Anger May Lower Tolerance for Distress

Anger is a hallmark of treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder – commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder. Angry “parts” of a person’s personality are encouraged to express past abuse and trauma – over and over and over – usually over a period of years. These parts are assigned a name so future encounters can be identified and explored further. For example the “Suzie” personality might expresses incest anger while “Diane” holds and expresses ritual abuse anger and so forth.
Does creating alter personalities as a vehicle to express anger and rage actually improve one’s ability to tolerate stressful memories and current life hurdles? Since there are many women have been purchasing Dissociative Identity Disorder therapy for over 10,15, 20 years – it obvious that expressing anger and creating alter personalities isn’t working any more than the therapy is.
I have yet to read an anecdote about someone having an angry alter that finished being angry and learned to cope  – surely it’s occurred, but what is commonly reported is that the angry alter continues to be angry. In addition, more alters are created to distribute the anger and rage, not the reverse.
Most people engaged in therapy for multiple personalities may be treated for Dissociative Identity Disorder, but have a secondary diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder – making the study below quite pertinent.
Ruminative and mindful self-focused attention in borderline personality disorder.
by Shannon E. Sauer & Ruth A. Baer
Personality Disorders: Theory, Research, and Treatment, Vol 3(4), Oct 2012, 433-441. doi: 10.1037/a0025465

The current study investigated the short-term effects of mindful and ruminative forms of self-focused attention on a behavioral measure of distress tolerance in individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) who had completed an angry mood induction.

Participants included 40 individuals who met criteria for BPD and were currently involved in mental health treatment. Each completed an individual 1-hr session. Following an angry mood induction, each participant was randomly assigned to engage in ruminative or mindful self-focus for several minutes.

All participants then completed the computerized Paced Auditory Serial Addition Test (PASAT-C), a behavioral measure of willingness to tolerate distress in the service of goal-directed behavior.

The mindfulness group persisted significantly longer than the rumination group on the distress tolerance task and reported significantly lower levels of anger following the self-focus period.

Results are consistent with previous studies in suggesting that distinct forms of self-focused attention have distinct outcomes and that, for people with BPD, mindful self-observation is an adaptive alternative to rumination when feeling angry.


Leave a comment


  1. Seth

     /  04/10/2014

    Just wanted to add my bit. I am what was once deemed an ‘angry part’, so felt this might be relevant. In therapy I was encouraged to get as angry as possible, apparently to ‘let it out’ and allow me to ‘heal’. Thing was, these ‘therapists’ would encourage the anger but then not give me any tools to put it back in its box which I think is very much what you’re talking about. The more therapy I did the more angry I got and the more serious trouble I got into. I’ve always had some anger issues but they made it worse not better. However, as part of a system that is no longer in therapy, I have slowly managed to gain control of my anger rather than let it control me. Honestly, the best thing we ever did as a system was get out of therapy. The true healing couldn’t begin in that toxic environment. Now, I am happier and healthier than I have ever been. I may not agree with you that DID doesn’t exist, but I entirely agree with you that the ‘therapy’ they offer for it is wrong, and to be quite frank, sickening.


    • Hi Seth, thank you for stopping by and telling us about your treatment. I wish others had the guts to do so as well. However, this therapy often has the patient believe that “you have to get worse before you can get better” so given that rationale, you were right on target.

      I am happy to know that you realized what therapy was doing to you. I can only imagine how frightening uncontrolled anger can be.

      Wishing you the best in your journey, JB


  2. Jeanette,

    my wife’s defender, Alley, was the angriest of the bunch and I got her past the anger in about 6 months. Now she’s a delightful girl and my girlfriend. The other girls had some anger and from time to time they would express it over their past abuse, but ALL of them got over it fairly quickly and now ALL of them are extremely delightful young girls/ladies.



    • Jeanette Bartha

       /  01/24/2013

      Hi Sam, Good to hear from you.

      Sounds like you have much to offer most therapists treating MPD/DID. Moving away from anger is not what I read over and over. I’m glad to know you and your wife are not living a destructive lifestyle steeped in anger and rage like I did.

      As always, best to you. JB


      • Sheri Storm

         /  02/05/2013

        Oddly enough, I didn’t have issues with anger when I went to a doctor to treat my insomnia – but was TOLD I had “repressed anger” that required thorough investigative work under hypnosis…


        • Jeannette Bartha

           /  02/05/2013

          Gees, this never ends. I’m so sorry.. we were both in the wrong place at the right time.



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