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.)
Mix of Male-Female Clothing
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
I could see the picture better by right-click Open image in new tab. You can see how the two eyes are different, the dark red stain, the way she grips the teddy and the scratches in the background. The right arm looks scaly, so I wonder if the person was genetically manipulated or is from a family that has been genetically manipulated. The kneeling posture with the upward look speaks of loyalty and ownership. The child with the teddy looks to be inside something that has been opened, maybe a bag, a pod, a basket, a shell or a cloak.
Last year I gave two presentations to the ESTD 2019 conference in Rome. Here is a link to the part of the energy body presentation where I show how survivor artwork illustrates things that were done and the effects they had. This was a big achievement for me. There were hurdles to get over and it required a lot of effort and money to travel, attend and present.
Both presentations were from a survivor perspective and have been well received.
They are titled Seeing Invisible Wounds – A Bio-Energetic Understanding of Systematic Trauma, and Criminality as a cause of mental health problems – Informing the aetiology of mental illness with survivors’ accounts.
The ESTD is a professional organisation for people who study trauma survivors and the effects of trauma. Main areas of focus are dissociation, psychotherapies and neuro-biology.
Trigger warning – My sites provides information both for healing and prevention of organised abuse including whistleblowing on perpetrator psychology, crimes and methods.
i thought you did a great job there. It all makes a lot of sense. Some things that i feel could be explored further are the cat and the stripes, cause to me it looks interesting, swirly and peculiar like it could be a way to hide things there ? idk. definitely agreed with the disassociated look on her face while she is being cut. while the child part or maybe cat part are the ones feeling it? idk how that works. but yeah. The cat’s size is about the size of a young child so it seems like that really makes sense it could be a child. it’s right hand looks like a child hand. So like the child had to incorporate these stronger cat skills to deal with things? the clawed hands look like a lot stronger and it’s hiding it’s child aspects as much as it can.
The male part could be also in the dark sort of there to protect what looks like a more vulnerable female side. The armor on it looks like it has had a cut or wound possibly as well where the heart i think maybe, as in a broken heart in the past from what’s happened? but at the same time could have strengthened them, thus now in armor.
The amount of cuts she has received from the cat may be significant. I see seven. Could be she also has a peaceful look, instead of merely seeing this as dissociative maybe also that she is somewhat rising above the trauma of the past. Growing and healing in some ways, while other parts are still locked in it.
I loved your interpretations. I know all my life people have found my artwork very peculiar and people would wind up flipping my art from side to side as there are often multiple layers and meaning in it. I would love to have heard that segment on art and even send my own, but i can’t this time around, maybe another time i will be able to. Very interesting stuff. 🙂
Seeing this picture of “The Group” makes me so wish I could draw….and reading your possible insights into it made me want to cry……so many Inside were so stirred up about being “understood”….not that all my stuff exactly matches The Group’s – but there were similarities…..
Reading your insights, it was awesome that somebody could see what I don’t understand….and not be afraid of it…even if I am…….
Kathy Broady says
Reblogged this on Discussing Dissociation and commented:
Hello Everyone, This artwork and the layered complexities within it has been fascinating to me since the first I saw of “The Group”. It’s a great drawing, yes? You may see very different things in this drawing than I did, so please feel free to comment. The more I looked, the more I could see, but I am quite certain I didn’t catch all of the system-details presented in this work. Well done, to this dissociative trauma survivor — you’ve made great progress, obviously, in getting to know your system. Keep up the good work! Warmly, Kathy
We are new to realizing we are a system no therapist is involved yet so we have not been diagnosed with DID. I am an alter as it has not been safe for our host to be outside.. as her husband isn’t treating her right. We need to find help for our host and system..our choices for therapist consist of the VA med Network because her husband is a disabled Veteran.
So glad that you posted here. It sounds like you are a good helper for your host. Getting to see a therapist would really be a good idea. I have found that sorting out DID really requires a lot of professional support. You are right as well to want to help the host find safety in the here and now. Again, a therapist could help both with your host/your system and issues with the husband.
