DID & Me: Building the Chameleon Due To Cultural Change

There is no “one” reason a person develops D.I.D, or “dissociative identity disorder”.  People always want a single thing they can point to and say: “This is the reason why.”  Most things aren’t that simple.  DID is one of them.  But during the past year one of the reasons ‘I’ developed DID has become very apparent to me.

The constant change of cultures.  From poverty to middle class and back.  From redneck living to up north living.  From a New Jersey neighborhood to a Southern one and back.  Exposure to opposing attitudes, beliefs, systems, values, morals, traditions – some agreeing, some not.  What’s a child do?  Especially a bright and creative one?

To create this you must have a child who has to fend for themselves, culturally speaking, and is not allowed to express his emotions, fears, or desires.  Who must exhibit the proper morals and beliefs all the time – while not being informed exactly what they should be for any given situation or crowd.  Keep dropping them into different lifestyles.  There were no slow climbs up or down the social or economic ladder.  Have – have not.  Is there; or is not.  There is no adjustment phase.  Just a strong ‘shock’, and the immediate demand – instinctual, parental, and social – to adapt.  Immediately and right away.  I know when we moved to a civilian neighborhood near Fort Bragg, North Carolina (I was nine) from an impoverished neighborhood in the South (not far from the Tobacco Road of fame) – the shock was so great I could not escape it.  Another personality was born.  “He” may be the one who is responsible for ‘moving’ – another event I cannot recall even though we moved over twenty times during my childhood.

It is instinctive for a child to want to be loved, or at least accepted by the culture he or she is in.  Acceptance is inherent to survival.  Without acceptance into the ‘tribe’ (whether that be familial, social, or friends) the survival instinct is threatened.  Cubs depend on their mom; the mom upon the pride; therefore the cub’s welfare is inherent in his acceptance by the tribe.  Acceptance by his culture(s) is important to a child’s ego and development.  A child wants this.  So what can a child trapped in such extremes going to do?  Especially when many of those cultures hold opposing or different attitudes?

They are going to start adopting the beliefs and behaviors of each culture – and reflecting them back to that culture when they are in it.  In my case, I would walk in one door out of a culture into another culture, and then out the other into another all the time – from family to Army base to civilian to school to German – then back again in just a few hours.  What’s a child to do?

‘We’ start breaking it down in ourselves.  “This attribute” is for “that one”, and “that attribute” is for another.  Lumping them together into sections, pieces – each for a different environment, each for a different crowd.  Responding by dragging up the ‘right frame of mind’ for the culture they are in at that time – then ‘switching’ immediately to another frame of mind and another mindset as soon as they leave.  This is similar to where “masks” come from – you know the ones we all wear: the ‘mom’ mask, the professional businesswoman, the negotiator, lover for the husband, et all . . .

But what child isn’t faced by a variety of cultures?  Lets break this down, using what I know as an example:

First you have the “familial” culture- that of the family: the expected behaviors, the punishments, habits – that culture.  Every family has quirks, of course – so does every culture.  But within OUR family there were more cultural differences between the parents – some rather large.

In our case the ‘cultures’ were strongly divided between our mom (always there) and our dad (sometimes there, sometimes not).  And due to his military career, he too had two different cultures going on – three if you count the one he was building (his family).  But he had the Army one and the civilian one.  Sometimes he’d be gone a long time – and then we’d fall into the behavior patterns most acceptable by our mother – adopting a mask which was not consistent, either, because we’d have to drop it for our friends.  There’d be little warning when dad would show up.  And maybe he had changed.  Sometimes he’d be gone a long time, over a year.  I know when he got ‘religion’ our culture changed.  There again, another culture to be dealt with by this child!  Add to that we became an acolyte in ‘that’ culture and it goes to show how thoroughly a child can ‘adopt’ or ‘become’ something, for it went against his child’s training by his mom!  (She is more of a spiritualist.)   That  conflicted with dad’s (who had turned into a hard line Christian). So what’s this kid to do?  He’s got to be accepted by each culture; his life depends on it!  It was quite literally his bread and butter sometimes!

