MPD & CRP
Multiple Personality Disorder and Consciousness Restructuring Process, By Iona Miller, 2000
MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER
CONSCIOUSNESS RESTRUCTURING PROCESS
by Iona Miller and Graywolf Swinney, M.A.
Asklepia Foundation, ©2000
ABSTRACT: The alter personalities experienced under dissociation in Multiple Personality Disorder may form around “strange attractors” in the psychobiological field of an individual attempting to escape or heal traumatic stress in a self-organizing way. Generally, “personality change” is a creative attempt at growth. However, in MPD it leads to “divided consciousness,” where different aspects of self are isolated by state-dependent amnesias or trances, mediated by characteristic changes in neuroimmunologic response.
It is possible that through dissociation, the person is attempting to heal in a self-organizing way, but the transformative process gets “stuck” at the classical stage of fragmentation, which then recreates itself through the dynamics of “infinite nesting” and “self-iteration.” Core psychological patterns reinforce themselves by filtering sensory information about the world and self, and automatically organizing the rest of experience around itself in a way that further supports the basic pattern.
In shifting identities MPDs experience uncommon dreams, in an intuitive, if misbegotten, attempt at growth and change. Experience of alters carries the aura of a ‘waking dream,’ where things appear real, but not quite ‘right.’ The Consciousness Restructuring Process fosters this healing attempt, rather than thwarting it. CRP facilitates inter-modal shifts between not only identities, but sensations, perceptions, emotions, imagery and behavior. Thus, it offers a ‘positive outlet’ for a process trying to self-correct the organism, but allowing that process to flow beyond the state of fragmentation to the fully undifferentiated experience for healing, dissolving old ‘basins of attraction’ in the mindscape. The psychophysical channels of both the limbic-hypothalamus system (seat of reward/punishment circuits) and the placebo effect are invoked to account for positive results.
KEYWORDS: Multiple Personality Disorder, Consciousness Restrucutring Process, Dissociative Identity Disorder, dreams, dreamhealing, creativity, psychotherapy, PTSD, chaos theory, complex dynamical systems, CDS, self-ogranization, healing, holistic unity, memory, strange attractors, learning, state-dependent memory, limbic system, REM, placebo effect, trauma, psychoneuroimmunology.
WHAT IS MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER?
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), was once considered to be extremely rare, but is now more widely reported. It is characterized by uncontrollable shifting among two or more alternate personalities which control awareness and behavior in an attempt to protect the host individual from further exposure to traumatic stress, or the residual affects of post-traumatic stress.
Therefore, by definition, MPDs can be assumed to also carry Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), and its attendant psychobiology. Because the person gets emotionally stuck at the point of the trauma, it is as if the traumatic event is always “happening.” This creates a fragmentation, as part of one’s self image stays stuck and dissociates, while the rest of consciousness carries on. The fragmentation is always ‘happening.’ That frozen energy needs a way to rejoin the whole.
Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is a controversial diagnostic label for traumatic dissociation, which leads to fragmentation or splits in the personality which are often unknown to one another since they are isolated by state-dependent amnesias. Thus, MPD patients may experience themselves as several discrete alter personalities who do not share consciousness or memories with one another. MPD patients differ from controls in their ability to learn and remember, largely by compartmentalizing information. However, they do not differ in overall memory level. There can be particular relationships between alternates within the total personality.
Alter personalities have been defined in such a way that they simultaneously describe single, presumably unitary personality.
“I have tended to define a personality, alter, or dis-aggregate self state in a manner that stresses what such an entity does and how it behaves and functions...A disaggregate self state (i.e., personality) is the mental address of a relatively stable and enduring particular pattern of selective mobilization of mental contents and functions, which may be behaviorally enacted with noteworthy role-taking and role-playing dimensions and sensitive to intrapsychic, interpersonal, and environmental stimuli. It is organized in and associated with a relatively stable...pattern of neurophysiological activation, and has crucial psychodynamic contents. It functions both as a recipient, processor, and storage center for perceptions, experiences, and the processing of such in connection with past events and thoughts, and/or present and anticipated ones as well. It has a sense of its own identity and ideation, and a capacity for initiating thought processes and actions.” (Kluft, 1988).
