You really want to lose weight but you keep stocking your pantry with junk food, "for the kids." This is self-sabotage, the frustrating outcome of conflicting conscious and subconscious desires. If you have Dissociative Identity Disorder, self-sabotage is more complex. Alters have the ability to A) assume control of the mind and body, and B) exert enough influence to impact the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of other system members. Add to that the fact that Dissociative Identity Disorder exists in part to compartmentalize conflicting perceptions and it's not surprising that many people with DID experience particularly pervasive and disruptive forms of self-sabotage.
When I was sorting out plans to enter an inpatient trauma recovery program, I ran into self-sabotage at nearly every turn. The hospital I was going to knows Dissociative Identity Disorder well, and that was both reassuring and terrifying. I felt uncomfortably ambivalent but ultimately decided to go. Following through wasn't easy, partly because some alters had made the opposite decision.
But not everything that goes wrong is the result of self-sabotage. When I took my son to the first day of school on what was actually the second day, it wasn't because an alter deliberately interfered. I was packing to move, had just started a new job, and, ironically, was feeling a fair amount of anxiety about ensuring my son's smooth transition to middle school. In other words, stress amplified my Dissociative Identity Disorder symptoms, including dissociative amnesia.
For me, identifying self-sabotage boils down to one question: does the behavior benefit me? Taking my son to the wrong first day of school does nothing for me. Canceling my trip to the hospital, however, would have saved me a whole lot of anxiety and painful therapeutic work.
I use the term self-sabotage simply because that's how it feels. When I discover that someone in my system has taken action that directly impedes my own intentions it's enormously frustrating and absolutely feels like sabotage. But whether you have Dissociative Identity Disorder or not, I believe managing self-sabotaging behaviors requires self-empathy, without which we cannot achieve:
- Acceptance. Some part of you doesn't want to diet, or stay sober, or go to the hospital; whatever the case may be. Getting into a power struggle won't change that. The first step in dealing with self-sabotage for me is accepting that we have a legitimate disagreement based on valid, though conflicting points of view.
- Communication. Dialoguing with alter personalities, honestly and respectfully, is paramount if I want to understand problems and solve them. I write letters, communicate via art, and converse in my head when possible.
- Compromise. The most life changing negotiation with an alter I've experienced to date culminated in a contract in which we both agreed to certain conditions that required us each to step out of our comfort zones a bit.
None of that is easy, but with help, it's possible. Living with the self-sabotage that sometimes goes along with Dissociative Identity Disorder can be maddening. But though it may feel like it, you aren't powerless.