Miss Beauchamp - Her illness was in the mind
Type of spiritual experienceHallucination
Extreme emotions experienced over any length of time affect our health. It does not actually matter whether we regard the emotion as ‘positive’ or negative’ the extreme nature of the emotion affects our health irrespective, thus continual pleasure can be as exhausting and detrimental as constant mental pain.
The following observation is another example of a case of either multiple personality or possession, it serves to highlight an important aspect about the functions of a human being and the cross relationship between emotion , other functions and eventually physical symptoms.
In the following observation, the original self is a ‘Miss Beauchamp’ [known in the paper as B I]. She spawned a new personality or was possessed by another personality who came to be known as ‘Sally’.
Miss Beauchamp was described as a ‘neurasthenic of a very severe type’. Neurasthenia is a term no longer used in medical circles but at the time it grouped together symptoms such as poor appetite or overeating, insomnia or hypersomnia, low energy or fatigue, low self esteem, poor concentration or difficulty making decisions, and feelings of hopelessness. In its most severe form it became acute depression.
There was nothing in the paper about her upbringing except that she had a ‘very morbid New England conscientiousness’. There may be hints of the cause in the phrase ‘of a religious turn of mind’.
Other personalities appeared later - B IV who was irritable and quick tempered.
The reason I have included this observation is that it provides some additional information on the functions of humans. Miss Beauchamp was not well, she had pain, she was depressed, she was tired. Sally was well. This was the same body .
What might we imply from this? I think we need to start thinking that ‘illness’ is a function not a bodily condition. Illness may be a result of emotional trauma [in this case we do not know the trauma]. All illness may be initially a function, which is followed later by actual bodily symptoms.
Pain is a function.
There may be other functions such as feelings of heat and cold, that then trigger the bodily functions of shivering and perspiring. There is as far as illness is concerned therefore a complex network of functions which like all the emotions sometimes have a final physical manifestation.
To talk of diseases as psychosomatic, therefore, wholly misses the point. All illness is ‘psychosomatic’ because all illness is triggered by function whether it is the function of a virus or the function of an emotion.
A description of the experience
Extract from the Report of the International Congress of Psychology, Paris, August 1900 – Paper by Dr Prince
[from Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death – F W H Myers]
Now this personality came afterwards to be known as Sally… in character she differs very remarkably from B I…. BI is a very serious minded person, fond of books and study, of a religious turn of mind, and possesses a very morbid conscientiousness. Sally, on the other hand, is full of fun, does not worry about anything; all life is one great joke to her, she hates books, loves fun and amusement, does not like serious things, hates church, in fact is thoroughly childlike in every way. She is a child of nature. She insists, although of this I have no absolute proof, that she never sleeps, and that she is always awake while Miss Beauchamp is asleep. I believe it to be true.
Miss B is a neurasthenic, Sally is perfectly well. She is never fatigued and never suffers any pain. During the first year Sally and Miss Beauchamp used to come and go in succession. At first whenever BI became fatigued or upset from any cause, Sally was likely to come. The periods during which Sally was in existence might be any time from a few minutes to several hours. Later these periods became prolonged to several days. It must not be forgotten that though Miss Beauchamp knows nothing of Sally, Sally, when not in the flesh, is conscious of all Miss Beauchamp’s thoughts and doings, and the latter could hide nothing from her.
Curiously enough, Sally took an intense dislike to B I. She actually hated her and there was no length to which she would not go to cause her annoyance…..Sally carries on a correspondence with Miss Beauchamp, writes letters to her pointing out all the weak points of her character, dwelling on all the little slips and foibles of her mind, telling her all the reckless acts and secret thoughts, indeed, everything she has done that won’t bear criticism.
Although B I knows nothing of Sally, Sally not only is conscious of Miss Beauchamp’s thoughts at the moment they arise, but she is capable… of controlling her thoughts and her arms and legs and tongue to a certain extent…. During the times when Sally is in existence, BI is as Sally puts it, ‘dead’ and these times represent complete gaps in Miss Beauchamp’s memory and she has no knowledge of them whatever. Sally is never dead, her memory is continuous, there are no gaps in it