When The Voices In Your Head Aren’t Normal

November 2nd, 2005 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

Go up to a writer and ask this question: do you hear voices in your head? If the answer is a cheerful “yes”, most people back away slowly. No need to find out what the voices are saying. Other writers, of course, will move closer, eager to compare experiences. It is always strange to learn that other people don’t hear a constant stream of discussion, by characters, throughout the day.

Then there are those who hear voices, develop other personalities, and then let those alternate personalities write a book. Man, the writer says, that’s how it should be. Definite way to ensure that every character sounds distinctive. And probably it would be okay if it weren’t for the blackouts and weird scars the main personality has to explain to his wife.

Robert B. Oxnam went there and came (mostly) back — and, yes, the remaining three personalities fancied themselves authors (really, the odds are about right: you have eleven individuals, such as it is, at least three of them are going to say, “You know, I’ve always wanted to whip out a book.”). The book is A Fractured Mind: My Life With Multiple Personality Disorder. It’s an interesting approach, especially since we empathized with this moment:

What goes on among these personalities resembles nothing so much as office politics, which isn’t surprising, perhaps, when you consider Oxnam’s professional life. “It’s infuriating,” Robert complains of the then-dominant personality, Bob. “I’ve got lots of good ideas but so little gets through … The Asia Society presidency? … I would run it totally differently from Bob.” Bob, having learned of these gripes, retorts, “Let Robert try to raise money for a ten-million-dollar budget and cope with a bunch of bickering staff, trustees and donors at the same time.” When the two personalities decide to merge, they conduct the process like a business deal. Oxnam compares communications between alters to “instant ‘mental email'” and the “file transfer process” in a computer.

File Under: Square Pegs

1 response so far ↓

  • Bernita // Nov 2, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Well, that is certainly a relief. From my sheltered corner I was worried that a character of mine who has a sardonic little voice in her head making comments might be considered a little strange.
    Obviously not, if the real thing is convenable.