Brian Moss on DID and Extreme Abuse
The following is taken from an article originally published in the Survivorship Journal, Vol. 18, Issue 12, P.4, entitled “Interview with Brian Moss”.
Brian, a therapist who has worked with extreme abuse survivors who have DID for more than 25 years, lays out the finer points of what’s important for both therapists and survivors in navigating a path to healing. This is, in my opinion, one of the most insightful and important articles on DID and extreme abuse, an invaluable initiation for anyone willing to take a look at the dark side.
[Updated 2/16/2013 to add extended information on the etiology of DID]
TOLERANCE FOR AMBIGUITY
Integrating a trauma narrative, especially if it is the result of sophisticated mind control procedures, is a complex and lengthy process where subjective states (hypnosis, drugs) and manipulated states (electric shock, psychic-driving, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation) are mixed with objective states (veridical memory of ritual/sexual abuse or any other experiences meant to terrorize.)
CAPACITY TO DISSOCIATE
There is a difference between “forgetting” and “forgetting that you forget”; one insulates us temporarily as we metabolize our experience while the other prevents us from fundamentally accessing our experience. The capacity to dissociate in a healthy sense allows us to live our lives in spite of what we know—to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive. There are so many ways to get derailed: cynicism and anger, despair and hopelessness, or the false relief of numbness.
TOLERANCE FOR ISOLATION
All of us, survivors and therapists alike, got to where we are in stages. Painful truths that do not correspond to what we have been told about the world require new understandings that only gradually come into focus. In sharing what we have learned and/or remembered, there is deep frustration that in telling our most urgent truths we are not believed.
AT LEAST ONE TRUE “INTIMATE”
Whether spouse, partner, mentor, friend, find someone that can handle the material and understand the larger and hidden truths of what you are learning. The reality behind DID is a “through the looking glass” experience and is a journey best not taken alone. Therapy is difficult when the client is lacking outside support or dealing with an unsympathetic spouse/partner. Clients that are still embedded in the deviant social networks responsible for their original abuse have an enormous challenge facing them.
A SUBSTANTIAL DEGREE OF DIFFERENTIATION
A significant moment in my early childhood occurred while I was watching the television adaptation of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds. There is a scene in which the creatures have landed and are zapping everyone. A priest comes forth, holds up a bible and is incinerated on the spot. I remember thinking, “Are they allowed to do that?” Differentiation from family, religion, dominant paradigms of any kind including television, mainstream media, and society in general—gives us the ability to think independently and to tolerate the withdrawal of approval or ridicule that is often the reaction to doing so.
INTEREST IN CONTROVERSIAL/FORBIDDEN AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
Many DIDs have teams of parts that are used to research psychic phenomena. These psychic skills are exploited in a variety of contexts including military and intelligence work. It was eye-opening for me to see the seriousness with which this research is pursued covertly while being overtly ridiculed in conventional academic settings.
ABILITY TO DISCERN DISINFORMATION
Quality disinformation must contain a high degree of truth or it will be rejected outright. The goal of disinformation is to present pieces of the truth in a way that leads to the wrong conclusions. The other purpose is obfuscation in general. There is an overwhelming amount of disinformation on the internet and in our media. Who would have guessed that when Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth” finally arrived we would embrace it as “Wikipedia”.
COURAGE TO FOLLOW THE CLIENT’S LEAD
Abandoning their clients’ experience in order to preserve their (the therapist’s) comfortable view of the world is the same dynamic survivors experience at a societal level. Survivors want—and need—to be believed. No-one is afraid of the dark itself, they are afraid of what might be in the dark. Survivors know what
is in the dark. They want to tell their therapists; they want to leave the scenes behind; they want to end the dissociation. They want—and need—to know it is over. It is essential that therapists do not let them down. This takes courage as well as expertise.
APPRECIATION OF LIFE’S ABSURD MOMENTS IN ORDER TO DEFEND AGAINST CYNICISM AND THE NEED TO UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING
One of my teachers had a story that I heard him tell often. It was a true story he read in the newspaper about a man who had given up and climbed a bridge preparing to jump. A crowd formed in anticipation of the spectacle and the police were called who, in their best manner tried to negotiate with and talk the man down. Getting nowhere, running out of ideas and becoming increasingly frustrated, one of the officers pulled his gun and threatened to shoot the man unless he came down. The man climbed down. It is important to understand that not everything can be understood.
ABILITY TO PERSEVERE IN THE FACE OF SOCIETAL DENIAL
Judith Herman named it in Trauma and Recovery: “The study of psychological trauma has repeatedly led into realms of the unthinkable and foundered on fundamental questions of belief.” There will be polarization occurring in society as more and more information comes out and more survivors come forward. There will be attempts to discredit survivors and to misinform and censor content for those seeking information but to no avail. There are too many survivors and they will continue to speak their truth in an ever increasing chorus.
