William McDougall

Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, President of the Society for Psychical Research between 1920-21 and of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1921. Member of the Scientific American Committee for the investigation of Margery's mediumship. A keen but reserved investigator who took great care not to commit himself as to the genuine occurrence of the supernormal and agencies of an extra-terrene origin.

Coexisting or Coconscious Personalities

 - William McDougall -

          THERE ARE many psychologists who find no difficulty in accepting the descriptions of cases of the type discussed in the last chapter, and who nevertheless preserve an obstinate scepticism in face of the evidence for what Dr. Morton Prince has well called "coconsciousness." In this they reveal, I think, a naive and borné state of mind. For if, as most of these sceptics assume, human consciousness is nothing more than a synthesis of discrete conscious elements (call them sensations or ideas, or what you will), there is no obvious reason why these elements should not cohere in two or several streams flowing side by side in time, rather than in a single stream. And if we take a strictly materialistic or epiphenomenalist or parallelist view of the mind-body relation, there is equally no reason why the functions of the nervous system, and especially of the cerebral cortex, should not take the form of two or more integrated groups of functions simultaneously proceeding, each with its attendant stream of conscious elements.

If the evidence of coconsciousness were found in a few cases only, scepticism would be well justified. But, though the well-marked cases of coconscious personality that have been carefully studied are few, there is abundant other evidence of the reality of coconscious activities. In the chapter on Hypnosis we have seen that such evidence may be found in many, one might fairly say in all, good hypnotic subjects. I remind the reader of post-hypnotic actions "automatically" performed, and especially of those implying elaborate discriminations and calculations.

Now it is true that all the better part of the evidence for coconsciousness has been obtained by the aid of hypnosis, whether in cases of experimental hypnosis in normal persons or during the study of abnormal personalities. Many psychologists, having no familiarity with hypnosis and especially its deeper stages and phenomena, and feeling that hypnotism is something unusual and uncanny, incline to put aside all this evidence, saying that it is all due to hypnotic suggestion. But, even if that be true, the evidence is not thereby invalidated. When we set out to study the abnormal, it is a little absurd to shy away from its extremer manifestations, or to pass them by, turning only a blind eye upon them. Those who dislike problems and prefer to deal only in simple and familiar conceptions should go over frankly to the camp of the behaviourists, where they may cease from troubling and may find in dogmatic slumbers the peace and rest they desire.

Five cases of coconscious personality, carefully studied by four independent observers, seem especially worthy of our notice. The B C A case, studied and reported by Dr. Morton Prince(1), is in many ways the most illuminating, owing largely to the very able co-operation of the patient and to the fact that the gradual genesis of the abnormal condition was more fully traced than in other cases.

(1) The Psychogenesis of Multiple Personality, Journ. Abn. Psych., vol. XIV.

Case 56. - Five periods of abnormality are distinguished. The first period (of fourteen years' duration) began with marriage. Up to that time C had been a normal healthy and happy girl. Marriage initiated a conflict between, on the one hand, all her moral tendencies, her sentiments of affection and obligation (which system of tendencies was named the A system or group), and, on the other hand, a desire to be free, to follow her inclinations regardless of the new obligations imposed by marriage. This desire for free self-assertion became the nucleus of a complex (called by Prince "the rebellious complex") which, though repressed and successfully controlled, made itself felt in consciousness at times. After fourteen years of married life, which in spite of the rebellious complex were happy and successful, and during which a son was born, the husband fell sick of an incurable malady; wifely duties became more exacting and trying, and the conflict with the rebellious complex (henceforward called the B complex) was accentuated. The husband's sickness ended in death after four years. C seems then to have found a new object, X, to whom she transferred all her solicitude and sense of obligation; and the accentuated conflict continued for another year.

During this second period (dating from the inception of the husband's sickness, and therefore of five years' duration) C's health suffered from the anxieties of the situation and, we must suppose, from the intensity of the conflict. We may suppose that during this period the B complex generated fantasies, and thereby enriched its content. After restoration to wholeness C described this state of affairs retrospectively as follows: "It was a rebellion, a longing for happiness, a disinclination to give up the pleasures of life which the conditions required; and there was a certain determination to have these pleasures in spite of everything, and this resulted in a constant struggle between C and this complex ... As the months and years went on the sorrow and anxiety of the C group increased, and the conflicting thoughts and rebellion of the B group increased. C was ashamed of the latter and always tried to suppress such thoughts as they arose." C began to have "a sense of being double," and she began to lead a double life; at times the B complex seemed to get the upper hand and to govern her for a short period. At such times there was a great change of mood, from the habitual one of careful, anxious depression to one of irresponsible gayety, with exaltation and sense of vigour and renewed youth. With the change of mood came a marked change of tastes and mode of life corresponding to the change of mood, chiefly in the form of following a care-free out-of-door life. In this respect the B complex resembled the secondary personality of Mary Reynolds (p. 483).

