Spirit Release Foundation

Case Study


Multiple Personality and Spirit Attachment

Battle for the Soul

Taken from the Spirit Release Foundation Conference 2005 - Part 1

by   Alan Sanderson

Dr. Alan Sanderson MB, BS, DPM, MRCP, MRCPsych.
Decided to become a psychiatrist quite early in his medical training because of a fascination with the hidden roots of human behaviour. This led him, after a conventional psychiatric training, to a long period of research into the relation between facial appearance and personality. It was not until 1990 that he returned, with great enthusiasm, to clinical practice, as a consultant in the National Health Service.
In 1992 he met a hypnotherapist who was doing spirit release. He was so impressed with his work with one of his patients that he decided to specialise in this area. He trained in hypnotherapy and spirit release therapy, which has become an important part of his therapeutic approach.

More than a century since Freud, the clinical case study, central to his approach, has become a rarity in professional journals.  Psychiatrists and their patients are the poorer.  The practice of psychiatry, so intimately concerned with the understanding and treatment of individuals, needs case studies as an essential source of enlightenment and inspiration.  This is particularly so in multiple personality, the condition, above all others, that challenges both our understanding and our powers of therapeutic invention.  Here is such a case.  Still unfolding in treatment, it has many unusual features and poses many unanswered questions. 

 Rose is a remarkable woman who suffered the tortures of Satanic Ritual abuse, and more, throughout her childhood and who, in spite of everything, has somehow survived to do great things.  Rose is the name of the adult alter (short for alternate personality) who comes to treatment, but the body that contains her belongs to a composite being that I shall call Rose-and-all.  Although accurately diagnosed as a case of multiple personality disorder (MPD), she could be better described as severe complex post traumatic stress disorder, with multiple personality order.  This is because, she has contrived, through the power of dissociation and by organising her inner and outer worlds, to manage wonderfully and to make remarkable contributions to other people’s lives.  Dissociation enabled Roseandall to survive a desperate childhood, and dissociation made it possible for her to build an adult life, compartmentalised into amazingly productive areas.  Even so, and despite these great benefits, her adjustment is founded on fear and fear cannot be a good basis for living.  Roseandall is now at a stage where she is learning to face her fears.  The greatest of these is the fear of her separate selves, sustained by the belief that the reunification would result in an overwhelming summation of traumatic memories and accompanying guilt. 

 My paper falls into four sections: (1) An introduction to multiple personality disorder (dissociative identity disorder, DSM IV), (2) My patient’s story, (3) Her treatment, (4) Thoughts on her future.

Multiple Personality Disorder

The Double Bind

“YOU MUST NOT READ THIS NOTICE”  You mustn’t read and yet you have to read.  This is the double bind.  It’s wrong to act and it’s wrong not to act.  There’s no escape and whatever happens it’s your fault.

The double bind is the formative dynamic of multiple personality disorder.  When Daddy tells you that he loves you, that you are special, but then hurts you horribly; when you’re told that your baby brother will be killed and you’ll go to Hell if you tell your secret; when you are instructed to honour your father and mother despite their betrayal and when you know that you are responsible for making these horrors happen, you’re in a double bind.  As adults we’ve learned something about the world and how to handle life’s contradictions, but when you’re under seven, the double bind, repeated over and over, is a living contradiction that simply blows your mind. 

 The Magic of Dissociation

Even here, in the midst of fear and deformed relationships, lacking the ability to run or to say “No”, the abused child still has a wonderful resource, the magic of dissociation.  This psychological trick enables a part of the mind to detach from what another part is experiencing.  Dissociate, and the horror is happening to someone else.

 In the words of Colin Ross, from The Osiris Complex (1995).  “Two basic psychological manoeuvres form the basis of multiple personality disorder.  First, the little girl who is being repeatedly sexually abused has an out-of-body experience.  Detached from her body and what is going on, she may float up to the ceiling and imagine she is watching another little girl being abused.  Second, a memory barrier is erected between the original child and the newly created identity.  Now, not only is the abuse not happening to the original little girl, she doesn’t even remember it: this process is reinforced over and over as the abuse continues.  Various identities may be created to deal with the different aspects of the trauma, resulting in an eventual total of ten, twenty or more alter personalities.  Once the mind is in the habit of creating new identities in this way, alter personalities may be generated to cope with many non-traumatic tasks, or functions, including going to school and dealing with peers.” 

