Understanding the Splintered Mind
Ralph B. Allison, M.D.
PO Box 957
Paso Robles, CA 93447-0957
Presented at the
2005 Spring Meeting of the
Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
April 13-17, 2005
In 1972, I met a patient who appeared to be a carbon copy of "The Three Faces of Eve."
But, in addition to her alter-personalities, she introduced me to her "Inner Self Helper" or ISH.
This mentally healthy part of her mind led me on a search for the answer to the question, "What
are the component parts of each human mind?" My conclusions agree with Plato's opinion that
we each have two parts to our mind, which he called "the rational soul" and "the irrational soul." I
have identified a variety of "other selves" which are made by these two component parts, some by
dissociation and some by emotional imagination. I will describe who makes what and how to tell
In 1972, while in private psychiatric practice in Santa Cruz, California, I identified my first
patient with Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). Only because she was a clone of Eve was I
able to do this, since I had no formal education on the subject of the dissociative disorders. At
that time, DSM II called it "Personality trait disorder, dissociated (hysterical), multiple
In 1974, I wrote my first paper describing this patient, "A New Treatment Approach To
Multiple Personality." Her most significant difference from Eve was her dissociated "Inner Self
Helper" or ISH, something I spent the next several decades trying to understand.
During my time in practice, DSM III was published, and MPD was recognized as a "real
disorder" by being given its own code number. We clinicians were all delighted.
However, a backlash occurred, and in the mid 1990's DSM IV was produced, and MPD
was banished, to be replaced by Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). This was a political
compromise, since many academic psychiatrists and psychologists thought MPD to be impossible
to have. As one told me, "We all are born with one personality. Therefore, it is impossible for
anyone to have multiple personalities." He just didn't understand how these patients came to be
the way they were.
Plato believed each human has a "rational soul" and an "irrational soul." Western
philosophers have long spoken of each of us being made of "body, mind, and spirit." I agree. The
problem is semantic, as we have not yet agreed on single terms for the "mind" (Plato's irrational
soul) or the "spirit" (Plato's rational soul). For purposes of this talk, I will use the term
"Personality" for the mind and "Essence" for the spirit.
When DSM IV was published, I decided not to use DID for all former MPD patients of
mine, as it was semantically incorrect. But I decided to appropriate DID to apply to a select
number of my patients who clearly fell into a different group from those whom I still felt deserved
the diagnostic label of MPD.
Now I will describe and compare each clinical group. First, one must recognize that
dissociators who make bona fide alter-personalities (alters) do so as a protective, survival
mechanism. One also must understand that each alter is like a computer program, created and
designed by the Essence to work on behalf of the Personality. Therefore, it is involuntarily made,
from the point of view of the Personality.
For a person to have MPD, the following factors are needed:
1. Predisposing factor: Grade V hypnotizable child (top 4% of the population) younger than
2. Precipitating factor: Experiences life threatening trauma, usually in parental home, before
the age of six.
3. Continuing factor #1: Polarized parents, with one seen as bad and the other as good and
potentially protective, but the parents keep changing roles. Therefore, rescue is
4. Continuing factor #2: Polarized siblings. Only this child is so badly abused by parents.
Other children are treated much better.
For a person to have DID, the following factors are needed:
1. Predisposing factors: Hypnotizability in the upper half of the population, age six or older.
2. Precipitating factors: Trauma which need not be life threatening, but is of such a nature
that the child has no training to handle it. Typical traumas are rape for girls and physical
assault for boys.
3. Continuing factors: No adult available to teach the child how to cope with this specific
Development of the MPD syndrome
1. First dissociation is the separation of the Essence from the Personality at the time of the
life threatening trauma.
2. Essence takes on the job of ISH, equivalent to Disaster Control Officer.
3. ISH sends the Original Personality off somewhere safe.
4. ISH makes and programs the first alter, a False Front Alter who will not anger the abusing
5. Since the False Front Alter is not programmed to handle anger, when further abuse causes
anger, the ISH then creates another alter who can handle anger, the Persecutor Alter.
6. When the Persecutor Alter makes a mess, the ISH makes a Helper Alter to clean it up.
7. The process goes on and on, so dozens of alters are formed over time, each for a specific
The resulting person comes for therapy in her twenties, brought in by her eldest False
Front Alter, pushed by her ISH, and accompanied by numerous alters. No Original Personality is
home in her body.
Development of the DID syndrome
1. First dissociation is at age six at the earliest, due to a rape or physical assault. One alter is
created by the Essence, which does not dissociate from the Personality.
