Isn’t this an interesting picture of Dissociative Identity Disorder?!
Assuming the artist of this picture is a trauma survivor with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID / MPD), this drawing shows many of the system insiders. I can’t say that I know this person has DID for sure — meaning — I haven’t met the artist, I haven’t met their inside people, I haven’t met the treatment team, and I haven’t got any official diagnostic information. BUT, when someone sends ME a picture that looks like THIS? I am already 100% sure that the person is a dissociative trauma survivor.
What do you think? DID? Or not DID?
Let’s go through the points that I see that indicate Dissociative Identities in this incredible drawing.
How many insiders do you find represented in this picture?
When I look at this picture, the different parts and/or dissociative issues that I see displayed could include the following 20+ areas of information. I will free-flow with my thoughts and questions, and mention various issues and complications often experienced by dissociative parts.
Please note: These “names” are simple identifiers I’ve created and used for the purposes of this blog article only. They are to help you can know which part of the artwork I am looking at. These are not the system names of the person who drew “The Group”.
The front girl, on the light side, is probably the one that presents the most to the world. She is neat, trim, clean, dressed nicely. Maybe she is the leader of the parts on that one side of the system. She probably is the one that goes to work or school, etc. She doesn’t seem to be too happy, but she has an air of strength to her. I see sadness in her eyes.
Dark Shadowy Side of the Face
The dark, shadowy side of the face, with a wilder hairdo represents a different side of this person. It’s hard to know, without asking, if the left side represents one part, or a combination of different parts. I would assume that more than one part is represented. This side of the drawing appears to be male. My guess is that the male parts are quite dominant for this survivor.
Shoulder of Armor and Chest Guard
The shoulder of armor and chest guard, along with the hand holding the sword shows a strong, determined, protector part. Notice that this part of the person comes out towards the front of their physical presentation. It could mean that these protector parts are very close to the surface, and they may be the first ones you meet when encountering this dissociative survivor. Even if you don’t meet them directly, they are right there, watching everything, and paying very close attention to what’s happening.
Strong Protective Hand and Sword in Bright Light
The strong protective hand and sword are out in bright light. I’d have to ask to be sure, but my guess is that this survivor fights strongly for the things that are good. Their heart doesn’t belong to the darkness. They fight for positive, for goodness, for safety, for healing.
Outer Leg, Dressed in Jeans
The outer leg, dressed in jeans with running shoes implies a male part. I know that girls wear jeans and tennis shoes, but when trying to show the male parts, this clothing is different from the other more female items, so I would ask about the boys. In fact, that whole left side could be more about boy parts while the other side could be more female. (Or is that shoe a steel-toed boot? I can’t quite tell, so I would be asking about that.)
The mix of male-female clothing (male-female parts) is also emphasized through the waist area, with the draping of the skirt versus the leg of the jeans. It is extremely common for most dissociative survivors to have a mix of both genders in their systems.
The cat part is obviously a strong part of this system, holding a place of balance in the center of the system. This cat’s role in the system is important and significant. The cat is young, probably a child part. This part is one of the most obvious parts of the system, and yet still hides its identity from the outside world – we can see it’s there, but we can’t see who it is. Does this part hear more than it sees? Why is this the only part that is looking the other direction? What does that mean?
Cat or Cat-child?
It appears that the cat-child is directing intense self-hatred to at the female host via self-injury and cutting. The self-injury is probably related to a number of different issues, but notice that it seems to be aimed towards one female part. Explore that further.
Does the woman feel pain? Is she capable of dissociating pain easily? Does she dissociate the pain involved in cutting and self-injury? The staring, flat expression in the woman’s face could indicate that she is dissociating and not feeling the cuts that are being made on her shoulder and leg. Is she aware that it’s happening? Is she amnesiac for times of self-injury? Why is she the one being hurt? What message is the cat-child trying to give her?
Who Feels the Pain and Trauma?
Since it appears that the woman does not feel the pain, maybe the cat-child is the one that feels the pain. The strong, dramatic striping on the cat could indicate intense feelings and waves of pain. It has the look of heated flames (and tiger-stripes), but the feel seems more painful than peaceful. How wild and out of control does this cat-child act? How many times this cat-child has been hurt? My guess is that this little part has endured a lot of the trauma.
Even though this young cat-child part appears to be angry, hurting, hurtful, and self-destructive, notice that the female leader has an open palm, a friendly, gentle acceptance of this troubled young cat-child. This is the only paw of the cat-child that does not have the claws sticking out. This is a good sign, and it shows some gentleness and compassion between system members.
Small Hand and Child Parts
The small hand of the cat-child could also indicate that there is a definite connection with feeling like a small child, and not just as a small animal. Maybe the child can come more forward during times of feeling safe and comforted, while the cat-side stays out at other times.