One year after the husband's death a third period was suddenly initiated by action on the part of X which caused a severe emotional shock to C. From that moment the B complex seemed to acquire greater independence, and for one month (the duration of the third period) it ruled the scene. During this month all the serious side of C's character, with which the B complex had so long conflicted, was in abeyance; and she lived out-of-doors, rejoicing in the beauties of nature and in her freedom from care and responsibility; she felt and acted and looked as she had done when a young girl. During this time she could remember all her former life; but such recollections did not revive their original emotional tones. She was so changed emotionally that she felt herself to be a personality distinct from her former self, C, and could not acknowledge the major experiences of her married life as her own. She asserted of her son: "He is not my son - I was never married. I know all her (C's) experiences, but they are her experiences, not mine." And she behaved accordingly, repudiating all responsibility for her son. On the other hand, she acknowledged as her own the thoughts and feelings which in the past had arisen from the B complex. Thus, although there was no amnesia, there was so radical a change of character as to justify the claim, made by C and accepted by Dr. Prince, that the B complex may be properly described as having become, during this third period, a distinct personality.

After this state, which we may call that of the dominance of the B personality, had endured one month, X's conduct occasioned another emotional shock and another sudden change, which initiated the fourth period. This new state, which was called A, or state of dominance of personality A, may be described as the state of the second period modified by the greater independence and greater subconscious activity of the B complex. There was still no amnesia. C remembered the events of the third period, but with much distress and aversion and total lack of comprehension of the motives underlying the conduct of that month. But, in spite of this aversion, she continued in many ways the line of conduct of that period. Describing this fourth period retrospectively, C said: "It seems to me now ... that I was ... in a sort of somnambulistic state governed by what I have learned were coconscious ideas belonging to B; and that the impulses of the B complex were too strong to be resisted."

This condition (which may be described as one of incomplete dominance of the A system over the B system) lasted a few days only, and suddenly gave way to complete dominance of the B system. For some months, these two phases then alternated frequently. There was alternation of two personalities without amnesia on the part of either. This is a peculiarly interesting condition; for it shows how personality is much more a matter of character, of the organisation of affective tendencies, than of continuity of memory.

There followed a fifth period, which set in during hypnosis induced by Dr. Prince. This fifth period(2) was characterised by amnesia on the part of the A personality for all the experiences of the B personality. A and B continued to dominate alternately throughout a period of some years, the phases being of very various durations, until the final cure. A had amnesia for all the experiences of B. C describes this by saying: "I now had complete amnesia for my whole life as B; for everything B thought and did." Unfortunately she does not make clear whether this amnesia affected only the experiences of B from the date when she had become distinct and dominant, or also the earlier experiences of B. On the other hand, the personality B knew and remembered all the events of the phases of A's dominance; but she knew and remembered them, not as her own, but as A's, experiences. But the most striking feature about B was her claim to continued existence as a distinct conscious personality during the phases of A's dominance. There had been during the fourth period evidence of the subconscious activity of B, consisting in the impulsion of the A phase to forms of activity of which she, A, disapproved. In this fifth period the evidence of such coconscious activity on the part of B, during phases of A's dominance, became clearer. B claimed: "I know all that A thinks, but I do not feel her emotions." The cure was effected by aid of hypnotic suggestion; the normal personality C was restored, and seemed to combine in herself the distinct tendencies of A and B, and she was able to recollect the experiences of both A and B. The conditions of life were no longer such as to evoke conflict between the two aspects of C's character; the improved conditions rendered possible a complete integration and continuing harmony between the two sides of C's character. One curious feature remained however; the personality B could be recalled to dominance by hypnotic suggestion; and at such times she was able to give evidence of having continued to exist as a coconscious personality(3).

(2) I venture to depart here from Dr. Prince's scheme of periods. He dates the fifth period from the end of the first few days of the fourth period, when the A phase gave place to the B phase. But there seems to be no good reason for separating this from the later alternations of A and B without amnesia. Whereas the setting in of amnesia marks a distinct stage.

(3) Owing to the kindness of Dr. Prince and the subject, I had the opportunity to witness a demonstration of this kind, and can testify that the change of personality on the appearance of B was very striking, and the evidence of her subconscious or coconscious existence very convincing.

The B C A case provides striking evidence of coconscious activity, and is very instructive in two other respects. First it illustrates, I venture to think, the distinction between states of repression and states of dissociation, on which I have insisted throughout these pages, but which has been ignored by most of the authorities. Prince speaks of dissociation occurring during the fourth period; but I suggest that there was no dissociation but only repression, up to the moment when A became amnesic for B's experiences. From that point on, the memories of A and B were distinct; for B, although she continued to become aware of A's thoughts and actions and to be able to recollect them, was aware of them and remembered them as those of another person.

