Reviews of A Fractured Mind by Robert Oxnam

A Fractured Mind

My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder

by Robert B. Oxnam

A Fractured Mind by Robert B. Oxnam X
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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Book Summary

The harrowing, insightful, and courageous account of a prominent man's struggle with multiple personalities.

Robert Oxnam was a high-profile, successful man: A renowned scholar and president of the Asia Society, he appeared frequently on television and traveled the world as a sought-after expert. But what the millions of people who’d seen him didn’t know -- what even those closest to him didn’t know -- was that Oxnam suffered from multiple personality disorder. It was only after an intervention staged by family and friends, in response to frequent blackouts and episodic rages assumed to be alcohol-driven, that he sought treatment with Dr. Jeffery Smith; the first of his eleven personalities emerged in a session in 1990. After years of treatment, he has integrated them into three: Robert, Wanda, and Bobby, who take turns narrating this remarkable, unprecedented chronicle.

Chapter One
Bob: "I Always Thought I was 'Real.'"

On a cold, cloudy afternoon in March 1990, driving my black Honda through the spiderweb of highways north of New York City, I had no idea that this day would change my life forever. I was in a funk of a mood, dark and irritable, loathing the meeting with my psychiatrist that lay ahead. Seven months earlier, when I first met Dr. Jeffery Smith, I had real hope that he could cure my spiraling depression and anger. But now, after enduring extensive therapy sessions and a month in a rehabilitation clinic, I felt worse than ever. It was time to break from Dr. Smith.

But I realized that cutting off relations with Dr. Smith would be a challenge. He seemed like a genuinely concerned colleague, professional but approachable, a very hard man to dislike. Working from a simple office in an unpretentious modern building, he certainly was not the sort of shrink who siphons off patients' money to pay huge overhead. He dressed in a casually ...

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Multiple personality disorders (MPD) have come in for a lot of bad press over the years. Some in the medical community don't believe they exist at all, many believe they are over-diagnosed, and some baulk at the suggestion that they are caused by the need to suppress memories of significant childhood trauma, usually of a sexual nature - memories that are later "recovered" during treatment.

Many readers have also been burned recently by memoirs that are not all that they purport to be, the most recently notorious being A Million Little Pieces, so you would be right to have your cynicism antennae well attuned when considering whether to believe the story told in A Fractured Mind.

However, as one reads Oxnam's story, and as one learns about his life, as one of the most respected Asia specialists in the world, one can't help but wonder why he would invent such a story - in publicly telling it he has nothing to gain and a great deal to lose. The conclusion that many will reach can be summed up by the immortal (and oft repeated) words of Sherlock Holmes, "We must fall back upon the old axiom that when all other contingencies fail, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."..continued

Full Review (1640 words).

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Media Reviews

Time
A brave effort to explain how a troubled man found a way to get better.

Booklist - Donna Chavez
Starred Review. A remarkable life that, for all its successes, took great personal courage to survive and to publicly record.

Publishers Weekly
...this touching and powerful account of the "inner world" of the disorder—the power struggles and dialogues among the fractured parts of a person's mind—provides valuable insight into a courageous man's struggle

Kirkus Reviews
While the fanciful imagery employed by Oxnam may give his story greater impact, it will not authenticate it for skeptics who question either the existence of MPD as a genuine mental disorder or the legitimacy of recovered memories.

Author Blurb Marlene Steinberg, M.D., author of The Stranger in the Mirror: Dissociation -- The Hidden Epidemic
...Oxnam reveals how someone who appears so successful and talented on the outside can be filled with overwhelming self-hatred...

Reader Reviews

Joyce

Opening the door
Robert Oxnam opens the door for the reader to peer inside the disruptive world of MPD - truly an illness difficult to live with and difficult to understand for the reader. His brilliance shines through in his ability to draw the reader into his ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

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 ...

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