The Bifurcation of the Self: The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders

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Springer, Mar 27, 2006 - Psychology - 304 pages
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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 Rieberís 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 evolutionsóhypnosis, concepts of identity, and dissociationóbeginning 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 personís identity?
  • Can two or more autonomous personalities actually exist in the same body?
  • If trauma causes dissociation, why arenít 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 centuriesí 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.

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About the author (2006)

ROBERT W. RIEBER is a Professor of Psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

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