The Host of a Dissociative Identity Disorder Network

My wife/my girls and I have been on the road to recovery from dissociative identity disorder for the last 5 years. And for some time I’ve wanted to broach the subject of “the host” in my wife’s network. Let me preface everything that follows with the admission, as always, that I only have the perspective of ONE person with d.i.d.: my wife. So what follows is simply what I’ve observed in her and may or may not apply to others with d.i.d. Second, I want to clearly state that I love and respect Karen, the host in my wife’s network.

I’m not sure how to proceed, so maybe I’ll do some bullet points about this subject:

1)      It’s obvious that there’s a bias toward the host in the professional literature available. I was reading some articles again today in which the only person in the network who was referred to as a “person” was the host. Another article called the host the “patient” whereas the others were simply called “alters.” It’s unfortunate, but that’s how so many within the ISSTD community view the network of people within a d.i.d. person. In my opinion, however, the host is the front person for the network when all is fine, but she is neither more nor less important than any of the others within the group.

2)       In my opinion the host is the “shell of a person.” This is not meant as a criticism against the host. It’s simply a reality of the disorder. As the trauma occurs, the original person begins to split off, creating new insiders to help deal with and sequester the trauma. Each time an insider splits off from the original, however, he/she takes along various personality traits and skills. Thus, the host is an ever-shrinking caricature of the original person.

As I’ve observed everyone in my wife’s network, I have tried to find an analogy that might describe what I’ve observed. I see Karen as the black and white part of life, whereas the little girls are the ones that add color to life. Karen is the “bones,” the “foundation” of the group whereas the little girls are the flesh and blood, the embellishments of the group.

When the trauma was over and Ka’ryn Marie had ceased splitting, Karen was left with the basics to function in a grayish kind of life, but anytime something unpleasant occurred she continued to switch out to allow the little girls to deal with things. She was somewhat like “Flat Sam” without the presence of the little girls connected to her: she lost the dimensionality that a non-dissociated person has to enjoy life and also deal with the crap that is part of life.

Again this has nothing to do with the worth of any of the people within the network; I see it simply as a matter of how they function as a whole, even while partially dissociated.

3)      Karen is a placater not a pleaser, and I think the difference is real. A lot of literature states that the host is a “pleaser” but I don’t see that in Karen. When I please my girls or my son, I do what they want. I want to make them happy, and so I specifically ask them what they’d like so that I do it right!

But placation is entirely different. It’s about doing the minimal amount to satisfy the other person. Karen has literally never asked me “What would you like, Sam?” and then done it, whether in the bedroom or elsewhere. Before I understood about the d.i.d. this was a continual source of strife (it still hurts like hell, now) because as the person of my affections, I’ve asked my wife hundreds of times in 25 years what she would like in the bedroom and elsewhere and then happily set about doing it. But Karen recently told me, again, that the very thought of asking me that question nearly brings her to tears. She literally can NOT ask me. She does placate me. She’ll do things she “thinks” I want because she loves me, but she’s unable to please me like I happily do her.

4)      Karen is all about safety. That’s the host’s job: to live life on a nice, flat plane of relative safety, but when that’s not possible, she goes inside to allow the others to deal with life. But that cuts both ways. Not only is she unequipped to deal with the crap that life throws at all of us, but she also is unable to grab life with both hands and squeeze everything out of it that she can. The little girls are about daring and exploration and carpe diem, seizing the day; not Karen. She likes her comfort zone: the little girls are constantly pushing against those safe walls that Karen has erected.

5)      Karen can NOT deal with the normal spectrum of human emotions that the little girls have brought to my wife’s life. It’s why I strongly object to the typical way of “recovering memories” because a host simply is unequipped to deal with the emotions associated with past and present trauma: that’s the domain of the various insiders. (https://samruck2.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/recovering-memories-an-inside-out-approach-part-2/)

Just recently Karen was complaining to me how the emotions that Tina is still bringing to the group are overwhelming her, Karen. I was kind of surprised. So I asked Amy about it, and “Naw, Daddy, they aren’t a problem” she essentially told me. For Amy, Tina’s emotions were no longer an issue, but they still are for Karen. Therefore, I’ve begun coaching the little girls to “wrap” Karen in their arms to help her deal with the emotions which she is unable to process, and that seems to be helping.

6)      Some of the other girls in the network consider Karen “weak” or “docile.” It’s a fair assessment on certain levels. Other than Shelly and KA, all the other inside girls had to deal with outside trauma that Karen was unable to handle. But that’s what this healing journey is about: bringing all the girls together so they can rely on one another’s strengths as they minimize each other’s weaknesses (which they all have)!