The second feature of special interest is the very wide difference of personality between A and B, even while they continued to have the one train of memory in common; a difference which during this phase consisted, not at all in differences of the memories they commanded, but wholly in the composition of character or affective organisation of the two personalities.' Prince tells us very explicitly: "The presence or absence of amnesia in no way affects the reality of altered or secondary personality. B was quite as much a personality before the development of amnesia as afterwards; ... the amnesia simply made the contrast between the phases more obtrusive." He points out that the difference between A and B may be described as the division of the primary affects between the two personalities. It would be going too far, perhaps, to assert that the division was clean-cut, that all affects displayed by A were lacking to B, and that, inversely, all those displayed by B were lacking to A. But there was approximation to that condition. The personality A clearly displayed anger, fear, disgust, sexuality, submission, and tender emotion. As regards B, Prince tells us that anger, fear, and disgust were never observed; and he asserts that in her composition sex, submission, and tender emotion were completely lacking, but that, on the other hand, self-assertion was strong in B. It is worth while, in view of the working hypothesis of manic-depressive disorder suggested in Chapter XXII, to compare this case, during the fourth period, with a mild case of manic-depressive. There are no doubt differences, yet the resemblance is striking; the alternations between phases A and B involved alternations between depression and exaltation, between self-deprecation and self-abasement on the one hand, and confident, elated self-assertion on the other. I would relate the prominence of the self-assertive impulse in B, and its weakness or absence in A, with the markedly greater vigour, mental and bodily, of B; for the self-assertive affect is the sthenic affect par excellence.

I present next a case admirably studied and reported by Prof. C. E. Coly(4) and afterwards by Dr. Morton Prince.

(4) "A Divided Self," Journ. Abn. Psych., vol. XIV, 1919.

Case 57. - Maria first showed clear signs of functional trouble after an emotional shock occasioned by the tragic death of her father when she was about twenty years of age. "Many things occurred during the years that followed that now clearly show that a well-organised subconscious complex was formed, and that at times it exerted a dominating influence." She became "subject to moods of extreme vanity, and occasional bits of conduct which were to her, at the time, inexplicable, such as, without intention, getting out of bed and going through weird dances."

In her twenty-sixth year the complex, which seems to have been incubating during the preceding years, first manifested itself more completely by producing an automatic song, an incident which startled and utterly puzzled M. Shortly after this incident the complex appeared as a full-blown secondary personality in full possession of the organism; and, from this time on for some years, two personalities, called A and B, alternately controlled the organism. A seemed to differ but little from the normal personality. B claimed to be the reincarnation of a Spanish gipsy girl who had led a romantic life as a singer and dancer; and she lived up to this role, even speaking and writing at times an imperfect form of the Spanish language, and always speaking English with a foreign accent(5).

(5) She had lived as a young girl in a convent school where there were Spanish pupils.

Of the two personalities, "each, if interested, is conscious of, and remembers what the other does. A, when subconscious, plays the role of an onlooker, but is powerless to determine B's conduct ... B, when subconscious, may, if she chooses, profoundly influence A. Frequently conversations are carried on between them. In this case an inner voice expresses the thought of the self that, at the time, happens to be subconscious." Dr. Cory here uses the term subconscious where Prince's term coconscious would be in order. Both personalities, then, coexist; when one is dominant and in control, the other lives subconsciously. Both can use the same sense-organ at the same time; for example, sometimes both read the same page at the same time, but their readings do not keep step and one may finish the page before the other. When subconsciously perceiving the outer world, either personality seems to perceive it as through a veil. B's memory was better than A's, both for recent and remote events. Although each knows the acts of the other, by reason of her subconscious observation, "the inner thought that lies back of an act is known only to the self that performs it. Of this inner life each knows only as much as the other sees fit to reveal." B gave good evidence that sometimes she was awake while A slept, and also that she could concoct a story and force it upon the consciousness of the sleeping A in the form of a dream.

There were well-marked differences of character between A and B, which may be broadly defined by saying, first, that the sex instinct was strong in B and lacking in A; secondly, that the self-assertive impulse was very strong in B and weak or lacking in A. Just as in the B C A case the B personality seemed to be built up on the self-assertive tendency and chiefly actuated by its impulse, so in this case the B personality seemed to be built up on and chiefly actuated by the self-assertive and the sex tendencies, the latter showing itself in romantic fantasies and practically in the sublimated forms of singing and dancing. The strength of the self-assertive tendency in B was shown by her great vanity, her extreme egoism, her ambition to become a great opera singer, her self-confidence, her freedom from all embarrassment. "A's timidities and inhibitions are thrown off when B emerges. She sings with complete freedom and absolute assurance ... This complete ease of B is a source of continual wonder and admiration on the part of A." It would seem from Dr. Cory's account that, when Maria gave place to A and B, the sex-affect went wholly to B. A was glad to be relieved of it; but B, strangely enough, was able to thrust it upon A at will, and held this power as a threat over A. It is not equally clear that the self-assertive tendency went wholly to B; but there is much in the account to support that assumption. "The sex impulse was a central factor in the dissociation. There was a strong tension here [i.e., in Maria] and when the shock came it formed the line of cleavage. Once removed [i.e., removed from the personality of Maria, leaving her A], the sex complex became the dominant one in the new group [i.e., in B]. Thus freed it acquired new strength [or rather, perhaps, it worked free from inhibitions]. In B its influence is persistent and pervasive... Generally A is almost completely without it. This has been true only since B's appearance, and it has been a source of much gratification to A. B can immediately transfer the full force of it to A, and she holds it as a choice threat over her. This, according to A, is the strangest of all her many strange experiences, and to avoid it she is willing to make any concession to B."