Core psychological processes are synonymous with discret States of Consciousness (Tart, 1990), and either has the ability to perpetuate itself. Core patterns reinforce their own potentiation. Transition is often triggered by psychosocial stress or idiosyncratic cues. A core pattern tends to control other aspects of apprehension and perception of self and world, automatically organizing the rest of experience around itself in a way that further supports the basic pattern.
For example, deep-seated anger or jealousy can become an “altered state” which magnifies the perception of annoyances. Anger, or any other core pattern can become the dominant focus of our experience and automatically (mis)interprets all sensory perceptions of the world and self in a way consonant with the core pattern. When we identify with these patterns, we become them completely, and accept this perception as “reality.”
In light of that, what is a person with MPD then? Tart describes the condition as someone who has two or more well developed core patterns, constellation patterns, that can take over his or her World Simulation Process (WSP) such that the person temporarily lives in a virtual reality that constitutes an identity, a personality, a state of conciousness that seems perfectly real. This is due to the fact that our internally generated virtual reality is the only reality we know and experience. The primary personality is often timid and passive, and may be diagnosed as depressed.
A so-called “normal” personality believes itself to be unitary; but, in fact, it consists of roles, conflicting ideas and beliefs, subpersonalities, and archetypal motivations, etc. There can be considerable degrees of multiplicity within apparently “normal” personality structure. Neurotics suffer maladaptive functioning and anguish where normals thrive.
The ‘psychotic’ lives in a virtual reality so totally different from the ‘normal’ range as to be obviously different, even to the point of constituting a danger to themselves (such as suicidal tendencies or self-mutiliation) and others. MPD experience may include alters possessing different names, histories, and personality traits. They may have different genders, sexual orientations, even nationalities. Even non-human alien alters have been reported.
Onset is almost always in childhood, even though most cases go undiagnosed until much later. The disorder tends to be chronic and is exacerbated by psychosocial and psychophysical stress. The degree of impairment varies from mild to severe. One or more of the personalities may function enough to be gainfully employed. In terms of functionality, the number of personalities is secondary to the nature and relationships among them.
Virtually all cases arise from repeated, severe physical, emotional, sexual, and/or mental abuse in childhood. MPD is more common in first-degree relatives of those with the disorder. It is three to nine times more prevalent in females than males. The number of alters varies from two to around 100, with ten being average in that 50% have less, and 50% have more alters. MPDs have an innate ability to dissociate easily, and probably lacked a supportive or comforting person to counteract abusive relatives.
A DYNAMICAL APPROACH TO MPD
All healing is self-healing, and self-healing first and foremost requires self-love. Every thought is a biochemical reality effecting CNS, endocrine, and immune systems. Therefore, in the treatment of any psychophysical disorder, self-acceptance is a paramount issue. Our therapeutic task is to be more sensitive, compassionate, and empathetic. This translates into healing as characteristics assimilated by the client toward themselves and becomes part of everybody’s self-fulfillment. Therapeutic and transpersonal views emphasize the conscious control and effort needed for some growth bifurcations; for example, making a commitment to therapy.
A dynamical view emphasizes interconnectedness and self-organization. Obviously, there may be several attractors of mind simultaneously active. Awareness or sensitivity to blame is a control parameter that is subject to change--especially the strength of self-blame. Self-organization creates new information in a dynamical system with the development of increasing complexity. There is growth potential in the self-control of bifurcations to novel attractors. Anyone can learn to make choices to empower their future and develop new selfs, to inhabit new attractors, to explore conjectured attractors, and make informed choices concerning potential trajectories, to affirm and create self.
In complex dynamics, divergent features are perceived as being as important as convergent features, and this model is important in healing for people constructing alternative models of their future. Confronted by the choice of making their life more meaningful, an individual can make open-ended choices to move toward more fulfilling attractors, and choose a path to get there. This is an alternative to the fear, loneliness, and emptiness that generates and perpetuates alters, and fosters derealization, depersonalization, and identity disturbance.
The holistic mind is a complex dynamical system (CDS). The language of CDS and Chaos Theory is now revealing a point-of-view, or metamodel, which provides a universal language for psychology which is competent to deal with the complexities of interactive change and yet is relatively easy to communicate. The holistic unity involves phenomenology, mind, brain, behavior, and environment. The dynamical systems’point of view extrapolates to a world view: Healing occurs by immersion in the undifferentiated state of chaotic consciousness and emerges via self-organization.
