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"Psychology and Mental Health
Media Review : Books, Nonfiction"

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


Psychology and Mental Health

In Psychology and Mental Health, Multiple Personality (note the lack of 'disorder') is lumped together with Amnesia and Fugue. Useful enough is the glossary of terms at the top of the page, just under the header, which states;

'Amnesia, fugue, and multiple personality for a group of mental disorders that are typically referred to as the dissociative disorders; they are called dissociative because some area of memory is split off, or dissociated, from conscious awareness'

This chapter, in fact, is generally more correct about the clinical views of multiplicity than any of the full books on the subject. Summarized, what the chapter says is as follows;

'...Multiple personality [is] considered by most mental health professionals to be ...[a] major type of dissociative disorder.. - in which some important area of memory is split off (dissociated) from the individual's conscious awareness.'

It then discusses, in detail, amnesia and fugue. Fugue will be defined here, as a basis of comparison for a bit of nonsense when 'All in the Mind' is discussed;

'Fugue (also known as psychogenic fugue) occurs when the afflicted individual takes an unexpected trip or excursion, forgets his or her identity, and assumes a new identity. The term... is derived from the Latin word fuga, meaning flight.'

The following section is on 'Multiple Personality'. Summarized, with comments inserted:

'While fugue patients travel to a new place to be someone else, individuals with multiple personality disorder stay in one place as they experience the existence of two or more separate personalities. Each personality will have a unique set of habits, tastes, and learned behaviors. Only one personality will dominate the person's thoughts and consciousness at a given time -'

This statement is entirely untrue - it is commonly reported in multiple systems that people will co-run consciousness for great lengths of time, working together to think and 'run' the body. The book obviously is consulting dated and 'well-documented' cases, probably from psychologist's notes.

'-and the shifts from one personality will be quite abrupt and dramatic.'

Also untrue. Shifts may be subtle, and quiet. In fact most healthy multiple systems will switch without any fanfare besides a simple announcement of who is about to front and then a few moments of quiet as the transition is made. Usually 'abrupt and dramatic' shifts are reserved for those who aren't co-operating well enough amongst themselves to divide time in a reasonable way.

'While cases... are very rare, this disorder has received considerable attention from popular media because of it's bizarre and fascinating Nature.

Most individuals with multiple personality disorder have one primary personality, as well as one or more secondary personalities. The primary personality is the individual who is known to most people. This personality is often quiet, meek, and obedient, while the secondary personalities tend to be more aggressive, irresponsible, and pleasure seeking.'

This paragraph is riddled with parts that can logically be contested. Many systems do not have a single 'primary personality', but rather have several people who 'front', or interact with the world. These 'fronts' can be anything, not just 'quiet meek and obedient' - this misconception probably stems from the 'multiple' cases who developed other personalities simply to please their psychologists. 'Secondary' personalities implies that these are somehow the 'lesser' or 'created' people. Indeed, these people may be any range of aggressive to meek, but simply do not do front work, for one reason or another. This does not make them any lesser than people who 'front'. Often the reason is simply to maintain a balanced look to the outer world, or because they co-consciously run things with another person in the system.

'...It is not entirely clear how an individual comes to have more than one personality, many professionals now believe that this disorder stems from a history of extreme emotional, physical, or sexual abuse during one's childhood. If a small child is severely beaten or molested, he or she may attempt to cope by pretending that abuse is happening to someone else. The child may even give a name to the "other" person. As the child comes to rely repeatedly on this other person to cope with the abuse, the secondary personality eventually takes on a life of it's own.'

This explanation does seem to make a bit of sense. However, there are many systems who report no cases of 'extreme' abuse, and with current parenting situations turning for the worse - more and more cases of multiplicity due to these poor circumstances should be turning up. Instead, this remains a rare diagnosis. Some multiple systems, as demonstrated by many websites, groups, and personal e-mails, may have a history of abuse, but few of them will link this as the source of their multiplicity. You may find links to these pages in the bibliography.

Psychology and Mental Health then goes on to discuss the treatment and therapy for the three dissociate disorders. A documented case of fugue and it's treatment is discussed. It then goes on to discuss Eve White, considered a precedent for many multiple cases, as she is one of the first well documented cases with no evident pressure from the psychiatrists treating her.

