… In the other state she hallucinated and was ‘naughty’—that is to say, she was abusive, used to throw the cushions at people, so far as the contractures at various times allowed, tore buttons off her bedclothes and linen with those of her fingers which she could move, and so on.
Fräulein Anna O, Case Histories from Studies on Hysteria. Josef Breuer (1895, p.24)
Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is no longer considered a rare condition. In some studies, its prevalence among the general population is estimated to be around 1–3% (Johnson, Cohen, Kasen, & Brook, 2006; Murphy, 1994; Ross, 1991), which gives many psychiatrists and psychotherapists the opportunity to be in contact with patients with this condition in their clinical settings, whether they are aware of it or not.
While treating patients with DID, clinicians often encounter a type of personality state or “alternative personality” displaying negative emotion such as aggressiveness or self-destructiveness. These personality states are typically difficult to identify or locate in the patient’s mind, but nonetheless, they occupy the patients mind as they feel their existence is overshadowed and threatened by these personality states as they are often unpredictable and largely unknowable.Although this type of personality state was described or referred to by multiple authors, I would like to single out this type of personality and tentatively call it “shadowy personalities” (SPs) and discuss in this paper somewhat in detail, and try to delineate the clinical significance of this notion.
The surname “SP” has been started to be used rather spontaneously in my clinical practice, both by my patients and therapists involved in their treatment. Actually this is often how the patients describe them—namely, that they are not easy to grasp and often take the form of a shadow or grayish figure.