What about Multiple Personality Disorder?

Discussion of Julian Jaynes's second hypothesis - the bicameral mind, specifically the subtopic of schizophrenia and schizophrenia as a vestige of the bicameral mind.
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What about Multiple Personality Disorder?

Post by Zoroaster »

Hi I'm new here so apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere.

I am aware that schizophrenia and MPD are not the same thing, however this seemed like the most relevant category to bring it up. I also realize that MPD is a debated phenomenon but I think it has been well documented. I recently read When Rabbit Howls by The Troops for Terri Chase. This was a fascinating book about a woman who developed over 90 distinct personalities. These personalities acted together to create a facade of a functioning normal person. The Troops as they referred to themselves worked together to write the book and try to tell their story.

Having also read the Origin of Consciousness... I was struck by the evidence of the brains ability to compartmentalize and form internal heirarchies of personalities. The personalities communicated apparently in a way that they experienced like a discussion which was often a cacophony. Power struggles were common.

Looking at Multiple Personality Disorder in a Jaynesian context brings up a lot of questions. If MPD is somehow related to Bicameralism, how did it develop? It is not just a situation of a preconscious mind receiving and obeying commands but of multiple "analog I"s existing in the same brain and negotiating decisions. Perhaps MPD is a more likely condition to associate with oracles. The god develops as a separate personality and actually has separate thoughts and knowledge from the oracle. MPD (tragically) is almost always associated with ongoing abuse during childhood. It seems to be a latent defense mechanism that we all have. Could it be that traditions of special initiations, traumatic tests and harsh upbringings for oracles and shamans helped to induce MPD?
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Post by Moderator »

It's an interesting subject, I think you are on the right track.

I recently read a book called Of Two Minds: The Revolutionary Science of Dual-Brain Psychology. In a nutshell the author, a Harvard psychiatrist, looks at the well documented evidence of two minds in split-brain patients (one in each hemisphere) and concludes that we all have two minds, but that it is only in split brain patients that it becomes clearly evident. (Look up "split-brain patients" or see Jaynes's discussion of the topic if you are not already familiar with it.)

In other words, we each have two distinct 'selves' or personalities, one for each hemisphere, however we only have conscious awareness of one of these personalities, typically the one in the left hemisphere (for right handed people).

From this, he argues that a wide range of mental illness and personality problems stem from the two minds being at odds with one another, and/or unresolved traumatic experiences residing in the less dominant, immature mind, outside of conscious awareness.

He speculates that in patients with MPD, the secondary personality is located in the non-dominant hemisphere, which at times can become dominant (he feels that additional personalities are subdivisions of the secondary one).

While I remain somewhat skeptical about some of the author's ideas, it's an interesting discussion and it got me thinking about possible connections between Jaynes's ideas of the bicameral mind, split-brain studies, and modern mental illness.

Another related topic is cases of dissociative fugue (recently in the news with a Seattle man that disappeared for months and had complete amnesia when he turned up in Denver). Cases of dissociative fugue go back several 100 years, and involve someone one day disappearing, traveling to a new town, and taking up a new job, with no memory of their past life or experiences. Are these cases of a secondary personality, located in the nondominant hemisphere, taking over due to stress? It's something to think about...
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Re: What about Multiple Personality Disorder?

Post by eddwo »

I was listening to an interview with a woman with Tourette Syndrome on the radio this morning
her most evident verbal tic was the injection of the word 'biscuit' almost every second
she was speaking.

She claims that it is entirely involuntary, and she is never thinking about biscuits when it happens.

It does seem possible it is some sort of immature shadow personality acting out that she is not conciously aware of.
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Re: What about Multiple Personality Disorder?

Post by eddwo »

Ok, I'm getting a lot more convinced of this idea now, due to a variety ideas from other sources and my own experiences.
To some extent the non-dominant hemisphere personality may feel itself to be 'trapped' during day to day life,
and may 'break through' in dreams and in quite 'out of character' subconscious actions occurring in stressful situations.

Tourette's syndrome is perhaps our best example, as the personality breaks through more often or has
it's own direct control over muscles and often the speech centre. Not sure why there is all the swearing though,
perhaps the strong emotions of the 'trapped' personality automatically pick the most emotionally intense vocabulary.
Tourette's is often combined with increased creativity.

The fabled 'mid life crisis' period is perhaps the time where the two sides begin to come into greater alignment,
and if they seem to be dramatically out of step with one another a wide variety of emotional and behavioural 'issues'
can occur as people fight to try to reconcile their two opposing sides.
Perhaps someone suddenly 'finding god' within themselves is also another cultural conception of the same underlying biological process.

This guy had a lot more to say about that kind of thing
Though he was coming at it from quite a different direction, he seems to have reached a lot of the same conclusions.

If he's right and the degree of bicameralism a person exhibits is set in place by testosterone levels in the womb,
and those levels are increasing in the current population, it may well be the explanation for a huge variety of so-called 'mental disorders' that exhibit themselves in different ways in different people.
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