The history of the case throws much light on the genesis of the duality. Maria had been strictly brought up. Her "early training, both at home and at the convent, was one of repression, one that put a strict taboo upon all reference to sexual matters. The result upon A's [i.e., Maria's] at the time highly sexual nature was to isolate this desire and drive it underground. When the shock came the breach was widened, and two selves were formed along the lines of the old conflict. Hypnosis confirms this analysis. It uncovers in B a mass of imaginings of the most romantic colour. Instead of A's slight figure, she sees herself large and voluptuous, a fascinating beauty." It seems clear that the young girl Maria, while at the convent school, indulged in romantic compensatory fantasies actuated by the repressed sex impulse. "B's whole character has been moulded by the Spanish idea. She is, in all of her tastes and preferences, foreign. The idea that she is Spanish saturates her." Why then this obsession? It may fairly be supposed that Maria had read some romance of a Spanish gipsy girl, or that her Spanish schoolfellows had told her stories of that kind. Both suppositions are probable. But there was another determining factor. Maria was at one time fascinated by a man of Spanish features and half-Spanish parentage; and it is probable that her fantasies were woven around this figure.

I must now attempt a concise summary of the Beauchamp case. This case is so well known through Dr. Morton Prince's fascinating account(6) that any such attempt must almost seem a superfluity. Yet I cannot assume that all my readers have mastered Dr. Prince's volume of nearly six hundred pages.

(6) The Dissociation of a Personality, 1906.

I would emphasise the point that I accept Dr. Prince's descriptions, although in regard to his interpretations I venture to differ in certain respects. It has been suggested by many critics that, in the course of Prince's long and intimate dealing with the case, involving as it did the frequent use of hypnosis, both for exploratory and therapeutic purposes, he may have moulded the course of its development to a degree that cannot be determined. This possibility cannot be denied. Yet, even if such influence was very considerable, the fact would not seriously detract from the interest and theoretical importance of the case.

Case 58: The Beauchamp case involved, in addition to the normal personality (here called B), which existed before and after the long period of disorder, three distinct personalities called by Prince B1, B3, and B4. B3 was known also as Sally, and that name will be used here. It will conduce to clearness of this condensed statement if I describe first the personalities B1 and B4 and outline their history, leaving Sally for later description; but the reader must bear in mind that Sally complicated the picture throughout the history.

B was a nervous impressionable child, given to day-dreaming. Her parents' marriage was unhappy, and her mother was harsh and indifferent to her; but B, nevertheless, was strongly attached to her mother, and when the latter died B, who was thirteen years of age, suffered much emotional disturbance. During the following three years she lived under the care of her father, and suffered many shocks of a minor kind. At sixteen she ran away from her unhappy home. Two years later (i.e., when eighteen) B had become a nurse in a hospital and had formed a strong idealistic attachment to a young man, G. One evening G appeared unexpectedly under dramatic circumstances, and approached her in such a way that her very sensitive nature received a severe emotional shock. One might fairly infer from the account given that G kissed her. B remained much agitated and, in the course of the next few days, manifested a marked change of character. "All her peculiarities became exaggerated. She became unstable and developed aboulia. She grew, too, abnormally religious." This shock initiated what may be called the second main period of the history.

This second period lasted six years, during which this new character continued to figure in her social circle as Miss B. In reality the new character was the personality B1. She seems to have been formed by the exclusion, from the make-up of B, of certain character-elements which became the nucleus or foundation of the personality B4. During these six years B1 led an active life and became a college student; she was hampered by her poor health and the vagaries of Sally (to be described later). During these six years B4 seems to have remained entirely latent. It was one year before the end of this period that the case came under the care of Prince.

A third period was initiated by another emotional shock related to that which had initiated the second period six years earlier. B1 was much shaken; Dr. Prince was sent for and a sudden change took place in his presence. Much study was required to elucidate this change; the main facts only can be stated here. B1 disappeared or became latent, giving place to B4. This personality, B4, which manifested herself at this moment for the first time, had no recollection of the events of the past six years, during which she had been latent. She could recollect the events of Miss B's life up to the time of the shock which initiated the second period (shock 1); these events seemed to her to be her own remembered experiences; she took up conscious existence anew from this point of time (shock 2), as though the six years had not been. She thus had, in common with B1, command of all memories up to the time of the first shock; but she was not identical with the B who suffered that shock. just as B1 differed from B in character, while retaining the memories of B, so also B4 commanded the memories of B, but differed in character from B and also from B1.

