This artwork series about Dissociative Identity Disorder has proven to be one of the most popular topics here at the Discussing Dissociation blog. Web statistics have shown several record setting “highest views” during this DID Artwork series. That’s amazing! I guess it’s pretty safe to assume the readers here are interested in these topics. That’s great! I’m very happy to carry on with these ideas and presentations.
Yes, to those who have been asking, I’m continuing to receive and accept artwork to include in future posts. Thank you to all of you who have already offered pictures to use in these discussions. I’m posting these as quickly as I can!
Here is the next drawing:
Inside System Parts
At first glance, you might think this is a simple picture. But look again. There are layers of stories being told via these faces.
Here are some of the things that I see in this picture:
At a quick glance, it appears that there are three different system parts being presented here. However if you look more closely, you can see that there are actually more than three. I’ll explain more later.
The placement of the faces is important. It could be that these parts are standing in a line behind each other. For example, the center face is the closest out front, the curly-hair part is next, the pony-tail part is third, and the smiling no-sight part is in fourth. What is the purpose of this set of parts? Do they have something in common? Are they lined up ready to ‘front up” in the body? Are they all present in the body at the same time, co-present with each other, each aware of what’s going on? Are they all looking out the front?
Do these parts know each other? We might assume they do, but then again, how many times have you said to yourself, “I don’t know who I am” or “I don’t know who’s out”? Just because these parts appear near to each other, they may or may not have awareness of each other. They may know someone else is near, but they may not know who that other someone is.
Can they hear each other? Do they speak to each other? Do they know why they are all there at the same time?
Let’s look close at the front face. It’s a pleasant face, but unclear as to what emotion she is feeling. She may not be feeling anything – this front presenter might be more numb or disconnected from her feelings. Or, she might be hiding her feelings. It’s unclear, so it could be a good idea to ask more about what she is thinking and feeling.
What is on her mind? What is she looking at? Is she “out front” in the body?
The curly-hair face has clear expression. She is sad, with a few hidden or disguised tears. Her pain is palpable and she probably contains a lot of trauma memory information.
What trauma has she experienced? Why is she sad? What are the crying / no-crying rules held by this artist? Is she purposefully trying to hide her tears?
What secrets does she have? By hiding half of herself behind the front person, there is some indication that she knows information that she has not yet shared. What roles has she played in her life that she has not yet told the rest of the internal system? What life experiences has she had that she is hiding? Does she feel ashamed of these experiences? In blocking one eye, does she want to “not see” what is happening to her?
Is her hair wet?
When I look at this picture, there is a specific difficult question about trauma that comes to mind. (trigger warning). Between the style of hair and her pained expression, I have to wonder if this part has experienced shock trauma. This is an intense and difficult topic, and cannot be asked about flippantly.
The pony-tail girl has a more stern, angry expression at first glance. However, if you look again, and focus more on the outer side of her face, there is a layer of sadness, emotional pain, despair, or something along those lines. Her mouth is sewn shut indicating that she is not allowed to talk, or refuses to talk. It does not say that she has nothing to talk about. In fact, it implies that she knows a lot of information and at this point in time, does not feel comfortable about talking.
What is keeping her silent? What is making her too uncomfortable to speak? What does she know? What does she think will happen if she does speak and tell what she knows? Has she been threatened about talking? What “no talk” rules does she have?
This third part also has a different look than the other parts. Theoretically, she could be racially different from the front two faces. It is not uncommon for internal system parts to view themselves in different races, genders, ages, etc. Since pony-tail girl has a unique look, this warrants asking her more questions along this line.
The fourth part, in the back, appears partially visible. However, her features – and lack of features – offer important information. This part has no eyes, and/or is not allowed to see out of her eyes, and/or does not want to see out of her eyes. If you look closely, you can see where the eyes have been drawn, and erased. The smudges of having eyes are there, but clearly, this part is to not have a way to see what is going on. She also has no ears. Having no hair, her ears should be obvious. However, this part is able to take in only certain information, and chances are, she can’t hear.
