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No. 59: Sep-Oct 1988

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The Enigma Of Multiple Personality

The multiple personalities of individuals afflicted with this disorder are sharply defined. Each personality has its (his or her) distinctive handwriting, artistic talents, foreign language capabilities, and other aspects of behavior -- all in the same body. Such mental and behavioral facets of multiple personality are well-recognized, even if not understood. What is even stranger and more anomalous about multiple personality is the remarkable mind-body relationship manifested. Consider, for example, the case of Timmy:

"When Timmy drinks orange juice he has no problem. But Timmy is just one of close to a dozen personalities who alternate control over a patient with multiple personality disorder. And if those other personalities drink orange juice, the result is a case of hives.

"The hives will occur even if Timmy drinks orange juice and another personality appears while the juice is still being digested. What's more, if Timmy comes back while the allergic reaction is present, the itching of the hives will cease immediately, and the water-filled blisters will begin to subside."

How does one explain such phenomena? We cannot obviously, at least not yet. What the phenomenon of multiple personality does do is offer us a "window" for observing that mysterious interface between one's thoughts and bodily functions. Perhaps, if we can heal the mind, we can also heal the body. (Where have we heard this before?)

(Goleman, Daniel; "Probing the Enigma of Multiple Personality," New York Times, p. B7, June 28, 1988. Cr. J. Covey)

From Science Frontiers #59, SEP-OCT 1988. � 1988-2000 William R. Corliss