"SPLIT" (2017) Psychology and Cinema
During the last weeks there has been much discussion about a movie projected in all the Italian and foreign cinemas. The movie, called “Split”, raised the curiosity of the public about a psychopathological disorder known by most especially through novels or films.
We’re talking about dissociative identity disorder, also known as multiple personality disorder. Split’s thriller storyline led screenwriters to force their hand towards dramatic developments close to an horror movie. At least in some key scenes. Recall that the Guarantor has decreed that the vision of the film is forbidden to children under 16 years.
The main character, Kevin, is suffering from a dissociative identity disorder, in psychotherapeutic treatment by a psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher, who can look beyond the simple diagnostic label of the disorder. On two different occasions, talking to a neighbor, and during a Skype conference, she will define people suffering from the disorder as extraordinary human beings.
He will send us the image of a scientist who is definitely fascinated by the object of her studies.
Kevin suffered a childhood of abuse, for which he developed the disorder. The screenwriters talk about 23 different personalities. These help a new personality gain “the light”, or control over Kevin’s behavior, and announce the arrival of “the Beast”. This is anticipated being much more dangerous than the others already known by Dr. Fletcher.
One of the personalities kidnaps three girls in a parking lot and then hold them hostages. One of them has in turn been abused by her uncle when she was a child. This element will be the fulcrum around which the story develops. She will be the only one that got safe from the wrath of the Beast. As in an extreme act of empathy and identification in the role of the victim of violence.
Apart from the needs related to the screenplay, which present a clinical picture rather emphasized compared to the actual presentation of the disorder, after all the character of Kevin manages to convince the Spectator.
Let’s see why.
Dissociativ Identity Disorder (DID). How does it look like:
Dissociative identity disorder is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct states of personalities, which are called alternative identities. Each state has its own ways of perceiving, relating, and thinking towards itself and the environment.
As we see in Kevin, each personality has a different way of expressing, dressing, thinking and judging the world.
Dr. Fletcher hints at the fact that in dissociative identity disorder changing physiological values can be detected depending on the alter in control at any given time.
In fact some studies have confirmed the possibility to measure the variation of certain physiological parameters, including blood pressure and blood insulin concentration.
Actually the disorder does not often have such a theatrical and obvious presentation. This is one of the reasons why it is not always accurately diagnosed. Very often in dissociative identity disorder the post-traumatic symptoms occur mixed with others such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive problems and suicidal conducts.
The central symptom that should suggest a dissociative identity disorder are dissociative amnesia and dissociative fugue. The individual does not remember entire pieces of his own biography, and also his daily life is studded with emptiness, and absences from himself. Sometimes she finds himself in places without remembering how he got there. These phenomena cause a marked discomfort and create serious problems in the relationships, in work environment, and in other important life areas of the individual.
Perhaps the movie lacks the dimension of psychic suffering, which is actually what leads people to seek help and see a therapist.
The origins of the DID
In Split the traumatic origin of the disorder is mentioned. Both Kevin and one of the girls held hostage have been victims of abuse in childhood.
Dissociative identity disorder is almost universally associated with a previous history of significant trauma, most frequently occurred during early childhood. Rarely an abuse suffered in adulthood triggers such a complex disorder. Instead it is possible to bring back to light the effects of past latent traumas.
It is hypothesized that traumatic experiences, which very often occur in the context of disorganized attachment relationships, do not allow an integration of the superior psychic functions and the most archaic components of the personality. Other personalities emerge from the non-integration of the person’s states into a unitary organization. The theories explaining the origin of the DID are divided among those explaining the dissociation as an extreme defense from events of serious neglect and/or physical and emotional abuse, and those that explain the dissociation as lack of structural integration of personality, as induced by a defensive response (not in the psychoanalytical sense).
We conclude this short psychological review of the film Split by postponing readers interested in specific content on this pathology here
For fans of the big screen: Top 10 Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Movies