7)     When we first began this healing journey, Karen often acted like a “broken prima donna.” A d.i.d. network functions to keep the host semi-functional. The insiders focus on protecting her from unnecessary trauma. Therefore, even though Karen never had the arrogance of the typical prima donna, she did act like everything was about her. She denied the d.i.d. She called the other girls “aliens.” She pined, and still pines, for her “old life” never realizing how truly dysfunctional and hurtful that life was to me or to the other girls to keep up the charade of normalcy.

But enough of the “negatives”. Here are some positive things that I see in my wife’s host, Karen.

1)      She controls many of the baseline functions of the personality. Because the little girls are still in the process of recovering Karen’s memories as their own, Karen has a wealth of practical, outside skills that the little girls lacked when they first came out. So even though the little girls are the daring, the exploration, the thirst for new adventures in my wife, Karen provides the baseline from which they start those things.

2)      She does outright control various strengths within my wife’s personality like math skills, sewing, and artistic expertise (KA has the “spirit” of the artist) to name a few.

3)      She is my first girl. Her named is tattooed on my hip, and whenever she gets discouraged or thinks she’s no longer important to me or the others as their healing progresses, I remind her of  how much I love her and that the other girls can NOT get along without her anymore than she can get along without them.

As I write this little entry about the host in my wife’s d.i.d. network, I hope I have conveyed it as intended. I do not want this to be a personal attack on Karen or any other host. I hope this will help other supporting people to understand the limitations of a host which are simply an outcome of the d.i.d. Karen is a wonderful woman and her shortcomings are not for any other reason than how this disorder works. But there was previously a lot of frustration on my part as I fumed: Why can’t she act like an adult? Now that I’ve come to understand the reasons for those shortcomings, that knowledge has helped me to be much more sympathetic and empathetic toward Karen as I help all my girls heal.

Blessings,

Sam, I Am

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jeffssong
    Aug 04, 2013 @ 19:00:02

    An excellent description, IMO, Sam. The host is often the most powerless one of all! – and the ‘flatness’ desired often leads to unhinging & problems. I’m glad you wrote this as it helps me see some ways of dealing with ‘mine’ – and they with ‘us’.

    Reply

  2. Keith R Wilson
    Aug 07, 2013 @ 13:27:31

    I really love the insight and fairness that you bring to this difficult, but fascinating topic. I have not observed the “flatness” of the host that you describe, but that may very well be because they were made more well rounded by the alters.

    I have asked every DID client I have ever worked with the same question: who is the stage manager? Who decides which of the alters gets air time at any particular moment? I’ve never come across anyone who had an answer, nor do I expect to, since it is apparently done at an unconscious level. However, I think it’s important to ask because it shows one way that the alters can act in a unified fashion when they need to.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Aug 07, 2013 @ 19:06:53

      Hi Keith,

      thanks for stopping by again. I appreciate it! I’m glad you feel I accomplished being fair but informative.

      Yeah, I’ve noticed the subconscious (I call it psychic) connection that the girls often have. But I can’t always count on it. Sometimes the dissociative barriers were absolute and complete especially in the beginning. But at this point, the girls are definitely more connected than they understand. They will tell me that they still can’t communicate with Tina except thru Sophia, and yet I see subtle and not-so-subtle evidence that that is simply not the case anymore even if they can’t see if for themselves.

      Sam

      Reply

  3. flowerofthewoods
    Aug 29, 2013 @ 17:22:56

    I find it interesting that modern psychology has taken that bias towards the host. The book Sybil asserts that the host is a “depleted person,” and I’ve read a few older articles (from back before the name was changed to D.I.D) that posited that there might not even be a host present in a network of personalities. From what I can tell, your observations here are more in line with older views of Multiple Personalities.

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Aug 29, 2013 @ 17:34:34

      Hi Flower,

      thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comments, but they are kind of generic so I’m not completely sure if you are responding to my comments about the “bias toward” the host or my “observations” in general about how Karen functions within my wife’s network.

      I tried to qualify this article at the beginning that my observations were simply how Karen functioned within my wife’s network. But you could be correct about how modern psychology views the host. I have not done a systematic, overarching review of the current literature out there. I read here and there, some popular literature, some professional, and the general feel I get is what I stated. I do know some therapists are very willing to work with and validate the insiders, but many do not. And there always seems to be a “need” for them to qualify references to the insiders as “parts, alters, and such” other de-humanizing terms that I don’t see nearly as often attached to the “host”.

      I do appreciate your comments.

      Sam

      Reply

      • flowerofthewoods
        Aug 30, 2013 @ 12:49:21

        Sorry for being vague. I tend to oversimplify when there’s a lot on my mind, and I’m still not sure how to sort it out in a way that’s understandable.