In treating MPD, the aim is to create a balance between the intrinsic benefits of diversity and unification--getting them into perspective. The value of unification depends on where the person is on the disunity-unity dimension of development. Until holistic unity is approachable, there is importance in the dialectical tension among disparate views. In the course of treatment, CRP journeys are supplimented with conventional Gestalt techniques.
Degree of awareness is related to the magnitude of attractors. An attractor is simply the characteristic behavior of a dynamical system changing over time. Jumps in magnitude result in jumps in awareness. Attractors of the mind may undergo subtle bifurcations or splits among possibilities. Bifurcations occur when a system rests right between two attractors. A tiny change in the system’s state can then push the system in one direction or another.
Conscious control and effort can be invested in self-organizational control of such bifurcations which empowers growth potential. The mutually interactive features of the system also involve nonlinear features that endow or summarize the ability of the system to show certain complex behaviors, such as transformations (bifurcations) and chaos.
CRP goes directly to the primal self image, because trying to do therapy on alters means forcing conceptual isolation of that feature despite its strong embedding within a complex better considered as a whole. Complex patterns emerge from the resolution of multiple tendencies or forces. These patterns are characterized as attractive and convergent or divergent from even very close starting points. Many aspects of mind are attractors arising in a holistic system. These atttractors are combined in a complex network. They keep each other alive.
Memory can function as a chaotic attractor. The tendency to live in memory means depending more on memory than on the direct perception of reality. This tendency is most serious in those whose lives have been tense and conflicted since childhood. They have therefore fixed relationships into specific old forms. This fixation leads to repetitive behavior (reiteration).
Those fixated (no matter what “diagnosis”) consistently meet the present with the past; the same mechanism is used to engage the present. The memory image becomes a nodal point which demands that a new situation becomes like an old one. Such foci force relating processes into a vortex by insisting that the movement of relationship stay in its orbit. The vortex fragments off from the whole, the system separates from the larger whole. Fragmentation begets fragmentation. Such vortices lead to separation, isolation, conflict, emptiness.
Without process work, such as CRP, to address unhealed emotions, the old forms maintain themselves and there is no action by the brain to create a more harmonious relationship with reality. Imagery empowers memories of body-environmental interactions. Apparently the old solution has provided pseudo-pleasure and security which is communicated to the brain as more satisfactory than the alternatives memory promises beyond the repetition of these outworn safety measures. Despite psychological conflicts or psychosomatic illnesses, the security in the repetition is read as preferable to any change. Creative moments are breaks in these habitual patterns.
Therapy permits and facilitates novel experiences of a wide variety of self-simulations. The parameters of the system change, the variables change, and the value of some constants change. The confusion that ensues is a useful therapeutic technique. The transformations may present as subtle, catastrophic, or as a sudden shift in the magnitude of the attractor (implosive or explosive). These bifurcations are crucial in memory packaging, storage, and retrieval. When the control parameters of a system are influenced by the state of the system itself, that is self-control, or self-organization.
“If a process of mind is a chaotic attractor, then when it slips away from awareness to be packed away until recollected, that may well be an implosive bifurcation; it remains pretty much the same but is a greatly diminished, yet ongoing, dynamic process. Or there may be a subtle bifurcation with implosive features. The reactivation of such a memorialized attractor is the explosive counterpart. In terms of our awareness, these implosive and explosive events seem like catastrophic bifurcations, appearing and disappearing in and out of the blue, as when the whereabouts of a misplaced object suddenly reveals itself, and once put back in our pocket, is forgotten. However, there may be quite a life to the continued dynamics of the processes of these attractors while they are hidden from awareness.” (F.D. Abraham, 1992).
Awareness and consciousness can be thought of as on a continuum that depends on how much of the relevant portions of the brain are brought into play. From the dynamical concept of mind, this means how much of the mental, neural, behavioral, and environmental activity are being brought into play. Sudden shifts in awareness arise from the suddenness of bifurcations in nonlinear dynamical systems.
