Persecutory Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder

October 2, 2019 Becca Hargis

Trigger warning: This post contains mention of self-harm as it pertains to persecutory alters in dissociative identity disorder.

Persecutory alters are something that can exist within a dissociative identity disorder (DID) system. We, ourselves, live with this kind of alter. We can feel threatened, taunted, and condemned by this kind of alter. We are harassed with negative messages in our head, screaming that we deserved the abuse and the mistreatment and that we are worthy of death. These cruel messages are ones that persecutory alters in DID offer us.

What Is a Persecutory Alter in DID?

A persecutory alter is another name for an alter that persecutes the host and/or the system. It is an alter that mistreats, controls, and oppresses a DID system in an effort to create, manipulate, and coerce a desired behavior. While many people with DID understandably dislike, if not hate, these persecutory alters, it is crucial to understand that persecutors were not created to inflict pain or punish the host or system. Believe me when I say they are not bad alters. There is no such thing as a "bad" alter. When they were created, the persecutory alter started out as a protector, but at some point, and beyond the scope of this post, these alters found the need to use aggression and hostility as the means by which to protect the system. Persecutory alters can be just as fragile and vulnerable as other alters, which is why they lash out at the system. While it may not make sense, they have good reasons for behaving the way they do, even if we do not see it or understand it at the time.

Reasons for Persecutory Alters in DID

Persecutory alters are far more complex than this post can begin to touch. However, it is imperative to understand that persecutory alters are just trying to protect the system and keep it safe the only way they know at the moment. For example, when the host might begin to date or show romantic interest in another person, the persecutory alter, whose mission is to protect the system, might see this behavior as dangerous and harmful to the system because it might lead to unwelcome emotions, potential vulnerability, and unwanted intimacy. In order to control the behavior of the host, aggression, hostility, and persecution are used to change the host's behavior so he or she will not pursue a romantic relationship. In the eyes of the persecutory alter, this results in the desired safe, protected, and insulated system.

The Persecutory Alters in My DID System

When we first began therapy for DID, we had an alter that would show anger and hostility toward us by canceling our therapy appointments without our consent. She concluded that canceling our appointments would protect our system because she believed therapy would expose our secrets, make us vulnerable, and give the therapist power over us. So, since she was threatened by the therapy appointments, she canceled them.

My system has other persecutory alters, including ones that wish to self-harm our body and inflict an eating disorder on us. The intent of the persecutory alter is to punish us, but in reality, it is simply an attempt at negative reinforcement to prevent us from engaging in conduct the persecutor believes is threatening, such as feeding our body with nutrition or maintaining a healthy weight. The persecutory alter feels threatened by our recovery and tries to punish our attempts at being healthy with punishment through self-harm. 

How to Treat Persecutory Alters

It might be easy to take the view that the persecutor and his or her actions and feelings should just be eradicated and disregarded. Nothing could be further from the truth. Failure to understand the protective role the persecutor serves and finding a way to negate, abandon, and exclude the persecutor will negate any positive outcomes that can be had with this damaging alter. The best course of action to take with a persecutory alter is to recognize, validate, and understand their actions and feelings, even if you do not agree with them. Once you adopt the view that these alters are not bad, you then can begin the healing work of negotiating healthy behaviors with the persecutory alter and bring some peace and harmony to the system.

Even though my previously mentioned persecutory alters are still in my DID system, I have reason to hope and be happy. The job of the persecutory alter who canceled our therapy appointments is still the same: protection of the system; however, her means to protect has changed. She no longer protects us through intimidation and persecution. Once we realized she was not bad, we were able to bargain and negotiate with her to find alternative ways to protect us. She now protects the system in ways that are constructive. She channels her anger into caring for our littles, and she enforces healthy boundaries so that appropriate people can come into our lives and unhealthy people are excluded.

In regards to the other persecutory alters who use self-harm and punishment to enforce an eating disorder on us, their job has also changed. Instead of punishing us with self-mutilation for eating and nourishing our body, they now seek to protect our recovery by developing healthy anger directed toward diet culture and societal standards of how a body should look. 

Turning the Corner with Persecutory Alters in DID

It is very important to note, again, that persecutory alters are not bad; they just have misguided goals in their attempts to protect the system. The most powerful way to get a persecutor on your side and become an ally is to align your purpose with the purpose of the alter, which is to protect the system. Negotiating and bargaining with these alters is only available once you understand the role of a persecutor and validate his or her pain.

My relationship with my persecutory alters turned a positive corner when I acknowledged that their purpose was not to randomly harm us, but rather a misplaced attempt to protect us and keep us safe. Any malice I previously felt toward my persecutory alters dissipated when I realized they were trying to protect us. Since then, while things are still a work in progress, there is much less animosity and hostility and so much more understanding, compassion, and willingness to find other ways to protect. It didn't happen overnight, but it did happen.

I wish this same compassion and understanding for you and all of your alters.

