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A Fractured Mind by Robert B.

Oxnam

Alexandria Gurule

Abnormal Psychology
The book A Fractured Mind is about a man named Robert Oxnam who has dissociative

identity disorder. As an adult, he was very depressed and dealt with depression, alcoholism, self-

harm, several suicide attempts, and bulimia. He didn’t realize how bad his problems were until

he came to an all-time low due to his alcoholism. Robert was an expert in Asian culture and ran

the Asia Society. As a successful professional, his alcoholism was closeted and he became a high

functioning drunk. Once his drinking got too bad to handle, he decided to go to therapy where

his doctor, Dr. Smith, suggested he go to rehab. Robert spent two months in in rehab where he

felt that he was much different than the others in there because he was successful in life.

When he left rehab, he continued to go to therapy with Dr. Smith for his depression.

Robert continued to suffer and still had random bursts of outrage along with bulimia. One main

thing that Robert suffered from was blank spots in his life. At first, Dr. Smith thought that this

was due to his alcoholism. He even wrote a book that for the most part, he did not remember

writing. As he continued with therapy, he started to think that therapy wasn’t working for him.

Eventually he decided to quit therapy with Dr. Smith. On his last visit, he found out about his

dissociative identity disorder. At the end of the session, Dr. Smith told Robert (then Bob) about

Tommy, one of eleven personalities.

When Dr. Smith told Bob about the disorder, he explained to him what Tommy was like.

Tommy was a young boy who had a lot of anger. Bob was confused at first about it, but also

thought that it made some sense. Tommy was the first connection to the other personalities. As

their therapy continued, Dr. Smith uncovered the personalities of Young Bob, Robbey, Bobby,

Witch, Eyes, Librarian, Baby, and Lawrence. Baby was especially important because he was the

one to reveal that as a child, Robert was abused. Throughout therapy, Dr. Smith was also able

change the dominate personality from Bob to Robert. Bob was tired and drained from this work
and personal life. Robert, however, was full of energy. It took a lot of convincing and

negotiating, but they finally had an agreement that Robert should take over.

Back when Robert was diagnosed, the dominate personality was named Bob. When Bob

was diagnosed, dissociative identity disorder was called Multiple Personality Disorder. Through

the diagnosis of Dr. Smith, Robert found out that there were 11 different personalities in him.

Some symptoms of his mental illness include blank spots which were originally thought to be

caused by his alcoholism. Alcoholism was another symptom that helped him cope through

something he was not fully aware of. According to the Cleveland Clinic, one of the main causes

of Dissociative Identity Disorder is past trauma (2016). Robert was able to find out through Baby

that when he was younger, he was severely abused.

Dr. Smith set up a plan to help create a merger between the identities. According to Dr.

Smith, it was six months before Tommy (the first identity) to appear. He also explained how Bob

would change when asked if anyone else wanted to speak. For example, his voice would change

and style and behavior would also change. For each personality, Dr. Smith would be able to

recognize who was there talking to him. In the beginning, Dr. Smith used Tommy to slowly

connect to the others in the Castle, and even after Robert became the dominate personality, met

others through what they each knew about the Castle. The Castle is what they called the inside

where all individual personalities lived.

According to Dr. Smith, there are two therapeutic goals in Dissociative Identity Disorder.

The first goal is “to process and detoxify the buried memories of trauma.” The second is “to help

the long-separated parts to come to know, respect, and ultimately love one another.” When

working to achieve these two goals, the patient must reach catharsis, and work on internalization.
The catharsis mechanism pushes for emotions to be explored and internalization shows that all

negative and traumatic events can be changed into positive ones later in life (Oxnam, 2005).

Professionally, this book is very helpful to a counselor because it shows the client side of

DID. It is clear in the book that Robert struggled daily with the symptoms and effects of his

dissociative identity disorder and it showed through his emotional outbursts, mood swings,

addictions, depression, self-harm, and attempted suicide. It also shows that there can be much

more to a client rather than just depression or alcoholism. Dr. Smith was very good at working

with each personality where they were as well as keeping track of who said what. At times, some

personalities, like Tommy were very mean to Dr. Smith, but he was very patient through it all.

This book showed that it was very possible to live a professionally successful life while living

with DID. Robert was very successful in the Asia Society where he worked, but inside he was

struggling with his DID.

As a professional, it is important to look at all aspects of a client to get the whole picture.

This shows the importance of getting a background from the client when first starting sessions.

While Bob started the therapy with Dr. Smith, all personalities helped piece the puzzle that was

his life. Each had an important part that made it all make sense into who he was and why he

acted the way he did. The importance of a background interview is shown through Robert’s story

because Baby showed the reasoning behind the spilt of personalities. He told of how he was

severely abused as a young child and as a way of dealing with this, Robert was split into 11

different personalities.
References

Oxnam, R. D. (2005) A Fractured Mind. New York City, New York, Hyperion

Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder), (2016), Retrieved from

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9792-dissociative-identity-disorder-

multiple-personality-disorder