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Split is a film that depicts the abnormality called dissociative identity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Dissociative identity disorder is when a person has two or more distinct personalities, also called subpersonalities, each with a unique set of memories, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions. When looking at the dissociative identity disorder, there is usually what is considered a host or a primary. This can be anywhere from 2-100 different personalities within one body, the host or the primary appears more often. In the film Split, Kevin is the main character experiencing this disorder.
He has around 23 different personalities but the film shows only 4-5 hosts or primaries. What was interesting to me in this film was how vastly different each personality was. Kevin is what seems like the normal personality.
He seems like a normal human and does morally good things. Dennis is the one who seems to be struggling the most. Dennis abducts the three girls from the mall but also suffers from obsessive- compulsive disorder.
Hedwig is a nine year old boy in the film who acts as a normal young boy would; listens to Kanye West in the film and loves hanging around the girls and telling jokes. Patricia is the feminine personality. Lastly, Barry is kind of the “head honcho” personality if you will. Barry and Dennis would predominantly be considered the host or primaries. Split does not really show mutually amnesic relationships, which is when the subpersonalities are not aware of one another. This film shows mutually cognizant patterns which is when each subpersonality is well aware of the rest.
How this film shows mutually cognizant patterns are especially when the personality of Hedwig is out. Hedwig will go down to where the girls are locked up in the basement and warn them about Dennis and tell them how they are in danger as soon as Dennis gets home and what he plans to do. Hedwig also explains how he feels like he is never kept in the loop with Barry, Dennis, and Patricia and their plans for when the beast comes out. This shows that the personalities are aware of one another and actually do talk about the other one, rather than them being quiet observers. J. Comer and R. Comer talk about how personalities differ on page 178 of our text book and I just wanted to touch on a few of them. One major difference is identifying features such as age, gender, and race. Split does an amazing job at touching on this difference because as mentioned above, there is a young boy personality, a cross-dressing matriarch, an older- wiser man, and then what seems to be a normal human.
The subpersonalities are all across the board in this film showing the differentiation between each. Another difference is the abilities and preferences of the subpersonalities. On page 178, Comer discusses how it is not uncommon for subpersonalities to have different abilities and different taste preferences as well. In this film, there is one phone in the house. Once the girls hear it ring they wait for the subpersonality of Hedwig to come out because he is the most helpful and less demanding in the story line. When they ask Hedwig to borrow the phone, he starts to freak out saying that he can’t use the phone and only Dennis and Patricia can, but also that he doesn’t know how. This is one of the many different abilities shown throughout the film. Theorists explain dissociative identity disorder to be caused by repression, as would Freud. Repression is the most basic ego defense mechanism which is used to fight off anxiety by unconsciously preventing painful memories, thoughts, or impulses from reaching awareness.
Theorist say how dissociative identity disorder results from a lifetime of excessive repression and the continuous use of repression is motivated by traumatic childhood events such as abusive parenting. Whenever these individuals experience bad thoughts or impulses, they often times deny it and put it off on other subpersonalities. Such like in split, when the girls coerce Hedwig into helping them escape he thinks of the repercussions he would have from other subpersonalities and gets so frightened, he switches over to Dennis so quickly and the girls end up in bigger danger. Dissociate identity disorder usually cannot be treated without therapy. Treatment for this disorder is difficult and complex but therapists usually try to help the clients recognize fully the nature of their disorder, recover the gaps in their memory, and integrate their subpersonalities into one functional personality.
With the first step of therapy, recognizing the disorder, therapist will try to connect with the primary personality and then with the subpersonalities. In the film, Dr. Karen Fletcher is the therapist who continuously has appointments with Barry each week. Dr. Karen Fletcher has made a connection with Barry but when she talks about the other subpersonalities in Kevin, it brings out fear in Barry during therapy and he will often times get up and run out. The doctor can’t use the tactic of family therapy because he has no family in this film. In the film, the doctor would receive multiple emails from Kevin’s subpersonalities and became more and more worried about him. She was used to seeing Barry’s personality but towards the end she could tell she was experiencing multiple different ones while Barry was in denial that it was only Barry.
She knew by a few small hints; Barry is very gentle and sweet, but who she was talking too was very demanding and angry, Dennis has major obsessive-compulsive disorder and during one session he had ran out and there happened to be trash on the ground so he had to stop and make sure it was all cleaned up before he could continue on. Once Dr. Fletcher realized the subpersonalities were integrated and something larger and more dangerous was arising from it, she realized she needed to do more to teach coping skills in hopes to prevent later dissociations. A few therapists have questioned the need for full integration and I believe the film depicts how in some cases it is not a good idea. At the end of the film, all of the subpersonalities integrate and create a very large and dangerous personality called the beast in which ends up killing not only two of the girls who were kidnapped, but also Dr. Fletcher.
Another abnormality displayed in this film is obsessive compulsive disorder in the subpersonality Dennis. OCD is a need for a pattern or routine or even cleanliness. Dennis displays obsessive compulsive disorder in the film by his need for extreme cleanliness and order. One scene showed Dennis yelling at the girls to make their bed and to make it right. One of the girls had a crease in the corner where it was not tucked in and Dennis lost his mind and took everything off the bed and continued to do it himself. He was so angry at the girl, he then locked her in a room by herself for the night. Another example of OCD in the film in the eyes of Dennis, one of the girls skirt and shirt had a wrinkle in it and he immediately yelled at them to take it off and he threw them away.
The wrinkles freaked him out so badly, that he forced these individuals to be in their underwear and bra for the remaining time. Plenty of times throughout the movie as well he makes the girls scrub the bathroom clean with toothbrushes and cleaning supplies while he watches. If anything is not up to his standard he will make them re-do it or do it himself so he can feel the satisfaction that it is completed correctly and will stop causing him distress. Although his disorder of OCD seems to meet the bare requirements, it still shows that he feels the occurrence of repeated obsessions and compulsions, the obsession or compulsion take up a considerable amount of time, and that it causes significant distress or impairment.
Without the second film of Split out yet, I am going to safely assume that the one out of the three girls who survived will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder can begin either shortly after the event happened or months or years after. A short summary of what this girl went through; being kidnapped by a stranger, being locked in a room for a long period of time, being forced to clean on her hands and knees, being forced to remove her clothes because of a slight wrinkle, hearing the death of her friends in the room next door, and being chased by “the beast.” It would take only one of these events on this list to happen to create PTSD in an individual, let alone all of it. PTSD can include re-experiencing the traumatic event, avoidance of certain places or people, and even reduced responsiveness.
To get treatment for this, she would have to go through therapy. The best way to help treat post- traumatic stress disorder is either antidepressant drugs or cognitive therapy. In these therapy sessions, it is important to bring out the light of things and allow these individuals to live their lives again. It would be important in the case of the film to discuss with this young girl that she did what she could to survive and to reassure her that it is most definitely not her fault. It may also be beneficial to apply the exposure technique to help get rid of the avoidance or even reoccurring images.
Split is a film based on a variety of the abnormal personalities. This film was released in 2016 to be a thriller for movie goers. This film is not only describing not only the fear of being kidnapped but also by someone with such an intense abnormality. This film also depicts what people with multiple personalities go through whether the disorder be minimal or extreme. Living with multiple personalities takes a toll on your mental state and is best handled through therapy and antidepressants. Kevin is forced to deal with Dennis, Hedwig, Patricia, and Barry. These are just four of the 23 personalities he possesses. This film shows an “outsider” the struggles someone with dissociative identity disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and possible post- traumatic stress disorder and what they have to deal with on day to day basis.
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