Updated: May 15, 2022
Episode two begins with Steven going to the mirror and asking if Marc is there. When there is no response Steven says, “Didn’t think so.”
This can hit on two important aspects of life as a DID system.
The first aspect is denial.
The second is being unable to communicate with other alters.
Denial of having alters is extremely common for someone living with DID, especially for the host. Oftentimes a host alter lives their life unaware of the fact that they are a part of a system. This can happen with other alters as well but in my experience it is less common. You see it in the first episode of Moon Knight with Steven navigating his life unaware of Marc.
All of the alters in my system knew they were part of a system. I was the only one who was in denial. I don’t have all of the answers for why this occurs, but I can give you my thoughts. Please be aware these are only my opinions as someone who lives with DID.
In order to function after trauma, the mind creates alters with a few objectives- compartmentalize the trauma to continue living, and create someone to help fulfill needs that are not being met.
Compartmentalization- In order to continue living in an unsafe environment I had to dissociate from the trauma. My mind set up amnesia blocks around the memories. These memories go into a different area of the mind and I am not able to access them. If I had access to the memories I wouldn’t have been able to function in my home or school life the way I did.
Alter creation- I will get more into the concepts around alter creation in a later post because it is talked about in episode five of Moon Knight.
Alters are created for many reasons and there is no definitive answer as to why they are created. It is also important to note that all systems are different so other people might not agree with my concepts surrounding DID in general, but especially this part. As I stated earlier, alters are created for compartmentalization and to fulfill a need.
Examples of alters fulfilling a need:
Trauma holder - alter who holds the trauma memories
Parental unit - alter based on ideas of what a parent would be like including but not limited to someone who encourages self-care for the system or lectures about not making bad decisions.
Protector - alter who protects the system
Rebel - alter who acts out and does things they are not supposed to do based on societal standards.
These examples probably come off type-cast, and they should because that is what they are. These are only examples. Most alters fulfill one or more needs but they also have a full personality, opinions of their own, and experience situations differently from the other alters in the system. If you meet a system and label an alter as “trauma holder” or “protector” it will be more difficult to have an authentic relationship with them. It can be likened to meeting someone who works as a barista and believing the only thing they do in their life is make coffee. You would miss out on the way they cut carrots, paint in their spare time, what books they read, or if they enjoy mountain hiking.
Such is the problem with labels in general.
Alter communication is one of the most difficult things to describe to people who do not experience it. The first time I communicated with an alter I was very young and it was done to help me mentally escape the situation I was in. Throughout my childhood and early teen years I was very aware of the voices in my mind. I vividly remember going into my mind and listening to a group of people discuss my day, activities, emotions, etc. They gave opinions about what should happen next or what actions needed to be taken and I would use that information to make decisions. During this time I did have other alters front, the way you see Marc or Steven switch who is fronting, but I was unaware of it happening.
When I was diagnosed there was a lot of research done into my past. This was mostly done as a way to help me get out of denial so I could begin working with my alters instead of fighting them. One of the validating moments for me came from my school experience in second grade. In my system there is an alter who writes everything in mirror image. I knew about this because I discovered notes in my journals written by her. When I brought it up to my family I was told about times in second grade when my mother would get notes from the teacher about my writing being changed on assignments. They were specifically concerned about the writing shifting into mirror image.
Before I was diagnosed I was aware of conversations going on in my mind, but it was background noise. As my brain developed using compartmentalization as a coping mechanism I am quite good at being able to ignore things. You see this happen in Moon Knight as well. Steven has several moments where he ignores aspects of his life in order to keep believing he is the only one living said life. He never hears back from his mom, his fish shows up with two fins, he has items appear, unprovoked, in his apartment, and through all of this, he believes he is the only one living his life. The concept of someone else living in your body can be quite scary and extremely confusing, so I get it. But pretending something isn’t happening when it is doesn’t turn a lie into the truth.
Like Steven, I was able to communicate with my alters a bit before I was diagnosed, which is what led me to the therapist. However, I also experienced radio silence fairly often in those first few months. This was especially true when my effort to communicate was bitter or disingenuous, the way Steven’s was in the opening scene of episode 2. Steven doesn’t want Marc to be there and Marc doesn’t want to discuss what is happening.
I can’t speak on Marc’s side of this equation. Perhaps another personality will write a side blog from the perspective of an alter who is aware of being in a system and dealing with a host’s discovery.
Later in the episode, Steven watches security footage of himself from the previous night. At the end of this scene, he sees Marc walk out of the bathroom and he immediately recognizes who is fronting. This is an incredibly well-done scene. As mentioned in my ep 1 post, I have been filmed for alter study with a psychologist and done some on my own. The subtle differences in mannerisms, the way my shoulders move, the expression, and the way my body walks, are all different when another alter is fronting. The first time I saw the change on film it was downright chilling. I no longer feel fear around seeing evidence of DID in my life so it doesn’t bother me anymore.
The way Oscar Isaac portrays the differences between Marc and Steven is stunning. His acting ability is absolutely incredible and I honestly can’t give him enough praise for what he has been able to express in this role. Even when his face is fully covered I can tell which alter is meant to be fronting. In real life, it takes a trained eye to notice when an alter switches to the front. This is often because people don’t walk around assuming everyone has DID. When we watch Moon Knight we know we are supposed to be looking for those signals and the show does a great job of expressing the changes.
There is also the suit change. I’m going to be honest, I would be so happy to have a suit change in real life. It would make things a lot easier for me if my friends and family could tell immediately when a different alter was fronting because my clothes changed. In fact, every system I have ever spoken to has one thing in common- the superpower of choice is always shape-shifting. Being able to live in the outside world with a face that looks familiar, the correct gender, a height that you are used to, would be a dream come true for pretty much every alter.
In episode two we also see Steven fighting instead of Marc. There are a lot of studies done on body memory and DID. Sometimes trauma can affect an alter’s ability to do certain actions, while another alter is more than capable. This gets into the deeper waters of DID and how the disorder can show up for different systems. The easy thing to think is that if a body has a bunch of training in martial arts then the body's memory should take over, but that is not accurate.
Here is an article about a DID system. This woman was physically capable of seeing, and one of her alters was still able to do so. However, due to her trauma, most of her alters were not able to see anything for over a decade.
"That’s when Waldvogel began doubting the cause of B.T.’s vision loss. It’s unlikely that a brain injury of the kind that can cause cortical blindness would heal instantaneously after such a long time. And even if it did, that didn’t explain why B.T.’s vision continued to switch on and off. Clearly something else was going on."
"The condition is not just a product of culture and psychiatrists’ suggestions, he said; as in B.T.’s case, it “represents the mind’s attempt to compartmentalize its pain.”
Here is the medical journal link for that case as well.
When you think of DID you have to remember that not all alters have access to every part of the mind. This can include access to physical skills and leaves one alter with the ability to perform a task which other alters are not able to perform. Another aspect that is specific to Marc and Steven is confidence and expectation. Marc is able to move with confidence because he has the memories of fighting in the past, he knows what it feels like to get hurt or inflict damage on someone else. Steven doesn’t have those memories and he doesn’t know what to expect so his confidence isn’t there.
Finally, there is the quote from Marc, “I’ve always managed to keep a wall between us.” This moment hurt. Marc carries their trauma and he has been carrying the burden of helping Steven to see his life as safe and peaceful even when that is not the truth.