I must add here that, although child sex abuse features in most cases of MPD, it must never be assumed.  There are exceptions.

 Multiple personality is the pretence, devised in the home and taken out into the world.  The little girl has become a group of actors, each one of whom plays its part so beautifully that pretence has become reality.  Roseandall has been pretending all her life.  She has done it so well that for 25 years she was able to live with great success and become the envy of many others in her profession.  Seven years ago Roseandall was retraumatised and overwhelmed by her past.  A Pandora’s Box of which she had no inkling was suddenly opened wide.


The diagnosis of MPD, or dissociative identity disorder (DID) as it has been renamed, I think mistakenly, in the DSM IV, requires four simple criteria:

A. There are two or more distinct identities or personality states.

B. These personality states recurrently take control of behaviour.

C. There is an inability to recall important personal information, the extent of which is too great to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.

          D. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition.

  •  To these four criteria Rose adds a further condition: The psychiatrist must be open to the possibility of the diagnosis.
  •  That the diagnosis is much in need of further categorisation, will become evident from a brief review of the history. 

 Two Famous Cases

The history of multiplicity is illuminated by countless extraordinary cases.  If we were to study these accounts down the centuries to the present day, we should find the descriptions greatly coloured by the beliefs of the time.  Until the late 18th century all such cases would have been attributed to possession.  Today they would be called dissociative identity disorder and attributed to the psychological mechanism known as dissociation, which, as the excerpt from Ross makes clear, is a defence against unbearable trauma, involving the detachment of part of the mind from what another part is experiencing.  It is not just the interpretation of the nature of these states which varies with the period, so too do the descriptions, for what is seen and heard depends so much on what is expected and asked.  The clinical presentation of multiplicity, even today, is enormously varied, though what is reported in the medical literature tends to conform to the accepted medical model. 

 While most of reported multiple personality cases conform to this model, there are some very significant exceptions.  Descriptions from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when there was tremendous interest in the condition, report instances of sudden and complete personality change, sometimes permanent, more often temporary, with the displaced personality manifesting again after a period and life continuing as before.  Here is one such case. 

 Lurancy Vennum of Watseka, USA, the famous “Watseka Wonder”, at the age of 14 appeared to become possessed by the spirit of a neighbour, who had died aged 18, when Lurancy was only an infant.  The spirit, Mary, took over totally for 4 months, during which period the child went to live with Mary’s parents, who were in no doubt, both from her behaviour and from the many detailed references to shared experiences that this was indeed the spirit of their daughter.  Two weeks before Lurancy’s “return” Mary tearfully predicted that she would leave.  Restored to her previous consciousness, Lurancy went home to her parents and, except for occasional messages from Mary, behaved just as previously.  She had no memory of the four months of Mary’s control.  Followed up for many years, Lurancy married and left home to lead a normal life. 

 The case is meticulously reported by the psychologist and psychical researcher, F.W.H. Myers (1903).  While it is from a bygone era and does not appear in the medical literature, it is noteworthy because, although well covered by the DID diagnostic criteria, dissociation cannot explain how Lurancy displayed so precisely the behaviour and the knowledge of a child she had never known.

 The case of Billy Milligan, an icon in the MPD literature, could not be more different.  It too challenges the dissociation-pure-and-simple hypothesis.  A very full account can be found in “The Minds of Billy Milligan” (1981), by Daniel Keyes.  Billy, a college student, was charged with several rapes of young women.  In treatment, 24 separate alters were identified.  The one claiming responsibility for the rapes was female.  Milligan was acquitted on the grounds of multiple personality disorder, now DID.  Not all the features, to my reading, support the dissociation hypothesis.  One personality, Arthur, the Englishman, very knowledgeable in the sphere of medical research, in which Billy had no interest, was also a fluent reader and writer of Arabic.  Another, Regan, spoke Serbo-Croat and only broken American.  Billy had never been exposed to these languages.  He was exhibiting xenoglossy, the speaking of unlearned languages, strong evidence for spirit attachment or past life recall, but not an effect of dissociation.  Past life recall could be excluded in this case because of Arthur’s knowledge of contemporary medical research. 