There are also gradual changes in degree of awareness and the amount of energy expended on a particular process. In general the expansion of an attractor requires that more energy be devoted to it; increased forces increase the magnitude; shrinkage of the attractor is accompanied by the lessening of energy requirements by the system. In Chaos Theory, the notion of psychobiological stability has been considerably liberalized to include psychobiological periodic and chaotic attractors. MPD is characterized by “strange attractors,” whose behavior appears random, but is actually deterministic.
MULTIPLE PERSONALITY & STATE DEPENDENT MEMORY
The process of encoding, memory and learning, is modulated in the limbic system (specifically in the amygdala and hippocampus). Hormones (the same ones that create psychosomatic problems) released during periods of internal stress control this encoding process. Therefore, memory depends on the relation between neurohormonal and hormonal states. These memories are integrated under normal patterns of arousal and memory formation.
But when coded under extreme stress, the uniquely patterned brain state depends on a particular pattern of arousal, the same one, for memory retrieval. Thus, an isolated memory package continues operation cut off from the whole, usually remaining below the threshold of awareness.
Pain and pleasure (or punishment/reward) are the great reinforcers of learning, behavior, and how we experience and express ourselves. Alters can dispense rewards and execute punishments, acting as both judge and jury on an already stroke-deficient, shattered self-image.
What we formerly defined as a process of psychological dissociation is now considered state-dependent learning, even divided consciousness. Powerful emotional states act as inductions of altered states of consciousness. This is how multiple existences become possible: by living from one waking state to another waking state; from one dream to the next; from one creative, artistic, religious, or psychotic inspiration or possession to another; from trance to trance; and from reverie to reverie.
The apparent continuity of awareness that exists in everyday normal awareness is, in fact, a precarious illusion that is only made possible by the associative connections that exist between related bits of conversations, task orientation, etc. We all occassionally experience “instant amnesias” when we forget what we were going to say or do. Without associative connection, awareness breaks down into a series of discrete states with little continuity or integrity, as in dreamlife.
Therapeutic mind/body communication means facilitating the process of converting words, images, sensations, ideas, beliefs, and expectations into the healing, physiological processes in the body. This reverses the situation of the childhood traumas, which generally include paradoxical communications--double binds in the formative stages of life. Thus, the limbic system becomes programmed by self-loathing and self-punishing patterns (victim-victimizer), split off from the whole.
Multiple Personality takes root in a skewed learning process through early childhood state-dependent learning. Trauma such as abuse or sexual molestation induces a hypnoidal state where confusing messages are translated into a trance state similar to shock. These states reemerge under similar contextual cues, creating complications resulting from inappropriate identity states.
But the cues may become generalized so that virtually any situation provides a cue. Knowledge is consciously available in one state, but not another. The multiple has learned to concentrate totally on certain memories from the past, and compulsively uses them to confront the present even when they are grossly inappropriate. Perceptual distortions occur during retrieval; this creates chaotic confusion. Patterns of associations between emotions and knowledge seem random and jumbled.
Different subpersonalities can have different cognitive and psychophysiological response patterns as well. Researchers have found that the only dissociated functions among the different states of consciousness pertain to emotionally laden information, skills, and activities associated with each specific personality.
But, do the various personalities really respond to stimuli as though they were separate and discrete individuals, as reported in subjective experience? Or, does the apparent separateness stem from selective inattention, reporting biases, and sometimes confabulation?
Multiples may experience as few as two alters, or so many they may be called ‘the troops.” The cast of characters each appear to be strongly role-bound alters. Their types may include, but are not limited to, protectors, nurturers, same and opposite sex opponents and comforters, vulnerable children, wounded or ill sufferers, antisocial rebels, passive/aggressive manipulators, drama queens, rage-filled sociopaths, licentious hedonists, religious zealots or moral extremists, victim/victimizers and judges. We must assume each comes complete with unique brainbody chemistry which is orchestrated within the host, subverting emotional and thought processes.
Neutral information is not dissociated. The obvious analog for such dissociative amnesias is hypnosis. Memories acquired during the state of hypnosis are forgotten in the awake state but are available once more when hypnosis is reinduced. Both originate in the psychophysiology of a class of hypnotic dissociation. It has even been suggested that MPD results from chronic autohypnosis, and the switch mechanism is the induction.
