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Psychology | The Bifurcation of the Self - The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders

The Bifurcation of the Self

The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders

Rieber, Robert W.

2006, XIX, 304 p.

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For more than a hundred years, dissociative states, sometimes referred to as multiple personality disorder, have fascinated the public as well as scientists. The precise nature of this disorder is a controversial one, dividing clinicians, theorists, and researchers. Challenging the conventional wisdom on all sides, Robert Rieber’s Bifurcation of the Self traces the clinical and social history of dissociation in a provocative examination of this widely debated phenomenon.

At the core of this history is a trio of related evolutions—hypnosis, concepts of identity, and dissociation—beginning with nineteenth-century "hysterics" and culminating in the modern boom in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) diagnoses and the parallel rise in childhood abuse/repressed memory cases. Rieber does not argue the non-existence of DID; rather he asserts that it is a rare disorder exaggerated by dissociation advocates and exploited by the media. In doing so, he takes on some of the most difficult questions in the field:

  • How crucial is memory to a person’s identity?
  • Can two or more autonomous personalities actually exist in the same body?
  • If trauma causes dissociation, why aren’t there more DID cases?
  • Why are DID cases prevalent in some eras but not in others?
  • Does dissociative disorder belong in the DSM?

The book is rigorously illustrated with two centuries’ worth of famous cases including Christine Beauchamp, Ansel Bourne, Eve Black/Eve White, and most notably the woman known as "Sybil", whose story is covered in depth with newly revealed manuscripts. And Rieber reviews the current state of DID-related controversy, from the professionals who feel that the condition is underreported to those who consider it a form of malingering, so that readers may draw their own conclusions.

Content Level » Professional/practitioner

Keywords » DSM - brain - diagnosis - identity - personality - thinking - trauma

Related subjects » Personality & Social Psychology - Psychology

Table of contents / Sample pages 

A Brief History of Multiplicity.- The Roots of Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder.- “Nothing but God and the Brain”.- Prying Open the Lid.- Looking Inside the Box, Thinking Outside the Box.- Sybil A Case of Multiple Personalities and the Natural History of a Myth.- The Case of Sybil.- The Publication of a “Psychiatric Masterpiece”.- The Myth Explodes.- Seminal Cases of Multiplicity A History.- Fourteen Seminal Cases.- Bifurcation of Self.

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