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Rafaele Huntjens. Yourself, who is that?

Yourself, who is that?
Yourself, who is that?

Yourself, who is that?

‘Yourself, who is that

You contain so many layers,

so many facets,

so many selves,

that you never know:

Which me shall I be today?'

These are the words of Annie M. G. Schmidt, a Dutch poet (1911-1995). This poem portrays how people with dissociative identity disorder (DID) feel. DID is characterized by the experience of having two or more identities that, in turn, determine your behaviour, feelings, and thoughts. Additionally, many people with DID state that they do not know what is happening when another identity takes over. This makes it difficult to function in day-to-day life, as people with DID tend to have a hard time managing the chaos that comes with experiencing multiple identities. Additionally, they often experience gaps in their memories, both in that of recent times but also memories of negative experiences in their childhood. Some identities might state that they remember certain events, while other identities, the ones present more often in daily life, experience amnesia.

This is why we conducted research into the cognitive functioning of people with DID, to uncover what exactly is going on. Is it true that certain information acquired by a certain identity is not available to another identity? This did not appear to be the case. In objective tasks, the memory of the person with DID functioned well, comparable to that of a person without DID. We did find, however, that people with DID often have different views of themselves and their memories. For example, multiple people stated that they would be afraid of becoming mad if they were to remember negative experiences from the past. Erroneous metacognitive convictions such as these seem to be an important factor in the continued existence of the multiple identities, and the avoidance of realizing and processing negative experiences from the past.

These and other findings from basic cognition research have prompted the development of a new treatment plan for people with DID. In collaboration with several partners of other universities and mental health care institutions, a study is being carried out to determine the effectiveness of this treatment plan. Processing the negative experiences instead of avoiding them, adjusting erroneous metacognitions, and changing persistent maladaptive behavioural patterns to more healthy patterns are all central to this treatment plan. This line of research can hopefully contribute to people with DID gaining a better understanding of who they are.

Last modified:30 March 2023 11.47 a.m.
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