Multiplicity and Excuses: A Rant

by Azusa

Like the title says, I'm ticked off. I'm going to rant.

Why am I annoyed? Because of this. It's a lovely little piece about multiple personality in North American courts, by one Dr. David James. Okay, so the writing style is a little bit dry; it's an interesting read if you actually are interested in this sort of thing, but you don't have to slag through the whole report, because the part that got me angry is near the end. Or, hell, I'll just quote the parts that are relevant here.

"Many authorities would see these forms of argument as sophistry or casuistry. However created, the multiple personality situation is one of evasion and self-deception (Beahrs, 1994). For clinicians and others to sanction MPD as an illness is simply to sanction the individual's avoidance of their own personal responsibilities and to allow them to seek refuge in a socially-sanctioned sick role (Halleck, 1988; Fahy, 1988; McHugh, 1995). This appears to be the crux of the matter."

"Although the arguments about MPD in the US courts are far from resolved, many may sympathise with Bloom, (quoted by Slovenko, 1989), who writes: "Having worked with patients for 40 years now, I see splitting and dissociation, not only as defences, but as means to escape moral responsibility for ourselves and our actions.The murderers and the rapists can hide behind their numerous personalities to get away with the crime."

"Although some argue that the disorder is not found elsewhere because it is not looked for (e.g. Bliss, 1984b; Kluft, 1991; Ross 1997), Spanos (1996) explains its culture-bound nature in socio-cultural terms. He considers that it has spread so far in the U.S.A., because it fulfils a social, political and cultural function, suiting desires to evade personal responsibility and to medicalise personal dissatisfaction and distress, whilst fitting the agendas of groups as diverse as the therapy professions, the political right, conservative Christian evangelists, the child abuse lobby and believers in alien abduction."

Okay. The fuck?! Where the hell do I even start on this one?

For those of you who skimmed over the legal-speak in the previous paragraphs, here's a nice little summary of the conclusion here: What we call multiple personality (multiplicity, plurality, whatever you want to call it) is nothing but a bunch of single people wanting to evade personal responsibility for their own actions, because it gives them an excuse to hide behind and say, "Oh, it wasn't me. Another personality did that."

Yeah. Isn't that just fucking lovely?

Everything can be made an excuse. Everything. Multiple personality, schizophrenia (no, they're not the same thing), attention deficit disorder, depression, OCD, child abuse, violent TV shows and video games, role-playing games, heavy metal, absent parents, Beavis and Butt-head, Jumbo Big Gulps from 7-11, and excessive consumption of Twinkies, just to name a few things people have really actually tried to use as excuses in court. Our society fosters evasion of personal responsibility, not any one thing in particular. To say that multiple personality or SBing is symptomatic of people trying to evade responsibility for their actions is like saying that Twinkies are symptomatic of people wanting to evade responsibility. (Yeah, look up information on the Twinkie Defense, if you ever get the chance. It's a pretty good indication of just what the hell is wrong with our legal system today.)

Let's look at it another way: say you're about to be sent to prison and you'll do anything to find a way out of that fate. You're talking with a psychologist and he suggests that you might have another personality who committed the crime or caused you too. Does it matter if you do? Hell no. It's a way for you to get out of going to prison. If you plead not guilty by reason of MP, there's a very good chance the jury is going to let you off. It doesn't matter if you ARE multiple or not. It's just an excuse for you to use to get off the hook. And, sure, you'll put on the act if you're required to, and maybe even convince yourself of it a little bit. It wouldn't matter if he had suggested multiple personality, repressed abuse memories, or playing too much "Mortal Kombat." It's an excuse. The nature of it doesn't matter.

If you play lots of "Quake" and think that it somehow condones going out and shooting up a bunch of people, that is your fault.

If you listen to stupid rap songs about killing cops and go out and kill one, that is your fault.

If you're multiple and make no attempt to establish any kind of operating system or set of group rules and let others in the system go out and hurt people, you are as guilty as the one who committed the crime.

It's not the fault of the games, the songs, or the concept of MP. It's YOUR fault, as a human being or whatever you identify as. And that is your responsibility. And just as the vast majority of people who play first-person shooters or listen to rap don't do it because they think it gives them an excuse for real-life violence, most real multiples don't do it as an excuse to evade responsibility for their actions. It's simply a way of life. It's those who do vocally use it as a means of evading responsibility who give all the silent masses a bad reputation.

Evasion and self-deception. I suppose that all goes back to the whole thing of "you're just making this up" or "this is just roleplaying." Does it matter if it is? Maybe the religion you follow is all made up. Maybe that's all roleplaying too. It doesn't ultimately matter, does it? What matters is the ends you use it for.

Just because they can't possibly fathom any reason why anyone would want to think they had more than one person in their head, other than to evade responsibility for their own actions, this somehow makes them fit to judge all those who do. Sure. Maybe it fills another need in the human psyche, one much deeper, older and nobler than desire to avert legal responsibility: the desire to experience other states of mind, other states of perception, to expand the experience of Mind. In some "primitive" societies, those who have "other spirits" living inside them are looked up to for guidance, for knowledge, even revered as sacred and blessed. Maybe taking on other identities, in some cases, really is the best way for some people to endure traumatic situations, as per the psychological model. Maybe there are as many reasons for doing so as there are variants of the human mind.

Does holding that belief that fit my agenda? Sure. Does that fit the agendas of some groups I have not the least desire to be associated with, such as the Christian right and alien-abduction fanatics? I'm sure it does. So do eating, drinking, breathing and sleeping. That doesn't mean I can be lumped in with them by virtue of sharing the occasional common motivation. "Look at all these freaks who support it! That MUST mean something about everyone who supports it!" How very ad hominem of them.

You know... I guess I'm just tired of all this. I hate the "MPD/DID" paradigm and the precedent it sets for any kind of plural identity; that if you lean at all in this direction you have to be shoved into this box. And a lot of the psychs who were pressing the diagnosis and paradigm for their own agendas have now been exposed for the quacks they are, and the result is that not only has the validity of the diagnosis been called into question, but there's now a pretty hostile psychological climate for ANYONE who poses any model, disordered or no, for being "more than one." And, you know, I guess I just really hate typing up long, heartfelt rants about the importance of stable operating systems, and then coming across things like... well, like this. Because I do my damnedest to be a responsible person. I do a lot more than a lot of the singlets I know, and that's not bragging-- just statement of fact.  And if things like that report are honestly representative of what society now believes, that's a nice slap in the face after how hard we try to convince people that yes, we're sane, no, we don't have serial killers in here, yes, you can trust us. (I suppose it also wouldn't hurt to note that we'd rather have our gums scraped than willingly take on any manner of "socially-sanctioned sick role.")

There's no "phenomenon" going on here, folks. This is as old as the human race. The only "phenomenon" is that of therapists and lawyers who tried to take a really fucked-up paradigm and use it for their own personal benefit, hurting a lot of people in the process.

Okay. I think I'm done. I feel a little better now. Whew.