The Bifurcation of the Self

The History and Theory of Dissociation and Its Disorders

  • Robert W. Rieber

Part of the Library of the History of Psychology Theories book series (LHPT)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xix
  2. Introduction

    1. Pages 1-7
  3. A Brief History of Multiplicity

  4. Sybil A Case of Multiple Personalities and the Natural History of a Myth

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 65-66
    2. Pages 67-83
    3. Pages 105-131
  5. Seminal Cases of Multiplicity A History

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 133-134
    2. Pages 135-181
    3. Pages 183-195
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 197-304

About this book


For more than a hundred years, dissociative states, sometimes referred to as multiple personality disorder, have fascinated the public as well as scientists. The precise nature of this disorder is a controversial one, dividing clinicians, theorists, and researchers. Challenging the conventional wisdom on all sides, Robert Rieber’s Bifurcation of the Self traces the clinical and social history of dissociation in a provocative examination of this widely debated phenomenon.

At the core of this history is a trio of related evolutions—hypnosis, concepts of identity, and dissociation—beginning with nineteenth-century "hysterics" and culminating in the modern boom in Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) diagnoses and the parallel rise in childhood abuse/repressed memory cases. Rieber does not argue the non-existence of DID; rather he asserts that it is a rare disorder exaggerated by dissociation advocates and exploited by the media. In doing so, he takes on some of the most difficult questions in the field:

  • How crucial is memory to a person’s identity?
  • Can two or more autonomous personalities actually exist in the same body?
  • If trauma causes dissociation, why aren’t there more DID cases?
  • Why are DID cases prevalent in some eras but not in others?
  • Does dissociative disorder belong in the DSM?

The book is rigorously illustrated with two centuries’ worth of famous cases including Christine Beauchamp, Ansel Bourne, Eve Black/Eve White, and most notably the woman known as "Sybil", whose story is covered in depth with newly revealed manuscripts. And Rieber reviews the current state of DID-related controversy, from the professionals who feel that the condition is underreported to those who consider it a form of malingering, so that readers may draw their own conclusions.


DSM brain diagnosis identity personality thinking trauma

Authors and affiliations

  • Robert W. Rieber
    • 1
  1. 1.Fordham UniversityNew York

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006
  • Publisher Name Springer, Boston, MA
  • eBook Packages Behavioral Science
  • Print ISBN 978-0-387-27413-3
  • Online ISBN 978-0-387-27414-0
  • Buy this book on publisher's site
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