'...Eve White, a multiple personality patient described by Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Cleckly. ...Eve White was a young woman who sought medical assistance because of severe headaches and occasional blackouts. This woman was described as "demure, retiring, in some aspects almost saintly." Eve White was a devoted mother who worked extremely hard to support and rear a young daughter. Friends and co-workers found Eve White to be quiet, sensitive, and at times a little too serious.

...She was seized by a sudden headache and put both hands to her head. [Thigpen and Cleckley] report that "after a tense moment of silence, her hands dropped. There was a quick, reckless smile and, in a bright voice that sparkled she said, "Hi there, Doc!"' The patient began to talk about Eve White in a casual and carefree manner; she referred to Eve White as "her" and "she." When asked her name, the patient stated "Oh, I'm Eve Black."

...The therapist began to discover that Eve Black was "a party girl, shrewd, childishly vain, and egocentric." While Eve White was suffering from blackouts, Eve Black would attend parties, flirt with men in bars, and engage in while spending sprees. Eve Black would then retreat and force Eve White to deal with the consequences... Eve white had no awareness of Eve Black. Eve Black was, however, typically conscious of Eve White and her troubles. Eve Black was also able to remember a number of painful childhood memories that Eve White was completely unable to recall. ...As treatment progressed it, it was Eve Black who was able to tell the therapist how Eve White was severely beaten by her parents as a child.

Eventually a third personality emerged from this young woman. This personality, named Jane, was aware of both Eve White and Eve Black. Jane was described as more mature, thoughtful, and balanced than either Eve White or Eve Black. The emergence of Jane may thus have represented an attempt on the part of this patient to integrate aspects of Eve White and Eve Black into one cohesive personality.

...Thigpen and Cleckly eventually published a popular account of them in a book entitled The Three Faces of Eve. Eve's case history serves as a clear example of how an individual can develop multiple personalities, each of which can take a life of it's own.'

‘Eve’, actually Chris Sizemore, then went on to publish her own works on the matter, I'm Eve, due to dissatisfaction with her portrayal, and the poor understanding the therapists had on her situation. The original work, The Three Faces of Eve is a popular success, as it portrays a cut-and-dried multiple system, with an easily defined answer at the end. Also, the system went on to integrate - the popularly held 'cure' for multiplicity, which involves the 'unification' of the personalities, or the elimination or incorporation of all persons but one. In fact, very few cases of multiplicity are this simple.

The 'childhood abuse' model easily defines this system - Eve White being the 'original' personality, who developed another person to take on the abuse of her parents - 'Eve Black'. This model does /not/ explain the multiple systems with as many people as 80 or 100. Why would one need to create more than one 'other' person simply to handle abuse, when one would serve just as well? The third person in the system , Jane, served as the path for integration. She was the person who 'incorporated' both Eve White and Eve black into one 'cohesive personality'. Many multiple systems have no need for such a member, operating well enough without integrating at all.

Last, the book discusses 'Perspective and prospects', with little relevant information, summed up below:

'...The first widely publicized case of multiple personality was reported by Morton Prince in 1905. ...Professionals and the general public have been fascinated with the dissociative disorders.

...These disorders are actually quite rare. ...Because of the extreme rarity of these condtions, the dissociative disorders are not a major mental health problem in the United States.

Many social scientists, ...believe that these disorders merit further study. ...Expressions suggest dissociative reactions are commonly used to describe individuals. One might say that someone is "running away from his problems," is "not quite herself today" or "has become a different person". ...Multiple personality may thus be nothing more than a very extreme and dramatic exaggeration of a common human experience.'

The last part is definitely interesting enough. It seems logical that multiplicity is nothing more than an extreme case of a natural human mind-state. Especially with the emergence of more and more healthy multiples. Dramatic it may or may not be, depending on the case in state. 'Psychology and Mental Health' does not discuss any other cases than Eve, and therefore is sorely lacking in any viewpoints that may oppose the childhood abuse model.



  • Dictionary of Behavioral Science, Second Edition, Benjamin B. Wolman, ©1989 Academic Press.
  • You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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