A personality state is a “piece of a puzzle” that fits perfectly with other personality states, and as an infant, humans arrange the pieces into a well patterned and complete masterpiece called the personality. The individual “pieces” allow the human mind to work almost fluently few interruptions.
On the other end of the spectrum is an individual whose life is filled with intrusive interruption, and conflict among the personality states. These people live their life thorough the existence of dissociated states. Dissociated states are of two varieties: less than distinct and distinct. The following disorders have dissociated personality states:dissociative identity disorder, OSDD, and both simple and complex PTSD. (Lanius et al., 2014) .
Sometimes there are dissociated states associated with borderline personality disorder, but only if they underwent the process of structural dissociation. It’s estimated about half of those who suffer from borderline personality disorder and those who have not yet, are still in danger of it. The event occurs at the point when any individual has more unprocessed trauma than the mind can handle. Structural dissociation is the relief for this, but it is not without it’s own problems. (Lanius et al., 2014)
Distinct personality states
Other than in dissociative identity disorder, only one distinct personally state will ever occupy an individuals personality. The personality states in dissociative identity disorder are elaborate, isolated, calm, lack “memory” of childhood trauma and “abuse,” are not child-like, and they live the daily life of an afflicted individual. The dissociative boundaries associated with them are far more “intense” than in any other disorder with dissociated states. (Lanius et al., 2014)
Less than distinct personality states
Less than distinct states exist in all mental disorders that are associated with structural dissociation. In dissociative identity disorder, the less than distinct states are child-like, but they don’t “believe” they were created at a certain age, in contrast with OSDD – where many individuals report their states identify with a certain age, which is because they tend to be created as certain ages in this disorder.
In dissociative identity disorder, states are not created at certain ages, but are instead formed when previous states can no longer “deal” with the amount of trauma a child is experiencing. Individuals with borderline personality disorder who have dissociated states, tend to think of their less than distinct states as being a certain age, while the states in both forms of PTSD are not so elaborate that they express any thoughts on the subject. (Lanius et al., 2014)
There are many labels for dissociated personality states including “personalities,” “ego states,” “sides,” “parts of the personality,” “apparently normal parts,” “emotional parts,” “parts,” and simply states. (van der Hart et al., 2006)
A normal state is inclusive in its ability to maintain communication between other states. To be normal, when referring to mental illness associated with structural dissociation, is to say the state is not dissociated. (van der Hart et al., 2006)
Dissociation is an illness. It is not the same as “highway hypnosis.” It is when a child has been so traumatized their personality states can no longer integrate, and that causes grave problems. (van der Hart et al., 2006)
The amount of trauma enacted upon a child who succumbs to structural dissociation is “underplayed” in scientific literature, but make no mistake, anyone who has suffered structural dissociation has survived a childhood that was fraught with terror. They have survived more than most adults could fathom living through and they did it at a tender and young developmental period of their life when they had no choice other than to succumb or perish. (Lanius et al., 2014)
Brain scans: fMRI
The two types of dissociated states, distinct and less than distinct have very different behavior as verified by fMRI scans. (Schlumpf et al., 2014) In dissociative identity disorder, the distinct states are the usual states that are out (in the conscious part of the mind), and the less than distinct states are most often in the subconscious. (Lanius et al., 2014) The subconscious (inner world) is a fantastical place were the past trauma of an individuals mind plays out in many ways.
Less than distinct states: observing and experiencing
Observing states and experiencing states are both less than distinct states that have different “abilities'” The observing states have been given many names throughout history such as “inner self helper,” “hidden observer,” “inner therapist,” “internal helper,” and so on. The observing states have the ability to handle their emotions better than the experiencing states and they can literally see and hear all other states in the inner world, once they learn the skill. They can change their appearance at will, and at least one will probably move into the role of a leader and will be known to the therapist, at least historically, as the ISH. (Lanius et al., 2014) Some authors have reported that “some” individuals without dissociated states have an observing state which they historically call a hidden observer. (ref Comstock)
Perceived images of selves
In the inner world of the subconscious, less than distinct states tend to perceive an image of themselves. Of course this is just an image the brain projects to the mind, but to the states that make up a dissociated subconscious, the states are quite “real.” (Lanius et al., 2014) Distinct states in dissociative identity disorder are isolated, distinct, and most of all highly phobic of all other states. They cannot accept the brain’s signal, and so if there is an image projected for them, it is interpreted by the less than distinct states. When integration proceeds to an “acceptable level,” then distinct states will be able to accept the image projected by the brain, and eventually will be able to accept their place in the subconscious mind.
The extreme of distinctness among states in dissociative identity disorder
In dissociative identity disorder the isolation gained from phobia results in a separateness that is not experienced in other mental disorders. Each state posses academia gained from childhood experience that is often unavailable to many, if not all of the distinct states. If a child is in danger often, then it is the less than distinct states that are commonly out during childhood. In adulthood, as phobia between the less than distinct and distinct states resolves through the process of integration, distinct states will finally “wake” and then interact with states that are aware in the inner world. As integration continues, states in the inner world will be able to communicate with the state (usually distinct) that is out. Initial communication is slow, but as it progresses the states inside will be able to tell the state that is out how to do many things, but only at the level in which someone would dictate. If a state inside plays piano at concert level, it could not tell the state that is out how to do that. It would have to slowly explain, one note at a time how to play a piece, and the “muscle memory” would not exist in the state that is out. Prior to full integration (unification), only the state with that skill will be able to play the piano.