For nearly one year (the fourth period) B1 and B4 led the life of alternating personalities with reciprocal amnesia; and careful study of them during this time showed that they were complementary characters, each having command of the memories of the first period and of the memories of her own phases of dominance in the third period; while B1 commanded also the memories of the second period. B1 was a humble, weakly invalid, very suggestible, shy, retiring, studious, religious, always submissive, patient, amiable and altruistic, considerate of others and fond of children and old people. B4 was very self-assertive, given to quick and violent anger, intolerant and quarrelsome, vain, sociable, irreligious, disliking children and old people. There were corresponding differences in tastes. Both were very emotional, but, whereas B1 was wholly swayed by her emotions, B4 fought them down. B1 was easily tired and relatively inactive, though studious. B4 was energetic and fond of bodily activity; she disliked most of the things that B1 liked.

A fifth period was initiated by inducing deep hypnosis, when a personality appeared which commanded all the memories of both B1 and B4 and seemed to be, in respect of character also, a fusion of the two personalities B1 and B4. "She had lost the reserve, the depression, the emotionality, and the idealism of B1; but she had lost also the quick temper, the lack of faith, the resentment, and the egoism of B4. She was a person of even temperament, frank and open in address - one who seemed to be natural and simple in her modes of thought and manner. Yet she more closely resembled B1, and might fairly be regarded as B1 restored to a condition of healthy-mindedness." This personality, who seemed to be, and is regarded by Prince as being, essentially the normal personality B, restored to wholeness by synthesis of B1 and B4, her two halves, could not at first be maintained, owing in the main to the opposition of Sally and B4. There were frequent alternations of B with B1 and B4. During this period both B1 and B4 were amnesic for B's phases; but B commanded the memories of the B1 and B4 phases. There occurred some give and take of knowledge and memories between B1 and B4, and perhaps of character-constituents; what was lost by the one being gained by the other. It was not until after the lapse of some years that this fifth period was terminated by the enduring dominance of the healthy, normal B.

The case, so far as described above was, then, one of alternating complementary personalities, B1 and B4, with reciprocial amnesia. It remains to add to the picture the history of Sally.

Sally was an impish, childish personality and showed remarkable consistency, without any clear indications of increasing maturity throughout the several (some six) years of her active career. Her existence was discovered by Prince shortly after the case came under his care, i.e., early in the last year of the six-year second period. She manifested herself when B1 was in hypnosis, speaking of B1 as "she" and of herself as "I," and claiming to be a personality as entirely distinct from B1 as was possible under the circumstances, the circumstances namely that they inhabited and made use of the same bodily organism. The subsequent course of events went far to substantiate this claim. The new personality at first was nameless; but soon she spontaneously adopted the name Sally Beauchamp.

It must not be assumed that Sally was merely the hypnotic state of B1. Prince brings out very clearly the fact that the hypnotic state of B1 (which was called B2) was very different from Sally, was in fact, as is usually the case, manifestly the normal personality in hypnosis; whereas Sally was extremely different; and sudden changes in hypnosis from B2 to Sally, and back again, produced startling contrasts. There was not only extreme difference of character between Sally, on the one hand, and B1 and B2 on the other; there was also difference of memory and knowledge. This difference cannot be described by saying that the memory of either personality was more extensive or inclusive than that of the other. Sally claimed that, between the times of her appearance in hypnosis, she led a subconscious or coconscious existence; and that, during these periods of submerged existence, she could, if she so wished (and frequently she did so wish) know and afterwards remember what went on in the mind of B1; but that at times, as when, for example, B1 read books uninteresting to Sally, she (Sally) would pay no attention and would occupy herself with her own thoughts. Sally claimed not only to be entirely distinct from and independent of B1, but also to dislike and despise her; and she manifested this attitude and supported her claims by forcing certain sensory and motor automatisms upon B1, namely, visual hallucinations and impulsions to automatic speech and other actions, impulsions which B1 found herself unable to resist, even when they led to actions that were very repugnant to her, such as telling lies.

Among these automatic actions was rubbing of the closed eyes, frequently repeated. This seemed to be an endeavour on Sally's part to get her eyes open. Hitherto, when Sally had been dominant, her eyes had always been closed. After many attempts the manoeuvre succeeded at a moment when B1 was drowsily resting, and Sally for the first time was able to see and to dominate practically the whole organism. From this time on Sally frequently alternated with B1, not only in hypnosis as previously but at other times also; and, during the phases of dominance of B1, Sally gave much evidence of continued existence as a coconscious personality. Sally could not always exclude B1 and secure dominance at will; but she was able to achieve this when Bi1 was tired or more "run down" than usual; and she monopolised the organism for considerable periods during which B1 seemed entirely latent, and of which B1 had no direct knowledge or memory. During this time Sally's activities largely took the form of teasing and hazing B1, by writing to her impudent messages and playing upon her elaborate practical jokes; e.g., on one occasion Sally, while dominant, unravelled B1's knitting and wound the thread all over the furniture of her room. Sally also during her subconscious phases would force inhibitions and automatisms upon the dominant B1, much to the latter's annoyance. There was thus a struggle of two wills. "Such scenes as this were the outcome of a contest of wills, of Sally's will against Miss Beauchamp's will ... In these contests Sally usually won, and Miss Beauchamp's will (that of B1) would be paralysed. The latter would not only find herself unable to will to do what she wished, but often was actually compelled to do something she did not wish to do."