2. This single alter is designed to deal with this one type of trauma. Assault to a boy will lead
to a violently protective alter. Rape to a girl will lead to a sexually aggressive alter who
wants to use sex in order to control men.
3. The Original Personality is home in the body and may proceed with social and educational
4. The Original Personality comes in for therapy, accompanied only by one alter.
1. MPD – Hospitalization for suicide attempts is often needed. Outpatient hypnotherapy with
age revivification is the most efficient method of treatment. Only the angry Persecutor
Alters need "treatment" so that they become willing to give up their "anger-energy." The
other alters need social work and encouragement to cooperate with each other. When all
the anger-energy is gone, the Original Personality is allowed back into the body by the
ISH, who then supervises the Psychological Integration of the alters into the Original
Personality. When this psychologically integrated patient has enough experience solving
problems using non-dissociative methods, the ISH/Essence integrates into the Original
Personality, a process called Spiritual Integration.
2. DID – The Original Personality is in charge. He has to learn to cope in an adult manner
with the type of trauma he could not handle in his youth. Education in coping skills is
needed so the Original Personality can grow and assume all the duties of adult life. The
alter atrophies with disuse and integrates into the Original Personality when no longer
Dissociation & Imagination
There are many variations on this theme. One important fact to remember is that
"IMAGINATION IS NOT DISSOCIATION." Dissociation has become a favorite buzz word in
psychology to cover many mental processes which can be otherwise explained. Dissociation is a
survival mechanism, as when used to create alters. The process involves the ISH getting the
native personality traits out of the patient's "Personality Parts Warehouse" so that another alter
can be created from them. Therefore, the alter will be able to integrate into the Original
Personality at a later date. All the pieces of the jig saw puzzle came from the same box, so to
There are at least two types of imagination, Inspirational and Emotional. Inspirational
Imagination is used by the Essence and the Personality to create great works of art and valuable
inventions. It is the most powerful ability of the human mind.
But the Personality can also use Emotional Imagination. One-third of college students
report having had a childhood imaginary playmate. When lonely, they used their Emotional
Imagination to create a wonderful playmate. When they went to school and had human friends,
they mentally destroyed it.
One man on trial for murder had created an Internalized Imaginary Companion (IIC) at the
age of four when his mother's boyfriend locked him in a closet while the boyfriend sexually
abused the boy's sisters. Consumed with hatred of this man, the boy created an IIC whose goal
was to kill the man. But, at the age of four, he couldn't do much about it, but 20 years later, he
killed an innocent victim, an act for which he was subsequently sent to Death Row.
So great confusion can develop when one of these persons commits an antisocial act and
then shows "another self" to explain what happened. "It's not my fault; Joe did it." Such people
are too often thought to have DID, since the current DSM IV does not provide any way to
discriminate between a product of dissociation (an alter) and a product of emotional imagination
(an IIC). In reality, they are very different. How so?
1. Alters are designed for survival of the person. Attacking others is not a good survival
mechanism, as police sometimes shoot them, and Death Row is still operating in most
states. Alters are always under the ultimate control of the ISH who created them, but IIC
are under no control by anyone and have no social judgement or conscience..
2. Both IIC and alters can be designed to hold hostile emotions. IIC are created by the
Personality to manage otherwise unmanageable emotions. Alters are created by the ISH to
handle anger the False Front Alter was not designed to manage. However, alters are angry
at someone who maliciously attacked them personally. IIC are often made because of the
child's anger at some adult who displeased or angered them in some way, but who did not
really endanger them.
3. Alters who behave badly can be recalled from duty by the ISH and reprogrammed.
4. IIC who behave badly have no conscience or social judgement. They can be extremely
dangerous as they are under no one's control. They are like military "smart bombs" as
they have a hefty payload of explosives but only a simple targeting mechanism with no
5. Alters can be reformed by a removal of anger-energy, and they then become Helper Alters.
They have a structure which stays intact.
6. IIC who give up their anger-energy disappear. They were "only anger" in the words of the
ISH of that patient. They have no structure.
7. Alters will stick around in the background and can be called out under hypnosis. They
cannot be destroyed by an act of will of the patient.
8. IIC can be destroyed by an act of will of the patient. This often happens voluntarily when
the cost/benefit ratio tips too far in the direction of cost. Once the insanity phase of the
murder trial is over with, the IIC is nowhere to be found, even when sought for under
MPD and DID can both be used as labels for two quite separate groups of patients who
manifest bona fide alters. But we should apply neither label to those who use emotional
imagination to create other entities who can inhabit their bodies.