The Glamorous Life
Guest editorial by Azu of Amorpha
You know, it occurred to me tonight when reading reviews on amazon.com that part of the reason the idea of natural and/or non-disordered multiplicity hasn't really "taken off" with the general public is because it's not glamorous. It's not weird enough; it's not scandalous. I mean, in a nation where "Jerry Springer" can become a top-rated talk show, nobody wants to hear about a multiple system with a couple of rather ordinary people. No, that just doesn't sell. We want COURAGEOUS HEALING JOURNEYS! We want tales of SURVIVORSHIP and RECOVERY! We want flying toasters and inner self-helpers, mass murderers and nymphomaniacs, and gory details of innocent children being raped and covered in chicken blood, for the same reason we want to hear all the details of President Clinton getting blowjobs from interns! We're a culture enamored of the perverse, bizarre, and scandalous; we're fascinated by the details of other people's miseries. That's not necessarily a bad or unusual thing, but it does bother me insofar as that people would much rather see courageous healing stories than functioning, healthy multiple systems, because it just doesn't make for as dramatic a story.
I know how this works, actually. We first read Sybil when we were 14, and however much they had to BS in order to make it neat and tidy, Schreiber and Dr. Wilbur really made it seem like a wonderful happy-ending story-- if you didn't know it was possible to be multiple and normal, if you thought it was all trauma and dissociation. Lo and behold, she is cured, and is happy because she has everyone's memories and no longer loses time! (The possibility of everyone in her system working out a communal memory base was never addressed, presumably so that the reader would unconsciously assume it wasn't an option for a multiple). She's no longer "broken," she has all the personality traits she "split off" to the others. Oh, yes, that was the most vastly appealing thing about the paradigm to us, I think. Being able to "get back" those things we vaguely remembered being able to do, even if we didn't fit the Wilburian profile in most other ways. And of course, of course, the hero of the whole thing was Dr. Wilbur (knowing what we do now about the woman, I'm sure she insisted she be portrayed that way) for being able to unravel the "mystery" and "fix" Sybil in all her wise and knowing benevolence. No wonder it was a best-seller; no wonder the public became so enamored of "MPD." It's the psychological equivalent of The Princess Found Her Prince And They All Lived Happily Ever After. (No Utena comments from the peanut gallery, please.) It has scandal, redemption, childhood horror stories, everything the American public slobbers over on Jerry Springer. And other psychologists wanted to participate in this Wonderful Journey To Healing And Wholeness at this point; small wonder they went out of their way to look for it in every patient, why they wanted to see it so badly that they "found" multiplicity where it didn't exist. Multiplicity was exciting. Multiplicity was glamorous.
And then, of course, in the 80's, we got New Age guru Ralph Allison, the singlet who knows All About Multiple Personality, who added to this already deliciously dysfunctional condition with the goddamn psychic angle. Yes, not only are we fascinating little lab specimens in our own right, but we can also read minds, make radios fritz, contact and channel great spiritual identities, remember past lives, psychically drain people's energy, and make toasters fly! So then we got the whole Truddi Chase and Kit Castle shit and became even /more/ freakish, glamorous as it may have been. We weren't even human beings; we were some kind of... things. Super-intelligent, psychic things, but we couldn't ever be the person next door. And then, of course, Dr. Don't-Make-Me-Ralph going on about all this psychic shit was able to do just as much as the Bennett Braun types to discredit multiplicity with the psychiatric industry. So not only are we delusional, gullible, and highly susceptible, we're also downright loony. Joy!
I don't know. The fact that there are still a lot of singlets fascinated by multiples, whether as psychic superbeings or as pathetic specimens of dysfunction, is evident just by reading the amazon reviews. "This book is a wonderful story of healing. It describes how her childhood traumas caused her to shatter and how therapy made her whole again." (gag) "This book is a moving portrayal of what it's like to live with DID and how terrible it is for the affected person!" (retch) "I now understand exactly what it's like to have MPD, thanks to this well-written book which details her fragmentation and how she became one!" (don't you just love the now-I-know-it-all types?) "I liked this book, but it didn't go into enough detail about the traumas that caused her to develop MPD. I would have liked to know more about what caused her to dissociate." (oh, yes, the trauma-hungry types.) And then you have a few of the survivorwhine Judas Iscariot types: (sorry, Tam's term, not mine ^^;;) "As a sufferer of DID, I found this book a wonderful resource for hope and healing! It explains exactly what causes this disorder and how to fix it! I am on my way to a happier life living as a single, integrated person!" (Baaaaaa. Look, just because you're not happy living as a multiple doesn't mean we all need to be "fixed.")
And with the glamorous reputation of "MPD" still firmly grounded in this society, it's going to be damn hard to get anyone to pay attention to multiples who aren't supernatural or pity-cases. Am I the only one who notices that these days, it's only the high-numbers systems who have purportedly suffered the most trauma which make it into print? *muttersnarlgrowl*
I really think that's a lot of what underlies the image of multiplicity in this country. People /want/ the dysfunction, the horror stories and the flying toasters. That's what they want to see. That's what they want to believe.
Azu of amorpha