The Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance:
Tamsin McDoel, Amorpha
Multiple Personality Issues:
A Public Response
The author of the entry on multiplicity at religioustolerance.org leads off with the following words: "Some material in the essays linked to this menu may seem to read like a really bad work of fantasy-fiction. You might suspect that the author has dissociated from reality. However, we assure you that sincere, intelligent and caring people really do hold these beliefs."
Yes, the authors of a website to promote tolerance of ideas that may seem different have decided that multiplicity is a delusion participated in by overzealous therapists and desperate, deluded women. This is possibly because the general public often connects multiplicity to demon possession, and practitioners of deliverance activity believe that multiplicity is a sign of same.
OCRT is devoted not only to understanding alternate viewpoints, but to point out those which have demonstrated themselves in the past as being detrimental to self-esteem or well-being, or as potentially abusive. Apparently along with deciding that the recovery movement did mental health clients more harm than good, they've taken the position that multiplicity is merely a symptom of the recovery movement's overenthusiastic tactics. This is the same position held by CSICOP and the FSMF, and it does us no good whatsoever.
There is a section on natural multiplicity, but it is badly outdated and full of misinformation.
Unfortunately, the Center is no longer accepting mail. The only way to make your voice heard now on this issue is to publish an open letter to the OCRT stating your position on multiple personalities and explaining why their depiction is incomplete and inaccurate.
Sample letter follows:
Hello! I'd first like to say that I am very impressed by what you're
trying to do with your website. I think it's an incredible resource and
I'm so glad that someone is trying to provide both sides of the debate
on so many religious topics.
Anyway, as for the purpose of this letter: My name is Tamsin, and I'm a
member of a multiple (multiple personality) system. We have never been
in therapy for nor diagnosed with a dissociative disorder; to the best
of our knowledge, we're just this way naturally. While I disagree with
your writers' conclusions on multiplicity, that's not what my letter is
about; regardless of what your personal take on the debate is, you seem
to have made some factual errors and omissions regarding the origins of
the modern concept of multiple personality and on the nature of the
concept of functional multiplicity.
While you touch briefly upon the origins of the concept of MP in Western
psychology, you spend much more time focusing on the modern
abuse/splitting theories and the subsequent psychological sideshows
which grew out of them, particularly the many SRA accusations and
trials, which presents a somewhat biased viewpoint, and your readers may
find it instructive if you present more research and data on early
theories and cases (such as Mary Reynolds, Mollie Fancher, Ansel Bourne,
Sally Beauchamp, and on William James' theories of personality), and on
non-Western concepts of multiplicity. It is indeed true that several
cases of multiplicity were noted, and recorded as curiosities,
throughout the 19th century. Later on, multiplicity became linked with
spiritualism, and for a time, "multiple personality" was used to mean
mediums who had supposedly let spirits move into their bodies with them.
Multiplicity was also variously attributed to head injury and to the
oppression of intelligent women. The idea of multiplicity as the result
of a single, original self splitting or dissociating into pieces
originated with a Freudian analyst, Morton Prince, in his book
"Dissociation of a Personality." The idea that abused children 'split'
themselves in order to survive was conceived and enforced by Freudian
analyst Cornelia Wilbur and her followers (interestingly, we have heard
from some sources who suggest that, later in life, some of Wilbur's
followers began to believe that multiples could live without
integration, but could no longer back down because they had pushed their
stance so aggressively.)
While I consider Prince and Wilbur's ideas to be misguided and dubious,
do not believe in the possession connection, and will not attempt to
theorize on a generalized origin for all cases of multiplicity, I
believe that while you are doing a valuable service by exposing many
psychological 'treatments' for multiplicity as hoaxes, your omission of
the earlier theories of multiplicity-- and the relatively short
explanation you spend on the recent, and growing movement to have
multiplicity acknowledged not as a disease or disorder but as a
naturally occurring phenomenon-- can be construed to constitute an
error. Not all self-identified functional multiples consider
multiplicity to be a gift. Many, including ourselves, consider it to be
simply another way of being, like autism-- different from the norm,
neither better nor worse, with both advantages and disadvantages. In
addition, many functional multiples believe that multiplicity has
nothing to do with and is not the result of dissociation, which you may
wish to note.