Despite subjective claims of separateness and amnesia, there is considerable leakage of information across states. Research reveals no evidence of super-normal discrimination ability nor memory ability, but does show enhanced compartmentalization. Yet, material learned in one state influences processing in other states across personalities. Usually, emotionally-laden words are processed differently between alternates, although neutral material is processed the same. This generalization across alters means doing therapy with any personality can potentially heal the whole person.
This points again to the functional involvement of the limbic-hypothalamic system (and its agent, the amygdala) as the main mind-body transducer for emotional processes. It is just this mind-body system and state-dependent memory, learning, and behavior that are the two main processes of mind-body communication and healing. Thus psychological factors can facilitate healing, as shown in psychoneuroimmunology, shamanism, hypnosis, holism and the placebo effect.
1). The limbic-hypothalamic system is the major anatomical connecting link between mind and body.
2). State-dependent memory, learning, and behavior processes encoded in the limbic-hypothalamic and closely related systems are the major information transducers between mind and body.
3). All methods of mind-body healing and therapeutic hypnosis operate by accessing and reframing the state-dependent memory and learning systems that encode symptoms and problems.
4). The state-dependent encoding of mind-body symptoms and problems can be accessed by psychological as well as physiological (e.g. drugs) approaches--and the placebo response is a synergetic interaction of both.” (Rossi, 1986, p.55).
Placebos work particularly well when stress, or more accurately, when distress is the illness, such as depression and anxiety. They also work in part by reducing the apprehension associated with the disease. But, one need not take a “sugar pill” to benefit from the mechanisms at work in placebo effect: any structured healing situation which inspires confidence and a positive expectation in participants in their ability to ameliorate their symptoms invokes this self-healing force. The immune system falters under stressful conditions, and all therapeutic processes which reduce that stress and anxiety can influence countless diseases, including some we don’t usually consider subject to psychological influence.
Some types of people respond better to the suggestion of healing than others. There is a correlation between open-mindedness, hypnotizability, and placebo response. This has been well-documented in medical literature.
“...Good placebo responders, like good hypnotic subjects, inhibit the critical, analytic mode of information processing that is characteristic of the dominant verbal hemisphere. Good placebo responders will tend to be individuals who are prone to see conceptual or other relationships between events that seem randomly distributed to others. They will inhibit the interfering signals of doubt and skepticism, which are consequences of the more analytic mode of information processing, typical of the dominant (left) hemisphere. . . .Minor-hemisphere functions include holistic and imaginative mentation with diffuse, relational, and simultanous processing of information; the tendency to “see” some relationship or “meaning” in data, however randomly generated, would appear to be an aspect of creative mentation that is posited to be a property of the nondominant hemisphere. This explanation can account for the common features of good placebo responders and good hypnotic subjects.” (Wickramasekera, 1985).
We have already shown that MPDs are excellent at producing self-induced trance-states, and there is no reason this ability can’t be directed or utilized in a positive way. The healing environment is a powerful antidote for illness. The decision to seek professional assistance retores some sense of control. The symbols and rituals of healing offer reassurance.
CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT PROTOCOLS
MPD is initially misdiagnosed in many cases as PTSD, schizophrenia due to patient’s reports of “voices,” panic disoder, borderline, or depression. The core personality may indeed be depressed and benefit from antidepressant medication. Physical conditions are first ruled out, and include seizure disorders, head injury, substance abuse, etc. Screening is done with a test called the Dissociative Experiences Scale (DES), and evaluation then continues with the Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule (DDIS) or the Strucutral Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Dissociative Disorders (SCID-D). Hypnotizability is measured by the Hypnotic Induction Profile (HIP).
Treatment lasts from five to seven years in adults and usually involves several different treatment methods. With treatment, prognosis for recovery is excellent for children and good for most adults. Although treatment takes several years, it is often ultimately effective. Generally speaking, the earlier the individual is diagnosed and treated, the better the prognosis. In conventional care some doctors will prescribe tranquilizers or antidepressants because alter personalities may have anxiety or mood disorders.
