J8’s Take on “The Myth of Sanity”

The Myth of Sanity (by Martha Stout) – my own review

I want to make it clear before I start writing that disagreement can be respectful, and that’s always how I intend to be. Nothing I’m about to say is meant to disrespect anyone else in any way. I have a different opinion (what else is new?). I don’t feel like that makes me better (or worse) than anyone else. We are all on the same level. We are all entitled to think whatever we think. Now that that’s out of the way…

It’s striking to me how different things stand out to different people. I was intrigued by the idea of this book, by running across the previous review from fellow blogger Crazy in the Coconut, which I re-blogged last week. I would encourage you to go read that review before you come back to mine. Their negatives notwithstanding, I still wanted to read it. Oddly enough, I not only wasn’t offended by the things pointed out in the other review, I actually barely noticed them and had to go back and look for them to make sure I hadn’t missed what the other reviewer was talking about.

I think this is probably just a difference in temperament, even though that sounds odd to say about two bloggers who both have D.I.D. Haha. I guess what I mean is, the other blogger found a couple of things offensive/disappointing, but I just didn’t take it that way, and I’m not sure if it’s just because we’re in a very different place in our lives, or what.

Crazy in the Coconut actually gives this book a much more thorough and superior review than I could, in general, with their synopsis of what the book is about, so I’m not going to reiterate those points. They convinced me to read it in just a few short paragraphs, and I don’t think I could do any better than that. LOL. But I would like to gently approach their “dislikes” with my own take on those things. Again, not meant to disrespect. I am the kind of person who not only doesn’t mind, but actually likes to hear differing viewpoints on a subject before I decide what I think (if I decide to take a stance at all). Almost every issue one can discuss is multi-faceted. This is part of what makes life so fascinating.

Mrs. Stout’s suggestion that perhaps people who have more dramatic personalities to start with may have more blatantly obvious D.I.D. was sort of an anti-climactic statement to me. I not only understand that idea, but also tend to agree with it, but also with keeping in perspective her emphasis on the fact that most people who have D.I.D. are not characterized that way at all. Most people who have it are not going to be obvious, and this can be verified by the countless cases of D.I.D. who have in their history a sad, sometimes years-long series of misdiagnoses before they ended up with the correct one. I think the only reason the writer brought it up in the first place is to make sense of the idea that, as a nation, there are probably quite a few more cases of full-blown D.I.D. walking around than have been diagnosed, and to answer the obvious question of why and how that might be true. No one that I’ve ever known, past or present, ever had any clue I had D.I.D. unless and until I told them (with the exception of the people I’m working with now, who, ironically, are not formally working in the mental health profession). This includes psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, social workers, and mental health professionals of several different types and levels and degrees. As far as being “dramatic,” as a single personality or even a system, I feel like that is a trait that someone is born with, and even if it gets dispersed to the four winds by trauma, it may still shine through in some ways no matter which inside person is leading. This doesn’t seem controversial to me. But maybe I missed the point. Someone can enlighten me in the comments, if they want to.

As far as the difficulties Mrs. Stout described in relating to people with D.I.D., due to our gaps in awareness and the misunderstandings they might cause, I once again didn’t feel like this was very remarkable. I am one of those people she cites that tends to take responsibility for myself and my life, maybe even overly so, so I automatically assume when there are problems with people that it’s probably my fault.  That’s just always a safe assumption in my world.  Not to say that no one else ever makes mistakes or gets grouchy or mis-communicates something, but my standard reaction is to assume me or mine did something that threw someone off. So that statement felt pretty par for the course.  But I also felt that throughout the length of the book, her admiration, respect, love, understanding, and even a large degree of awe that she feels toward trauma survivors shone through to the uttermost. So a couple of true statements about the flip side didn’t seem out of line to me.

