Who Is the Best Parent for Insiders?, Part 2

(continued from yesterday)

When my wife was being sexually abused as a child, what was happening on the parent front? Nothing. My in-laws were in la-la land, oblivious to the hell their daughter was going through because of their own unresolved issues from their childhoods and their current marital dysfunctions. And I’m guessing most people with DID would say the same if not worse things about their own parents. The parents were either absent or unaware of the abuse or even worse were the perpetrators (or facilitators) of the abuse. And so what did this force these abused children into doing? They were put in the untenable position of parenting themselves. Is this not why so many of them have “insider mommies?” because their minds were desperately trying to fashion something that was so deeply needed but unavailable to them: a parent who would love, protect and provide for them. Moreover, what did the lack of one’s parents unintentionally symbolize to these abused children: just how truly alone they were in the abuse. Over and over, before the DID surfaced, my wife repeated for 20 years, “If my own mother can’t love me, how can anyone love me?”

So in my ignorant opinion the decision by the DID professionals and authorities to encourage people with DID to “parent” their insiders (or themselves more honestly) unwittingly reinforces to the insiders that at the most basic level they were alone in the abuse and now they are still alone in the aftermath of it and the healing process.

But what if an outsider to the DID network took on the task of re-parenting the insiders? Well here’s what it has meant to my girls. First the insiders are no longer alone as any non-DID person would define being alone. They have a living, breathing defender who will give his life for them if necessary. The girls call me on the phone or run to me when I’m home, if anything scares them. They no longer have to face scary things alone. Moreover is the fact that I’m their best friend and companion. They have someone who knows them and loves them.

Second the girls have a flesh and blood comforter. As much as my girls love their insider mommy, my arms have increasingly been the ones of choice when they were scared, sad or sick. I never purposely sought to replace their dear KA, but my girls intuitively know my arms, now that they are available, are truly comforting in way that their precious insider mommy could never be no matter how nobly she tried.

Even though the inside world is an illusion, when the girls first came out they vigorously argued with me that their inside world was just as real as the outside one. So I stopped arguing but slowly and purposely made sure that their outside world was better. And as I did so, they gave up the illusion for a life of reality with me and my son.

Third, I provide the parent figure they never had. This isn’t such a foreign concept, and yet for some reason not understood by me, the DID community has rejected what children naturally do when their own parents are missing or unavailable: they look for a “surrogate” parent whether they find one in a coach or teacher at school, a step-, foster-, or adoptive parent, Sunday school teacher or  church youth leader, or anyone else who is a caring, attentive adult and satisfies at least some of the natural longings every child has to be properly loved by an outside adult. What leap of logic took the DID community in the opposite direction of the rest of humanity? Given the choice, my wife’s insiders did what all other children naturally do: they chose the closest available adult who showed a loving interest in them to be a surrogate parent: me.

My girls are under no delusion that I am their biological father. It has caused no emotional or mental confusion or anguish on their part even as they have grown closer together during the healing process. And I could continue on with the benefits of me being an outside, surrogate parent figure. There have yet to be any downsides for the girls. In fact, I will posit that my wife’s phenomenal healing progress is because of what my son and I add to the healing equation.

But have there been downsides from the fact that Karen is trying to mommy the insiders at the same time? Yes. I have spent the last 2 ½ years with insiders almost exclusively, and it has enabled me to understand their point of view better than most outsiders. My wife’s insiders still treat Karen like she is NOT part of their group. She’s still an outsider to them even as they are growing in greater co-consciousness. Part of that reason is because she is “mommy.” To them being mommy makes Karen a grownup who has forgotten how to play and understand them (unlike me and my son who are the playmates of choice). Being mommy also separates them naturally. People typically do not view the parent/child relationship as one of equals until well into adulthood, and most insiders are NOT adults!!! So for Karen to be “mommy” is actually continuing the separation created by DID. Thus, mommying her insiders is hindering their healing!

And because of these downsides, I am gently campaigning for Karen to relinquish her mommy-hood and become an older, adult sister so that the insiders will view her as one of their siblings and therefore part of the group who is on equal footing with the rest of them. If I can facilitate the move, and it goes as expected, I will give you more about that at a later date.

I’m the surrogate father figure of my wife’s insiders, chosen of their own volition. It has been a deeply satisfying journey for me as I have instrumentally guided their healing process in a way that only a parent can. It is not a lie for them to call me daddy. It is a natural decision every child, inside or outside, makes when ones’ biological parents are unavailable.


Sam, I Am

P.S. There is one potential pitfall of having an outsider like me re-parent one’s insiders: abandonment. When I began to assume “daddy-hood” for the girls, Alleylieu warned me that I could break the girls’ hearts if I left. But that risk is always the case anytime we open our hearts to someone else. If eliminating that risk is the reason a DID person decides to parent him or herself, then they have decided to never truly know love. That’s a safe but lonely decision.

