Arrested Development in Dissociative Identity Disorder

For the last 5 years my wife/my girls and I have been slogging it out with her dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. Both she and her counselor credit me with doing the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to helping her through the healing process. But I was not trained for this role. I’m more like a staff sergeant as I help my girls in the trenches 24/7 and everything I know has been from OTJ (on the job) training.

But as we enter, what I hope is the final phases of healing in this disorder, I’ve been trying to look back at our journey and develop some kind of theoretical framework for what I’ve done and observed as I help my wife heal.

So in this entry I want to talk about the “arrested development”* that I’ve noted in the 6 little girls in my wife’s network. First of all this term is generally shunned and disdained by those in the psychological world. Here’s what Wikipedia says about the term:

In the field of medicine it means a stoppage of physical development. In the UK Mental Health Act of 1983 it meant severe mental impairment resulting in a lack of intelligence. And many researchers object that mental development can be “arrested” or “stopped” and suggest that it simply develops in other ways.

So my hope is to rehabilitate the term as it specifically applies to someone with dissociative identity disorder.

When the girls first came out, they were very one-dimensional. They were like people coming out of the stone-age and everything in this world was new to them. They had to learn to access Karen’s basic knowledge of how things work in this world or more often, they simply insisted on learning things by the school of hard knocks and by asking me for help.

Moreover the girls told me that they each experienced a “stasis” of sorts. During their original childhood each was active to various degrees, and then suddenly they were “asleep” for nearly 3 to 4 decades until we awakened them starting 5 years ago. It was part of the Rip Van Winkle effect I wrote about here:

At this initial phase, when the little girls joined us, other than Karen, the traits that I later came to recognize in each girl were still hidden and untapped. These were also traits that Karen herself largely lacked or they were greatly stunted in her.

But as the little girls came out and began to heal and grow I noticed certain personality traits and intellectual abilities were associated with each girl. And as the little girls began to mature, the traits associated with each one also began to mature. It was, as if, the trait truly had been “arrested” by the dissociation-generated stasis and was eventually locked inside my wife’s brain when the little girls were buried deep inside. These traits were only reinvigorated once the little girls were brought back out to be reconnected with Karen in the larger network of Ka’ryn Marie.

As I’ve worked with and observed the 7 girls in my wife’s network these last 5 years, I’ve constantly noted that each girl has definite “spheres of influence” within the group as a whole. In other words it appears that when the girls were split off and dissociated from the original person born Ka’ryn Marie, they each took with them various personality traits and abilities.

In my personal journal I’ve noted some of the areas that each girl seems to have the major controlling influence over. A small sampling follows: Karen controls finances and sewing abilities along with major banks of photographic memories. Alley controls the logic and debating skills and also the desires to be sexy. KA claims queen bee status of all things pertaining to art (though all the girls claim smaller, sub-divisions under their queen bee and Karen holds a lot of the practical expertise needed for their artistic endeavors ). She’s also my romantic girlfriend. Amy is the certified genius, little business woman, and also drives the desire to play and have fun. Shelley controls the mechanical aptitude skills. Tina controls the organizational skills of the groups and can work all the other girls into the ground (I have to help counteract her tendency to be a workaholic and teach her to listen to the others’ needs for breaks). And even little Sophia controls things: currently she is the portal through which Tina communicates to the other 5 girls. She also controls the ability for sleep.

But as I said, I’m just a staff sergeant. I don’t have the theoretical training to explain things. I’m just more of an observer trying desperately to record what I see and adjust how I help my wife heal accordingly.

Maybe someday this little blog will find the attention of someone who can help me connect the dots and develop a more coherent framework. But for now that’s my take on how arrested development is related to dissociative identity disorder. And to me, the arrested development of each little girl’s skills and abilities was just as important to address as the dissociation that kept the girls apart. In some ways I believe this part of the disorder is even more difficult to correct than the more commonly recognized dissociative aspect for which the disorder is named.  The only way I’ve found to correct it thus far is by restarting the natural maturation clock which means being constantly outside.


Sam, I Am

*Note: Thanks go to a fellow husband with whom I correspond for alerting me to the phrase “arrested development.”


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. undercoverdid
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 17:07:20

    It’s always helpful for me to see how an “outsider” views things when they are close to the topic. I think you’ve really hit on something with the arrested development. Each insider is created and at some point freezes in time and development. I think many people “outsiders” don’t get this and have many misunderstands about DID. I also think many “insiders” would argue with this point because it can be viewed by them as negative when it’s really just a mere fact of their existence and a way to understand why they are in a “big” body yet the voice or understandings of a child.

    Thanks for your insight.


    • Sam Ruck
      Jul 24, 2013 @ 17:29:15

      Hi LH,

      thanks for stopping by. I don’t know how well I explained myself, but I wanted to try to put the concept out there for others to consider because I don’t see it being discussed much, if at all.

      I read your recent post. Good luck on your martial arts training!



  2. those0interrupted
    Aug 04, 2013 @ 12:44:45

    I thought you might find it interesting to hear that our system doesn’t have much of the arrested development in certain alters, and those alters are the ones who didn’t go into stasis (we’re young enough that only a bit of time had passed between the ab*se ending and our core discovering the rest of us, so quite a few alters had been and still are on alert in case it resumes). I can definitely see what you’re describing in the alters who were frozen, though. It’s something that I’d noticed but hadn’t been able to really understand until this post, so thank you.