        I’ve looked for older sources when I researched multiple personalities, and some of the changes between the views held then and the ones held now by mainstream psychology have changed drastically for seemingly no reason. In the book “Sybil”, for example, the doctor realizes that Sybil herself is a depleted person, and spends most of the time working with the personalities and helping them through their individual problems. In the book “Minds In Many Pieces,” the psychiatrist shares a story about how when he asked for the host in one of his multiple patients, he unexpectedly found himself talking to a little girl. It turned out that the original birth personality had gone to sleep inside, and that the adult that the psychiatrist had presumed was the host had been a personality created to grow up in her place until it was safe for her to come out again. From what I’ve observed, mainstream psychology completely ignores those observations now, because it has become too caught up in the idea that there is only one person and that the rest are all “delusions.” That’s what I was thinking of when I read your paragraph about the bias towards the host.

        I think that it’s great that you’re making first-person observations rather than relying on what the literature on the subject says — that way you can focus on how things *are*, rather than on what someone else says how they *should be.*

        I’m sorry if I don’t make much sense. I’m not very well practiced at this sort of communication.

      • Sam Ruck
        Aug 30, 2013 @ 14:22:03

        Hi Flower,

        thanks for clarifying, and please don’t beat yourself up about the lack of clarity. I do it myself, plenty!

        I did not realize therapists have shifted their strategies, though I have MOST DEFINITELY noticed that the modern ISSTD guidelines push the idea of the unity of the person: sometimes I think they don’t even get what “dissociation” means. Just because they want to treat the person as a whole and hold them accountable as a whole, does not undo the fundamental nature of d.i.d. (dissociation!!!) So yes, I most definitely help my wife/my girls how they currently “are”. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the reason we have had ZERO suicidal issues because I validate each and every girl exactly where she is. Sure I wish they all wanted to relate to me as husband and wife, but they aren’t there yet and so I love them and help them where they are at as I gently move them toward that final goal.

        Sam

  4. vacancy
    Jun 30, 2014 @ 12:17:09

    I hope you will indulge my reply. I am a person much like you being a spouse and because of that regarded on the outside. I am what is called an alter which is as much as being told you are sub human. I have been told I can not be included in conversations, offer opinions etc. I have not come however to lament my perceived position by the outside world, maybe to find a bit of sanctuary, maybe just to tell you that I have seen your work and I am very appreciative.

    Let me say in defense of our “host” and again another word that is less then it should be. We have had three over the years and I can say for myself I am not capable of day to day living. The person who does do that is in a tenuous position. To live day to day means you have to be “cut off” from the inside to a certain degree.

    I suppose one who has a smaller mental family might not have this need but in our case we do. Some know all some know none but to maintain normal one who lives needs to be muted from inside. Otherwise one might present as “insane” “manic” “paranoid” etc.

    Our person became a shell out of need to manage not out of want. She is opposite of your experience all she does is manage the needs of others she has no needs. The person can not afford them as they show a perceived weakness that is otherwise known as normal humanity. Our “host” is also a “protector” which i promise has every thing to do with how we live and the safety we enjoy because of her.

    The negative side is it is hard to get treatment for illness, hard to eat, hard to do much of any self care other then how it reflects on loved people outside. Our person who is “host” is working to understand with the therapist just simple things like why one may want to check in with doctors etc. It seems rudimentary. It is not though self care is invasive and often requires help of others for our “host/protector” and even for many of us that is as good as walking into the lions den.

    I am telling you because I honestly appreciate your effort, I search and search and have not come across many like you. Maybe something I said can help you understand a bit about something previously not understood. Maybe you will just let me sit in appreciation of new found gold that is your perspective. Maybe I will have the right word when you are weary. I often am, but because of your efforts for someone you love less so today.

    may God be with you and the ones you love.
    Vacancy

    Reply

    • Sam Ruck
      Jun 30, 2014 @ 17:23:55

      Hi Vacancy,

      Thank you very much for visiting my blog and being willing to share with me and others about your experiences in your group. I don’t know how much of my blog you have read, but I fully share your dislike of terms like “alters” and such and only use “host” with the same dislike. In day to day life, they are just my girls and each one has a name and a place in my life and heart. I am still in the process of teaching each and every girl that she is real and just as important to me as “the host”; but we are getting there.

      As I’ve watched my girls struggle and heal and been an intimate part of that process, I can understand a little of your experience as well. I’m glad our experience has helped you feel a little less weary today. I certainly understand how tiring it is for myself as a spouse, and can only imagine what it was like for them (and you) as I watched them and helped them.

      Take care,

      Sam

      Reply

  5. Trackback: Dissociative Identity Disorder and the Libido | Loving My DID Girl(s)

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