Dissociative identity disorder, dissociation


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. chi
    Feb 18, 2011 @ 01:24:42

    just a comment about your PS note on the bottom….
    when my husband and i were first discussing our decision for him to “re-parent” my littles, we talked about what would happen if our marriage didn’t work out. the conclusion we came to is that his relationship with each part is unique and special. and he would be capable of having relationships with some parts and not others, if necessary.
    so yes, it is a risk. but maybe Alley and all of you would feel less worried about it if you all knew that you’d always be there for the girls, even if things didn’t work with your wife.


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 19, 2011 @ 09:18:17


      this is kind of a difficult thing to reply to in an honest manner, but I think it is something that most couples in our situation at least have to deal with. So here it goes.

      1) I love all my girls. I may call Karen my wife, but I also keep in mind that in a very real way each of the other girls is my wife, too. Karen doesn’t like that kind of talk so I don’t say it lots around her, but I have let Amy and Alley know that I hope some day when they grow up they would like to be my wife, too. They understand that, especially Alley, but Amy and I just had a talk about her “boyfriend” on webkinz that some day she wants to marry, and so I dream with her about that, too. I don’t treat the little girls as if they are my wife, but some day they have to join her whether co-consciously or integratedly if our marriage is ever going to be healthy.

      2) DID is an extreme example of what we ALL experience in some degree, and on this issue the voices in my head get VERY loud and raucous. Fortunately for me, none of the voices get to block out any of the other voices. I LOVE MY WIFE, but there are so many other voices that I have to keep at bay and pacify because my needs are NOT being met and really never have been met since the day I got married.

      3) I set up a lot of boundaries in my life so that the temptation to leave, (though the wishing might be great) is not really an issue. I’ve never had sex with ANY other woman, so that in itself is a huge boundary. I’ve lived half my life with Karen, another boundary. I don’t work with any women at my job and all my time is accounted for either at work or when I am at home with my girls.

      So I just try to focus on getting my girls healed and I try to ignore the voices in my head that are screaming for my needs to be satified. When I focus on my girls, it keeps me from dwelling on leaving or divorcing. It’s a very painful subject for me, and I love each of the girls, and I don’t want to hurt any of them so I just keep holding on and hope some day it gets a little easier for me, too.

      I know this is rambly and probably isn’t what you really wanted to hear.



  2. Jim
    Feb 19, 2011 @ 11:39:05

    Hay Sam,
    I think I told you this before in an email but my wife/little’s and I have talked this subject over and over the past 4 years is I am their husband/guardian/best friend and best bud and not their daddy/father. I feel that they should know the truth that their father was not a good person and I do not what to be related or confused with in any way with that man. I guess I see it that if the truth helps lead to trust than we should be truthful. Maybe by saying that you’re a step father or something, I’m not sure. I’m just going with what my heart and mind tells me and you have to do what your heart tell you also.


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 20, 2011 @ 08:48:16


      you just need to listen to your girls and yourself and do what you and they are most comfortable with. I don’t believe there is only one path to healing, but I hold out this path as a valid alternative to someone who is looking for a way that we have found extremely helpful.



  3. David
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 00:53:02

    I wonder if some of the confusion here may be arising from what is meant by re-parenting, and what the purpose of it is in DID therapy.

    I started much further down the road than most people do in therapy, because I was more high-functioning. I didn’t — and don’t — have an insider “parent,” though I did have a multifaceted system protector who often served as an advisor for what younger system members wanted, felt, or needed.

    I think the idea of the DID-er “re-parenting” is not meant literally; it’s a shorthand metaphor for the idea of becoming accountable to and responsible for oneself. I can speak only to my own experience of therapy and that of dissociatives whom I have known personally, but my insiders were never encouraged to look at me as a parent. Rather, the idea of “parenting,” in a healthy way, was the model for how I, as the “host,” needed to learn to interact with myself. When an insider had a need, the challenge was to respond as a parent would do to a child. The challenge was not to identify myself as a parent to that insider child — it was to respond compassionately and responsibly, and lovingly if possible, in the way I would if I were given custodial care of a child.

    I think the reason why it can be dangerous for an outsider to “re-parent” insider children is that the system may not learn to become responsible for and accountable to itself, and dependency on the other person may develop in a way that can be hurtful to the system. The benefit to the system learning to become self-referential is that the skills and lessons are more permanent and portable. I do think that if a DIDer is lucky enough to have a supportive partner, he or she can take the lessons modeled in that relationship and apply them internally. I also think it’s great when a DIDer has an open enough relationship for insiders to communicate with the partner. My partner (who is also a high-functioning dissociative) and I have always had that; we address each other’s presenting facets directly, asking for input and direction if a problem has arisen. Each of our insiders recognizes the presence of a trustworthy adult. However, our goal is to be present for one another in a way that allows the system to refer back to itself, rather than turning outward. If my insiders become too reliant on my partner, there will be situations that arise which I will not be able to handle, and that is not good for healing. They need to know that she is supportive and accepting, but I, as the host of my own system, must be able to be the primary source of support, learning, and safety; otherwise I won’t be able to lead a truly fulfilling life, and I won’t be truly healed.