APA Reference
Hargis, B. (2019, October 2). Persecutory Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Becca Hargis

Becca is a mental health advocate who is passionate about ending the stigma against mental illness. She is currently writing a book on her experiences with dissociative identity disorder. You can connect with her on her personal blog, TwitterFacebook and on Instagram.

July, 5 2024 at 12:26 pm

Want to help my loved one but she refuses to seek therapy. Persecutor has trashed our home and slashed our tires. Burns and cuts self then little texts crisis line and police respond with wellness check and that never goes well. Family is exhausted and seemingly helpless to relieve beloved host daughter who is trapped. How can i help???

February, 21 2024 at 5:42 pm

my client is not able or not willing to believe that his persecutor parts have a good side or mean to protect him. what do I say to him.
Thank you.

July, 24 2023 at 8:41 pm

I’m new to this did my niece struggling with this. She lives with me husband and five children. She has a mean alter who likes to harm her. My question is do I have to worry about him harming members of our household? He likes to punch things also. He looks very mean and intimidating. Please help. My anxiety is so bad. Like I said this all new to me and I have been doing lots of research and I’m close touch with her therapist.

April, 11 2023 at 4:24 am

It sounds so easy! Just change the focus of what you angry protectors are mad about and life will be normal! Going to have to try that rosy advice!
Sorry, I do recognize I shouldn't be saying b these things but I can't help it because I'm assuming I'm reading and replying to this article years after it's written and no one is listening anyway anymore.
We have a lot of work to do, excuse us. And our name is ephemeral.

November, 5 2022 at 5:42 pm

Thank you. Im not diagnosed with DID but this article was helpful. I have many negative feelings towards myself, thinking about inflicting pain etc. And its easy to frame it as me doing this on purpose and hating myself. But the idea that these things might be reactions to something that happened in the past and a misguided way how to help and protect myself - and it is possible to find more constructive approach - is very soothing.

October, 17 2022 at 2:59 pm

Can't do it. I'm an SO. I've taken too much damage from the "protective" alter, and watched it sabotage my husband too many times to treat it like it's good and valid. It's not good, and its actions are abominable. It knows how I feel about it, and knows that I will show it the exact amount of respect that it shows me. It used to threaten to leave, taking my husband with it, but I told it that I didn't care if it did enough times, and that if I takes my husband with it, so be it, as long as it's not around anymore, so it stopped. I reject it and devalue it vehemently every time it rears its ugly head. You can't be soft with the protective/persecutory alters; they'll walk all over you and make your life a living hell. Validating them only fuels the fire. Devaluing them shuts them up. Besides, the persecutory alter is just a reflection of the abuser that created the trauma in the first place; it's worthless, useless, and doesn't deserve validation or love. Dismiss it for the abuser it is. Reject it with everything you've got.

February, 15 2023 at 11:27 am

THANK YOU!!! I know we all have different systems but I totally agree in regards to my system. They need to be thrown over the boat and taken to the cleaners and burned and thrown down to Gehenna! KEEP PREACHING SISTER!!!!!! Theses persecutors are different for every system!

The Ophelian constellate
April, 25 2023 at 4:00 pm

Hey let me say I’m really sorry you are/have struggled with this. That’s super valid and persecutory behaviour is incredibly challenging to manage and work through. I’m sure you’re doing the best you can with the information that you understand!
With that said T his is literally the furthest thing from what medical professionals will advise. You are literally talking about coercing someone (who has their own entirely real sense of self, just as real and important as the host) into submission with emotional abuse… I’m sincerely horrified to read your comment and I genuinely hope your partner system is in therapy because you are probably actively retraumatizing them..
Like did you read the article? It’s fairly common knowledge in dissociative disorder circles, that persecutory alters are literally just doing their job, and the only genuine solution(that isn’t LITERALLY equivalent to abusing a thinking, feeling person into isolation) to persecutory behaviour is working with the alter to help them see the persecutory behaviour isn’t needed/helping to keep the system safe.
Seriously my intention isn’t to shame you, I just want to ask you to PLEASE do more research as what you are describing is literal abuse - even though you probably have really good intentions and I’m sure are struggling from the sounds of it!

April, 26 2023 at 3:50 pm

I agree 100%. My boyfriend who I have lived with for 10 years who is the one who was born to the body and abused by his mother sexually from a single digit age turned into his other alter who saved him from the horror of the abuse. He was a complete jerk to me for several years. Cheated with any woman who would have anything to do with him. That’s when I started hearing them talk when he was asleep. It took awhile to make out what they were saying but no more. The reason that the alter who cheated on me did it was because of this persecutor alter. He has been trying to distort my relationship for years because he claims that they will never be happy. He wants them to be with other woman so they don’t have to care about anybody. I have tried the miss nice girl crap for a while and it is a waste of time. I have been threatened to be killed so many times i couldn’t begin to count. He is determined to break us up so my boyfriend will go be with other woman. This is a constant everyday affair. I’m so sick of E, who we will call him, that I want to know how to get rid of him. All of the others in the system think the same way because E has done nothing but ruin there lives for the last 40 years. I no longer try to get him to be with the rest of us, meaning all of the others love and want to be with me except him. I am at the point to say f it and get rid of them all if they do what he wants them to do. Nice is not the answer. I have tried for years. I’m ready for war now. Anybody got an idea how to get him to go back in the hole he came out of. All the alters want him gone. What can they do and me to make it happen.