It is not uncommon for dissociative survivors to have animal parts within the system. There will be reasons for way these parts are presenting, and it will be important to understand the life-stories of these parts the same as with any other part. Sometimes it feels safer “to be an animal” than to be a human. Or… the animal part may be related to a particular trauma involving those particular animals.
Small Crying Child
While it’s a little hard to see, it looks like there is a small, crying child part (or two?) hiding under the blanket. These child parts appear to be scared, and deep in hiding. Even the teddy bear helps to hide them. These little parts can still see a lot, but they may not come out and interact with the world very often. They are probably kept inside and away from people for the most part.
Use of Colors
There is a tiny small area of dark-purple with the child part and the teddy bear. This is the only area of color in the whole picture, and is an important topic for discussion. What does it mean? What does it represent? Why did the purple need to be colored while the rest of the drawing could stay in blacks and whites? What do these child parts know that is still a secret? What does the darkness around them represent in their life?
I would ask if the cat-child part is also a protector of the young children hiding under the blanket. Both the cat and the woman show gentleness on the side with the child parts, so maybe the woman and the cat both feel protective of the little ones.
The protective covering of the hidden child parts is full of mystery and warrants further questioning. There are layers of something, intertwined together, with a few straggling strings at the bottom of the blanket. What does all this mean? Does the DID survivor work extra hard to protect these parts? Do the adult parts of this system know the secrets that are held within the shadows of this blanket?
Overall, the insiders in this DID system seem to be close to each other. They sit near to each other, and have an obvious comfort with each other. The do not seem to be afraid of each other, and they appear to be close enough to be able to talk easily together.
Switching Between Parts
My guess is that the switching between the woman host and the others that are represented on her personhood is not as obvious as it would be between the woman and the cat-child. Some switches are much less visibly different, and I would guess that the woman and her male parts are in close communication, and switch fluidly and easy between each other. They seem to have a good balance of sharing and cooperation, and while their roles are very different, there seems to be a strong level of comfort and familiarity with each other.
Sexual Parts and Sexuality
I would ask, in this case, if the necklace and female shirt area represent the sexual parts. While there is the obvious female statement, my guess is that the emphasis on the bright chest area indicates that some parts inside have a strong sense of sexuality. Or, the white color could mean the opposite – a numbing or lack of feeling. Either which way, this is an issue that should be explored with this dissociative system.
Submissive or Trauma History?
It is important to note that the kneeling knee and the bare foot are on the same side as the female / sexual parts of this system. Putting these indicators of submission together with the chain necklace could symbolize some history in sex slavery. This is a difficult topic, so ask questions gently.
As always, please remember that my guesses and interpretations of this DID artwork could be completely wrong.
However, please take the ideas as presented, as use them in the ways that fit for you. Let these ideas create questions for you as you explore your own art, or the art of your clients.
P4 Friday Meet n Greet with ART & TALENT
Aug 28, 2020, 6-9 pm
Also, at the P4 DID Conference in Phoenix AZ, did you see?
Our Friday Evening Meet ‘n Greet will be all about Artwork. Artwork. Music. Poetry. Story telling. Theatre. The ARTS. Free for all conference registrants. REGISTER for P4 so you can JOIN US!
Besides the viewing of our amazing art displays, and our Art Videos, I will be giving a presentation on How to SEE DID in Artwork. What are the clues? What do you look for? I can answer those questions and more.
We’ve already received what feels like hundreds of fabulous art contributions (I haven’t officially counted, but you know… there are a BUNCH!) The level of skill and talent is amazing, but the ability for people to really learn about trauma and dissociation is all right there in that artwork.
I will be re-releasing some music from my Piano CD, Broken into Pieces, and I’ve joined in with making a few handmade artsy-thingybobs myself.
If you are a dissociative trauma survivor or a mental health professional who has trauma-recovery artwork to share on display at the conference, please let us know. We will be displaying artwork both in-person or via the virtual Zoom option.
IF you are interested in sharing your artwork at the P4 Conference, please CONTACT US ASAP.
Email for additional information at Admin@DiscussingDissociation.com
Art, music, poetry — the ARTS — are such deep ways to communicate how we feel — how we live — how we dream. What art are you creating in your life today?
I wish you the best on your art-filled, healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2020 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation
- Feeling Split about Anger
- It’s Ok to be Unique – It’s Ok to be Plural
- Extinguishing Fear by Relaxing the Body
- When the Painful Past is the Painful Present
- Inside, After – In the Head of a Dissociative Trauma Survivor
- Hotmail, Mailboxes, and Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Discussing Dissociation, Five Years Later
- Dual Mask – A Picture of Dissociative Identity Disorder
- My 100 Strengths, by a Group of Dissociative Trauma Survivors, Part Two