 Here we have two cases which perfectly fit the diagnostic criteria of dissociative identity disorder, while the clinical facts appear to challenge the premise on which the diagnostic category is based.  With Laurancy Vennum the switch to another, known personality could not have been caused by dissociation, while some of the features shown by Billy Milligan strongly suggest spirit attachment.  Why then is the myth of dissociation-pure-and-simple so strongly held?  The answer is elegantly supplied by Thigpen and Cleckley (1954), the psychiatrists whose book, “The Three Faces of Eve” became a highly successful film.  In an early account of their case they discuss the difficulty of introducing a new concept, which MPD certainly was in the 1950s.  They write, “No matter how many clues one is given, no matter how obvious the clues, one will not be led to a conclusion that is inconceivable.  One will seek explanations for the problem only among available hypotheses.”  Fifty years on, MPD has become an available hypothesis in North America, though it has yet to gain acceptance in the UK.  In this connection it is notable that not one book on the condition is to be found in the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ library, in London.  However, we can claim advance in a related area.  In May 2003 the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Special Interest Group in Spirituality (now numbering 950) devoted a day to the discussion of spirit release therapy.  There was full attendance at the meeting and not one dissenting voice.  Spirit attachment is, even so, most certainly not available as a hypothesis to explain aberrant behaviour on either side of the North Atlantic.  Not yet. 

 The Basic Pattern.

To bring some clarity to the MPD picture, we shall take a look at what goes on behind the scenes in a simplified case.  I say simplified because Hilgard’s (1971) careful research on hypnosis, shows that in health we are, in fact, composite beings.  Clearly, there is much still to learn.  For this exposition let us assume that we are, each of us, quite definitely, who we feel we are!

Fig 1 The personality in health.

In Fig 1 a small circle, the Conscious Mind, sits on a larger one, the Unconscious Mind.  When awake, the personality, indicated by the green dot, is in the smaller circle.  It is in executive control.  When asleep, control is relinquished and the personality slips into the Unconscious.

 In MPD the situation is more complicated.  Alter personalities take turns to have executive control.  One alter may have control for minutes, hours or days before being replaced by another alter.  Switching may occur either through the intention of another alter, or in response to some role demand or following an external stimulus.

Ralph Allison the American psychiatrist and author of Minds in Many Pieces (1999), divides MPD into two broad categories separated by the seventh birthday.  In defiance of the DSDM !V, he calls the first group MPD and the second DID.  To simplify naming, I shall refer to the first as Early Onset MPD and the second as Late Onset MPD.  These are important distinctions.  In Early Onset MPD the core personality is hidden and rarely if ever has control.  There are many alters.  In Late Onset MPD the core personality remains active and there are fewer than four alters.  Because not all cases fit these groups, the DSM IV has a further category, Dissociative Disorders Unspecified. 

Fig 2 Multiple personality disorder.

From now on, we shall be dealing only with the Early Onset type which I’ll refer to simply as MPD (See Fig 2) Characteristically the alters gather around the core personality like a swarm of bees around the queen. 

Allison’s scheme (Fig 3), now widely accepted, identifies a number of parts.  Around the Core Personality are False Front alters, Persecutor alters and Rescuer alters.  Allison introduces a revolutionary concept, a spiritual being called the Inner Self-helper (ISH).  It is an intellectual, non-emotional spiritual companion and guide, that has been present since birth and claims to have a complete recall of every aspect of the person’s story.  He believes it is present in each of us.  The ISH has the task of helping the person to survive.  We shall be able to identify these features in Roseandall, later. 

multiple personality diagram

Fig 3. Ralph Allison’s scheme for MPD.

Battle for the Soul
Multiple Personality case Part 2 -  click here



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