Sally did not command all the accomplishments of the highly educated B1; for example, she could not read French, a fact explained by her lack of interest in the more serious reading of B1.

Prince summarises the relations between B1 and Sally as follows: "Sally is a distinct personality in the sense of having a character, trains of thought, memories, perceptions, acquisitions, and mental acquirements, different from those of B1. Secondly, she is an alternating personality in that during the times when the primary self has vanished Sally is for the time being the whole conscious personality, having taken the place of the other ... At such times B1 does not become a subconsciousness to Sally but as a personality is wiped out [or rather, is latent]. Thirdly, Sally does not simply alternate with B1. There are times when Sally manifests herself as an extraconsciousness, concomitant with the primary personality B1." The only incompleteness of Sally during her periods of dominance was a rare form of anaesthesia, namely, complete anaesthesia of the skin senses and of the "muscular sense" when her eyes were closed, and a general and continued anaesthesia of the deep tissues.

After the appearance of B4 Sally continued her pranks, but the conflict became more serious; because B4, as soon as she learned of Sally's existence and nature, made a sustained effort to get the better of Sally and to suppress her. Like B1, the new personality B4 knew nothing directly of Sally or of the events of Sally's phases of dominance. Sally had not the power of sharing or reading the thoughts of B4, as she read those of B1; but she could and did force upon B4 some inhibitions and automatisms; though less successfully than in the case of B1, because B4 resisted and fought against such influences from the coconscious Sally.

At this time Sally wrote her autobiography, claiming to remember her own existence as a subconscious and coconscious personality from the time when the child B began to walk, and to have had even at that time tastes and points of view very different from B's.

Towards the end of the fifth period, Sally, who had fought for her life valiantly and successfully, began to show signs of discouragement, under the combined efforts to suppress her of B4 and of Dr. Prince. She described herself as feeling "squeezed" during her subconscious phases. When the normal personality was restored as a stable synthesis of B1 and B4, Sally seemed to be deprived of her power, both her power of controlling the primary personality by inhibiting her actions or forcing upon her "automatic" actions and hallucinations, and also her power to secure dominance of the organism. Prince frequently refers to Sally as a group of conscious states or ideas split off from the main personality and synthesised to form a secondary personality; and in several passages he writes of the restored personality in terms which imply that Sally was included in the synthesis. But, whatever Sally's nature and origin, it must be insisted that Prince's account does not justify the view that Sally was in any sense synthesised with or incorporated into the restored personality B. He has told us that he had found it "easy to amalgamate by suggestion the dissociated experiences of B1 with those of B4, so that they were remembered, but impossible to amalgamate Sally's with either." And he repeatedly states that the synthesis of B1 with B4 produced the normal whole personality B, while Sally became at such times "squeezed." Further, the restored personality did not command memories of the events of the phases of Sally's dominance. We are told "the real Miss Beauchamp is disintegrated into personalities B1 and B4, who, conversely, may be synthesised into real B." Further - "the resurrection of the real Miss B is through the death of Sally ... Of Sally, her life and her doings, she (the restored B) knows nothing, except indirectly. Of this part of her mental life she has no more memory than has B1 or B4." And of Sally we are told "With the resurrection of the real self, she 'goes back to where she came from,' imprisoned, 'squeezed,' unable either to 'come' at will or to be brought at command. Automatic writing, speech, and such phenomena cease, and it has not been possible as yet to communicate with her, and determine what part if any she plays in Miss Beauchamp's subconsciousness, or whether as a subpersonality she exists at all. When, however, as a result of some mental catastrophe, she appeared again as an alternating personality, her language implied a persistent existence as a subconsciousness like that of her early youth, and as described in the autobiography."

A case very similar in many respects to that of Miss Beauchamp is the Doris Fischer case, studied for many years by Dr. W. F. Prince(7). I shall describe it only very briefly, emphasising certain features of special interest from the point of view of theoretical interpretation of multiple personality in general.

(7) Dr. Walter Franklin Prince was acquainted with Dr. Morton Prince's account of the Beauchamp case, and it is natural to suppose that his handling of the case, and therefore, possibly, to some extent the development of the case, was influenced by that acquaintance. That possibility, however, does not materially diminish its interest and importance. Dr. W. F. Prince is not a medical man, but he had the assistance of an expert neurologist. The case is reported in great detail in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, vols. IX, X, and XI.

