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Dual Personalities

( Originally Published 1920 )

Every human being has two personalities: an archaic, primitive, childlike, unadapted personality, and a modern, sophisticated, adult, and, to all appearances, adapted personality.

Civilization and education have superimposed the second over the first or rather built over the first a thin crust of manners which does not permit its sharp angles to protrude.

When the operation of walling in the archaic personality is performed in a bungling way some of its sharp points have a tendency to crop out and when civilization tries to force back all those sharp points by exerting on the thin crust a pressure which it cannot bear, the archaic personality breaks through entirely and for a certain period of time refuses to be buried again.

Psychiatrists of the old school were extremely puzzled by cases of double personality and some spoke of dissociation of the brain, of two separate brains, of wrong associations of neurons or cell groups, etc.

To the psychoanalyst, a case of double personality is not any more mysterious than the simplest of our day or night dreams.

It is a neurosis which offers to the subject a means of escape from reality, which enables him to regress to a mode of life in which some or all of his responsibilities are removed, and which in no essential detail is different from the various forms of "insanity" for which psychiatrists have devised impressive and meaningless designations.

A brief review of the best known cases of double personality will help me to make my point clear.

The Rev. Ansel Bourne was a hard working clergyman of excellent character and reputation, enjoying the confidence of all his associates. His health was good and his muscular strength and endurance normal. Since childhood he had been subject to fits of "blues," and became easily depressed.

One day he drew $500 from a bank in Providence, boarded a Pawtucket car and disappeared for two months. Then his nephew in Providence received a telegram saying that a man claiming to be Rev. Ansel Bourne was in Norristown, Pa., acting strangely.

The man was not acting strangely, but very normally. He was in reality the Rev. Ansel Bourne, who suddenly had found himself in a strange town and in a small fruit store.

Six weeks before his awakening, Bourne had gone to Norristown, rented a small store, stocked it with candy and fruit and had been doing business as A. Brown, living in the back of his shop where he cooked his own meals. His manners never attracted any one's attention. He went regularly to church, and once, at a prayer meeting, made rather good address.

When the awakening came and he regained his former personality, he was very weak and had lost over twenty pounds in weight.

William James examined him and induced him to submit to hypnotism. In hypnosis the Brown personality came to the fore with surprising readiness and with such insistence that the subject could not remember any of the facts of his life as Ansel Bourne.

Brown didn't even "know" Ansel Bourne and repeated constantly that he felt "hedged in at both ends." He could not remember any of the incidents preceding the ride to Pawtucket, nor any of those following his awakening in Norristown. The only explanation he gave for his escapade was that "there was trouble back- there" and "he wanted rest."

In this case the first personality did not know the second, nor did the second know the first.

In other cases one of the personalities was acquainted with the other, or both knew each other and in one case there was a distinct feeling of scorn and hatred, in the other a deep friendship manifested by both personalities for each other.

Miss Beauchamp, studied by Morton Prince, was a serious minded person, fond of books and study, very idealistic, "with a morbid New England conscientiousness" and a great deal of pride and re-serve, very unwilling to expose herself or her life to any one's scrutiny.

One day "owing to some nervous excitement" she became an entirely different personality. She called herself Sally, a creature full of fun, unable to take anything seriously, scorning books and churchgoing, eager for all forms of amusement, lacking all the educational accomplishments of Miss Beauchamp, such as a knowledge of foreign languages and stenography.

Miss Beauchamp was a neurasthenic, Sally was always well, never fatigued and never seemed to suffer pain.

During the first year, Miss Beauchamp and Sally constantly alternated with one another. Whenever Miss Beauchamp felt tired or upset, Sally used to appear, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for several hours. Later, Sally's appearances lasted several days at a time.

Miss Beauchamp never knew Sally, but Sally knew everything about Miss Beauchamp. Furthermore Sally hated her and said so very frankly.

She went as far as playing tricks on her to annoy her. She would mail to Miss Beauchamp a box full of spiders and snakes, she would ride to the end of a trolley line without return carfare and oblige her to walk miles or beg rides from passing wagons; she would unravel her knitting, she wrote her annoying letters, etc.

Alma Z., observed for ten years by Dr. Osgood Mason, had been in robust health until her 18th year, when "owing to overwork at school," she underwent a curious change. She had been until then an educated, thoughtful, dignified, feminine type. She suddenly became a cheerful, sprightly, childish person, ungrammatical, and using a peculiarly limited vocabulary.

She called herself Twoey and referred to her first personality as No. 1. Twoey would at first only remain a few hours but later her stay was pro-longed to several days.

While "1" and "2" were apparently in every respect separate and distinct personalities, each took up life and its occupations where the other had left off.

Twoey knew "No. 1" well and "No. 1" became acquainted with Twoey through the descriptions given her by others.

The two personalities became great friends. Twoey admired "No. 1" for her superior knowledge, her patience in suffering and the lovely qualities which she recognized, and she willingly took her place to give her rest.

"No. 1" also became fond of Twoey on account of the loving care she bestowed upon her and her affairs and for her witty sayings which she greatly enjoyed.

