home without having paid attention to every turn or stop along the way. There are some people who can not remember the details of a car accident or other traumatic moment. Everyone is capable of dissociating to some degree.

Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as it is now called, is the result of dissociating to the extreme, usually in response to repeated trauma in early childhood. DID is a greatly misunderstood and overly sensationalized condition. Most often it is an internal experience of discontinuity of memory, ability, and sense of self. Chances are if you met someone with DID, you would not know it. DID is the outcome of an adaptive, creative response to horrible experiences. It is not an illness. It is a condition that should carry no shame or stigma.

I am also a survivor of torture in childhood

What I went through was so extreme, I had to leave my body and divide my mind to survive. I do not know what options that leaves a viewer or a witness, but your attention is very important. As extreme and incredible as my experiences may seem, there are thousands more just like me.

What we need to know as a culture, as human beings

DID involves creating distinct personality states, separated from the central personality by barriers of amnesia. DID personality systems as a whole, because of the amnesia involved, are vulnerable to manipulation and control. Shortly after WWII, and under the pressure of the burgeoning Cold War, the US initiated massive research programs into interrogation techniques and psychological control. As Alfred W. McCoy termed it, this veritable Manhattan Project of the mind spanned several decades and required billions of dollars of tax money. Documents released during and after the Church Committee Hearings in the 1970's describe experiments exploring the mechanisms of dissociation and its attending amnesia. Although the government claimed its research was fruitless, survivors of all ages who exhbit dissociative symptoms and recount experiences of behavioral conditioning sessions continue to surface today.


The Ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. certain violations of the social compact are too terrible to utter aloud: this is the meaning of the word unspeakable.

Atrocities, however, refuse to be buried. Equally as powerful as the desire to deny atrocities is the conviction that denial does not work. Folk wisdom is filled with ghosts who refuse to rest in their graves until their stories are told. Murder will out. Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims.

-Judith Lewis Herman, M.D.