I – as an SRA survivor, and a person with D.I.D. – have no doubt that I am difficult to be friends with, at best. And I mean on a good day. I have a tendency to be circumspective by nature, and even by being part of online groups full of people with D.I.D., I can understand why we might be overwhelming.  I think I’ve improved over the years, but I think the sheer amount of abuse, terror, trauma, negativity, lies about who we are, fears, double binds, injustices, etc that have been injected into my very soul starting before birth and continuing for years beyond, have produced a person (or system of people, as it were) who have to, by necessity, vomit those things back out, one way or another, in order to heal and be truly free. This is not my fault, but yet, it is what it is. It takes a strong and mature person to 1) be able to handle this state of affairs at all, which includes (but is not limited to the ability to) 2) be able to walk in relationship with such a person without trying to rescue them or fix them or take responsibility for them, and without getting pulled down, or frustrated, or drained, and 3) maintain their own sense of identity, joy, and purpose even while witnessing an incredible amount of struggle, fear, pain, rage, and hopelessness in someone they care about. I have yet to find such a person, to be honest. Before this year I would have said that such a person doesn’t exist, but I tend to go back and forth on that. I tend to feel that if no human being was ever intended to endure what I went through – if it was so beyond my capability that the only way to survive was to fragment – then there probably isn’t going to be any human being who can endure it second-hand. But, as I said…the jury is still out on that. 😉

As far as the allegations that a person with D.I.D. could be capable of being a perpetrator as well as a survivor, unfortunately, I do agree with this assessment as well. She did not say ALL SURVIVORS BECOME PERPS. That would be ridiculous. But due to the very nature of extreme dissociated ego states, the possibility is there. This is just a sad fact. The possibility doesn’t mean it’s true. It just means it’s a possibility. This has been documented in real life more than a few times, so it’s not just an abstract proposal. I didn’t feel the author was making a judgment statement in that assessment, I just felt like she was being truthful regardless of the backlash. A respectable feat, in my opinion.

Perhaps a different placement in the order of the book would have made these things feel less like the author’s conclusion, which is not how it felt to me, but they did come later in the book, more toward the end.

As far as the rest of the book goes, I have to say I was astounded by it. I have never read a more compassionate, down-to-earth, insightful and empathetic discussion of dissociation. I felt throughout the whole thing that this person truly loves, appreciates, and regards her clients with reverence. I loved the way the writer was able to give the reader an idea of what the experience of being dissociated is like, and not just a cerebral description. The bottom line for me was that I felt truly and uniquely understood – which, believe me, is not a feeling I get to experience very often. A person can be loved – and indeed, I am, and I know that – but love can be given without understanding. Understanding, though, is a rare and beautiful gift of connection that makes love feel all the more real and genuine. Understanding obliterates the isolation that I feel every day, no matter who is around or what else is going on.

I give the book a 5-star rating. Go read it! Cheers. ~J8

5 thoughts on “J8’s Take on “The Myth of Sanity””

  • 1
    Bourbon on July 28, 2014 Reply

    Hi there. I did say in the comments that my opinion of the book had changed in time. Unfortunately I do have a tendency to overblow up negatives in things. Merely because that is what my childhood was all about. Every tiny little thing was blown up far out of proportion so that is how I have learnt to be. Something I am learning to work on through my therapy, along with everything else!
    On the point of dramatic personalities creating dramatic systems… I know that would offend a LOT of people which is why I didn’t want to really go into it on my blog. I’m not out to engage in frictious debates like that at the moment. Like you, I understand it. But then I’m not the one being called dramatic and being told my system is an elaborate acting scene! She does use the word ‘acting’ if I remember correctly. Some people just have more of a ‘flair’ for acting. Like I said, I know many people who would find that offensive.
    Also, I recognise that she didn’t say every person with DID goes on to abuse their children. I recognise she was saying it as a possibility. The need to say it at all was a bit offputting. Is that usually found in books about bipolar too? cancer? wealthiness? people from all walks of life can abuse. Need it be spelt out to the population who are already being saturated with horror films: “person with DID switches and goes on killing spree” type films? That is a matter of opinion I guess!
    Thank you for emailing me too to let me know what you were doing.

    • 2
      talktoj8 on July 28, 2014 Reply

      Yeah, I totally understand. I am perhaps just more laid back. Thanks for being cool.

      • 3
        Bourbon on July 28, 2014 Reply

        I am at the moment in a position of advocating for people with DID online who are victims of cyber-bullying because of what is said about them and how they are treated (by other DID’ers). I cannot be laid back about it as it is very dangerous. Martha Stout isn’t online but perhaps she got caught up in the crossfire somewhat!

        • 4
          talktoj8 on July 28, 2014

          perhaps. 😉

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