As Alma Z.'s health improved, Twoey's visits became scarce, and only coincided with conditions of extreme fatigue or mental excitement.

Then Alma married and became an excellent wife and an efficient mistress of the household.

One night,however, Twoey reappeared but merely to announce that she was to disappear and that another personality, "The Boy," would take her place. The Boy submitted to all the duties which Alma had to discharge but when questioned persisted in declaring her male and youthful character. Alma knew Latin, mathematics, and philosophy, she had memorized entire poems by Tennyson, Browning and Scott. The Boy was absolutely ignorant, although he had an intelligent grasp of affairs and manifested a keen enjoyment of theatrical and musical performances.

One evening at a concert in the Metropolitan Opera House, the Boy suddenly disappeared and Alma returned for a few minutes, but Alma soon closed her eyes and assumed the harsher, more masculine countenance of her boyish personality.

The Boy knew Twoey and "No. 1" and liked both of them. Like Twoey he expressed a constant desire that "No. 1" should get well and not need him any more.

Ansel Bourne had regressed to a lower intellectual level, but remained on an adult level. Miss Beauchamp and Alma Z. regressed to childhood. In the case of Mary Reynolds, we will observe a regression to infancy and in that of the Rev. Thomas Carson Hanna, to the condition of the newborn.

Mary Reynolds, treated by Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, was a shy, morose, melancholy woman. She had suffered frequently from convulsions, loss of consciousness, loss of sight and hearing.

After having been greatly weakened by a severe attack, she fell into a deep sleep from which she could not at first be aroused.

On awaking she was found to have lost all her former knowledge, to be unable to recognize her environment or any of her friends.

She still knew how to eat, drink and walk, but she could neither speak nor understand spoken words. She was an infant, mumbling disconnected words. In her second state she was gay, lively and playful.

The transition from "1" to "2" always took place at night, that from "2" to "1" during the day time.

No case has been more completely described than that of Rev. Thomas Carson Hanna, treated by Dr. Boris Sidis and Dr. S. P. Goodhart.

Rev. Hanna had never suffered from any illness up to his twenty-fourth year when the slight accident, following which his personality changed, took place.

He was a versatile man, endowed with not only intellectual, but mechanical ability, showing artistic taste in many directions; he had a strong will and perfect self-control. He was not demonstrative in his affections and was influenced more easily by reason than by emotion.

One evening, returning home in his carriage, he lost his footing while alighting, fell head foremost and remained unconscious for two hours. When he regained his consciousness he had become as helpless as a newborn infant. He could neither speak nor understand what was said to him. He did not know how to control his voluntary muscles, he could not walk. He had no conception of distance or time.

When food was offered to him he did not understand the purpose of it; nor, when it was placed in his mouth, did he know how to masticate and swallow it. It was only when food was forced upon him and thrust far back into the pharynx and reflex swallowing movements excited, that he realized the purpose of food and learned the way of taking it.

Like an infant, he satisfied his natural needs without regard to time or place. Like an infant, he began to learn a few words by imitating definite articulate sounds made in connection with certain objects. The first word he learnt was "apple" which to him meant all kinds of food.

His intelligence, however, was that of an adult. His memory was excellent. A word once heard seemed indelibly impressed on his mind and he never again forgot it.

Like an infant, he was trying to grasp things beyond his reach, such as a tree he saw out of the window. Like an infant, he did not at first discriminate between his motions and those of other people.

Nor did he analyse complicated objects into their component parts; a man, a man on a bicycle, and a man sitting in a buggy were to him three different kinds of men. Life' and motion were at first synonymous to him.

He gradually learnt to speak, to walk, to sing and to play instruments but he only knew the things he had studied since his change of personality had taken place. Everything and everybody he had known previous to that time was absolutely forgotten. Once, the reading aloud to him of a Hebrew passage with which he was familiar brought to consciousness a flow of Hebrew quotations which he, however, did not understand.

Seven weeks after the accident, about three o'clock in the morning, he awoke to find himself in a strange house in New York City. He demanded explanations from his brother who was sharing his room.

When Dr. Goodhart, at whose house he was staying, carne into the room he took him for a perfect stranger.

All memory of the events intervening between April 15 at seven o'clock in the evening and June 8 in the early morning had faded.

In fact he resumed his conscious life at the very hour of the day when he had sunk into unconsciousness and insisted that it must be evening. On the other hand, he recounted as a part of his actual life some of the incidents of which he had been dreaming in hypnoidic states of his second personality.

On June 9 about 4 P. M. he fell asleep and when he awoke he had relapsed into his second personality. This time, however, he merely continued the life he had led before in that state and carried on the memories of it. He had not regressed further than that.

He gained much insight into his condition and, when told by his brother of his various changes of personality, appeared greatly depressed. He asked anxiously whether there would not be a third state in which he would not remember either his normal or his second personalities.

All sorts of stimulation were resorted to, from chemicals to a variety performance, in order to arouse his mental activity. In his secondary state, the young clergyman enjoyed keenly the antics of the performers, drank beer with pleasure, etc.

