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The Unexplained: Multiple Personality
The Multiple Personality episode of the A&E documentary series Unexplained has all the ingredients of a good horror flick. It has the deluded victims and the heroes waiting to save them. It has the all-consuming evil in these poor peoplesí lives, an evil so devastating only a knowing hero can even tell them of its existence. There are agents of this evil, which inhabit the minds of its victims, taking over their lives at will, and making them do the things that it wishes them to do. Effectively they are prisoners in their own lives. Sounds like a horror flick, doesnít it? But sadly, things are not always as television portrays them.
For example, multiples are not always deluded saps, as this documentary seems to suggest. We donít all go about with the members of our systems/households/etc. running amuck in our lives, getting us fired and just making us look utterly stupid. Also, we donít all automatically switch and go into a rage every time something goes wrong in our lives. We donít all have fierce protectors, scared littles and all-knowing inner self-helpers who know every thing about us. We are not deluded as the documentary claims. We donít think we are other people. If we said our name was Mary and you knew us as Gary then it wouldnít be a case of Gary "thinking he was Mary" as the documentary suggests. It would be Mary taking the forward position in the body. This is not to say that some multiples donít fit the stereotypes, because some do. But most of us do not. Most multiples, even those with trauma in their backgrounds, can take care of themselves and live totally normal lives with relatively little time loss. A lot of us donít even require the heroes of this epic horror film.
The heroes of the documentary are the therapists... They are assumed to be omnipotent. They are the ones who diagnose these poor delusional folk as what they truly are. They provide help in the integration process which is necessary for all multiples to be rid of the evil of their multiplicity. Integration is a very long and painful process for the host, or core of the multiple system as each new alter brings forth its own traumatic memory that the host must endure. Then the barriers which bound the alter away from the host will be broken down and the alter can be absorbed back into the whole of the hostís personality. Not one alter can be left. If there is one left then the integration process is not complete and more therapy must be endured.
We, as a group, are not against therapy for multiple groups. However, this documentary makes it seem that integration is the only option, when in fact it is not. Psychology now recognizes two approaches: A. the integration of the parts as the documentary shows, and B. the cooperation of the group, thereby making them more able to function together in peace and harmony. This second approach has been recognized for several years now, long before the documentary was made. Therefore it is my belief that the creators were negligent in forgetting to note this fact.
According to the documentary, therapists are also the only ones supposedly able to know whether a person is "afflicted" with multiple personalities. Some groups actually operate this way as well. But the majority of multiple systems are aware of themselves as multiple without ever seeking therapy at all -- and if they do seek it, most multiples choose to stay in the closet for the stigma society puts on being multiple.
According to Multiple Personality, Multiple Personality Disorder occurs when a child is terribly abused as a child. The abuse is usually physical or sexual in nature. The child does not remember any of this because the mind splits itself into parts, which then protect the host from the pain of the horrific events. Much later in the childís life another trauma occurs. This trauma could be anything, a car accident, a freak electrical accident, a relationship breaking apart, anything and Poof! The alter egos suddenly appear again. The host still has no idea of whatís going on. They simply know that for some reason they feel suicidal and depressed. They suddenly have huge chunks of their lives missing. Suddenly people are calling them by names they donít know. Being concerned, they usually appear in therapy. And the knowing therapist tells them the horrible truth!
This is not true. Lots of us have depression -- both singlet and multiple alike -- and lots of us also feel suicidal. Feeling suicidal is always a reason to seek help, whether youíre a singlet or a multiple, and feelings like this are never a good sign. Also, not all multiples lose time, or if they do lose time they do find a way to compensate through lists, notes to each other, any number of things. And not all multiples are violent and delusional. If you saw most of us, you wouldnít know us. We blend into the crowd and hide. We donít want to hide but we have to. Being multiple can result in loss of jobs, homes and children just because of the stereotypes that this supposedly awesome documentary displays.
Even a singlet said this documentary was bad. We talked to a friend of ours named Tammy who watched the show. Tammy is highly into psychology. She plans to take classes in it next semester. When we asked her what she thought of the documentary her reply was this. According to that documentary people who are multiple canít take care of themselves. I know that you can.
Now perhaps you all see why this documentary did so much damage. If you are multiple and saw it, youíd probably get angry. If you thought you were multiple and saw this it would make you very afraid and doubt who you are. If you were a singlet and saw it, youíd probably feel a mixture of fear, pity and perhaps even anger. Just remember -- we donít want to remain closeted all our lives. We want to have the freedom to be who we are and walk in the sun. We want to be greeted by our own names instead of an umbrella name we all must be called by. We are not flat caricatures. We are people in our own right, each with our own nuances of feeling and our own beliefs and ideas. We donít want to stay in the closet but as long as there are documentaries like this that is where weíll be.