Case 59: Doris was the youngest child of poor parents. Her drunken father, in the course of a quarrel with his wife, threw the child, then three years of age, violently upon the floor. This incident seems to have initiated the condition of multiple personality. But it was not until the girl was twenty years old that she came under the observation of Dr. Prince, and the manifestations of multiple personality before that time remain less well accredited than subsequent closely studied series. But there seems to be no reason for doubting that the early history as made out by Dr. Prince is substantially correct.

Within a few hours (or perhaps minutes) of the physical and emotional shock occasioned by her father's violent act, two secondary personalities seem to have begun to play a part in the life of Doris. One of these, known as Margaret (M.) was extremely similar, in respect both of her nature and of the role she played, to Sally of the Beauchamp case. The other of these two secondary personalities, known as Sleeping Margaret (S. M.) was and is the most extraordinary feature of the case. She has manifested herself only by speech during sleep, and has continued so to manifest herself occasionally up to the present time, ever since Dr. Prince first came in touch with her in 1910, early in his acquaintance with the case. She has consistently appeared to be the antithesis of Margaret, that is to say, whereas Margaret was always childlike, playful, and mischievous, S. M. has always been sober, calm, and mature.

When Doris was seventeen, her mother, to whom she was much attached, died suddenly. This second great shock produced a sudden and extreme change. There appeared an infantile personality known as Sick Doris (S. D.). This new phase was almost as devoid of knowledge as Hanna was on coming to consciousness after his accident (P. 484). S. D. was "as one born with an adult body ... but with absolutely no memory and no knowledge." But, like Hanna, she very quickly learned. Margaret continued unchanged by this crisis, and, continuing as a subconscious and alternating personality, seems to have done all she could to help and to instruct S. D.

Again as in the Hanna case, the normal personality, known as Real Doris (R. D.), began after a time to alternate with S. D., at first appearing for brief periods only, later for longer periods, and finally persisting after S. D. and M. had disappeared. That, during this period of alternation of S. D. and R. D. with reciprocal amnesia, R. D. was completely identical with the approximately normal personality preceding and succeeding this period, cannot be confidently asserted.

The case is thus one that combines the main features of the Beauchamp and the Hanna cases and presents, in addition, the strange and most baffling personality, Sleeping Margaret.

At the height of the disorder we have, then, four personalities, S. D., R. D., M., and S. M.; the first three alternating in complete control or dominance of the organism, and S. M. occasionally manifesting herself by speech during sleep. As in the Beauchamp case, the picture was complicated by minor phases of altered personality, the most important of which, known as sleeping R. D., resulted from another physical shock.

The course and fate of each of these four personalities may now be briefly indicated. S. D., after rapidly acquiring sufficient knowledge and capacity to behave in a general way like a normal person, began to retrogress or regress. She lost her recently acquired memories, these being as it were absorbed by R. D. The anaesthesias of S. D. increased; her field of vision be. came more and more narrowed; touch, taste, and smell were gradually lost entirely. With these changes she became more apathetic, and lost gradually her newly acquired use of words. Thus, after persisting for nearly five years, S. D. faded almost completely away, and then ceased to appear, giving place to R. D.

Margaret also regressed, though more slowly. She seemed to retrace more definitely the steps by which she had grown up from infancy to her maturest condition, that of a child of some ten years of age. A real re-animation of early childhood functions was indicated by her use of German words, words which had been familiar in early childhood, but which later had been disused and "forgotten." When M. had regressed to a condition corresponding to some five years of age, she also disappeared, she ceased to "come" or to give any evidence of continued existence. Dr. Prince did not deliberately make use of hypnotic suggestion; but it remains probable that suggestion from him played a considerable part in producing or aiding these processes of regression.

The regression and disappearance, or cessation of appearance, of S. D. and M. left R. D. in control or sole dominance as a personality to all appearance healthy and normal, except for the occasional manifestations in sleep of S. M.; which manifestations still recur occasionally at the present time.

M. was, during the height of the disorder, not only an alternating personality, but also (like Sally Beauchamp), a coconscious personality, claiming (and showing good evidence in support of the claim) that she continued, during the dominance of the other personalities S. D. and R. D., to be self-consciously active. If we accept the evidence (and it is very similar to and perhaps equally strong with that of Sally Beauchamp), we may summarise the relation by saying that M. was coconscious with both S. D. and R. D. (as Sally was with B1), and had some considerable power of influencing them, both in the way of inhibiting action and of forcing automatisms upon them. M.'s relation to R. D. was, however, not quite the same as her relation to S. D. M. claimed to become directly aware of S. D.'s mental life whenever she wished to do so; but of R. D.'s mental life she claimed only a mediate knowledge; she alleged that she became aware of it only in so far as it was reflected to her from S. D., S. D. serving as a mirror as it were. Like Sally Beauchamp, Margaret claimed to have led this coconscious existence since the childhood of Doris. M. had no direct knowledge of S. M.

