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Review of

Multiple Personality

Joseph Jastrow

Psychological Bulletin, 1905, 2, 284-286.

Multiple Personality. An Experimental Investigation into the Nature of Human Individuality. BORIS SIDIS and SIMON GOODHART. New York, Appleton, 1905. Pp.462.

        The present contribution of Dr. Sidis, in association with Dr. Goodhart, to the comprehension of personality in its abnormal manifestations centers about the remarkable case of Mr. Hanna; and for this alone the volume at once assumes an important place in the literature of this perplexing topic. The case is noteworthy in many aspects; it is minutely and ably reported; the patient is a man of unusual intelligence and education, as well as a person of normal good health; and the appearance of the altered personality comes suddenly by reason of an accident, while the acquisitions of the entire experience up to the moment of the accident disappear. In contrast with the usual cases in which alterations of personality are developed slowly in hysterical patients, the new order of things following upon more ot less protracted periods of psychic incubation, and merging in puzzling ways factors of the old personality with the new development, Mr. Hanna's case is that of the most complete loss of the personal acquisitions and the memory thereof that has yet been recorded. It is thus in a very true sense the psychologist's case of altered personality, for it corresponds most nearly to the conditions which the psychologist would choose, were he able to experiment in this field; and in the end under Dr. Sidis' skillful management the actual experiment is performed, and successfully, of reinstating the original personality, so that at the present moment Mr. Hanna is substantially the same as before his curious experience. It is difficult to summarize the case itself; but it may be stated that, as the result of a fall, Mr. Hanna found himself practically as a newborn babe, with no language, no comprehension of the meaning of things, no memory-images of what sensations were or how they were to be interpreted, no knowledge of his family, or of his surroundings, or of any of the innumerable factors which constitute experience. He actually had to discover the use of his muscles and of his senses, to be taught the simplest rudiments of that practical education which occupies infancy, and yet went through all this with something of the adult facility, and, as proved later, with underlying remnants of his former adult consciousness. That his acquisitions were gained at an extremely rapid rate the story emphasizes; and the happy ending shows that at no time were the older experiences really destroyed. They had been merely suddenly and mysteriously estranged from voluntary recall, but remained in subconscious possession. The first distinct evidence of this reaction was obtained from such accounts as the patient could give of his dreams. These fell into two varieties; the one concerned with the events and modes of response of his new childlike personality, while the other, which he spoke of as vivid dreams, were traceable to real happenings of his former self. Following this suggestion, the patient was taken to New York city and there subjected to the violent assailing of his senses by means of the complex stimulations of the metropolis, in the hopes that as such experiences were not unfamiliar to the former self, they would serve by their very intensity and complexity to break through the shallow crust that at this juncture separated the conscious from the subconscious acquisitions, and thus to reinstate, even though intermittently, the older life. This actually occurred on awakening from a sound sleep during the first night following these experiences. The patient awoke as the original Mr. Hanna, with much astonishment found himself in strange surroundings, with unfamiliar companions, and at once demanded the sequence of events from the moment of the accident several months before. The new state did not last long; the patient became drowsy, and awoke in the morning with no knowledge of the night's events, though quite clear as to the experiences of the evening before. Gradually these reinstatements became more frequent and of longer duration, and resulted in an intense and painful struggle which Mr. Hanna afterward recounted as one of the most trying moments of his life, when he really seemed forced to choose between the two personalities, each of which seemed to claim him as its own, and yet with no exclusive right. The saving alternative, which was the issue of the struggle, was to embrace them both, to merge the two, though with imperfect conviction, until they gave way to the normal state of affairs.

        The case is important and interesting, not only by reason of its general progress, but on account of the many detailed observations that enrich the account, and suggest at each step well-formulated and specific problems in regard to psychological principles and analyses. These are further discussed in a series of introductory chapters, and in another series of concluding chapters, in which Dr. Sidis presents his general statements in regard to the nature of personality. The trend of these is not easily reproduced, and indeed leaves upon the reader something of a vagueness of impression that is inevitable in our present imperfect understanding of these cases. What is more important is that the interpretation, so far as it goes, is intimately filled with the sanest and safest interpretations of modern psychology, and emphasizes the fundamental importance of the normal subconscious life as the proper starting-point for the interpretation of the abnormal. or all of these merits the volume deserves, as it doubtless will find, a useful place in the psychologist's equipment for the comprehension of the varieties and the variations of personality.

J. J.

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