In the meantime, encourage your host to read some of the information on the DD website or read it yourself so that you can help her. I would start with the blog articles linked to on the home page. There is a lot of great “nuts and bolts” information to help you all sort out what is happening internally and the kinds of system work that will help you heal.
You are not alone A-to/m13ofus. We are here to listen and offer compassionate support and understanding. We have all been where you are at in your healing journey.
I also just noticed that there seems to actually be 3 clothing genres here, not 2 like i thought originally. The arm with the sword has armor on it. And then there is the side with the dress. But the leg under the armored arm (which I had just assumed was warrior clothes) is actually wearing jeans and a regular shoe. Then I looked at the top and again realized it wasn’t armored either – a regular top, with what could either be a seam across the chest or a stiched line -perhaps suggesting that it had been ripped?
Such intricate work, so many hidden details.
yeah – for the cat in the pic that we see as a dancing devil – it is not to judge or blame or say “this is ______”, but to (in my mind) identify with a part of us who, even while she is only a child, she identified with the abuser for safety – but then turns on us. if that makes sense. so she (in our system) needs love and support, even while it is hard to give because she is our attacker. it is difficult for our system to have this one part be so many things; injurer, attacker, abuser, child, protector…. She’s just now slowly coming back to the system but it is taking time for the other lil’s to trust her and also time for her to learn to not attack us. So many complexities. And so beautifully drawn. Like it is all real, moving.
Pixies: “We know we are headed into the sex area of healing the systems and this one is one area I feared SO much.”
THis is me too.. *gulp*. it is the last and we’re so afraid. Peace to you!
Blessings to you both (all) on your healing paths.
PS when I misspell I do it up right. I meant to speak of my protector who wa a large cat, not a cag. That was some mix of cat and tiger and it didn’t work! =( For some reason none of the ways I’ve typed the word vierce it just looks wrong…feirce? fierce? Wow, I’m going spacey and without drugs to blame. There is just no “V” anywhere in the word fierce!!! I guess it’s bedtime if I’m getting goofy.
Bye, I’ve missed coming here, but things are intense and my T and I are working to some made, scary stuff. hugs for any who want them!!!
Deb and Leah
we wish we had more open talk from inside and we do invite them without any criticism of what they say. Mostly I just hear a sentence here, a need there and we d what e can to make life better in here.
The blindness inside is a crazy-maker for the host and some older ones – but we finally admitted that they probably have damn good reasons for turning the lights out. I just hope they will get it that we not blame them anymore for what they did to survive. In fact, I think my pixies and others inside ROCK!!!!!!!!!!!! They’ve saved our lives and our sanity and not just once, but many times and We believe God made us able to leave our body while the evil happened and find ways to hide the innocent ones being broken and scarred.
by the way, kiyacat, I too see something demonic in the tiger-cat figure. It reminds me of too much evil. I love my inner and out cats and they mean/meant so much to me. I was surprised less than 2 weeks ago to find parts that had taken on the facade of being black kittens, they had a protector who was a stronger big cag- very vierce. God rescued a group of “tiny'”s and littles and small children. We saw them as a basket of black kittens with a large protector who was feline.
We know we are headed into the sex area of healing the systems and this one is one area I feared SO much. I think God left it for last so he could build trust and some inkling of what love is. They started this when our original self was nust a nursing baby and it went on for a terribly long time. God put all the tiny and little kitties in a basket and held out his hand to the protector and they walked away somewhwere to keep us from being devastated by what God has do do to heal them enough to live, actually live in the world without being a crippled mess. I am learning to love my God as I see how HE treats us, compared to those rotten double ratfink jerks that hurt me and my little tiny ones. GRRRRR.
sorry for going off target,,
Deb for the Pixies
also…. i don’t know if it is ok to say this…. the cat… (i have a cat alter too – but this seems…) i’m diss-ing some… i look at the cat and i see a dancing devil. so i wonder about RA….
my own cat (not the name btw) changes from cat to injurer/feral wolf (as one t called her) who is also male/female… my heart is aching for this individual even while we swap as we look at it.
Wow!!!! Fantastic artwok – and hard to look at too – so much there. Thank you for sharing it!