Brainchildren -- Multiple Personality Disorder
Just finished reading the second essay in Daniel C. Dennett's book
Brainchildren. The essay, "Speaking for Ourselves", is an
approachable, general-interest review and discussion of
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). The essay has an
irritating flaw or two (such as its inappropriate use of
the 'straw man' argumentative style with regard to
'proper-self' and 'fictive-self', or the insane/inappropriate
analogy of the non-existence of the 'center of mass').
None-the-less, it does communicate a good, grounded way of
understanding and talking about MPD.
In particular, is has a fascinating, speculative conclusion,
and my goal here to to push that conclusion to further extremes.
Below is rough draft. Its late and I'm sleepy ...
Notes and Points to argue and elaborate:
- Some 10%-15% percent of the US population self-categorizes itself
to be 'deeply religious'. I have a pet hypothesis that the
majority of this group has spoken to God or have heard the
'Voice of God' in a very direct, literal sense: they have
experienced an 'epiphany'. I suspect that this same majority
is loath to reveal this connection to even their closest friends,
for fear of social derision: this is just plain not something
one talks about in public, certainly not to most people.
For some, I believe it has even scared them shitless, which
is why so many of the far-right religious, especially the
Protestants, are so 'up-tight'. They are petrified, and
don't know quite how to express it appropriately, and thus
turn up an unbreechable barrier to more 'open-minded' experiences.
I think they fear loosing control, of going over the edge,
of going looney-tunes, and thus could never just 'let it all hang
out'. This so colors their actions and behaviors that they
go so far as to try to impose strict, straight social norms
on those all around them.
Having myself experienced an 'epiphany', I can't but wonder
whether this is a phenomenon that is not unrelated to MPD.
My experiences (I think I've had more than one, but can
only place one clearly) have been very powerful, very
real, and all-consuming for the few minutes of duration.
However, in retrospect, the 'messages' have for the most
part been quite lame and superficial, to the point of
embarrassment (the most recent, the one I remember best,
had to do with a transcendancy of rock-n-roll song!)
This is hardly dignified: no True God should be delivering
such trite messages; and yet, the seriousness of the experience
- Thoughts burbling at the level of consciousness: the common
claim that some answer was arrived at 'unconsciously'. This
does some disservice to the thinking process. Indeed, many
things that I do are indeed controlled by unconscious mechanisms;
however, many are just at the edge of consciousness: further
introspection will uncloth and make conscious the previously
seemingly sub-conscious thought process. Indeed, much of
my personal, intellectual activity consists of grabbing
that thought, that impulse, that intuition that lies at
the edge of consciousness and wresting it into my conscious mind,
making it the soft-focus of my attention, with the aim of ultimately
- I personally am nowhere near 'MPD' or in any other way insane,
and yet, the idea of letting my brain 'leave it all behind',
to 'space out', to 'take a vacation and let someone else deal
with it', resonates strongly. But why does it resonate?
Its as if I've been there and done that. Am I just being
suggestible? Do I have a vivid imagination? Why do I feel
I personally know this phenomenon? How many other normal,
sane people feel that they can identify with this phenomenon?
I have never been hypnotized, nor have I ever knowingly
self-hypnotized. So, in theory, I do not know what it feels like
to be hypnotized. But might it be this that I am identifying
- Roger Penrose, final chapter of 'emporer's new mind', goes on at
length on how the solutions to difficult problems can suddenly
just pop into ones mind, even as one is crossing the street.
How much of this is attributable to having some other part
of ones brain in active pursuit of the problem, inserting itself
into the current stream of consciousness? Penrose makes this seem
magical, whereas it need not be at all. It just might be that the
normal stream of consciousness is hoping about between different
active brain centers.