    You are right that in some ways, self-referential responsibility and accountability reinforces the insiders’ sense of alone-ness. But my experience with myself and other DIDers has been that the systems are highly intelligent, and they know that at the end of the day, no matter how many people are around us, we actually *are* alone. We must act independently, we must make decisions, we must protect ourselves. And for this reason, much system trepidation is caused by distrust of the self, as much or more than distrust of the world. For many dissociatives, the greatest leaps of healing are made when the system trusts the host to understand and protect them — trusting the self is what makes the world safe to operate in. And this trust is difficult when the system is relying primarily on someone else for understanding and protection. For this same reason, I think it is very irresponsible for DID therapists to practice strongly attachment-based therapy; it leads to the same problem, of the system trusting a third party, rather than doing the very hard work of learning to trust the managing host.


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 20, 2011 @ 09:15:42

      Hi David,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

      There’s an old principle that we are stronger when we work together. My family and I just watched I am Number 4 yesterday and it had the principle as a main theme of the movie. Trauma patients seem to have attachment aversions, at least some of the girls in my wife’s network did, and as they have gotten healed they no longer do. Of course there’s always the possibilities of becoming OVERLY attached and then becoming unable to function on one’s own, but those are the two ENDS of the attachment spectrum. What I desire for my wife and the insiders who make her up is they learn the proper balance between the two extremes: neither total independence nor total dependence on others.



  4. David
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 01:09:30

    I should also add that the host has to do the equally hard work of becoming trustworthy, which often means responding to insider needs and taking on viewpoints which feel very silly or counterproductive, such as remaining fully co-conscious while an insider, for example, works on a coloring book. The host must take responsibility for being responsive, participatory, and present as he or she would with a real child. To a functional host, this often feels completely insane, but again, it is a crucial point which may be missed if the insider children are getting those needs met by a third party.


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 20, 2011 @ 09:19:09


      I have to remind my wife that if I can play dolls or webkinz with the girls certainly she can join us. I ask her pointedly, “What else do you think you have to do!?” So I am working at bringing her back into the mix.



  5. Serenity
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 16:55:54

    Hello. I apologize if we are confusing you with all the different names. I am with Karma and Sadie.
    I was originally created to be the one to hold up the happy, positive act on the outside. but as time went by, and Karma was known to us. I decided since she has a calming, numbing quality..that I would let her and handle the front things. I have decided to stay inside to care for and spend time with our lil ones. I think in a sense they may think of me as a mommy because even though the outside mother is a good mother, she does not accept any of us as individuals therefore the little ones still feel somewhat void.
    Christopher, our newest one to be known, is 9 1/2. He is new to being outstill, but secretively he hopes maybe our husband will be his “daddy”. the outside father was also not bad or abusive, however, with the hours he worked the others did not spend much time with him and Christopher really seems to need and want that campanionship, trust and guidance.I assume someday he will talk to our husband about it, but for now he is still so nervous that he hasn’t spoken to anyone outside at all yet.
    Thank you,Sam, for your blog and helping add perspective and knowledge to these types of situations. I admire you for your effort and dedication to your wife and her little girls inside.


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 20, 2011 @ 21:59:06

      Hi Serenity,

      I’m so glad to meet you. I hope things go well for Christopher as he adjusts to the outside. We are going through adjustments with Shelly right now but the other girls have helped her a lot.



  6. Kat & Co
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 10:29:20

    Hi Sam, I just wanted to let you know that you are doing a fantastic job.
    My hubby ‘fathers’ most of my girls, but they are all completely aware that he is not their real father. infact most of them are on the hunt for an ‘outside’ mummy. They cannot entertain the idea that my mum and dad are infact their mummy and daddy, and rather than try to explain that we’ve grown up and they havn’t, we’ve stuck to letting them ‘go back’ to their mum and dad when they ‘go in – and go right back’. (they somehow dwell in an internal ‘memory’ world..i think).


    • Sam Ruck
      Feb 28, 2011 @ 20:06:31

      Hi Kat and all,

      welcome to my blog. I don’t know where you are at in the healing process, but when Amy first came out she didn’t recognize her parents as her parents either. She would call them “the grandparents” because of our son. But over time she eventually came to see that they were indeed hers the longer she was out and got acclimated to her new world and how things had changed. I try to be a facilitator of the girls’ healing but I recognize that I can’t “force” them to be ready for something they aren’t. So I do lots of listening, and if I try something that they aren’t ready for or that really wasn’t what they needed, hopefully I back up quickly in response to them.

      I’m so glad your husband feels safe in who he is to help meet the needs the insiders have for healing in the way that is most healing to them.



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