Revolution from Within

An excerpt from the book by Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem's 1993 book Revolution from Within includes an absurd chapter on multiplicity detailing the superpowers of which we're all supposedly capable. This is worth quoting at length: don't drink anything while you're reading or it'll be all over your screen.

"Suppose, for instance, that after an internal process measurable in milliseconds and based only on your own desire and the needs of the situation at hand, you could:

- change your brain's right- or left-hemisphere dominance to the opposite side -- and back again -- regardless of your biological sex or cultural gender;

- change handwriting and personal signature for different roles or needs, and also write skillfully and perform other tasks with your nondominant hand;

-- raise or lower your pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, level of oxygen need, and thresholds of pain and pleasure;

-- eliminate an allergic reaction to an environmental factor that is healthy or inevitable, or create an allergic reaction to a factor you want to avoid;

-- reenter and reexperience your mind's stored memories of the past as if they were happening in the present;

-- call up your body's somatic memory of everything that has happened to it with such clarity that "ghosts" of past wounds and bruises reappear on your skin in minutes, and then slowly disappear as you leave the memory;

-- activate visions of a past or future state of health so powerful that they can speed the healing of current wounds, measurably strengthen the immune system, and give you access at any time to the superhuman abilities usually reserved for emergencies;

-- adjust your eyesight to nearsighted, farsighted, or normal, depending on your task, with such physical impact on the eye's curvature that an optometrist examining you would write you an entirely different lens prescription;

--change voice depth and timbre, mannerisms, grammar, accent, facial muscle patterns, body language, physical style, and even darken the color of your eyes -- so totally that an unwitting observer would assume you to be of a different ethnicity, age, race, class, or gender from one moment to the next;

-- change your response to medication -- or achieve that medication's result without taking it -- and thus have all the benefits of a tranquilizer, sleeping pill, "upper", or anesthetic, but none of the side effects;

-- heighten or lessen sexual desire, and widen or narrow the range of those people for whom you feel it;

-- adjust your body's response to lunar and diurnal cycles;

-- become maximally effective and "tuned in" to various challenges -- work, parenting, dancing, a back rub, your own creativity, a friend's need, your immediate problem, a future dream -- by summoning up that part of yourself that contains exactly the appropriate sensitivities and strengths;

-- bring into one true self the strengths of all the selves you have ever been in every setting and situation from infancy to now.

"All of these abilities have been demonstrated -- and verified through a wide variety of double-blind tests, brain scanning, and other objective techniques [actually, they hadn't -- there have only been a handful of MRI] -- in people who have what is called "multiple personality disorder," or MPD. As is now known, MPD is almost always the result of frequent, sadistic, erratic, and uncontrollable abuse in childhood by someone on whom the child is dependent; abuse so intolerable that children learn to dissociate from it through a form of self-hypnosis and so escape into a 'different' person who does not feel the pain. Having once split off from the core personality, this 'alter' begins to acquire a separate life history, complete with distinctive mannerisms, behavior, and social relationships, almost as if it were a person born at the moment of 'splitting.' Once this ability to dissociate has proven to be a valuable way of surviving and dealing with the world, alters continue to be born to meet different needs and demands.

"Thus, by adulthood, one person may comprise as many as a dozen completely different personalities. (When much higher numbers are reported, they probably include 'fragments'; partial personalities that have specific purposes but not substantial life histories.) And these personalities are so different that they can convince unwitting people of their reality. Since the person suffering from this 'splitting' often experiences periods out of his or her host body as a memory loss, this is one of the most frightening examples of a survival mechanism that becomes a terrifying prison.

"Obviously, this phenomenon is born of suffering that is literally intolerable. What began as a grim gift renders its victims vulnerable to triggers in the environment over which they have no control. So splintered is the 'true self' that there is no overarching consciousness. In fact, the process of treatment is the process of integration. It takes great courage on the part of the survivor, empathetic [sic] patience from professionals, and an average of three to five years, but the prognosis for integrating and healing is good. That in itself is a testimony to human possibilities.

"What we haven't even begun to consider, however, is what would happen if the rest of us could acquire for positive reasons the abilities these accidental prophets have learned for negative ones. If such extraordinary abilities can be summoned to help survive the worst of human situations, they are also there to create the best. What if we could harness this unbelievable potential of body and mind?

"It's quite common, for example, for women to contain one or more personalities who conceive of themselves as male and behave convincingly as males, and for men to have one or several personalities who seem completely female in every way except the biological one. What if we could each gain access to the full range of human qualities that lie suppressed within us?

"Clearly, the list of human abilities with which this discussion of MPD began is only a hint of the real possibilities. People in different alters can change every body movement, perfect a musical or linguistic talent that is concealed to the host personality, have two or even three menstrual cycles in the same body [Why on earth would anyone want that??] and handle social and physical tasks of which they literally do not think themselves capable. We need to face one fact squarely. What the future could hold, and what each of us could become, is limited mainly by what we believe."

Actually, we've never met a multiple who could do any of those things, and we certainly can't. There was a huge amount of New Age crossover of the worst kind in accounts like this and Katherine It's Time -- the idea that "the mind can do anything if only you believe". And like What the Bleep and The Secret, the real truth is that a lot of people will believe anything without question if only it's presented convincingly enough. Some MPD therapists at this time were willing to believe practically anything about their clients, simply because they were faced with a lot of things they hadn't seen before. Amorpha have some particularly acerbic things to say about this myth in this article:

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