A BELIEF SYSTEM THAT ALLOWS FOR EXISTENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL
Most DID systems contain spiritual guides or transcendents capable of guiding the work of healing. DID survivors benefit from therapists who are comfortable with these realities. The transcendents, by their very nature, are beyond the reach of programming/conditioning and remain untouched by mind control techniques much as the Sun does not cease to exist simply because a cloud moves in front or the earth revolves.
BELIEF THAT LIFE HAS MEANING
In enduring or bearing witness to the desecration of every value the belief that life has meaning frames the ability to go forward rather than fall into despair. What I have noticed both for myself and the therapists I work with is that when we are willing to know, and not turn away from darkness, a corresponding light enters our life to help balance and navigate it.
UNDERSTANDING OF SYSTEMS THINKING
Systems theory addresses the whole, including the relationships of the parts of the whole to each other. It does not simply focus on the individual parts in isolation. The concept of wholeness, the integrative process, is the essence of all psychological growth—not just Dissociative Identity Disorder alone. The word “therapy” derives from the Greek word therapeia meaning “to heal”; the word “heal” from the Old English word hælan meaning “whole”. “Integrate” derives from Latin, integrare, to make whole, from integer, complete.
UNDERSTANDING OF UNCONSCIOUS PROCESS
In terms of unconscious process there is an important distinction to make between repression and dissociation. Traditionally, therapists received training in which experience not consciously available was seen to be a kind of primitive unconscious regulated largely by primary process thinking and regression. (Repressive model) Contrast this with concealed experience and memory systems (DID) that are coconscious, where parallel states are existing with a variety of levels of development, some more healthy or competent than the presenting personality! Knowing the subtleties of unconscious perception, and how they are named, informs the therapist and empowers the client.
UNDERSTANDING OF SYMBOLIC LANGUAGE
Consciously unacceptable material is camouflaged in symbolism. As it is metabolized, dissociated information will become more representational and less symbolic. When information is transmitted symbolically the degree of symbolism used will depend on the tolerance of the system for the material being depicted. When the information needs to be defended against, the defending alter will either not be present or will filter the 4 information symbolically. As integration takes place there is less need for symbolism and both dreams and artwork become more representational.
UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRUE ETIOLOGY OF DID
Complex DID systems are not simply a response to trauma and stress—even horrific trauma such as ritual abuse, though it does have a role to play. Nor is it caused iatrogenically by well-meaning therapists attempting to treat trauma survivors as Wikipedia would have us believe. DID is mind control, intentionally practiced and requiring a great deal of effort and conditioning over a period of many years. To develop an elaborate DID system is to endure an ongoing medical procedure throughout childhood, one that requires clinical settings with access to extensive equipment and pharmaceuticals.
At the turn of the century there were indeed cases of “split personality.” These cases were observed by Pierre Janet in Paris; Breuer and Freud in Vienna; F.W.H. Myers in London; and Morton Prince in Boston. These initial cases were found to be the result of trauma in childhood but rarely produced more than a few alter states and often just one. Childhood incest does not lead to elaborate DID systems.
Modern DID bears no resemblance to these early, primitive cases but is instead the outcome of a century of covert research on these dissociative states and their successful creation and exploitation.
This statement has caused the most discussion yet is critical in understanding the true causes of present-day Dissociative Identity Disorder. So what is Mind Control Programming? I use the concepts programming and mind control interchangeably. All DID systems are the result of mind control and programming techniques. I want to clarify this statement; it is very important and has serious implications. The mind does indeed dissociate naturally both in normative contexts (selective attention) and in response to trauma—but dissociative states do not self-organize into elaborate systems with the levels of complexity that we are seeing today—that is something that requires interference from without. Modern cases of DID demonstrate hierarchy and are structured to meet a variety of demands. This is never random, or entirely a response to trauma, though trauma is used to create and maintain the compartmentalization in DID. These parallel conscious states, each exhibiting their own conditioning, are what we call alters.
That DID is manufactured in its present form needs to be acknowledged in order to understand features of DID that would not otherwise make sense and also to account for the politics of this diagnosis with its troublesome implications regarding our world. Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), is the result of a century of covert research on these naturally occurring capacities of the mind. This is where our field truly “leads into realms of the unthinkable and founders on fundamental questions of disbelief.”
Throughout history, exploitation and control of some members of society by others is a continual theme. This control can be subtle, as with the manipulation of peoples’ belief systems through propaganda and religious dogma, or more direct and heavy-handed as with threats of persecution or violence. One of the simplest means of control is to maintain the powerlessness that comes with basic poverty/indebtedness or the lack of access to quality education. A key dynamic with the more overt forms of control is that when people are oppressed—they resist. Advanced forms of control address this fundamental dynamic by developing forms of exploitation that remain largely outside of conscious awareness both for selected individuals (DID) and the larger society (control of the public is achieved through propaganda and the manufacture of consent, an increasingly serious threat with the concentration of media).
Mind control evolved from two main foundations:
1. The Soviet discovery of conditioned reflexes (Pavlov 1903) and continued research within the field of behavioral psychology.
2. Advances in understanding the creation of parallel dissociative states with independent memory systems and control mechanisms utilizing research in hypnosis and trauma-based splitting of conscious processes.
