Saturday, June 23, 2018

Feminism, New Age, and Satanism

insightjournal |  Gloria Steinem (1934-) has long been celebrated as one of the world’s leading feminists, and so seems to have always been in the public eye, with every aspect of her life scrutinized.  A look at a less examined chapter in her life finds that in addition to her many efforts on behalf of women, she managed to find the time and the energy to become involved in the craziest episode in the history of modern psychiatry, which actually victimized thousands of women.
In the 1980s, there was a three-pronged epidemic that shook up psychotherapy in the English-speaking world. This affair started with the dubious idea of recovering “repressed” memories. Trauma is something you cannot shake off, but over the past 50 years, some self-described trauma experts have claimed that many trauma survivors have lost their memories to dissociation or repression. The step was the more dubious idea that the phenomenon of multiple personality is widespread, but unrecognized.

Dissociative phenomena include such things as loss of memory (amnesia), or temporary loss of identity. In extreme cases, individuals have been described as suffering from identity fragmentation, or multiple personality. For 100 years, dissociative disorders, if at all real, were considered extremely rare. Following a wave of claims about memories of sexual abuse, recovered during psychotherapy, there was a meteoric rise in the number of individuals diagnosed with multiple personality disorder (MPD).  Whereas before 1980 the number of cases in the literature was under 100, by 1995 there were tens of thousands of such cases. The number of reported personalities in one body skyrocketed and the record was 4,500. Ninety-five percent of the cases were diagnosed in North America, and 95% of them were women.

In tandem, the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation (ISSMPD) was founded in 1984  by the psychiatrist Bennet Braun. Braun attracted a number of mental health professionals and a movement was formed. Soon dissociation was not only a movement, but a cause.

The ISSMPD was responsible for the next stage of the epidemic. The assumption was that MPD was the result of a massive childhood trauma. In 1988, Bennet Braun connected MPD with Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).  Leaders of ISSMPD started educating the public about an underground intergenerational network of Satanists, responsible for killing thousands of children every year. Children born into Satanic families witnessed their siblings, or other children, being sacrificed, and were subject to other forms of abuse. The resulting trauma led to dissociation and MPD.  The therapists who were telling the world about dissociation, trauma, and Satanism were supposedly relying on evidence from clients who, during intensive treatment, recovered memories of childhood abuse. Braun and his colleagues suggested that the uncovered connections, which had been neglected or overlooked, between childhood trauma, repressed and recovered,  MPD and SRA, was a major breakthrough in the history of psychiatry.

In 1989 Braun’s partner, the psychiatrist Richard Kluft, expressed concern about a “hidden holocaust” perpetuated by Satanic cults. (Kluft remains a believer and in 2014 he stated “I remain troubled about the matter of transgenerational satanic cults”).

How is Gloria Steinem tied to these events?