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"The Oxford Companion to the Mind
Media Review : Books, Nonfiction"

By Phoenix& ^Thane, ^Raven, ^Max , 9.02
Included in "Local Libraries," nonfiction book review by Phoenix&, 9.02.

The Oxford Companion to the Mind

The following article, from The Oxford Companion to the Mind, has an extremely skeptic and literate tone - the author seems very strongly to disbelieve in multiples all together and is explaining simply for the sake of having it there to discredit. The language is heavy, but says very little that the others haven’t mentioned all ready. ‘Dissociation of the Personality’, it heads in bold leaders - after referring one there from ‘Personality, Multiple’.

In summary, the article gives a skeptical definition of dissociation, using Freud's discovery of the 'Unconscious' to discredit this explanation of 'neurotic symptoms'. Stating that these consisted of patients who had some 'inherent or constitutional weakness of the integrative function', and therefore suffered 'day or night dreams' through this weakness. This being the entirety of dissociation. Explaining that Freud's discovery caused a general abandonment of the term 'dissociation', giving rise to terms such as 'isolation', 'repression', or 'splitting' to describe the defense mechanisms developed by the human mind. Of course the abandonment of the term does not stretch to include multiples.

The article states that dissociation is now solely used to describe 'a group of phenomena', consisting of what psychiatry calls 'hysterical dissociation', consisting of sleep-walking, trances, post-hypnotic suggestions, fugues, loss of memory ('hysterical amnesia'), and 'split, dual or multiple personality' in which the subject 'appears to change from one person to another'. Still obviously skeptical, the article groups multiples in with a bunch of other non-serious conditions, listing it at the end as the sort of 'black sheep' of the group. The author also is careful to reserve his language, making sure to cover all the multiplicity bases, and then use the word 'appears' instead of just 'changes'. It goes on.

'The last of these, dissociation of the personality, is a puzzling and, indeed, disturbing phenomenon, since it calls into question a basic assumption we all make about human nature, namely that for every body there is but one person; that each of us, despite the passage of time and changes in mood and activity, remains the same person, with a single biography and store of memories. Given the fact that all social relations and contracts presume consistency and unity of personality, it's hardly surprising that the occasional person who claims or appears to change into someone else becomes an object of concern to the police, of curiosity to the psychiatric profession, and of fascination to the general public.'

So here's the root of the author's skepticism - since obviously every single body must be home to only a single person because the rest of the world assumes it to be so. Anyone who has more than one person, obviously must be a danger because any of these people can, and will, completely disregard the rules, because the contracts are only binding to one person. Indeed, some people in multiple systems will choose to disregard the law, their debts, and anything else they can. However, bodies with only a single person are just as likely to do the same. In a functioning, healthy multiple group each individual is aware that contracts on the body bind every individual in it, and are willing to abide by that. It seems to be that the author is of the opinion that anyone who 'claims or appears' to be multiple is only doing so to dodge their responsibilities. This is simply not so.

The next passage cinches it.

'Dissociation of the personality is not only bizarre but also extremely rare - so rare, indeed, that one has to take seriously the possibility that it may be a social and psychiatric artifact. I.e. that it can only occur if prevailing views on the nature of personality make it conceivable that two personalizes can occupy the same bodily frame, and the potential case of split or multiple personality encounters a psychiatrist who believes in, or is already interested in, dissociation of the personality.'

By the author's use of elaboration, it's safe to assume that he is of the belief that multiples are only in existence because therapists believe them to be - and only so rare because most therapists don't believe them. This is also not the case - there are multiple systems who became aware of themselves before seeing a therapist, and a few who even are used to being multiples from birth.

The rest of the article continues pretty much in the same key. Summarily it states that most cases of multiplicity existed from between 1840 and 1910, after demonical possession, and before psychoanalytical ideas had impact. It explains that during this time, Victorian conventions stopped patients and doctors from talking about intimate physical details - details which very well could have explained massive changes in mental feeling, and established continuity of bodily feeling. It continues that personality and identity could not have changed if patient and physician believed that the ground of being is located in the body.

It explains that also many patients will produce symptoms to please their physicians - stating that the greatest majority of multiple personality cases are reported by male physicians treating younger females. It states the case of Sally Beuchamp - who begged her physician, Dr. Prince to hypnotize her. Three other personalities emerged while Dr. Prince was treating Sally, two while she was under hypnosis. Dr. Prince had already published papers on double personality and was known to be interested in the subject. The author draws the conclusion that Sally was seeking to please Dr. Prince, and that the pair were more attached to each other than was appropriate in turn of the century New England.

Also, it details the works of Pierre Janet - stating that most of his work was with women - notably Lucie Leonie and Rose. Rose regularly produced new or sub-personalities while under hypnosis. Janet apparently distinguished clearly between roles filled by hypnotic subjects to please hypnotists, and new unknown personalities. It is assumed that what Janet was describing as multiple personalities would contemporarily be called revivals of repressed memories. Janet believed that each personality that emerged was a step closer to the 'real' person than the original presented personality - and that it was therapeutically helpful to name each emerging personality.

Both doctors believed that the self is an entity achieved by integration of 'simultaneous psychological existences' - therefore multiple personalities were caused by failures in integration. Contemporary doctors believe the opposite - that the self is a 'pristine unity', but uses defense mechanisms - notably repression. This discredits most of the work that nineteenth-century physicians did on the subject, by reclassifying the work they did into new terms.

Stating that the change must have been due to the discoveries of Freud, including his more sexual view of human nature, the article also informs that after 1910 there was a wave of reaction against the concept of multiple personality. This reaction was mostly anti-patient, believing that the doctors had been duped by reactions they had 'involuntarily shaped'. However, if Freud's theory of repression explains all multiplicity - then why are memories that are non-traumatic often 'repressed'? Different people in each system may hold separate memories - and each memory is often of very mundane, non traumatic things. However, because these memories are not available to all people in the system, they are regarded to be 'repressed'. If this is a defense mechanism, what is it defending the person from? Quite simply, multiplicity cannot be explained entirely by repression - as all multiples are not trauma-based cases.

Next, the article states that 'contemporary textbooks of psychiatry are notably cautious and uncertain in their approach to dissociation of the personality'. It states that one notable textbook stresses the transparency of this condition to everyone but the patient - and the rarity of it. It also notes that doctors and the public have become more sophisticated. As the article draws to a close, it drops this bombshell;

'Hysterical dissociation states, including dissociation of the personality, seem indeed to have more to do with the psychology of deception and self-deception than with any innate or acquired incapacity for integration.'

Clearly the author believes that all cases of multiplicity are simply patients fooling themselves and creating symptoms to try and please their older male doctors. He also states that in the nineteenth century that it was used almost solely as a ploy for concern and attention - but now more subtle signs of distress are the only ones accepted. However, as discussed before not all multiples are in therapy - and most are very private about it, out of fear of being written off as 'hysterical', or being institutionalized. It does not discredit all multiples simply because a few people were influenced by their doctors to fabricate symptoms, or used their conditions as a source of garnering attention. The author does nothing to point out any flaws in his own case, or site any of the more contemporary cases that have emerged.


  • The Oxford Companion to the Mind, ©1987 Oxford University Press.
  • You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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