Sleeping Margaret also claimed to have existed as a coconscious personality since the originating accident at three years of age. Although she admits certain periods of "absence" from the scene, she claims and manifests full knowledge of the other three personalities, claims in fact to be coconscious to all of them; but, as with M., the relations are of different degrees of directness. S. M. claimed to know M.'s thoughts directly, i.e., without mediation of any kind; but of S. D.'s she became aware only through or by the mediation of M., i.e., she could read S. D.'s thoughts only in so far as they were known to M. And she claimed to read R. D.'s mind still more indirectly, namely by double reflection, first in the consciousness of M. and then in that of S. D. This mediated awareness of the other personalities on the part of both M. and S. M. seems to me to be one of the most interesting features of the case. It remains, of course, very much a question how far the claim can be accepted and how exactly we are to understand what is meant by such mediated awareness. But the claim may represent one of those bizarre and inexplicable phenomena that afford clews of great value for theoretical interpretations, and are thus of the highest importance for the development of science.

To those readers who wish to know more of the Doris Fischer case, but who are not prepared to tackle the three large volumes of Dr. Prince's report, I would recommend the account given by Dr. T. W. Mitchell(8) in his Medical Psychology and Psychical Research. In this excellent little book Dr. Mitchell presents and discusses in a most interesting manner a number of the more important cases of multiple personality, including one, the case of Milly P., which he has himself studied in detail during many years. This case I shall not report beyond saying that, like the other cases described in this chapter, it afforded abundant evidence of a coconscious personality, one which "seemed to persist throughout waking life as a coconscious personality capable of acting on its own initiative, and also capable of taking possession of the bodily organism at will." Dr. Mitchell is a physician of large experience in neurotic disorders, and is also a man of unusually balanced judgment. And he has taken a practical and theoretical interest in such cases for many years. The number of persons who are as well qualified as Dr. Mitchell to express an opinion about such cases can certainly be counted on one hand. It is therefore a matter of some importance that, in the light of his own first-hand experience, he accepts unreservedly the evidence of the reality of coconsciousness and of coconscious personalities, especially in the Beauchamp and Fischer cases, and in his own case of Milly P.

(8) Editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Medical Psychology.

It is important also to note that, unlike Dr. Morton Prince, who insists on calling Sally Beauchamp a split-off fragment of the normal personality, Dr. Mitchell writes: "These coconscious states do not as a rule seem ever to have participated in the structure of the waking self, and no synthesis of them with the waking self seems necessary in the interests of mental health. This is certainly true of the coconscious personalities developed by hypnotism. And, even if the nucleus of Sally Beauchamp's individuality had been derived from split-off elements of the primary personality, her growth and development must have taken place in the subconscious. So that, as a fully formed personality, Sally was never a part of the original Miss Beauchamp in the sense that B1 or B4 was; and when the reconstruction of the disintegrated self was to be brought about, there was no room for Sally except 'where she came from.' ... Sally may, indeed, appear to be a stronger and more interesting personality than either B1 or B4, but her status is different. She is no integral part of the Miss Beauchamp who, for years before the final disintegrating shock, had been endeavouring to construct a self that would be best suited to the practical purposes of life. She represents rather a phase of Miss Beauchamp's nature that had long been subject to repression as being incompatible with the system of purposes on which the construction of her true self essentially depended." And of such coconscious personalities in general, he writes: "The dissociated portion of consciousness may never have formed a part of the waking self, and consequently cannot properly be described as a split-off part of the mind. When it is not in evidence as an alternating personality, it is not latent; it is coconscious, and may have experiences and grow and develop in the subconscious. There is a doubling of consciousness without any true division of the normal self."

But these remarks lead us to the discussion of the various ways of interpreting theoretically these strange cases, and that topic is reserved for the final chapter.

For the sake of bringing out clearly the difference between two ways of regarding such a coconscious personality as Sally, I have stated Dr. Mitchell's view as though it were distinct from and opposed to Dr. Morton Prince's. In doing so, I have over-emphasised the difference between them. Prince has himself shown in a recent discussion of the Beauchamp case(9) that, when he describes Sally as formed by splitting off from the normal personality, this description must not be taken too literally; for he holds that only the germ or nucleus of Sally was separated or dissociated in early childhood, and that the Sally whom he has so vividly depicted was formed by a long course of incubation, of subconscious development, extending through many years. He writes of Sally as follows: "This personality, at the time, appeared to have spontaneously and suddenly sprung into life as a new creation, fully developed, without antecedent germination as something totally unlike the normal Miss Beauchamp. But we have already seen that this was far from being the case, and that as a coconscious system it had long been in existence; that it had its germ in dissociated ideas splitting off far back in childhood; that there had been a gradual coconscious growth, passing through the embryonic period, and a prolonged gestation to reach the full maturity of a coconscious self. Its final appearance as an alternating personality was only the parturition of an already developed subsystem."

(9) "The Theory of the Psycho-genesis of Multiple Personality," Journ. Abn. Psy., vol. XV.


The article above was taken from William McDougall's An Outline of Abnormal Psychology (1926, Methuen & Co. Ltd).

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