Within this series that I have been writing, I have been trying to connect the dots to show the contrast between:
I have shown throughout this series documented, scientific research of reported incidents of multiple personalities, the causes, and the need for effective therapy. As a child abuse survivor, I had about 20 personalities/alters that I integrated into one during 11 of my 23 years in therapy. Thank God, I had a trauma therapist who knew what she was doing.
In my blog, Dissociative Disorders - Part 17, I wrote about Paul McHugh’s support of Catholic priests who had been charged with pedophilia. Now I want to address Elizabeth Loftus’ role as well. In Dissociative Disorders - Part 10, I wrote about her studies validating repressed memories. With her support of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) and lucrative payments defending Catholic priests, she apparently reversed what she stated in her earlier research about the validity of repressed memories.
Some major work began to appear in the physical (versus mental) medical field that provided more evidence in the brain’s ability to suppress memories. This is important in the area of child abuse. Remember, researchers in the psychiatric field have been stating this for over 100 years. Another article shown below addresses this issue.
About five years ago the state of New York, like other states have done in the past, tried to extend the Statute of Limitations allowing child abuse survivors to sue their long-protected abusers. As usual, they ran into tough resistance from, you guessed it, the Catholic Church. And who did they have as their strong ally? Paul McHugh from Johns Hopkins. But he has been their ally for a long time. Let’s look at some relevant articles.
In my last discussion, Dissociative Disorders - Part 15, I talked about the media’s focus on presenting misleading information about the reality of multiple personalities and the impact on therapists who treat patients with this disorder. I would have preferred that Mike Wallace talk about how therapists were being targeted and harassed simply for doing what they were trained to do—treat adult survivors of child abuse who were displaying dissociative symptoms.
In 1997, the issue of multiple personalities was discussed by the national media. As usual, it was not helpful at all for the millions of adult survivors of child abuse or the therapists who treat them. Paul McHugh was selected by 60 Minutes to talk about this issue, I guess because he was the Chief of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins. Once again, the millions of viewers were presented with McHugh’s diatribe and insulting rhetoric about one of our trauma disorders.1
The move to silence therapists and child abuse survivors in making claims about childhood abuse moved into a new direction in the 1990s. Elizabeth Loftus joined Paul McHugh in denouncing memories of survivors, especially in the area of trial law. She conducted experiments with people, successfully convincing some that they were “lost in a shopping mall” as a young child and used films of car accidents in her research. She then blatantly stated that this naturally meant that false memories of child abuse could be implanted into client’s heads and used her “research” during lawsuits. As I told my therapist, “You’re good, but you’re not that good.”
The 1990s was a time when the ugliness of those who wanted to protect child molesters really reared its head. Not only was it unbelievable what they were doing, but also that the media believed their ridiculous banter hook, line, and sinker. And who bears the brunt, even to this day, for their brazen and hideous behavior? Adult survivors of child abuse and therapists. Here is a sampling of what went on about 20 years ago.
To continue my discussion about Paul McHugh’s misguided attempts to thwart the treatment of adult survivors of child abuse who are diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), I will quote an article he wrote in 1993 representing Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
An important name as it relates to the issue of multiple personalities begins to appear in the early 1990s – Dr. Paul McHugh at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. The following are excerpts of two articles. The first is an article in the Baltimore Sun in 1990.
The political and sociological events and movements that I mentioned in my previous posts provided an acknowledgement of the hidden epidemic of child abuse and its link to posttraumatic and dissociative symptoms. Another such event was the Vietnam War. Despite the unpopularity of that conflict with much of the American people, it could not be denied that many of the young men who returned from battle were changed forever. As a result, the concepts of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)(formerly known as “shell shock” or “war neurosis” during previous wars) were further elucidated and defined.1
Significant changes began in the early 1900s in terms of medicine and psychiatry. Laboratory science allowed scientists to explore the brain for causes of mental illness. Neurologists and microbiologists concluded that mental illness was a disorder of the nervous system. With this information, psychiatric illnesses were now viewed as medical problems. Psychoanalysis, developed by Sigmund Freud as a method of analyzing people’s lives, was used as an effective way to determine how stresses stemmed from negative influences of childhood events.
As with a lot of scientific issues, mental illness cases were examined and documented relating to individuals involved in warfare. The next case in this series pertains to war amnesia after WWI – which was 96 years ago. The article discusses dissociation and its causes.
It is important that a sampling of the multiple personality studies from the past be made public because this documentation directly relates to issues affecting child abuse survivors today – over 100 years later. This process is lengthy, but so much of the coverage in the media about multiple personalities and the long-term effects of child abuse has been distorted – particularly as it relates to the Dissociative Disorders. The coverage has mainly been one-sided without any respect for how we, as survivors, are impacted.
The observed behaviors of people with multiple personalities as has been discussed in this series, was not new to the psychiatric community. They have been documented and referred to by many people wanting to understand this disorder. In Dr. Corbett Thigpen’s book, The Three Faces of Eve, he states:
Before I present more documentation about child abuse and dissociation, I want to provide a little more background information. After the Civil War period, psychologists in France, namely Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud, studied what was then termed hysteria. Pierre Janet believed that the traumatic event occurred in a setting of altered consciousness or trance state, and was not produced by the hysterical symptoms.
As a continuation of multiple personality documentation in the 1800s, the case below is the review of another woman’s life history. Although there are many more cases, the three cases [Ms. Reynolds in Dissociative Disorders - Part 2, Ms. Barnes in Dissociative Disorders - Part 3 and Felida (see below)] I have highlighted are the ones usually cited by therapists researching multiple personalities.
One of the troubling aspects of the controversy about the legitimacy of multiple personalities/dissociative disorders is the notion that somehow therapists have fabricated or “implanted” memories into their client’s heads. The other issue bantered about is the issue of the rarity of the disorder. Since most child abuse survivors have never gone public, there is no real database compiled of everyone’s stories or experiences.