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Out of all the classes that I have taken here at Westfield State College, I can honestly say that Abnormal Psychology has been by far the most interesting. Since this course has had such a major influence on me this semester, I am strongly considering continuing my education in this field of psychology. Throughout the semester, we studied a number of intriguing disorders. The disorder that really seemed to catch my attention was the Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I took it upon myself to use this opportunity to learn more about the disorder that seemed to be the most fascinating. This is the main reason why I chose to read The Minds of Billy Milligan, by Daniel Keyes. This true story shows us how a young man (Billy Milligan), who suffers from DID, is charged with crimes that one of his alternate personalities is responsible for. Daniel Keyes is the writer who offered to reveal Billy's story to the world. After Billy was fused, he was able to explore the depths of his mind and the minds of his other 24 personalities for Keyes. Keyes published The Minds of Billy Milligan in 1981, but most of the story takes place before then. The book starts out in 1977, where Billy is being sought out for rape crimes.
Billy Milligan, a 22 year-old white man, was not a very educated individual. He had numerous odd jobs such as a florist in a local shop and a bodyguard to drug lords during shipments, but he struggled to hold down a constant job. Because of the 10 different personalities that were ruling his life, it was hard for Billy to maintain a stable job. One personality specialized in arranging flowers, but another would rather paint. One personality was stronger than the average man, but another was a scared 8 year-old boy. These personalities are a result of horrific sexual and physical abuse administered by his stepfather, Chalmer Milligan. Billy's biological father committed suicide when Billy was about 4 years old, and ever since then Billy's mother Dorothy was in and out of relationships. When Billy was 8 years old, Dorothy married Chalmer. The abuse began soon after the wedding. Chalmer physically abused Dorothy constantly, while Billy suffered both sexual and physical abuse. Jim (Billy's older brother) was fortunate enough to escape the abuse along with Kathy (Billy's sister) and Challa (Chalmer's daughter).
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Right after his biological father's suicide, at age 4, Billy began showing symptoms of DID. He wanted to play with his younger sister, Kathy, but his mother never would let him. That's when Christine developed. Christine was a 3-year-old girl that Billy's mind created to give him someone to play with. Christine is the first personality that Billy created. From that point on, different personalities were created for different specific purposes. By the time Billy was convicted of the rape crimes one of his personalities committed, there were 24 personalities living within Billy's mind. Out of the 24 personalities, 10 were mutually conscious personalities who were all aware of each other's existence. These 10 personalities or "The Big 10," controlled Billy's mind for 6 years of his life while Billy was "asleep". The other 14 personalities were known as the "undesirables". These "undesirables" were of no great use to Billy as a being, and were not allowed to take consciousness. The undesirables were basically unfavorable people, such as committers of minor crimes, egomaniacs, and imposters. Most of these undesirables were mutual amnesic personalities, meaning they weren't aware of any other personalities within Billy's mind. The Big Ten were aware of the undesirables, but the undesirables were not aware of them. When Billy was switching from one personality to another, he often experienced a glossy gaze and mumbling lips.
Besides having "the presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states" (DSM-IV), the undesirables would "steal time" from the Big 10. To "steal time" meant to unlawfully take consciousness from the Big 10. When this happened, damaging acts would usually occur. This stealing of time perfectly explains another symptom of DID according to the DSM-IV. When the personalities took control of Billy's behavior, Billy "lost time". To "lose time" was when another personality would take consciousness and cause the first personality to be unable to "recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness." (DSM-IV)
Dissociative Identity Disorder is in the category of Dissociative Disorders under Axis I of the DSM-IV. Even though Billy fully exhibits all of the symptoms of the disorder, he was still misdiagnosed. There were several instances where the doctors simply didn't believe in DID. Those that were skeptical of Billy interviewed him and soon believed that Billy Milligan suffered from DID. Even after meeting Billy, some people still refused to believe DID was a legitimate disorder and diagnosed Billy with other disorders. The client, Billy, did agree with the diagnosis because it really clarified things for him. Billy was also suicidal, meaning there is a good chance he was depressed as well.