Brenda S
April, 10 2022 at 8:52 pm

I need some serious help. One of my husband's alters has completely wrecked our lives. He has taken control of our bank accounts and all identification. He also has been communicating with my husband via email by impersonating his sister, doctor and friends in order to do things not in his best interest. Like skip meds. We are going to be homeless because of this alter.
I did everything suggested in this blog post. I was gentle, kind, understanding and supportive and welcoming. In exchange he said he would only return some things to us if I had sex with two other alters and let him watch.
Now he has essentially bankrupted us and said he will cut off my husband's only source of income by impersonating him to social security.
I do not know what to do.
All the alters but this one are now gone and I had to retrieve my husband from down the road where he wandered because he did not know where he was nor the year nor who I am.
Please help us.

Robert Matthias
December, 23 2022 at 12:04 pm

have you tried a diary to communicate and hopefully try to understand this destructive behaviour , I understand for instance as from my experience that if alters have been seeking revictimization ( seeking abuse as learned behaviour ) that they can try and destroy host and anyone who get close in an attempt to remove them for fear they may reveal their shameful secret .. One lady was releaved when her persecutor was encouraged to pursue a talent for art . The lady i supported i encouraged to communicate with each alter and sharing they were welcome to share their pain . Her persecutor alter was an introject of an abuser named Francois a S African man who had a homeless charity

Robert Matthias
December, 23 2022 at 12:04 pm

have you tried a diary to communicate and hopefully try to understand this destructive behaviour , I understand for instance as from my experience that if alters have been seeking revictimization ( seeking abuse as learned behaviour ) that they can try and destroy host and anyone who get close in an attempt to remove them for fear they may reveal their shameful secret .. One lady was releaved when her persecutor was encouraged to pursue a talent for art . The lady i supported i encouraged to communicate with each alter and sharing they were welcome to share their pain . Her persecutor alter was an introject of an abuser named Francois a S African man who had a homeless charity

The Cutie System
February, 11 2022 at 11:21 am

I feel as though I’m a monster for being a prosecutor to my system. I don’t mean to, but I turn to lashing out and anger out of fear of the system being hurt. But now I’m trying to change, thank you for this article.

March, 1 2022 at 6:41 pm

you're doing your best. it's kind of you to try to protect, and I respect you a lot for trying to do the work to protect in a way that is kindest to yourself and your system

Dream Bubble Apartments
March, 25 2022 at 7:20 pm

Oh same here! And being the Host/Core doesn't help things either. I lash out and hurt people or alters that feel like they're dangerous and I want to stop.

will not disclose
December, 31 2021 at 4:49 pm

thank you for this. i am a persecutor and trying my best to change my ways. i've become self aware of my actions, and i know the things i do (attempts at self-harm, lash out, etc.) are wrong. it's difficult trying to change when this is the only thing you know how to do, especially when i'm also a trauma holder. the rest of my headmates do not know how to help me, so this is a journey i must embark alone. again, thank you for this article, as it's made me feel better and motivated me to continue trying.

Robert Matthias
November, 25 2021 at 2:44 pm

In case my posting distressed anyone with DID despite all that i have endured Rachel the persecutor alter was doing what she thought was the right thing to do to protect the child . .Knowing Rachels past have to forgive but but i will never forget

Robert Matthias
October, 5 2021 at 6:19 am

i was removed by a pesercutor alter in 2015 when child alter revealed mommy ( client ) was seeing a naughty man . 4yrs 8 months abuse rape and torture of client and threats to her carer for reporting Little 2 yr old Bethie alerted 5 times . Tributes and condolences to family of the sadist following him doing a jeffrey Epstein his only option and continued threats by police for revealing they failed in their duty of care. victim traumatized displaying symptoms of conversion disorder cannot walk using a mobility scooter i am traumatized and distressed for the woman i rescued when homeless

June, 10 2021 at 12:36 pm

Thank you so much! I wish I had understood this earlier when I accompanied my ex during the first lockdown through his paranoid psychosis.
He never got diagnosed on DID, i think he is afraid of it, but I saw him switch many times and there were different behaviors, cognitive and emotional abilities, memories ... one of them had voices in his head, another denied, and so on...
Anyway, there was no mental health institute he could go to and i tried to be there for him. It got better, though i never understood what this persecutory's goal was, demeaning him, blocking all his electronic accesses to contact anyone (including me until I moved in) and so on. Probably it was to protect him from harmful others.
Late understanding is better than none at all. Thank you for this blog!

September, 30 2020 at 12:59 pm

is there ways to make a persecutory alter go away from the whole system???

Lorraine Erickson
October, 2 2019 at 2:09 pm

Dear Becca,
The blog you posted on October 2, 2019 is very insightful for those who have friends or family with DID. It helped me to understand you better and have great empathy with all your struggles.

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