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.
I continue with further documentation from the late 1800s to the early 1900s about multiple personalities. Shown below is an overview of several cases.
Research Document #1
“Alternating Personalities: Their Origin and Medico-Legal Aspect,” by R. Osgood Mason, A.M., M.D., Read in the Section on Neurology and Medical Jurisprudence at the Forty-seventh Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association, May 5-8, 1896
“The condition of double personality has, in a way, always been recognized, but no special importance has generally been attached to it by the profession…Of late, however, the subject has received more definite treatment; many cases of the condition have been carefully observed, their peculiarities studied, and their relations to other psychic states have been considered…A vast number of well authenticated cases have been collected by the English Society for Psychical Research, with its American Branch…At the meeting of the AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION at Baltimore, several well authenticated cases were described, some of which had long been under my own personal observation, in which most marked and definite alterations of personality occurred, and in which the second personality was present for long periods of time – days, weeks and even months – taking complete possession of the physical organization, caring intelligently for it, and in some instances changing it from a condition of disease, pain and helplessness to one of health, and ability to perform all the duties of life in a perfectly normal and efficient manner.”
Research Document #2
“Some Types of Multiple Personalities,” by T.W. Mitchell M.D., Special Medical Part of the Proceedings of the Society for Physical Research, Part LXVI, November 1912
“It is now very generally admitted by psychologists that in some persons at least consciousness may be split up into two or more parts. The split off or dissociated part may be but a fragment of the whole self, or it may be so extensive, so complex, and so self-sufficient as to be capable of fulfilling all the functions of a personal consciousness. In hysteria, we find isolated paralyses or localized anaesthesias, which are due to the dissociation of relatively simple ideas, or we may find a splitting so deep, a dissociation of so many kinds of mental activity, that it leads to a complete change of personality.”
Research Document #3
“Some Studies of the Psychopathology of Acute Dissociation of the Personality,” by Edward J. Kempf, M.D., The Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. II, No. 4, October 1915
“The case of Mrs. X was typical of a common type of acute dissociation of the personality… The personality succeeds in controlling and suppressing its undesirable motives from consciousness by coordinating its conscious levels upon certain common paths… Analyses of obsessive motives and hysteria have shown repeatedly that motives may be retained practically unchanged in the unconscious for years despite their activity to attain frank expression… I wish to thank Dr. William A. White, superintendent of the Government Hospital for the Insane, for his permission to use the case of Mrs. X, and for his interest and encouragement in the studies of psychopathological processes which have made this research study of clinical material possible.”
Research Document #4
“A Case of Multiple Personality,” The Yale Review, by George Trumbull Ladd, Professor of Psychology” – This case is found in: “The Doris Fischer Case of Multiple Personality,” by James H. Hyslop and Dr. Walter F. Prince, Journal of the American Society for Physical Research, Vol. X, No. 7, July 1916.
“The normal explains the abnormal; while the abnormal serves to correct and amend our conceptions of what is normal. We must not refuse to face the facts, or prematurely force our attempts at explanation in behalf of time-honored conceptions, no matter how valuable for our moral philosophy or theology they may seem to be… [In determining] the existence and number of secondary personalities in every scientific examination of a marked case of multiple personality…the different personalities must be separated, set off from each other, by a nearly or quite compete amnesia. The secondary self does not remember the real self; or at best it has only vague impressions, a dim memory of something different in character which has belonged to it at some other time and perhaps in some other quite different place. Several of the more highly developed cases of double personality have already been the subjects of detailed investigation by such distinguished scholars as Dr. Morton Prince and others. [He then discusses the case of Doris Fischer born in 1889.] The lesson of the cure of Doris Fischer, when told from the psychological point of view, is not hard to seize and is wholesome to comprehend. By being put under favorable physiological conditions and treated in terms of mental healing, a self that has been long and sadly disorganized and shattered, may attain the excellent condition of a united and self-ordered self. The main power to accomplish this result lies in the realm of the mind. The cure is mainly psychical. The lesson, however, is a rebuke and a refutation to those who either overestimate or scorn the art of mind cure. For my part, I have little doubt that if the victims of every form of morbid personal development, even including the inmates of our asylums for the insane, could have, before it is too late, the care which Dr. and Mrs. Prince gave to their adopted daughter, the majority of them might be cured in a similar manner.”
Up until World War I, as you can see, there was ample evidence from the psychiatric community of multiple personalities. My next blog will provide information about war trauma and psychic amnesia.