However, other therapists may prefer to keep medications to a minimum becase these patients can easily become psychologically dependent on drugs. A major consideration for CRP psychotherapy is to have a benzodiazepine-free participant, since this drug class blocks the transformation process. Since some alters tend to abuse drugs or alcohol, it can be dangerous to combine them with most tranquilizers.
While not always necessary, hypnosis is a standard treatment for DID patients. It may help patients recover repressed ideas and memories. Further, hypnosis can also be used to ameliorate problematic behaviors, such as self-mutilation or eating disorders. In the later stages of treatment, the therapist may use hypnosis to “fuse” the alters as part of the patient’s personality integration process. Alternative therapies include hydrotherapy, calming herbs, therapeutic massage, yoga, art therapy, journal-keeping, and meditation (but only after the personality has been reintegrated).
Psychotherapy by an experienced specialist in dissociation includes rules or contracts for treatment that include such issues as the patient’s responsibility for his or her safety. Therapy takes place in stages: an initial phase for uncovering and “mapping” alters; a phase of treating the traumatic memories and “fusing” the alters; a phase of consolidating the patient’s newly integrated personality. Therapists recommend further treatment after integration to teach and anchor social skills. Family therapy is often recommended for family-of-origin and the patient’s nuclear family, to foster understanding. DID is also helped by group treatment, if that group is limited to those with dissociative disorders.
TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS AND MPD
The concept of dissociation suggests that a system of thought can be split off from the primary personality and can congeal over time as another personality that is unconscious, but which can be accessed via hypnosis. There are various degrees of this fragmentation of the self which can be thought of as lying along a continuum extending ultimately to MPD, (Price, 1988).
The unity of consciousness is illusory; we are all covert multiples. Research has revealed hidden observers representing subordinate systems or roles which can lose communication with one another because of a process of dissociation. Each of us is split into varying parts, roles, and/or ego states. The mind must be viewed as a complex whole, constituted of multiple part selves.
These parts in turn combine to do what each does best given a certain set of circumstances. Difficulties arise when there is an impairment of the organizing executive function such that dissociated part selves come into existence. The etiology of MPD is usually located in childhood in a context of extreme physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse -- psychological trauma ranging from incest and rape to suicidal despair.
MPD represents an attempt by the child to deal with overwhelmingly negative environmental circumstances, in which to maintain some sense of integrity of self, the self must split. To develop MPD, the individual must (1) have a biological ability to dissociate, and (2) face overwhelming life experiences in childhood which result in his or her using their dissociative abilities as a defense that (3) becomes linked to the formation of a split-off part self structure which (4) becomes persistent due to a lack of healing nurturance from significant others before the dissociated part of the self becomes fixated.
These relics of childhood can exhibit spontaneous activity in the normal waking state where ego states can manifest themselves in one of two ways, as either completely cathected states of mind experienced as the “real self,” or as intrusions, usually covert or unconscious into the activity of the current ‘real self.’ MPD represents a disordering of normal transition between alternate ego states; boundaries are permeable, but also impermeable to information exchange, resulting in state-bound amnesias. There is no experience of a temporal continuance of events between alternating aspects of self.
Alters are encapsulations of those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors which are remnants from childhood, the fixations from the past. There are four main categories of alters: persecutors, rescuers, inner helpers, and victims.
Persecutors in one form can be typified as angry children alternatives, and can also appear as critical, malevolent others who functionally represent Prejudicial Parent manifestations. These are active in form because they function similarly to the parental figures after which they were patterned.
Rescuing alters often appear as conciliatory, nurturing figures who function in the system as nurturing parental elements. They are often wishful idealizations of figures from a grim reality that had little in the way of good enough parenting to offer the child.
Inner self helpers can be viewed as detached, problem-solving alters, identifiable functionally with the Adult. They can relate information, give guidance, but have little or no ability to act within the system.
MPD AND THE CONSCIOUSNESS RESTRUCTURING PROCESS
One of the main characteristics of complex dynamical systems in Chaos Theory is known as “sensitivity to initial conditions.” All the future convolutions which emerge through the chaotic unfolding are seeded in these holistic beginnings. In terms of human behavior patterns, this means looking back to the point of conception, if not further into the psychophysical and environmental givens of the parents.
