Let us begin our exploration of the latent human potential – or future mind – residing in each of us by looking into the field of Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly referred to as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). For our purposes, I will use the older, more familiar designation. Multiples have much to teach us about exceptional human performance and accelerated healing. Multiples can range from having just one alter, or additional personality to as many as 36 alters. Each alter may differ in terms of visual functioning and pupil size. For example, I was treating a multiple who was legally blind, and registered with the Canadian Institute of the Blind in one state, and seconds later, would switch to another alter with 20/20 vision. One alter may be color blind; the other alters are not.
One of the most interesting areas is that of allergies. One personality may be deathly allergic to cats, while another personality of the same person with MPD just seconds later will embrace two cats to their face with no consequences. Within minutes, allergies can appear and disappear. In one well-known case, a former heroin addict who gave up heroin but developed MPD still had one personality that was a heroin addict. Whenever that personality came out, the needle tracks appeared on the skin of that particular personality.
Approximately 97 percent of those who suffer from multiple personality disorder have a history of severe emotional, physical and almost always sexual abuse. In these cases, there will often be at least one child alter. I was attending grand rounds at the teaching hospital I was affiliated with and the psychiatric resident showed photographs of a patient’s arm that erupted with severe cigarette burns as punishment by her father when she was a little girl. When she switched back from the child alter to herself, the cigarette burns disappeared within fourteen minutes and the skin returned to its normal texture.
Other examples of biophysical and psychological plasticity include switching from being diabetic and insulin dependent in one alter to a normal range of biochemical functions seconds later. Brainwaves, like fingerprints, are immutable and don’t change their individual identities. However, alters EEG’s will shift rhythms to a different electrical language from personality to personality. Scientific certainty was cast even further aside when psychiatrist Bennet Brawn published four cases of multiples that were able to change eye color for example, from brown eyes to blue – and then switch back to their original visionary wardrobe.
On the positive side, MPD patients generally heal from burns with unusual speed. Their overall healing abilities are much more rapid than with other people, and the aging process is considerably slower with MPD, even though their alters might be children; some of their alters might be 100 years old.
Very little work has been done to investigate what happens intrapsychically or experientially when different alters emerge. One recent report provided some interesting information. One host personality said, “I lie or sit down, concentrate very hard and then wish for another identity.” This, in some cases, can be done voluntarily; however, in most cases it is apparently spontaneous.
I feel we can learn a great deal from multiples in controlling pain. Some of the alters, when they feel pain, simple send it off to another alter. When one presenting personality was asked, “How can you stand that pain?” the answer was “Oh, my other alter has it and I’m not going to let her come out for a while.”
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here. All MPD’s are gifted hypnotic subjects, for reasons I won’t go into here. We all have sub-personalities. Not that we have to develop alters, but would it be feasible to hypnotically explore transferring pain to one of our cluster sub-personalities and then encapsulate the pain by inducing a hypnotic amnesia?
The range of exceptional abilities is extraordinary, tragic and frightening in the cases of abusive histories. However, there is also a visionary excitement in that multiples, I believe, are the forerunners of human potential, demonstrating not only much wider apertures of consciousness, highly unusual psychological landscapes, and a bioplasticity of mind and body that are beyond our current boundaries of consciousness.
Lee Pulos, Ph.D., ABPP