Tuesday, March 18, 2008
How many personalities do you have?
George Bush, or Hitler, could be 'charming' one moment and 'murderous' the next.
At school, a child may be rude, disruptive and criminal.
At home, the same child may be quiet and respectful.
In New Scientist, 15 March 2008, Rita Carter wrote 'Perspectives: The flip side to multiple personalities'. This is based on her latest book, Multiplicity: The new science of personality; Little, Brown. (Divided minds)
Reportedly, we all have multiple personalities, because it's a good way to deal with life and life's stress.
Carter describes how, in 1791, a German doctor called Eberhardt Gmelin reported that one of his patients regularly changed from acting like a middle-class German woman into acting like a French aristocrat.
As a French aristocrat she would speak French perfectly but German as a Frenchwoman might.
As a German woman, she knew nothing of her French personality.
Between 1985 and 1995, approximately 40,000 cases of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) were diagnosed.
Sometimes MPD is called Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).
Doctors have usually linked DID to horrible events in childhood - childhood trauma.
Personality-switching may be a kind of play-acting and may be a way of dealing with horrible events.
In the 1970s, Ernest Hilgard, a psychologist at Stanford University, California, hypnotised patients about to have surgery.
Hilgard told the hypnotised patients that a "hidden observer" would feel their pain for them.
After surgery, the patients reported no pain.
Hilgard hypnotised the patients again and asked the "hidden observer" to speak. The patients (speaking as the hidden observer) reported the pain of the knife.
The pain seemed to have been stored in a "compartment."
Rita Carter writes that dissociation can protect people from pain, infection and depression.
People who report they are more multiple suffer less from stress-related conditions.
Imagine Judy has a sporty personality, A, and an academic personality, B.
"If A loses a tennis match, A is annoyed, which results in tensed muscles and a backache. If A was the only personality Judy had she would be tense all day. But if she goes off to college, switching to Judy B, her muscles relax because B doesn't care about the tennis match. So Judy suffers less than if she was only personality A."