According to the “butterfly effect,” a small perturbation in the initial stages of unfolding can “pump up” into a disproportionately large result, the analogy being a butterfly flapping its wings can eventually kindle a storm as strong as a hurricane. Even in a simple organism a set of neural connections may be able to generate many and variable attractors. Some will be adaptive to environmental demands, while others will not. Appropriate responses are not selected by the attractors or a centrally-programmed neural structure, but by the process arising from the continual interaction with the environment.
Behavior doesn’t begin at birth. It begins in the womb and develops in predictable ways. One of the most important influences on that development is the fetal environment. Developmental psychologists note that the fetus gets an enormous amount of ‘hormonal bathing’ through the mother, so its chronobiological rhythms are influenced by the mother’s sleep/wake cycles, her eating patterns, and her movements.
Stress hormones have a crucial effect, and highly-pressured mothers tend to have more active fetuses, which become more irritable infants. Those with irregular sleep/wake patterns in the womb sleep more poorly as young infants. Fetuses with high heart rates become unpredictable, inactive babies.
A client, whom we can call Margo, is a long-term therapy participant, with over 100 CRP journeys. Her case is a poignant example of how dysfunctionality can begin even before birth. Her mother also had MPD, therefore, Margo’s “in womb” sensory programming included exposure to the chemical stew of a highly dysfunctional individual.
Behaviorally speaking, there is little difference between a newborn baby and a 32-week-old fetus. The fetus can taste, feel, and hear, and spends hours in REM--the rapid eye movement sleep of dreams. During REM, the fetus’ eyes move back and forth, dreaming about what it knows--the sensations they feel in the womb. Between frequent naps, there is something like an awake alert period.
The fetus also has been shown to have the capacity to learn and remember. This activity can be rudimentary, automatic, even biochemical. For example, a fetus, after an intitial reaction of alarm, eventually stops responding to a repeated loud noise. Thus, the fetus displays the same kind of primitive learning, known as habituation. The fetus can listen, learn, and remember at some level, and likes the comfort and reassurance of the familiar.
In utero, the baby is being prepared for life, learning psychological and coping mechanisms important to survival, sharing the parent’s REM dreams, and hopefully experiencing the healthier chemistry of conflict resolution and the resolving of traumas.
Neural patterns are conditioned in the womb during REM, which occupies much of the activity of the fetus. Attractors form which are goal states that act to constrain the system’s internal degrees of freedom. The entrainment phenomena, two closely related systems synchronously oscillating at the same frequency with one another, may be the mechanism through which brain waves synchronize.
We propose that brain waves can become synchronous when in proximity, particularly in REM, as reports of “shared dreaming” suggest. Lending further support to REM fetal programming is information about the chemical environment of the womb, stress and neuroimmunological chemicals, as well as effects of foreign substances (alcohol, tobacco, drugs) the mother ingests.
Margo’s REM experiences as a fetus were of having no one single set personality model from which to program her personality, nor of a stable chemical environment in the womb. It is known that MPD often results in different body chemistries for different personalities. Moreover, her mother was addicted to both tobacco and alcohol in some personalities.
The mother was also having extra-marital love affairs, of which the father knew, and he was greatly disturbed by them. The mother had also been raped shortly prior to Margo’s conception, and was still affected by this. These events were extremely disturbing to both of her parents. It seems likely that they would have been processing much of it in their REM or dreams. By our concept, all this would have been absorbed by the fetus Margo during her fetal REM experience.
Various personalities expressed several of these symptoms. For example, one personality expressed insane jealousy with respect to the various men in her life. Yet she picked men for relationships who were unfaithful in relationships. At the same time she used sex as a means of manipulating men, from another of her personalities, in part as a result of her childhood sexual molestation by her father, and in part because this was also how her mother operated.
She had been in several situations where she was, in fact, raped. One of her personalities was addicted to alcohol while others were more temperate. One had symptoms of schizophrenia, two others in concert exhibited a bipolar disorder. None were in communication with all of the others, although some were aware of one or two other personalities.
In working with Margo and hearing stories about her early life and experiences, it was apparent that she had literally come forth from the womb already strongly programmed to this disorder. She was born fully prepared to create alternate personalities as a coping mechanism or a response to trauma or threatening situations.
