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On Personality Subselves and ound-reduction ("recovery")

From Peter K. Gerlach, MSW;
 member NSRC Experts Council.


The Web address of this article is

        Linked titles below will take you to bookseller Some titles are out of print, but  Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and can help you buy used copies.

        These titles are for people who are interested in, and/or skeptical about, false-self formation, related wounds, and personal recovery that are the central focus of Lesson 1 in this site. Many of these are written by clinicians. Two decades of personal and clinical research and experience leads me to propose that false-self dominance is our (American) social norm, and perhaps the most potent of five reasons that millions of typical U.S. remarriages have failed psychologically or legally.

        Researcher and clinician John Rowan's book "Subpersonalities" below has a nine-page single-spaced bibliography on published writings about theoretical and applied aspects of personality, Self, multiplicity, dissociation, perception, and behavior. So does Mosaic Mind by his clinical peer Richard Schwartz. This illustrates that the listings here are a fraction of the available knowledge on personality subselves.

      A below indicates a book that has been significant in shaping my views and this site. Titles are in alphabetic order. Also see these titles about survivors of low childhood nurturance (Grown Wounded Children, or GWCs), and recovery from the personality fragmenting described by the authors below.

        Assuming you won't read all these books, I recommend these, in order:

  • These five Web pages for an introduction to inner families (modular personalities), false and true selves, and related frequently-asked questions.

  • The Mosaic Mind, by Richard Schwartz and Regina Goulding;

  • Subpersonalities - The People Within Us," by John Rowan; and... 

  • The Search for the Real Self, by James Masterson

        Useful Web Resources

Professional Journal

The Journal of Self Leadership co-sponsored by the Center for Self Leadership (CSL) and Central Connecticut State University. See the CSL Web site for subscription information - ISSN # 1545-2700. The first Issue published in 2003.

Selected Titles on Personality Subselves

Assagioli, Roberto, M.D. - Psychosynthesis - A Collection of Basic Writings; Synthesis Center Publishing, Amherst, MA, 2000. First published in 1965. Assagioli was a contemporary of Freud and Jung, and founded a type of therapy described by the book title and practiced by many clinicians today. Inner-family therapy (Schwartz, below) adds family-systems concepts to psychosynthesis. 

Beahrs, J. O., M.D. - Unity and Multiplicity - Multilevel Consciousness of Self in Hypnosis, Psychiatric Disorder, and Mental Health; Brunner/Mazel, New York, NY; 1982. This is out of print, and worth searching for.

Berne, Dr. Eric - Games People Play - The Psychology of Human Relationships; Ballentine Books reprint, 1996. This book introduced the concept of Parent / Adult / Child and Transactional Analysis in 1964. It's current availability testifies to the enduring relevance of Berne's ideas about personality parts and the relationship "games" they cause us to play. See Steiner below, who extends Berne's ideas.

Branden, Nathaniel - The Disowned Self; Bantam Books, 1973. Out of print, and worth finding. Branden was best known as an expert on raising self esteem ("The Six Pillars of Self Esteem") - i.e. healing the psychological wound of excessive shame .

Chase, Trudi ("the Troops") - When Rabbit Howls; Jove Books, New York, NY; 1987 A stunning, courageous, real-life chronicle by the subselves of a woman recovering from multiple personality trauma. This illustrates the extreme form of inner-family chaos in action.

Crabtree, Adam G. - Multiple Man: Explorations In Possession and Multiple Personality; 2nd ed. Somerville House Books, 1997.

Cooper, Mick., and Rowan, John., Eds. - The Plural Self - Multiplicity in Everyday Life; SAGE Publications; London, Thousand Oaks, CA; 1999. This is a seminal collection of the writings of many international clinicians, anthropologists, and sociologists who have researches and explored the human "multiplicity" trait - the natural neural/hormonal ability to dissociate, and form fragmented personalities. One article suggests that Americans are more prone to personality fragmenting because of their lifestyle and values than other cultures.