UNDERSTANDING THAT EFFORTS TO CREATE DID IN CHILDREN WERE NOT SIMPLY EXCESSES OF THE COLD WAR IN THE NAME OF NATIONAL SECURITY
Disturbing as it is, we must acknowledge the ongoing nature of these activities. Clients are sensitive to any backing away by the therapist and are reluctant to fully disclose when they fear they won’t be believed. Clearly, people who would torture children, for any perceived agenda, are sociopathic. What they are after is a type of power that is outside legal or ethical constraints and better described as organized crime, no matter the context in which it is framed.
UNDERSTANDING ISSUES RELATING TO ALTERS
Over-identifying with the innocent child alters and avoiding the mean and destructive ones maintains division and conflict within the system. Developing a fascination with certain alters, or with the process of switching itself, is another way to become triangulated into the system; there is no reason to encourage switching— most alter systems can be accessed while keeping a sense of co-consciousness with the normative section. DIDs can parallel process to an extraordinary degree and this ability can be utilized to integrate without losing stability.
AWARENESS OF BLENDING VS. SWITCHING
Many clients and therapists expect a more dramatic presentation (switching with lost time) and miss important system shifts because the client remains co-conscious. When an alter, or programming is behind, alongside or blended with the front system, the changing quality of consciousness may present more subtly. Most alter movement taking place in a therapist’s office (unless the client is severely destabilized) involves blending with no loss of time.
DISCERNMENT REGARDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STABILITY AND INTEGRATION
The front/normative section is designed to be free from interference and highly functioning as long as the covert aspects of the system remain unknown and there is compliance with the demands of the programmers/handlers. Programming is designed to maintain stability through compartmentalization. Paradoxically, it is the more effective therapists, who begin to make inroads into the deeper structures, who find themselves inadvertently destabilizing their clients. This “success” can trigger programming. (Dissociated trauma scenes and conditioned self-destructive behavior.) Overt stability is not the same as integration.
UNDERSTANDING OF DEEPER STRUCTURES OF DID
While allowing for some variation, most programming follows standard protocols. The front/normative section is designed to be free from interference and highly functioning as long as the covert aspects of the system remain unknown and there is compliance with the demands of the programmers/handlers. Many therapists deal with leaking or triggered trauma scenes related to sexual abuse and ritual abuse without ever getting to the deeper structures and teams involved in covert activities or the programming responsible for it. The trauma scenes act like a mine field keeping these deeper structures and parts hidden and compartmentalized.
RECOGNITION OF THE DOUBLE-BIND IN MIND CONTROL
As with all double-binds the only way out is to acknowledge the bind and transcend it. There is no way to resolve the situation if it is accepted as presented. The basic feature of false choice programs is: “I stay safe and comply with programming/training or I resist and trigger trauma scenes.” It is not either/or; alters should be made aware that both sides of the dilemma are manipulated and all parts of self can come to the present and be free of the demands.
UNDERSTANDING THE NEED TO WORK “FROM THE OUTSIDE IN”
Trauma programming is layered. A good visual image to illustrate this concept is the children’s game of Mikado or “pick-up-sticks”—the outermost sticks must be removed before attempting to move underlying ones. When working to dismantle programming any interference encountered must be dealt with before proceeding. Not to do so is like pulling a stick from the middle of the pile and activating multiple layers of conditioned responses at once—something guaranteed to stop any further progress and destabilize the client.
UNDERSTANDING THAT EMOTIONAL CATHARSIS IS NOT NECESSARY FOR INITIAL MEMORY WORK
There are two basic forms of memory: explicit memory and implicit memory. Explicit memory is what most people are referring to when they talk about memory; it records consciously available information about past experiences. Implicit memory is information that is not consciously available and was encoded outside of conscious awareness. Abreaction and triggering can be understood in terms of implicit memory. The sense of self and self-control that accompanies explicit memory is lost when a trauma memory is an implicit recollection. The difference between these two forms of memory must be acknowledged to understand the basis of trauma programming.
AWARENESS OF POSSIBLE SURVIVOR CONTACT AND SABOTAGE BY HANDLERS
All survivors are monitored internally via programming that is designed to force compliance or initiate reporting to programmers/handlers in the event of non-compliance. Of greater concern and missed by many therapists is that survivors are also often contacted and sabotaged by the people in their present life—even survivors well along in their recovery; this includes people (often family in generational cults) known to the survivor as well as unknown handlers able to access alters outside the awareness of the normative personalities.
A CLOSING STATEMENT FROM BRIAN:
The chance to share this information with you is my pebble in the pond—maybe reaching you on the far shore. Don’t doubt that there are many survivors whose voices have been heard, and many therapists who know the truth about what is going on in the world; all of us working quietly (or out-loud) to make healing possible for each other and to create the world we know is possible.
Brian Moss, MA, MFT is a Clinical Fellow and Approved Supervisor of the American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy. He lives in the Seattle area and consults widely, specializing in working in partnership with DID clients and their therapists.