After innumerable changes of personality, generally preceded by sleep, Hanna merged on June 14 into a curious state resembling mental stupor. To questions put to him and bearing upon his two different personalities he answered very slowly and with great difficulty as though he were in both states at the same time.

For several days he remained in that condition; gradually his mind became clear and he informed the physicians treating him that he had passed through an intense mental struggle. The two personalities, his normal and his second personalities, arose simultaneously and confronted each other. Each of them was Hanna and yet they were different from each other. He could not choose one only because both were of the same nature; and yet they were too dissimilar to be joined.

Each personality rose and fell in turn. "The struggle," he said to his physicians, "was not so much to choose one as to forget the other. I was trying to find out which I might most easily forget. It seemed impossible to forget one; both tried to persist in consciousness. It seemed as if each memory was stronger than my will, and still I had to deter-mine which to drive away. Just before lunch, yesterday, in the psychological laboratory, I chose the secondary life; it was strong and fresh and was able to persist.... At that time the question arose whether I could not possibly take both. I decided to accept both lives as mine, a condition that could not be worse than the uncertainty I was in. I then felt that the oft-repeated struggle would ruin my mind. I am sure both are mine. They are separate and I cannot yet fit the two well together. Secondary and primary states have breaks and intervals in them, as though there were periods of sleep. The secondary state is stronger and brighter, but not more stable."

Harmony gradually reentered Hanna's mind and the two personalities were merged into a new and healthy one, a compromise between the over-worked, overcivilized, over-repressed man of yore and the primitive, uncivilized and unadapted child who for three months had tried to prevail.

In all but one of the cases I have reviewed and in many others which can be found in the literature of the subject, the change in personality was preceded by some "crisis." The crisis is not mentioned in Hanna's case but might have been found if the psychiatrists treating the patient had inquired into the events preceding the "accident." They probably, as was usual in those days (1897), considered the accident as the primary factor in the mental derangement. Hanna's fall may have been, however, what Freud calls a semi-intentional self-inflicted injury.

Ansel Bourne was fleeing from "trouble back there" and "wanted rest," Miss Beauchamp was overcome by "some nervous excitement," Alma Z. was a victim of "overwork," Mary Reynolds had been weakened "by a severe attack."

In every case the subject, instead of evolving into a more complex, more intelligent, more developed personality, regressed to a more primitive one. The change implied an easier mode of living, fewer duties and responsibilities.

In the case of Alma Z., "The Boy" was obviously trying to save the normal personality from wifely duties. A. Brown, fruit dealer, avoided much of the mental exertion Rev. Bourne had to undergo. Sallie did not have to live up to the intellectual standard Miss Beauchamp had set for herself. Mary Reynolds and Hanna, becoming infants, let the world minister to all their needs.

Every change of personality either. took place at night or after a period of sleep, the second personality appearing preferably at night, the normal personality re-appearing preferably in the day time. The second personality assumes the aspect of a protracted dream, and the fact that it appeared at night in so many cases, lends credibility to that view.

The second personality appears in every case as a morbid wish-fulfilment, as a negative striving along a fictitious life-line, along the line of least resistance. Every one of the subjects observed was probably a person harassed and worn out by either monotonous tasks or an exaggerated sense of duty.

The playful or infantile personalities into which they merged temporarily, took abnormally the vacation they themselves should have taken normally.

They all had repressed, if not overrepressed, the old Adam, and the old Adam avenged himself by bursting forth and assuming the upper hand. How many cases of so-called "insanity" are simply due to the persistency of a second personality which happens to be too violent or absurd to be tolerable in its environment. A patient now confined at Ward's Island became insane after being hit on the head by a small tin can which did not even abrase the skin. A journeyman before the accident, he 'has become a famous opera singer and holds frequent conversations with God. He, too, has entered an easier life, doing no manual labour, enjoying a prestige he could never aspire to in his former occupation and unburdened of the care of his family; the fulfilment of a dream which may have originated in the unconscious moments following the accident; another case in which the accident seems to have been a "pretext" seized by the unconscious rather than a positive cause.

The more things we lack in our waking states, the more things we shall expect and receive from our dreams, but many of our dream accomplishments are archaic, regressive, infantile. Not infrequently when our conscious self deprives itself of gratifications which human nature craves, our unconscious self overpowers it and proceeds to lead even in our waking states a more human, more comfortable, sort of life. Like all the results of violent upheavals, however, that life is likely to be unbalanced and unadapted to our environment. The ascetic saints who, in their scorn of the flesh, fled into the desert, were a prey to horrible hallucinations in which they beheld all the obscenities which consciously they had been avoiding but for which they unconsciously had been craving.

Our archaic, unconscious self is a lusty caveman whose cravings modern civilization can no longer satisfy. He must, however, be appeased now and then by being given a sop of some sort. Starving him can only bring about his revolt; his attempts to free himself may mean sick headaches, hysteria, obsessions, phobias, "insanity" or the appearance of a new man in the body of the old, the domination of a second personality for a more or less extended period of time.

How One Woman Became Insane
Definition of Multiple Personality Disorder


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