  3. KCSun
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 13:20:24

    Hi. There are three of us here. We are the three youngest in our system. The baby got absorbed back home already. We arent sure we want to be absorbed. But we got a question for you. Our husband doesnt want us to grow up yet. He says that he thinks our system needs to have Sunshine’s innocence and curiosity and always finding the rainbow no matter how things are. Also the C needs to feel safe and secure all the time first. K wants to grow up now (thats me typing). I like being a little girl but I want to be a part of all of life even though it means that I got responsibilities and cant go inside to play if work gets boring.

    What we want to ask you is do you think we will know when its time to grow up? The teenager girls all grew up already and now they are always with host squished together like playdo balls that come apart when thay need to. K doesnt like being left out. C and Sunshine dont mind because they aare okay being little girls.

    We tried to write so it would make sense. So one more time… is there ever a time when progress needs to be held back in your oppinion?

    Side note. The little girls within our system are very active in most aspects of life and bring unique skills the rest of us lack. Yet thay also have a child’s innocence that my husband of 10 years feels should be protected. One of our little girls gets riled at what is preceived as shielding her from real life and all its good and bad. She is our most courageous, outspoken, organized and often defiant girl. She also carried horrors that I as the previously “protected one” never held and now gladly share the burden to relieve her as much as I can. Any thoughts you can share regarding this would be greatfully taken and pondered.


    • Sam Ruck
      Sep 18, 2013 @ 20:04:43

      I’m not sure I understand your husbands reticence. Just because you “grow up” shouldn’t mean you would give up your innocence and curiosity. I can enjoy My Little Pony with Sophia the youngest almost as much as I enjoy grownup movies. And I would think that the abilities that the little girls control would only strengthen as they mature and grow. Maybe I don’t understand your situation, but unless one of you feels FORCED to grow up before you are ready, I don’t see how there would be any negatives to it.

      Honestly it sounds like you are further ahead than my girls. For some reason NONE of them really want to grow up which is EXCEEDINGLY frustrating to me. Would you be willing to tell me how or why everyone wants to grow up? Did something change?? I wish I could help my girls want to grow up.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope you have time to answer my questions.



      • KCSun
        Sep 19, 2013 @ 07:09:21

        This is Kimmie with help from M. I will tell you a little about me and maybe it will help.

        I was the one that our main abuser would terrorize with bad threats and meanness. I didnt get much of the sex abuse but lots of the physical abuse and mind abuse. I was very very scared and when it all stopped because we moved away I hid in the closet. If I tried to peek out Molly would yell and scream and be real mean to make me go hide again. She was the inside abuser that really never hurt us but intimidated us to stay safe and hidden. She loves us so much now and although she still holds much of our anger she has better ways of being angry and of protecting.

        Anyway for over 30 years I hid in the closet and only sometimes heard things.

        When our husband met me I was a very scared girl still. He would talk to me about my fear and we would look at each fear together and examine what was real and what was caused from my past being carried to now. Example was when he took me to the mall together and left me at the table to get our food. I could see him but I also saw all these men around and I shook so bad. Then he came back and we looked at each one seperately… one was with his family enjoying a day together, a few were talking and visiting. Our husband would say something like, “maybe that one is shopping for his wife a birthday present.” It made me learn to see things with new eyes instead of old ones.

        Then he talked about the choice to face fear and be courageous or to let fear keep you from enjoying life. It took lots of reminders and lots of practice. And sometimes I know that I am making a choice to let fear lead me still. But at least I know I am in control and choosing to pick fear.

        Our husband always makes sure we know we have choices. He said long ago I have a grown up body and a grown up life and no one makes my choices for me anymore because on the outside I am a grown up.

        When my courage got stronger than my fear I wanted to be at the front more. We can share the front easily now. Our husband would point out that outside was real life where our daughter grows up and inside was our safe place just in our head but not real. That took a long time but he uses good logic. And good incentive. Coming out gets hugs from him and lets me learn to drive and best part cook for our family.

        Our husband is good at letting us be uncomfortable. I know he is right there if something gets too bad but he certainly doesnt shield me from being scared or uncomfortable. He is different with c. She needs to feel more safe but she gets pushed too.

        I know this is long but it is all of these things that make me want to grow up. I have more courage and I know real world and safe world differences. I hate tiobe sent inside when a big girl movie is on or when big girl talk is happening. And I think that being in the real world is smarter. If I am playing inside then one of the big girls is making choices for me about everything.

        So for me it has been that our husband has taught me to know that I can choose fear or courage but if I choose fear it has control over me instead of me over it. Our husband said when our body was a little girl we had no control but now we do if we choose to have it. And then it was realizing with logic that our safe world is just in our head and is way too big to fit and be real. And if I am going to have some control in my life I want to be in the real world as much as I can be. And to be here all the time means I have to be a grown up girl.

        If our husband treated me like a little girl all the time and didnt gently push for thinking and acting and being accountable like a big girl then being a big girl wouldn’t seem possible.

        That is my story on wanting to grow up.

      • Sam Ruck
        Sep 19, 2013 @ 15:45:02


        thank you very much for sharing your story. I’ve tried to get my girls to grow up, but it seems maybe I’m carrying them too much. I never know how much is “too much” to push. And my wife’s therapist undermined me because I got Amy to have a birthday her first year out, and then their counselor said that wasn’t necessary. So I kind of lost credibility trying to get them to grow up. Sigh.

        I’m happy for you all and hope you all get to grow up very soon and that you can show your husband that you won’t lose the qualities that you have as “little girls” even once you do grow up.

        Take care and thank you again for sharing!


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