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Crisp, P. (1983). Object Relations and Multiple Personality: An Exploration of the Literature. Psychoanal. Rev., 70(2):221-234.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(2):221-234

Object Relations and Multiple Personality: An Exploration of the Literature

Polly Crisp

Throughout this century multiple personality has been found to be an intriguing phenomenon. Since the publication of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, laymen have been both fascinated and frightened by what was felt to be a certain type of “demon possession.” Analysts have similarly been interested since the early development of psychoanalysis and Prince's (1905) publication The Dissociation of a Personality.

The purpose here will be to investigate the relationship of multiple personality and object relations. The need for consideration of this phenomenon is important in treating the few cases that appear in our own culture as well as in understanding the numerous cases that appear in the “possession states” of other cultures. Since few conditions result in such overt manifestations of ego splitting, examination of multiple personality becomes even more important when attempts are made to better understand the structure and dynamics of the ego.

Multiple personality as a type of dissociative hysteria has generally been conceptualized in oedipal terms; few articles have considered multiple personality in object relations theoretical concepts. Also, most discussion has been presented as individual case studies. Thus the purpose of this article will be to integrate the existing literature dealing with object relations and multiple personality rather than to present detailed case histories. What constitutes multiple personality and its manifestation in a few cases will be considered in order to obtain a concrete understanding of the “disease” process. Cross-cultural comparisons of “possession states” of multiple personality are


* The author would like to express appreciation to Gerald Gaffin, M.A., Bertram Karon, Ph.D., and Robert Zucker, Ph.D. for reading and commenting on the manuscript.

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