Who are you, Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde?

Published: January 12, 2015
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Would we live it as Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde, the host or the alternate, or a combination of both?

“And like the sea, I’m constantly changing from calm to hell.” – Dallas Green

My mother always says to me,

“You are a wonderful woman all of the time.”

But my husband insists that is not the case.

When I asked him why, he replied,

“Because you are two people. There are times you behave like an angel, and at other times, you are a monster, a masochist.”

“A masochist? Is that not too harsh a term?” I asked

He explained,

“No, you should see and hear yourself; you are entirely zoned out of decency. Remember that time when I wanted to travel two hours to attend my grandmother’s funeral, the woman who raised me, and you said I was not allowed to do the same. And then I was only allowed to attend my niece’s wedding for an hour, why?

At times you are passive. For weeks I get my way without you interfering in the mundane of life, but then the sleeping giant wakes up and even breathing is a sin. And the old adage associated with the unreasonable comes to life. Why are you moving back and forth while kneading the dough?”

“I can’t be that mean?” I retorted.

“Even more so, you think you are all generous showering me with gifts on my 30th birthday bash in front of a room full of people. But you gave me gifts that were not of my choice. I returned most of the gifts. I believe that the whole gift giving was a show and tell for the guests at the party, was it not?” He asked.

I responded calmly,

“But most people think I’m wonderful, they like me?”

As he walked away, he stated,

“I think you live for other’s approval. You are dual faced; one face for me and another for the public to lap up.”

You and I know many such people; two people living in one body. Modern science termed it as Multiple Personality Disorder (MSD) in the 19th century, which later changed to Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).

In a paper, titled ‘Dissociative Identity Disorder: Overview and Current Research’ by Sue Mui Sloger, it is quoted,

“According to the diagnostic criteria outlined in the current edition of the DSM, diagnosis of DID requires the presence of at least two personalities, with a personality being identified as an entity having a unique pattern of perception, thought, and relational style involving both the self and the environment. These personalities must also display a pattern of exerting control on the individual’s behaviour. Extensive and unusual loss of memory pertaining to personal information is another feature of DID. Differential diagnosis generally involves ruling out the effects of chemical substances and medical (as opposed to psychological) conditions. When evaluating children, it is also important to ensure that symptoms are distinguishable from imaginary play (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).”

Hence, the host and alternate personality are residing in one body, at times unaware of the goodness or ugliness of the other self. The host is unrecognisable when the alternate takes over acting on unspecified urges that would be unseemly at best. The alternate could be a combination of violence, sexual perversion and torture, hence the earlier reference of masochistic behaviour. The triggering point to bring out the alternate personality could be anything, and though professionals believe that these dual personalities must not be held accountable for the actions of the host, many amongst us believe otherwise.

In the case mentioned above, the woman’s behaviour is heinous at times, should she not be held accountable when she commits acts of extreme masochism against others, namely the spouse in this case. Her not letting him attend his grandmother’s funeral, must it be shelved as the alternate personality or should the host be held accountable?

If we were to travel inside the head of such an individual, would we get the host’s perspective or the alternate’s? Hence, when acting as the alternate, would the host personality hold herself responsible for her disguised self and behaviour?

What perplexes me is the reality that does the host enjoy playing the alternate because it is able to play out its negative desires without having to be responsible for them, and hence thrives as the alternate.

I like being a masochist and it is just easy to blame it on my other self; it is my inherent desire to control my husband but I would fail in my own eyes if I did the same as the host.

The woman mentioned in the above case was once overheard saying,

“My alter is not an accident but it is my reward. I can play out all my baser instincts. I don’t have to kill my ego.”

To a layman, DID represents two completely separate personalities, the good and the ugly, sharing a body and conflicted, at best, with each other. But at a poetic and philosophic level, DID is a copout for the crimes that humans commit.

What would we, as torch bearers of society, do if we were told that we could play out our lives in any way we wanted to without having to worry about consequence? Would we live it as Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde, the host or the alternate, or a combination of both?

Do we stop ourselves from committing the unthinkable because we are being watched or because we have a conscience? Should we blame our ego on the alternate, or should we, as hosts, take responsibility for both?

I can answer that question for you, but it would be best if you answered this one for yourself.

Bisma Tirmizi

Bisma Tirmizi

The author lives for the simple pleasures and her musings over a cup of tea almost always find a way to be the written word. She also writes for pakteahouse.net. Her book 'Feast With A Taste Of Amir Khusro', published by Rupa Publications, is available in stores now.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.