Now before you’re thinking “what a mess” – lets add to this.  Take this child and transplant him in into a bunch of different cultures outside the home!  To each one he must adapt and become accepted – or else he’s gonna become beat up, either at home (for not doing it; not making those grades) – or by being ‘different’  (school kids are very much alike anywhere during those times).  He must learn to ‘switch’ and rapidly adapt between the different cultures – shedding his skin, I suppose in a way, when he comes in – and there’s the classic Midwestern American Culture – and it was just an Overseas Army Base culture that he’s come through – but he was IN a “foreign, German land” culture previously that day; all the while warring with the G.I.’s (adding in a good dose of the “Military Culture” and things) . . . breaking himself apart and then ‘rebuilding’ himself with the parts that were needed to deal with each of the different things . . .

Because sometimes morals and values can be confusing to children, he also brings this to the table in his head – separating some of them out this way and that; sub-dividing them – one who ‘likes’ being molested – and one who says it’s wrong; the ‘side’ that wants to trust someone they love – and the one that got hurt when he did it; the one who loves love and the one who doesn’t . . . sub-dividing, sub-categorizing . . . which one is a weakness and which one is a strength to which crowd and/or culture we are in . . .

Building the ‘perfect chameleon’.

Now you know: every child has peers and they want to be accepted in the crowd.  So you may have them: a “school” culture – and maybe two of them “a school culture for dealing with the kids that are around you” and a “school culture for dealing with the grownups and authority figures there” – as well as a playground culture (because there is one; just watch a playground and you’ll see) – another culture for when the kids are out of school; another one (perhaps) for the weekends, the summer long thing – another one for the relatives; one for the city; one for the town; one for ‘that store’; a different person for the barber; someone to ‘deal with the bills’; someone to drive a car . . .

and it slowly breaks down like that – without ‘you’ even realizing you are doing it.  And by the time you catch on! – well, it’s too late.  The pattern is ‘formed’.  In some, like ‘me’, most of the ‘cultures’ and beings (or whatever) are co-conscious – because ‘they’ had to be!  They had to ‘pass on information’ to survive – no ‘transistion’ could be left unattended, and that’s why there are generally “three” up and about (active duty) in my head – one’s left to ‘trade off’; another’s a ‘guarentee’ that information will pass smoothly to the ‘next one on duty’.  That’s so we don’t get into trouble by ‘forgetting’ a thing (mostly) – until we do, LOL!

But  that’s just another explanation and a reason for “the Crowd” (whether it’s mine or yours) and may not even apply to you.  But it sure makes sense to me, and sure explains ‘why’ I am the way I am to some degree: all those different cultures, trying to make ‘sense’ of them and fit in (for survival – a “through the eye of a child” type of thing) – and it still goes on – that ability to ‘form’ another personality ‘on-the-fly’ so to speak – become (mirror) almost ‘anyone’ (species, type, category: redneck? Bureaucrat? Professional businessman? Scientist? German?  LOL . . . kid?).  And also explains why (to a degree) I tend to get along with anyone . . .

Because I can ‘be’ what they want me to ‘be’ – for them – just enough to get the information I need / want out of them . . . or in some cases?  Just make friends.

Which kinda begs the question: who’s ‘ME’?  LOL!  To which I can only answer: “Them!”.


About jeffssong

JW is an adult childhood abuse survivor with DID*. He grew up in a violent family devoid of love and affection. He is a military brat and veteran. He no longer struggles with that past. In 1976 JW began writing "The Boy". It took 34 years to complete. It is currently on Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004T3IVKK ), or if you prefer hard copy, on Amazon ( http://www.amazon.com/Boy-J-W/dp/1461022681). JW resides somewhere in the deep South. He is disabled and living with family. Note: Please feel free to take what you need; all is free to all. With that in mind, keep it that way to others. Thank you. We have 3 Blogs - One for our younger days, 0-10 (The Little Shop of Horrors); one for our Teen Alter and his 'friends' (also alters) with a lot of poetry; and finally "my" own, the Song of Life (current events and things)
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3 Responses to DID & Me: Building the Chameleon Due To Cultural Change

  1. there’s a lot of truth in this that i think is helpful and applicable to other DID systems. thanks for sharing. 🙂


  2. Marty says:

    Them incredible


  3. Michael says:

    Sometimes I find it helpful to look at it from why did I not become one.

    I see PTSD as physical for the most part. Physically this body which includes my brain never had a chance to become one., For me it is about bringing the memories into consciousnesses then processing ending with grieving and the PTSD goes away. PTS goes away and we integrate.

    8 years and counting.


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