The Man Who Forgot He Doesn’t Exist

5 mins read

Author’s Note: The most horrific aspect of child abuse is that it often takes place in an institution or a community that doesn’t care or doesn’t want to bother. The adults often blame the child if he reveals the abuse or if the abuse becomes too apparent to ignore.

The best recent example of institutional abuse is Donald Trump’s detention camps where children are separated from their families and treated like criminals.

How does a four-year-old escape the horror of a world that feels like a death trap? And how does the experience impact these children as they grow up?

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a childhood-onset trauma symptom induced by an overwhelming confrontation with human evil before the brain can create a functional mind.

When my psychiatrist diagnosed DID in 2009, I was already too symptomatic to work. I had no interest in social media, but I compulsively staged virtual photoshoots in Second Life and posted those photos to my Flickr stream.

“The Man Who Forgot He Doesn’t Exist” (above) is an example of the images I staged and posted.

I still feel like a man who doesn’t exist.

With therapy, I eventually understood that I used my avatars the way a child uses dolls when asked to describe an assault for which there are no words.

Most people are unable to comprehend a person whose different emotional states and memories emerge as separate people with different names, genders, and world views. It’s easy to dismiss these confusing and unsettling expressions of the mind as attention-seeking irresponsibility.

This short film, Inside, is a weirdly accurate illustration of how it feels to be an “us” – minus the atmospheric asylum.

A primary goal of psychotherapy is getting everyone “inside” to agree.

I’m not there yet.

M. Scott Peck, the psychiatrist who authored The Road Less Traveled, described evil as “militant ignorance. I wonder if militant denial is a form of evil. In People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Peck describes narcissism as a type of evil. I see no difference between the individual narcissist and the cultist tribal communities that plague American culture.

A person with DID was a child whose mind shattered under the stress of life in an all-pervasive culture of evil from which there was no escape.

Recovery from DID and complex PTSD involves a never-ending cycle of accepting the damage, managing the symptoms, healing what can be healed, and working to make a life worth living within the context of managing a chronic illness. For me, healing means bearing witness to the evil, naming it, and working for change

I want us to unite to make our world safe for children. I want us to protect them from evil.

Children do not choose to live in hunger and pain.

Art by Rob Goldstein

According to Peck, an evil person lies to himself to prop up an image of perfection. This person also:

  • Deceives others as a consequence of their lies
  • Projects their evils and sins onto particular targets (scapegoats) while being reasonable with everyone else
  • Commonly hates with the pretense of love
  • Abuses political and (emotional) power (“the imposition of one’s will upon others by overt or covert coercion”)
  • Maintains respectability based on lies
  • Is consistent in their sins – evil persons are characterized not so much by the magnitude of their sins but by their consistency (of destructiveness)
  • Is unable to think from the viewpoint of their victim (scapegoat)
  • Has a covert intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury

According to Peck, evil people realize the wickedness deep within themselves but are unable to tolerate the pain of introspection or admit to themselves that they are evil.

Evil thrives on denial.


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