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A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder Paperback – October 11, 2006

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As a child Oxnam worried about how the fractured Humpty-Dumpty could be fixed. This nursery rhyme later became a metaphor for his "fractured mind." Oxnam was outwardly a successful China scholar and president of the Asia Society. Inwardly, however, he struggled with self-doubt and inadequacy, blackouts and alcoholism. He sought treatment from psychiatrist Jeffrey Smith, who, during a session in 1990, found that Oxnam's problem was not alcoholism but multiple personality disorder when Tommy, an angry boy, emerged as the first of Oxnam's alternate personalities. Eventually, 11 personalities emerged, including Baby, who had suffered from severe child abuse. Through therapy, Oxnam was able to put most of the pieces of his personalities together (three remain). In an epilogue, psychiatrist Smith writes that while the disorder is serious and therapy is demanding, the results are usually good. Although the conversations the 11 personalities have with Smith are at times difficult to follow, this touching and powerful account of the "inner world" of the disorder—the power struggles and dialogues among the fractured parts of a person's mind—provides valuable insight into a courageous man's struggle.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sybil, of course, and a handful of others have achieved a measure of public recognition as a result of books chronicling their lives with MPD--multiple personality disorder, known in clinical circles as DID, dissociative identity disorder. Unlike the others, Asia specialist and public speaker Oxnam achieved public distinction, to say nothing of an impressive list of professional accomplishments, despite the at-times crippling burden of MPD, manifested by no fewer than 10 additional, distinct personalities, or "alters," of himself. Sometimes he was in charge; sometimes not. He was often relegated to the role of hapless passenger as one or another alter drove all of them down a path of profligate eating and drinking, temper tantrums, or adultery. Oxnam doesn't shirk responsibility, but with a father who tolerated nothing short of scholastic, indeed overall, perfection and a drama-queen mother, it seems inevitable that Oxnam developed some sort of mental instability. But add gross physical and sexual abuse at the hands of trusted family members into the mixture of childhood experiences, and there is little remarkable in the fact that this child's mind broke into the walled divisions within what the adult Oxnam calls the Castle, home to his inner selves. A remarkable life that, for all its successes, took great personal courage to survive and to publicly record. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books; Reprint edition (October 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401308686
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401308681
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lesly Auerbach on October 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although I don't live under a rock, prior to purchasing "A Fractured Mind," I don't recall having ever heard of Robert B. Oxnam. Having now finished reading his book, I believe I won't have any such trouble remembering either his name or his story.

First, I'd like to say that I have deep respect for Mr. Oxnam for going through with making his story and struggles known to the public--myself included. This was a courageous move on his part and I hope there are no regrets for any and all involved in the project.

On, now, to the story. For the first section of this book, Oxnam told a lot of--what I thought at the time--standard family background, academic and work-related information, and showcased an obvious alcohol problem. I wondered if I was missing something or if they'd gotten the name of the book wrong. Once Oxnam began treatment and then therapy for alcoholism, things started to fall into place for me as a reader and I was amazed at how successful this man had become in spite of what I now know were serious mental and physical problems.

I've read the book and seen the movie "Sybil" and was expecting this to run roughly the same course: in-depth coverage of the abuse that caused the original and subsequent dissociation, tales of bickering alters and integration, and a somewhat tidy ending. Imagine my surprise and confusion when the trauma Oxnam had suffered was discussed about the middle of the book. I cringed, thinking that all the dirty details would be chronicled throughout the second half; I was wrong. In a savvy move, the abuse was mostly alluded to, with only a few key events mentioned (no salacious content here).
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert Johnson on January 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Anyone with experience with Multipal Personality Dissorder will recognise this book as a true account of experienced uniquely by one individual. While some readers may choose to see it as indulgent, or chide him for softpedaling the details of his childhood abuse, none the less it reflects the experience of DID in a manner that those who personally confront this dissorder will surely recognise.

The puzzlingly intense reactions that...simply the concept of DID itself seems to arouse in others (see reviews above for various examples) seems reason enough for Oxnam to have avoided writing about his experiences. One can certainly imagine where his professional reputation has very little to gain as a result of daring to write about a topic that continues to remain so unsettling to so many.

But whatever his personal motivations, Oxnam deserves the thanks of others with DID for bringing to the publics' attention the fact that even well-respected and "acomplished individuals" can suffer from this much-missunderstood condition.

And not be afraid to admit it.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By History Buff on November 28, 2005
Format: Hardcover
At first I wasn't sure why anyone without a professional interest in multiple personality disorder would want to read this book--an autobiographical account by an MPD sufferer of his multi-decade struggle with MPD. Yet this turned out to be, first of all, a well-told and absolutely gripping story. And while Dr. Oxnam faced challenges that are orders-of-magnitude greater than most of us, he comes across not as a freak but as an intelligent and feeling person struggling to understand himself. In that sense, the book goes to the heart of the human experience. Dr. Oxnam shows an almost impossible courage not only in coming to grips with MPD but in sharing publicly the intimate details of his personal hejira. I came away feeling the greatest admiration for Dr. Oxnam, and much richer for having read this book.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Avant-Captain_Nemo on November 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Doctor Robert Oxnam goes on a boat ride near the beginning of this book - one that has the contours of an escape. Yet, in a very real sense this whole story "A Fractured Mind" is a sea voyage and a sea change, an Odyssey in the traditon of Homer's great work. Like Homer, Oxnam is a blind bard until the fragmented pieces of his own soul come home for a reckoning.

Before he becomes aware of the other people living inside his skull he is that strange figure caught in a song by the Beatles "He's a real nowhere man". There is something hollow yet implacably driven about his life. He consists of ambitions and cravings as he dashes meaninglessly through the existential void of his life. Compelled to deal with his alcoholism or be destroyed it is only a matter of time before the uncanny something that has bewildered his life manifests one day in his therapists office as a small boy.

Before that there are warning signs like intimations of doom across his life. Why does he suffer these strange "blank spots" in his memories? Most sceptics of Dissociative Identity Disorder irrationally believe that therapists magically create alter egos and memories in their clients - where this profoundly idiotic point of view comes from is beyond me. But in any case Oxnam's therapist does not create the symptoms Oxnam experiences before therapy and before the revelation of the first alter.

From the revelation of the first alter Oxnam's life ceases to become a mere wandering or a mere drive for an empty success in his field. Properly speaking it becomes a pilgrimage - an actual journey and a true sea change into self-knowledge and self-presence, out of an irresponsible careerism into a deep responsiblity for himself and others.
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