Busy Inside

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: In Distribution


Professionally treating Dissociative Identity Disorder, a therapist juggles her own seventeen identities in this poetic and artistically offbeat exploration of a much-misunderstood condition and quest for self.


 Amongst Ourselves is a feature-documentary film about a woman treating patients with multiple personality disorder—the same condition she lives with, looking for her true self amidst the seventeen identities of her own.

Karen Marshall’s body, mind, and heart do not belong to her alone. She shares them with Rosalee, a smart and perky teenager; Timee, a flamboyant, puerile youth, dressing in womenswear; an old lady, a habitué of museums; and a dozen of others. Karen’s official diagnosis is “Dissociative Identity Disorder,” formerly known as “Multiple Personality.” But definitions help little, and the human mind cannot come to grips with it when confronted with one and the same person that talks and behaves in uniquely different ways. As one of Karen’s personalities put it, “When people say you should become one, it’s like, what does that mean? It doesn’t mean anything to us, just like for some people it doesn’t mean anything to be more than one.” Where everyday logic snaps, capable of explaining but helpless to comprehend, Amongst Ourselves resorts to artistic vision. By experimenting with visual and acoustic effects, it tries to penetrate that which denies immediate approach. Amongst Ourselves is a poetic journey into the depths of Karen Marshall’s world.

Amongst Ourselves enjoys the benefit of having full access to Karen and her wife Tracy. It captures their most intimate moments together—the two of them making jokes at the Thanksgiving table or having a serious conversation in bed surrounded by their cats and a dog. In all of these scenes, we see Karen switching between her personalities. But the film goes further than showing Karen and Tracy’s private life. It follows Karen at work, treating three patients diagnosed with multiple personality. This allows the film to tell within one narrative arc the stories of her patients, running the whole gamut of dissociative identity disorder. It also serves as a segue to Karen’s storyline when it is revealed that, just as her patients, Karen developed multiple personality as a result of sexual and physical child abuse.

The alarmingly high rates of child abuse and lack of knowledge in the society about the nature of multiple disorder is what makes Amongst Ourselves so relevant. Thousands of Americans diagnosed with it fear to come out in the society that mistakenly stigmatizes it as insanity. Shedding light on this disorder as our brain’s defense mechanism against trauma, the film invites the viewers to look into the nature of human identity as such. What is our real self? And is there one for those who escaped into alter egos to mentally survive the harm their beloved caused them?


Amongst Ourselves begins by introducing Karen Marshall, a woman in her fifties, first showing her at home, talking and playing like a child, and then in her office—as an earnest professional working with a group of patients. Soon, the viewers discover that, just as her patients, Karen is diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. This is the reason why she acts and thinks like different people at different times.

Next follows a character study of Karen. The viewers get to know Karen and her wife Tracy. As a mentally healthy partner of a DID-diagnosed person, Tracy offers a perspective to which the majority of viewers can relate. Telling about her life with Karen, Tracy answers the questions people are timid to ask when they hear about DID, such as whether it is difficult to have a romantic moment with a DID-diagnosed person who has children’s personalities inside her.

Seeing Karen and Tracy’s life together will let the viewers feel at home with DID-diagnosed people, and humor will play an important role in it. It will be hard not to laugh at the DID jokes Karen and Tracy tell all the time as well as certain sitcom-like scenes. In one of them, Karen is having an argument between her personalities. Each of them wants Tracy to take his or her side while Tracy keeps saying, “You have to figure it out in there. From the moment I met you, I said: I am not taking sides!” And yet, the viewers will also see that, unlike the majority of DID-diagnosed people, Karen has learned to control her personalities so that her inner selves are almost conscious of each other and she decides when they can come out and when they cannot, such as when she is at work.

The next segment of the film is about Karen’s three patients, shown inside and then outside of therapy sessions. Their storylines parallel Karen’s. Unlike Karen, her patients are often anxious and unbalanced, their manifestations of DID often being rather extreme when they suddenly switch between personalities, without remembering anything thereafter.

During one of the therapy sessions, Karen is struck by her patient’s story about child abuse, and it becomes apparent that Karen is having a difficult time trying to remain herself. This returns the viewers to Karen’s storyline, and it transpires that Karen, too, has extremely painful, though vague, memories about the childhood trauma that caused her DID. These memories try to come out, visiting her in nightmares and giving her headaches, but Karen still does not know what happened exactly. Toward the end of the film, Karen uncovers the main secret of her life: being sexually abused as a child by her mother.


There are no key crew provided


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