The Rip Van Winkle Effect

I don’t remember much about Rip Van Winkle other than he went to sleep for a VERY long time, and when he woke up, everything naturally had changed. Life continued without him.

I keep having a similar conversation with my girls: Amy, Alley and now Shelly. From their perspective each of them simply went to sleep and 30+ plus years later they awoke to find their entire world had changed. The people Karen and I call their parents don’t look anything like they remember. They live in a different house in a totally different climate. My son and I are new to them. Their friends/acquaintances and toys are gone. Even their body is different. They still see themselves as little girls, and yet they are trapped in the body of an adult woman that now needs eyeglasses, has breasts and “gross” menstrual periods, just to name a few changes.

That’s not to say panic attacks were caused solely by this aspect of DID, but it was a factor with my girls. As the girls have moved to the outside world, they have found everything alarmingly different which is scary and disorienting. Add this to the fact of their past trauma and their emotionally and socially underdeveloped skills in the beginning, and the effect of their RVW experience is exacerbated.

So part of helping the insider girls was giving them a prolonged orientation to their “new” world. That simply entailed giving them lots and lots of time outside. The more time they spent outside, the more they became acclimated to this new world and “owned” it as theirs. Now 2 ½ years later when the girls talk about their past life wistfully, I try to point out to them how many ways their lives are so much better now: two men (me and my son) love them, play with them, and have time for them, their webkinz worlds, and all the dolls I bought Amy and now Shelly (better than they EVER had before) just to name a few things. They are quick to agree with me, but they say the change is still difficult on them.

Another thing that helped the girls cope with the RVW effect was to either find old toys or stuffed animals from their first childhood or to go on eBay and purchase replacement ones, if possible. These items which they recognized from their past really helped comfort and anchor the girls as they moved from their lives in the past to their lives today.

The Rip Van Winkle effect isn’t just something in storybooks or the movies. For my girls it is/was a disorienting and sometimes scary reality as they move(d) from their inside worlds to the outside where they can find the love, safety and healing they desperately need. Those of us on the outside who are assisting their healing journey need to find ways to minimize the harshest aspects of this reality.


Sam, I Am

(dissociative identity disorder, dissociation)


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dealkeili
    Nov 13, 2011 @ 18:49:16

    Sam, i wanted to thank you for your honest and thorough commentary about having a partner with D.I.D. So much of the time I feel so alone and misunderstood. As a 19 year old college student I don’t know anyone else that has experienced any of the things that I deal with on a day to day basis. It has been so healing for me to see that not only am I not alone, but there are resources (like this blog) that can help me through tough times. This post in particular is so interesting to me because it is different than my partners alters. They seem to live in a world inside his mind that is completely formed within itself. Also, they see themselves differently than I do. When I ask them to describe how they look they will describe something completely different than what I see in front of me. It is so interesting to me that so many of our experiences can be so similar, but many of them are totally different.


    • Sam Ruck
      Nov 14, 2011 @ 10:01:01

      Hi Dealkeili,

      When my girls first came out they were exactly the same as your partner’s insiders. They each saw themselves according to their inside world; they were almost entirely separate from Karen. But as I have gently drawn them outside with me and my son over the last 3 1/2 years they have become more and more identified with the reality of the outside world. Just remember as you read my blog you are reading it “backwards” from how we experienced it on our healing journey. If you go to my first entry it may give you a little bit better feeling of where we started.

      But if you ever need/want to talk more you can email me at samruck2 at gmail dot com. I edited my “about” page last week to update where we are today and I screwed up the little form that people could email me with. If you are committed to your partner for the long haul, you will be able to effect a far greater healing than any therapist ever could do with far deeper results (just because you have access to your partner in ways a therapist never can and for much more time throughout the week). Karen and I were talking just last night how she is “so afraid” that she will never really be healed of this and yet because of the things that I espouse doing on this blog, she has told me repeatedly that she is much further along in the healing process (and MUCH more deeply healed) than anyone she has ever met on any of her internet d.i.d. forums

      Thanks for stopping by. It was so nice to meet you!



  2. Trackback: Arrested Development in Dissociative Identity Disorder | Loving My DID Girl(s)

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