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The Minds of Billy Milligan - Daniel Keyes

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Author: Daniel Keyes / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      09.06.2006 21:33
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      A compelling exploration of multiple personality

      A fascinating and potent biographical story of how powerful our mind can be in finding ways to cope with intolerable circumstances.

      An intelligent young boy being subjected to horrific and intolerable abuse splits his mind to become not just two but over 20 different people within his own mind.

      We most of us have different personalities that show themselves at different times, when we are relaxed we behave differently from when we are under pressure for example, when we’ve had a drink we do things that we wouldn’t do sober – but still draw our own lines. Try and imagine how it would feel if those changes were to totally different people and each bit of your personality having no conception of any other part. It is totally mind blowing and lay people and experts are equally sceptical when this appears to be the case. There seems to be no-one however who spent any time with ‘Billy’ who was able to maintain that scepticism.

      The book was divided into three parts; the first being the events leading up to him being charged with rape, diagnosis of multiple personality and his subsequent acquittal on the grounds of insanity, including initial treatment and the beginnings of fusing.

      The second part; the account of his life prior to this as told to the author by, the then partially fused, Billy, I found least interesting. I’m not sure quite why except that it seemed like a fairly ordinary story about a troubled youth, the different characters were there but somehow Billy managed to maintain a relatively normal façade. It seemed to read like quite poor fiction during this phase.

      The third part of his story being the relating of his treatment, both medically and at the hands of society, I again found mesmerising. His treatment at the hands of the press was entirely typical. They had got a story and they were going to sensationalise it. People who hadn’t met him rarely believed in the multiple personality theory and suggested that along with being a rapist he was an extremely clever con man, which understandably scared local people when it came to him being allowed out on parole.

      To say I found this book fascinating is a complete understatement. One of Billy’s characters was there just ‘to take the pain’, he appeared when the body was being abused and was not there at other times. Some characters were angry and could be very strong. Others were good at talking and came out when he was with others. Three of his character’s, including a three year old child were female at least one was very intellectual. Some of the characters knew of other’s and some didn’t. Voices and mannerisms changed to suit the ‘person’ who was ‘on the spot’ at any one time and everyone that was able to take the time to get to know Billy was quickly convinced of his authenticity. The fusing of the personalities was not a total success either, as had been predicted the sum of his parts was actually less than when all his personalities were separate. He was less strong; less intellectual; less artistic but he was a real, whole and full person – which in the mind of society at least, is a preferable way to be. Read it yourself and make your own mind up if it was a positive transition for him. I believe it was but I also think there was some grieving to be done for the losses

      The whole story was so unbelievable at times it really reflected the saying that ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ as if it had been told as a novel I would have found it too detached from reality to be readable. Weird and compelling: one I would thoroughly recommend to anyone who is interested in psychology and how our minds work.

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    • Product Details

      A portrait of a tortured young man, arrested for a series of kidnappings and rapes, explores the world of a multiple personality, whose traumatic childhood shattered his mind into twenty-four distinct personalities.