Your quoted sources seem to imply that functional multiples consider
themselves distinct from 'survivor multiples'-- that is, multiples who
have survived some sort of abuse in childhood. This is a common
misconception and one which we are trying constantly to correct. Being
functional does not imply that one has never experienced abuse, nor
experienced psychological after-effects of the abuse in question; it
means merely that we live normal and capable lives, can hold down jobs
and care for families, and maintain a sane, stable, healthy existence as
many people in one body. Functionality does not mean that you have never
been abused, in therapy, or diagnosed; it is about how you live your
life -now-. The belief overwhelmingly governing most self-identified
functional multiples is that MP is not inherently a disorder, dangerous,
or detrimental (in fact, we and many others whom we know of have lived
more stably and productively since we began to identify as multiple).
We believe that it is the responsibility of systems whose lives are in
obvious disorder, who cannot function or hold down jobs, who self-harm
and attempt suicide, to take control of their own lives and set up a
stable operating system, and that it is not necessary to reject
self-identification as multiple in order to achieve a normal, healthy
level of functioning.
You write "Finally, a few individuals believe that MPD is a naturally
occurring phenomenon, and unrelated to childhood abuse or creation by an
iatrogenic process. As one web site describes it, MPD is a gift." If you
are describing functional multiplicity, this statement is an egregious
error. No functional multiple would ever refer to multiplicity as "MPD."
We have seen several pages in the therapeutic model state that "MPD is a
gift," but this citation is apparently either a misquotation or a
distorted paraphrasing, since I know of no functional multiple who would
use such language. Nor do the majority of functional multiples I know
support the viewpoint that it is a gift or a way of life superior to
I also believe that the statement 'A common belief is that many children
are "natural multiples"' is an incorrect representation of the views of
functional multiples, and somewhat ill-founded. We know only a few
multiple groups who hold this belief. From your list of links, it seems
obvious that you have not spoken to nor done much research on
self-identified functional or natural multiples. Therefore, any
statements you make about 'common beliefs' among the functional multiple
community are likely to be overgeneralised or based on minimal evidence.
I speak for all the self-identified functional multiples we know when I
say that what we want is not to be recognised as special, as a disorder,
or in need of public or psychiatric attention, but instead, as with
autistics (http://www.autistics.org/), to be recognized as 'different
but equal'-- to be acknowledged as valid, as many individuals living in
one body, and to live out self-sufficient, functional, ordinary lives in
peace, without being sensationalised on talk-show circuits and
made-for-TV movies, as poor benighted people who must be fixed, or as in
any way superior to 'normal,' non-multiple people.
In addition, Astraea's Household webpage has moved to
http://www.astraeasweb.net/plural/ , and the Mo'Abla'Haret site is
currently down-- this, if nothing else, should be updated. You may also
wish to consider adding our page "Collective Phenomenon" at
http://www.dreamshore.net/amorpha/ to your links, if you believe it constitutes a valuable resource for the 'natural multiplicity' faction of the debate. "The Layman's Guide to Multiplicity," at
http://www.karitas.net/blackbirds/layman is a fairly involved, co-authored FAQ concerning multiplicity as a natural state of being, and Pavilion, at http://pavilion.karitas.net is a publicity task force
for healthy multiples.
Incidentally, we would also suggest removing the Roseanne Barr quote in
the article header. Ms. Barr is a comedian, and though she has claimed
at times to be multiple, that particular comment seems to me as though
it was made in jest. You may wish to consider replacing it with a quote
from a functional multiplicity page, such as Astraea's or the Layman's
Thank you very much for your time. I understand you receive a great deal
of mail and cannot respond to most of it, and would be very grateful if
you could spare time to make my suggested changes.
Tamsin Macdoel, for Amorpha system