Because several of the doctors didn't believe in DID, there was much controversy on how Billy should be treated. After the arrest, Billy was placed in an inadequate state hospital where he made no progress. If anything, things eventually got worse. Dr. Wilber, the world-renowned psychologist who treated Sybil, and Billy's case managers helped Billy move to Harding Hospital where he met Dr. George Harding Jr. Dr. Harding was the doctor who informed Billy of his disorder. Dr. Harding explained the treatment he was going to use to fuse the personalities, and in turn, the personalities explained it to the others so everyone understood. Dr. Kocan set up regular appointments where she spoke to each personality and tried to bring up all of the abuse from Billy's past. The core Billy was encouraged to acknowledge his other personalities and to answer their questions and to get to know them better. Billy was allowed to stay on the "spot" longer and longer each day.
Fusion took place in stages. The personalities who were similar were fused first, and then those pairs would be fused with other pairs. The result of all the combinations would result in the core, Billy. Arthur, one of Billy's personalities, tried describing fusion when he said, "Kool-Aid powder is made up of individual crystals, each grain separate. When you added water, they dissolved. But if the mixture was allowed to stand, the water would evaporate, leaving a solid mass. Nothing had been added or lost. It was just changed" (Keyes, p. 82). This process is not nearly as easy as it sounds. It took hours and hours of analysis and arguing to convince the individual personalities to merge together. For example, Allen and Tommy were similar, but Tommy had fears that Allen had, causing the fusion to complicate. It took a large amount of psychoanalysis to get Tommy to talk about his fear and overcome it. The new personalities who were merged were named Billy. Day by day, the fusion advanced until there was only Arthur, Ragen and Billy. From that point on, Billy fused and un-fused randomly, but his periods of fusion were lasting longer and longer each day.
After Billy was declared "not guilty by reason of insanity", Billy's personalities were ready to become fully fused. Billy then met Dr. Caul. Dr. Caul was experienced in treating patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder at Athens Mental Health Center. Dr. Caul decided to accept Billy on one condition, he had to have permission to treat Billy like he treated other DID patients, which was in the most open setting available. The condition was granted and Billy was soon transferred to Athens. After much convincing from Dr. Caul, Arthur and Ragen decided it was finally time to tell Billy that he was "the Teacher". The Teacher was the combination of all 24 personalities, one personality with all of the skills and attributes of the 24 personalities. Dr. Caul taped the interview with Arthur and Ragen where the two explained who the Teacher was, and then played the tape to Billy. Billy was flabbergasted when he saw the different personalities emerge on the screen. Before that point in time, he just believed what other people told him, that he was a multiple personality. Billy couldn't believe he was the Teacher. "At first, there had been only the core Billy, the one who was born and who had the birth certificate. Then he had broken into many parts, but all the while behind these many parts there was a presence without a name - someone that Ragen had said was the Teacher. In a sense, the unseen, fragmented, spirit-like thing called the Teacher had created all the others, children as well as monsters" (Keyes, p. 125). At that moment, Billy felt a strange feeling flow through his body. He looked down at the bright white light called the spot, and all 24 personalities took the spot at once. Billy came out the other side.
Billy's improvement has everything to do with the outstanding work of both Dr. Harding and Dr. Caul. Because of their exceptional work, Billy was able to gain control over his mind and was able to understand why he acted the way he did. As far as the other institutions that failed in helping Billy, they just prove that mistreating and abusing those who suffer from DID just makes the situation worse. The best way to help DID patients is to fuse their personalities together and only then will there be any chances of improvements.
I believe there are several theories that explain the development of Billy's symptoms. The psychodynamic perspective would attribute Billy's disorder to the sexual and physical abuse Billy experienced when he was younger. I believe the Sociocultural Perspective also applies because it was his environment and outside world that contributed to the development of Billy's disorder. Billy's family, the institutions he was sent to, and his home environment all caused stress that furthered the splitting and created even more personalities. The Cognitive Perspective also played a large part, if not the largest part, in the development of Billy's disorder. The main symptoms took place in Billy's mind. It was his mind that created Shaun, a deaf boy, to come to consciousness when he was being yelled at. It was also his mind that created David, the keeper of pain, and Ragen, who was used for his strength.
I would definitely recommend The Minds of Billy Milligan to someone being treated for Dissociative Identity Disorder. If the person with DID was not aware that s\he was a multiple personality then I would recommend on holding off until s\he is informed of that. Reading this book could be a traumatizing way for a multiple to learn about the disorder. The Minds of Billy Milligan would be a perfect book for a family member of a person with DID. The book gave great insight to what the person feels, thinks, and experiences. Daniel Keyes is a great writer who portrayed Billy's story extraordinarily. Keyes lets you drift so far into Billy's mind that you may even feel you are the 25th personality.