This fourth part is the only one with a smile. But yet, this part can’t see or hear. Maybe this is a denial part? Many times the system deniers are ones who cannot see or hear difficult information because they still have to put on a happy front. To be happy, they can’t know about the “bad stuff”. They smile like nothing is wrong, and they are often dissociated or separated from the rest of the system. Their blindness / deafness could be related to not seeing or hearing about difficult information in their system, or in their history, in their current day life, in their relationships, etc. Deniers often genuinely believe that nothing is wrong. Of course, it’s easy to believe there is nothing wrong when they insist on omitting the complicated information.
What is this fourth part not seeing? What keeps her from finding her eyes? What is she not hearing? What is she avoiding? Why is she blocked off from information? What is keeping her separated?
Notice that these heads do not have bodies. They do not even have necks. (There is the tiniest beginning of a neck for the front girl). As one possibility, this could be demonstrating the mind / body split that many dissociative survivors experience. Many survivors with DID are disconnected from their bodies, numb from their bodies, and/or unaware of their bodies.
Another dissociative experience that should be explored further from what is seen in this picture is looking at the right eye vs. left eye split. If you notice, in all three of the faces, the right eye is drawn dominant / stronger / bigger / darker than the left eye. While you might think this is a artistic fluke, all too many dissociative survivors have system differences that can be seen / felt through the eyes. This can indicate that there are different people looking out the eyes. For example, for the front face and the pony-tail face, who is looking out the left eye and who is looking out the right eye?
The front face girl is drawn very closely to symmetrical, but if you look at her mouth, one side of her mouth is longer than the other side. The eyebrows are also slightly different. These may be artistic features, but they may also be indicators of the left-side / right-side split. To be clear, it’s worth asking about.
If someone is looking out each of the eyes, that indicates that there could be at least six different selves represented in this picture. Who are each of these six parts? What are their life-stories? What are their jobs, roles, and functions?
Talking with each of the parts, asking questions, listening closely to their responses will help to answer the mysteries shown in this picture.
Simple appearing pictures may not be so simple after all!
Copyright © 2008-2021 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
- My 100 Strengths, as Said by a Group of Dissociative Trauma Survivors
- My 100 Strengths, by a Group of Dissociative Trauma Survivors, Part Two
Woah – i was wondering the same thing about “shock trauma” and am glad the question got asked – but that was not the answer I had expected. I thought it had to do more with trauma that then sent the person into shock that then caused a dissociative state.
But when reading ” I am referring to any of the abuses that involve being shocked via electricity. It is, unfortunately, more common that one would suspect” i got a frown on my face and a sudden deep pain where pain often occurs with memories or trying to talk about abuse. Now i have lst feeling in my low back. @_@ i don’t understand!!! I have not had any sort of shock trauma that i know uf – course, i didn’t know what had happened at all until we were older and the DID mechnsiasm started urnraveling. sorry – ;losing spelling now – always a good clue to me that i am swapping.
Kathy, I would love to hear more about SHOCK TRAUMA. Therapist suggeste4d this happened in one incident, but not sure what defines it.
The people sharing the eyes observation hits home with me. I have a lot of shadowy figures that come and go that seem as if someone is looking at something else while I am watching t.v., ect. Shadows most noticeable when I move my head. Love this blog!
Kathy Broady says
Well… first I would say — please be sure to go back and ask your therapist what she (he?) meant by making that comment to you, and be clear to know what they were referring to when they suggested that. It will also be important for you to know what they were thinking of to define it. Who knows if they have the same definition in mind as I do. For me, I am referring to any of the abuses that involve being shocked via electricity. It is, unfortunately, more common that one would suspect. But of course, like any other form of abuse, it does not happen to everyone, so it will not apply to everyone. And everyone’s story is unique, so… it’s important to be really clear with your therapist about how this may or may not apply to you.
I’m glad you like this blog! I appreciate hearing that. 🙂
Best wishes to you in your healing journey –