The first personality was created during the first few months of her life and was the source of the first split and alternate personality. We had to go back well into the earliest fetal and pre-fetal consciousness structures for her to reach the source consciousness of her disease. Only then could she begin to release and heal her disorder rather than merely putting a superficial fix on it.
The strategy was to transform the fetal programming responsible for the propensity to create the alternate personality structures as a primary means of coping. She also carried both her parents’ pains and burdens experienced through fetal REM into birth and up to her present, and was incapable of separating them out even in later life. Reaching these diseased consciousness dynamics through REM and the journey process was crucial to releasing and transforming them.
Using the wakeful side of REM was necessary to the process for several reasons. Margo’s dreams were superficially not about these earliest and deepest memories and consciousness structures. Dreams, on the surface level, most often reflect recent experiences and only through deeper work in the structure of the dream itself touch on the deepest consciousness structures, which in turn determine our reactions to these recent experiences.
Thus to work at only the surface level of a dream is inadequate for deep transformation. For examples, dream interpretation or analysis, operates at intellectual and occasionally emotional levels; gestalt dream work works at the emotional-experiential levels, and lucid dreaming works at ego-experiential levels. None are sufficient to completely reach the actual early and most deeply held experiences and consciousness structures needing release and transformation.
CRP follows and deepens the natural tendency toward depersonalization seen in MPD experience. Clients report feeling that his or her body is unreal, is changing, or is dissolving. CRP lets that dissolution take place in a therapeutic setting, but also fosters emergent self-organization of the primary personality.
In the wakeful REM consciousness, using the imaginative sensory nature of the journeys, Margo was able to reach the “primal consciousness structures” that formed the basis of her multiple personality structure. The ego minds (twelve, in all) were able to follow the process without directing or controlling it to allow their eventual transformation and emergence of one whole self. This was necessary in order to transform the coping mechanism of creating other personalities when in pain or threatened. The coping mechanism is that which she had been programmed with while still in the womb.
Because self-imagery is part of a nonlinear dynamical system, even slight changes in this imagery can have powerful reorganizing effects on all other ‘parts’ of the self. The self can use information it captures to drive its own evolution in unpredictable directions. A change in the number and layout of goal states (attractors) will result in a change in the field, which manifests as a qualitative shift in behavior mode.
The actual structure of the many personalities came from post-natal traumas, but the sensory mechanism of developing them was programmed into the fetus from sharing the mother’s MPD experiences while in REM. Margo now reports only one alter remains, the one which has been with her the longest, and she continues her therapeutic journey.
The CRP journeys seem to trigger natural healing, whether at the genetic, cellular, neural, or psychoneuroimmunological level. It activates the same consciousness dynamics as the placebo effect. We have consistently observed that chaotic, unstructured or complex consciousness is the dynamics required for consciousness restructuring. This restructuring of the primal existential sensory self-image, in turn affects neural patterns (the existential hologram). Changes in the firing patterns affect the entire body’s chemistry.
It is also necessary for therapeutic success to be at the initial conditions of the system for this restructuring to have maximal effect, and REM consciousness seems to be necessary to these processes. This provides a plausible mechanism through which dreams, historically considered the source of great healing and spiritual power, do their healing and regenerative work.
In CRP Journeys, we infer that the chaotic, implicate or complex consciousness is the dynamic in which the healing biochemical transformations are initiated by changes in the primal existential hologram (Swinney, 1997). This model suggests that a similar process may account for the healing effects of placebos. We take a placebo with the perception that it will help.
Taking this perception into sleep and REM, the neural patterns are also changed which in turn affects the whole psychophysical organism. REM consciousness is the most chaotic or complex state of consciousness dynamics measured in the brain. It is a well-known phenomena that both physical and psychological diseases are reflected in dreamlife, often as the first sign that something is amiss. Thus REM consciousness with its access to mind/body communication is of prime interest with regards to self-healing.
The emergent properties of the network include evolutionary adaptation. From the dynamical processes of attraction, chaos, bifurcation and autopoiesis (self-creation), emerge webs of mutually inter-adapting entities. Superceding any outworn notions of psychosomatics, is David Bohm’s concept of “soma-significance,” that the physical body and its significance or meaning are not separate, but two aspects of an overall indivisible reality.
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