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By Brianna Wiest
“When Timmy drinks orange juice he has no problem. But Timmy is just one of close to a dozen personalities who alternate control over a patient with multiple personality disorder. And if those other personalities drink orange juice, the result is a case of hives.” So begins the New York Times Piece “Probing the Enigma of Multiple Personality.” It goes on to explain that if Timmy drinks orange juice and another personality shows up while it’s still in his system, the hives will appear. If Timmy then comes back while the allergic reaction is still present, “the itching of the hives will cease immediately, and the water-filled blisters will begin to subside.”
As psychiatrist Bennet Braun says: “We’re finding the most graphic demonstrations to date of the power of the mind to affect the body. If the mind can do this in tearing down body tissue, I think it suggests the same potential for healing.”
For decades, doctors have been reporting cases of these extreme mind-body phenomena. Examples of changes that can occur in the body when the patient switches from one personality to the next include the appearance or disappearance of: welts, scars, tissue wounds, differing handwritings and handedness, knowledge of languages, taste preferences, allergies, color blindness, musical talents, and reactions and responses to medications given. (Doctors have also noted this is what makes it excessively difficult to treat DID patients: their personalities all respond to the same medication in different ways.)
Doctors mostly agree that DID is what happens when a child was abused repeatedly as a child. The “alters” are a mix of defenders, escape mechanisms, and expressions of repressed feelings or ideas. They are fabricated out of trauma and what the psyche deems necessity.
It illustrates the extent to which the mind responds to thought vs. belief. It’s not simply thoughts that create physiological responses, it’s conviction, which implies a level of emotion. It’s very similar to what a lot of philosophers argue: that the mind is the creator – god, if you will – and what you think about repeatedly, you ultimately become, or create. In this case, literally. Major religions also incorporate that word into a lot of their dogma: you must believe in yourself, your God, your future. This is because what you believe is what you will experience.
DID is far from the first instance in which human beings have illustrated the “mind over matter” concept. Some patients have stronger physiological responses to placebo pills than they do actual medication – simply because they think they are getting better. There have been reported cases of Monks being able to control body temperature and blood pressure with their thoughts, through a practice of g Tum-mo. Inverse to the placebo effect is the nacebo effect, wherein patients develop convincing symptoms of diseases they are afraid they have. Queen Mary believed she was pregnant so adamantly that her stomach swelled and she began lactating, but no child was ever born (she is the woman that the Bloody Mary legend comes from).
“Reality is what we take to be true,” David Bohm said in 1977. “What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends on what we look for. What we look for depends on what we think. What we think depends on what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.”
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- The 17th Century Academic Text That Shows The Soul As A Physical Part Of The Human Body
- Adaptive Ignorance: On The Mystery Of Human Perception, And Why We Focus On The Things We Do