I’ve discussed my difficulties with setting personal boundaries and some of what contributes to those difficulties. But it occurs to me that there may be a link between the high suggestibility of people with Dissociative Identity Disorder and the challenges so many of us face with personal boundaries. It seems reasonable that saying no would be more difficult for people who are particularly susceptible to the power of suggestion.
Dissociation is a kind of self-hypnosis. People with Dissociative Identity Disorder are severely and chronically dissociative. As such, we use the power of suggestion on ourselves all the time. It’s so instinctual that I’d wager most of us have no idea we’re doing it when we’re engaging in this form of self-hypnosis. I certainly don’t. But in a therapy session recently I had an interesting and enlightening experience that illustrated for me how potent the power of suggestion can be, and how it might impact my ability to protect my personal boundaries.
The Power of Suggestion in Action
My doctor was explaining how people with Dissociative Identity Disorder can use their dissociative skills in their favor to process traumatic material. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, “For instance if we worked with just the knowledge piece, I’d say, ‘Right now you’re not going to feel any of the emotions associated with this material. We’ll focus only on the facts.’” As she was speaking, I became aware of something I normally wouldn’t have the capacity to recognize in action – my mind was responding to her direction, regardless of the fact that it was merely an example of a direction she might give at another time. I could feel my consciousness shift to accommodate her suggestion. It was a powerful experience that got me thinking … what if my mind responds similarly to other requests? Is it possible that my personal boundaries are sometimes difficult to maintain in part because of severe dissociation and its inherent hypnotic quality?
How the Power of Suggestion Might Impact Personal Boundaries
It’s not a direct, ‘dissociation + suggestion = problems with personal boundaries’ equation. I suspect the relationship between the power of suggestion and struggles with personal boundaries is far more complex than that. After all, it’s not like I’m walking around without a mind of my own, doing whatever people tell me to. There is a difference between the high suggestibility of those of us with Dissociative Identity Disorder and co-dependency. In other words, I’m dissociative, not self-sacrificial. And that’s precisely what’s confused me in the past about my problems with personal boundaries: I’m not a people-pleaser. I’d made the connection between identity alteration and the dynamics of boundary setting, but this experience taught me that part of the reason those of us with Dissociative Identity Disorder might switch self-states in response to requests or demands, whether it’s to accommodate or deny them, is because we’re instinctively responding to the power of suggestion.
It’s just a theory, and I’m curious to know what you think about it.
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