What has been the most challenging experience of your career?
Perhaps the most challenging experience has been drawn out over many years. This is the challenge of assisting colleagues to grasp the reality of dissociative identity disorder (DID) and related trauma-spectrum conditions. The challenge has been to be educational without being dogmatic, to be inclusive, while still having points of difference, to be identified as belonging, at the same time as fostering change, to be empathic and welcoming while avoiding any temptation to be judgemental about perceived ignorance on the part of colleagues. It has also been important to avoid going beyond the data in making public pronouncements about anything to do with the spectrum of trauma, but especially to do with DID, recovered memory, and alleged Satanic abuse.
What has been the best experience?
The best experience has been working collaboratively and supportively with a wide range of very impressive colleagues over many years as we progressively, as a community, get an increasingly clearer understanding of the nature of the range of traumas humans can inflict on each other.
How did you first learn about dissociation?
Nothing was taught in my psychiatry training about dissociation, yet on reflection I was repeatedly encountering it.
How have you seen the understanding of dissociation change over the years?
There has been a marked diminution in viewing DID as a “fascinoma”. A number of societal movements or initiatives (such as the Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse) have laid bare the widespread existence of abuse dynamics that give rise to dissociative disorders/complex trauma syndromes. We have become more aware of abuses associated with the family, and with mainstream churches, cults, schools, orphanages, seminaries, youth detention centres, the scouting movement, trafficking groups, the film industry, politicians, the military, and high profile entertainers (e.g. Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris, Michael Jackson, Gary Glitter, Roman Polanski, Clement Freud). We have also become more aware of ongoing incest during adulthood (very often involving some form of organized abuse) and internet pedophile rings … For example, when the FBI, in February 2015, closed down the encrypted paedophile site, Playpen, which hosted nearly 50,000 sexually explicit images and videos of children as young as toddlers, they had identified 215,000 users.
I accompanied a number of individuals with DID as they gave evidence to the Australian Royal Commission. At no stage did any Commissioner show any doubt about their diagnosis or the abuses that had led to it developing.
Warwick with Naomi Halpern (Chair of the A-NZ Conference Committee) and Past President Martin Dorahy, Christchurch Conference, 2019