February 26, 2011

A Little Help rather than Hindrance from The Media…

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Can a Ballerina Make Out With Her Alternate Self? An Expert Debunks Multiple-Personality Movie Tropes

By Gwynne Watkins
2/25/11 at 12:45 PM

On Sunday, Natalie Portman is expected to take home the naked statuette for her portrayal of Nina, the ballerina who confronts her dark Ukranian sitcom-star side in Black Swan. While the disease known as Movie Multiple Personality Disorder has been a staple of films and soap operas for years, never before has it been so well honored: Halle Berry got a Golden Globe nomination for playing a stripper with dueling personalities — one of whom is a white Southern racist — in the “based on a true story” film Frankie and Alice. And Toni Collette collected an Emmy this past fall for her multiple-personality mama in Showtime’s United States of Tara. In their portrayals of MMPD, these actresses, like Joanne Woodward and Sally Field before them, distinguish their different “alters” with accents, wardrobe changes, and occasional violent showdowns. But how do these symptoms compare with people who suffer from actual Dissociative Identity Disorder (the preferred term for Multiple Personality Disorder)? To find out, we called Dr. Marlene Steinberg, author of the book The Stranger in the Mirror, who has done groundbreaking work in the field of DID, demonstrating that the disorder is both more common and less extreme than we’ve been led to believe. We went through all of the symptoms that we’ve seen in movies like Sybil, Fight Club and Black Swan and engaged her in a vigorous round of fact-checking.

Many people associate Dissociative Identity Disorder with the cases in movies like Sybil and The Three Faces of Eve. What are the most misleading ideas that we’ve gotten from those movies?
In real life, the symptoms are very subtle. Patients in real life are concealing the symptoms because it was an elaborate way that they could survive. And so often, they are unaware that they’re suffering from multiple personalities. In the movies, the most common symptom is they’re switching from one personality to another. Well, that’s the least common symptom that people ever present with. That’s not a complaint that people are aware of. They complain of having mood changes; they complain of feeling very depressed; they complain of feeling anxious or panic-stricken. So that’s really a very large misconception that results in misdiagnosis.

Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan has signs of dissociative identity disorder, but the other personality doesn’t emerge until she’s in her twenties. Is it possible for a second personality to come out that late in life, as a result of intense stress?
Yes — that is, assuming she was predisposed to dissociating when under stress. If she had split into alters as a child, she would be at increased risk of creating new alters as an adult when under severe stress. The “good girl” versus “bad girl” struggle is common in D.I.D.

Portman and Mila Kunis have possibly hallucinatory sex in the movie. Could one personality believe that it has intimate or romantic relations with another?
This is absolutely possible! People with dissociative disorders are extremely creative. I had a male patient with D.I.D. who reported that he had a female alter inside of him who functioned as his girlfriend. His inner girlfriend would get jealous whenever he dated other women.

In The Three Faces of Eve, there’s a famous scene where one of Eve’s three personalities does a nightclub act. Could one personality just decide to go into show business?
It certainly is possible that different personalities take over for different talents or skills — a musical talent, a writing skill. But only 5 percent of cases have different personalities that have dramatically different appearances or talents. It’s usually much more subtle.

Read the rest of the article at the link:

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Shall We Discuss This?

February 24, 2011

There are 120 comments on the article, the majority of them lambasting Stevens for attempting a DID defense.  What are your thoughts?

Stevens: I didn’t know alter ego was stealing

Jan. 21, 2011

Written by

Phyllis Stevens says she first learned she embezzled nearly $6 million from her employer on the day Aviva USA officials confronted her about it, court records say.

That claim is contained in a psychiatric report filed this week as defense lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Ronald Longstaff for leniency when he sentences Stevens and her spouse, Marla, today on charges related to embezzlement.

“I didn’t know about the computer fraud at all until I talked with Aviva,” Stevens told Dr. David Drake, a Des Moines psychiatrist, during six hours of interviews. “They told me I had been stealing money and ‘we know you did it.’ As the core person, I didn’t know that.”

Stevens faces a maximum prison term of 48 years and fines totaling $1.75 million after pleading guilty to six counts of wire fraud, computer fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering concealment and filing false tax returns.

The rest is at the link…

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And yet more Art, Art, Art…

February 24, 2011

Ray Caesar, the Canadian artist who turned down Madonna


From Saturday’s Globe and Mail

Ray Caesar requests that we meet at a Starbucks in Toronto’s PATH, a system of bland subterranean walkways beneath the city’s financial district, where a sea of people in dark suits creates an energy that is at once frenetic and mind-numbing.

He’s wearing a black turtleneck sweater. His eyes are soft, his smile is gentle. At 52, his hair is more salt than pepper. You might mistake him for a mid-level office hack grabbing a coffee on casual Friday.

Could this really be the artist behind the eerily beautiful, otherworldly and rather disturbing canvases (dames with spider legs, girls eating flies) hanging on the walls of such boldface buyers as shock rocker Marilyn Manson? The same guy who corresponds with Madonna? Who was recruited to work with fashion demigod Riccardo Tisci? Shouldn’t he look more like Edward Scissorhands? Or at least Karl Lagerfeld?

Don’t be fooled.

Ceasar acknowledges head-on just how complex he is. He’s chosen the seemingly uninspired venue for our meeting, he explains, because he’s “slightly agoraphobic,” and his anxiety about being outdoors is eased when he can sit down to sketch at various points along this vast web of underground corridors. He also struggles with dissociative identity disorder: more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. He also insists he was born a dog.

More at the link…

Detail from Calamity by Ray Caesar.

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Artwork by Shirley A. Mason, aka Sybil on view

February 23, 2011

Exhibit gives Lexington its first real look at artwork by ‘Sybil’

By Candace Chaney Contributing Arts Writer

For almost a quarter of a century, a simple home on Henry Clay Boulevard secretly housed a celebrity, unbeknownst to Lexingtonians.

Even friends and neighbors did not know the true identity of Shirley Mason until she died in 1998, when it was revealed that Mason was not just the quiet, pleasant lady next door who sold art out of her home and enjoyed gardening and prayer.

She was Sybil Dorsett, the subject of a 1973 book by Flora Rheta Schreiber and a 1976 TV movie, starring Sally Field, about Mason’s struggle with dissociative identity disorder.

Suffering cruel physical and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother, Mason coped by developing 16 distinct personalities, all which were successfully integrated after working with psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur for more than a decade.

After Wilbur moved to Lexington to join the psychiatry faculty at the University of Kentucky, a healthy, integrated Mason followed, living the remainder of her days in peace.

Headley-Whitney Museum

Headley-Whitney Museum

Doves in Flight is part of the exhibit of work by Shirley A. Mason, aka Sybil.


The Hidden Art of Sybil & Her Other Selves: Shirley A. Mason

When: Through March 27. Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; noon-5 p.m. Sat., Sun.

Where: Headley-Whitney Museum, 4435 Old Frankfort Pike

Admission: $10 adults, $7 ages 62 and older and students, free for ages 5 and youngerInfo: (859) 255-6653,


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