"The Paradoxical Plight Of Fragmented and Multiple Selves"

From the book: "Shattered Selves" by James M. Glass

"To be delusional or to suffer from multiple personality, yet also to function in the consensual world, is to live in a dilemma. It is to suffer at the hands of power; it is to contain within oneself a radical confusion as to the nature of being and identity; and it is to be misunderstood by society. The multiple personality does function; a consciousness lives in the world, but which one depends on which persona or identity is present to consensual reality. Multiple personality disorder is not a psychotic condition, yet the several states of mind create radical forms of disintegration and emotional chaos which work themselves out both on the body and in self-representations living in the midst of society. In both instances-- multiple personality and psychosis (in which consciousness lives within a framework defined by internal delusional projections totally dissociated from externality)--the human being suffers from an alienation so intense that life itself becomes a continuing journey into pain.

The postmodern critics of psychoanalysis in their celebration of multiplicity rarely acknowledge this suffering. It is as if they are saying that the pain simply does not matter, that what is important is the political meaning these human beings offer for ideological argument and for attacks against institutionalism, psychiatric categorization, and the normalizing of society. They do not acknowledge that such persons simply do not have the capacity to become artists or eloquent poets; there is little eloquence in the utterances of the mad or in the torments of women suffering horrifying flashbacks. These persons could not live with the demands of a revolutionary praxis attached to their suffering. The critics dangerously lose sight of the person: is not a fitting object of social theory the status of the self, its physical and psychological body? Is it not equally as important to understand and interpret the world from the point of view of the victims themselves? Are people not as important as texts? Where are the victims' voices in the nihilistic critques of such theorists as Deleuze and Guattari, and, more broadly, postmodernists such as Baudrillard and Lyotard? Are texts and letters the only phenomena that count? The pain and indeterminacy of human suffering for these critics, the literal horrors of victimhood and survivorhood, remain in the background, secondary considerations in the post modernist idealization of multiplicity.

The recognition of the importance of a coherent historical self and a of a theory of asylum would propose the preparation of the tormented self for life in an existing, historically defined consensual world, with all its imperfections. No retreat can be permanent; there is no ultimate escape from the normalizing society, except perhaps death, which both schizophrenics and multiple personalities often find intriguing and seductive, as did the hostile alters in Nora and Kimberely. There are no utopias for the psychially displaced, nor does any evidence support the conclusion that dissociated selves would in fact desire some kind of utopia. To become aware of what one carries inside--that is, to initiate the process of deconstructing delusion in schizophenia, an almost impossible therapeutic task even with the use of appropriate medication, or to resolve the separable adn fused personas of a mutiple personality--is to gain a knowledge of the world as a place of imperfection, struggle, and hope.

...and multiple personalities who manage to function in the consensual world describe aspiration in the language of the normalizing society. They express a wish to be left alone and not be reminded of what they have experienced. Their objectives point directly to a 'normal' life; they see themselves not as symbols for more generalized political arguments over insight and specialness. They talk about jobs, skill development, and education. If, in fact, the psychically displaced hate their specialness and crave normality, then such hopes run up against teh postmodern critics' ideological call for the decentered self and the use of the multiple as a symbol of protest against capitalist society and its forms of knowledge/power. (according to Deleuze and Guattari)

...Yet I also acknowledge the part of the appeal of such theorists as Deleuze and Guattari, and Foucault is that their critque (regarding asylums) contains an important part of the truth in casting the multiple as the victim of twisted, power-hungry institutions and discourses. Also valuable is Girard's argument that 'madness' is a state of mind or being which represents a split-off or denied aspect of the collective 'truth' and that the language of madness reveals what the collective often denies in itself.

To recognize that the 'mad' and the 'sane' constitute part of an important part of each other, that the collective and its demons derive from a shared human nature, assigns to madness a quality that makes it more than a politically defined label or an artifical construct. It is real, terrifying place, one that is palpable and 'there', a vivid presence in the collective dynamics of human experience. The madness of the group, the group cult, the group state, the group nation, is as terrifying as the solitary screaming at the moon, fighting the invisible demons, or carving up an imaginary body.

To what extent is rage an example of what exists in the collective, what is expressed in political form, political 'rage', what Vamik Volkan (1988) speaks about as the need to have enemies? To what extent is what is written on Nora's body a projection of deranged collective forms of modernism taking shape in hidden places in which patriarchal power writes its brutality without restraint?

In this sense Girard's notion of the 'mirror of doubles' amplifies the psychological and historical context of what madness signifies for the large group or culture. If madness of the self or the deranged madness of unrestained power is not an aberrant condition but a potential or tendency in the collective, an aspect of human nature shattering socialized limits and boundaries, then Louis and Nora become more than pathogenic presences. They reveal the psychological underside of power, its embeddedness in the family, its complicity in the destruction and death of the self, its pathogenesis in delusion, its attachment to the collective will, and its alliance with patriarchal oppression. But to see the schizophrenic or multiple personality as culture heroes, as carriers of a new 'postmodern' synthesis, as symbols of a nihilist awakening, is to mystify and distort what they and the circumstances of their respective tragedies speak."

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