Beyond the Book: Background information when reading A Fractured Mind

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A Fractured Mind

My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder

by Robert B. Oxnam

A Fractured Mind by Robert B. Oxnam
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2005, 304 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2006, 304 pages

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Robert B. Oxnam is internationally recognized as an Asia specialist and dynamic speaker. He often guides prominent Americans (including Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and former President George H. W. Bush) seeking in-depth knowledge of China. For more than ten years he was president of the Asia Society, which has offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Houston, and Hong Kong. He has hosted MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour specials on Asia; is a director of the Clemente Global Growth Fund and the First Philippine Fund; a trustee of the Rockerfeller Brothers Fund and Armand G Erpf Fund; and President Emeritus of the Asia Society. He lives with his wife Vishakha Desai, who is the current President of the Asia Society, in New York City.

Interesting Links:
An interview with Oxnam, in case anyone doubts his expertise!
An Audio Interview on New York Public Radio in which Oxnam talks about A Fractured Mind (jump to the second story).


About Multiple Personality Disorder
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, the primary characteristic of Disassociate Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) is the existence of more than one distinct identity or personality within the same individual. The identities will ‘take control’ of the person at different times, with important information about the other identities out of conscious awareness. This differs from Schizophrenia, the symptoms of which include delusions and hallucinations, disorganized behavior and/or speech.


The most famous MPD sufferer is arguably Shirley Ardell Mason (1923-1998), better known as "Sybil". In the early 1950s, having been plagued by blackouts and breakdowns for many years, Mason visited Dr Cornelia Wilbur who diagnosed her with MPD, and during 11 years of therapy found 16 personalities inside Mason, which she helped Mason integrate into a whole. In 1973, journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote Mason's story, changing her name to Sybil to protect her privacy. The publication of Sybil opened the doors to a massive increase of diagnosed MPD cases (according to one source there were 50 known cases in the USA in 1973, by 1990 20,000 cases had been diagnosed).

In 1998, after reviewing some of the original interview tapes, psychologist Robert Rieber told the American Psychological Association that he'd found tape recorded conversations between Sybil's psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, and Flora Schreiber that document "the fraudulent construction of a multiple personality."

Rieber was in possession of the tapes because he was a former friend of Shreiber who gave him the tapes in 1972 for a research study he was considering doing. The project didn't happen so the tapes remained in his drawer for 25 years until 1997, when comments by Herbert Spiegal, who had been Mason's therapist when Wilbur was out of town and had also used her in hypnotism research (and had long questioned the case), triggered Rieber's memory. The truth will never be known as Schreiber died in 1988, Mason in 1992 and and Wilbur in 1998. For more information read these 1998 Articles from The San Francisco Chronicle and Reuters.

This article is from the February 7, 2007 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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