Gallwey, W. Timothy - The Inner Game of Tennis; Random House, New York, NY; revised 1997; A clear, well-received lay book applying Zen principles to tennis. Gallwey describes the often conflictual interplay between "Self 1 - the teller" (Inner Critic) and "Self two: the Do-er." The latter is what this site calls the true Self.

Goulding, Regina A. J.D., and Schwartz, Richard C., Ph.D. - The Mosaic Mind - Empowering the Tormented Selves of Child Abuse Survivors; Norton Professional Books, New York, NY; 1995. Lay readers can glean the main message of this clear, factual book. It goes well beyond theory by offering annotated excerpts from the diary of a significantly-wounded woman, as she heals. Nine-page single-spaced bibliography of references. I studied with Schwartz and a group of colleagues for two nine-month externships in Chicago.

Grof, Christine, and Grof, Stanislav., M.D. - The Stormy Search for Self - A Guide to Personal Growth Through Transformational Crisis; Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee Books, Los Angeles, CA; 1990

Hilgard, Ernest R. - Divided Consciousness: Multiple Controls in Human Thought and Action; John Wiley & Sons, New York, NY; 1979

Introduction to the Internal Family Systems Model; by Richard C. Schwartz, PhD, LMFT; 2001; Trailhead Publications, Oak Park, IL, 60302. This reader-friendly book is by the veteran clinical psychol-ogist and teacher who has introduced the idea of an inner-family of personality subselves, based on many other clinical researchers and his own professional experience for more than two decades. I highly recom-mend this book for lay readers and clinicians, and Schwartz's several other related publications. See this related Web site for more perspective, options, and materials.

Johnson, Robert A. - Inner Work: Using Dreams and Active Imagination for Personal Growth; Harper, San Francisco, CA; 1986. This is a clear, non-clinical guide to understanding and using two techniques to help meet your inner subselves and learn what they need you (your Self) to know.

Lester, David  - A Subself Theory of Personality; in Current Psychology, Volume 26, Number 1, 1-15,

Lowen, Alexander, M.D. - Narcissism - Denial of the True Self; Collier-McMillan, New York, NY; 1985. This respected, veteran psychiatrist wrote this just as multiple personality and related dissociative phenomena were gaining professional and lay credence and acceptance.

Masterson, James F. - "The Search for the Real Self - Unmasking the Personality Disorders of Our Age; the Free Press, New York, NY; paperback, 1988. Veteran psychoanalyst Masterson writes clearly and compellingly of the creation of false selves from "abandonment depression" during the first 3 years of life. The bulk of the book explains and sketches related defenses and (psychoanalytic) treatment for Borderline and Narcissistic  personality disorders, based on his theory of personality fragmenting, and deflated and inflated egos. Written before commonplace multiplicity gained clinical acceptance. Well worth reading, even if you're not a Freudian.

Rowan, John - Subpersonalities - The People Within Us; Routledge, London and New York, NY; 1995. Written for clinically-oriented lay readers. The depth and scope of Rowan's research on, and experience with, subselves shine through. Curiously, he skirts the question of who's in charge of our subpersonalities.

McArthur, Dorothea S., Ph.D. - Birth of a Self in Adulthood; Jason Aronson, Inc., Northvale, NJ, London; 1996

Ornstein, Robert - Multimind; Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY; 1986. An early classic; out of print.

Satir, Virginia - Your Many Faces, Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA; 1978. This book's availability two decades after initial publishing signals its appeal and relevance.

Schwartz, Richard C.; Ph.D.; Internal Family Systems Therapy; Guilford Press, New York, NY; 1995. Schwartz has researched and practices the subject for almost 20 years. He writes clearly on applying proven family-systems therapeutic principles to identifying, organizing, and healing chaotic personality parts. His bibliography is five pages of small-type entries spanning dozens of researchers and clinical writers. I studied with Schwartz and a group of colleagues for two nine-month externships in Chicago.

Shapiro, S. B. - The Selves Inside You, Explorations Institute, Berkeley, CA; 1976 Out of print.

Sliker, Gretchen. - Multiple Mind; Healing the Split in Psyche and World; Shambhala, Boston, MA.; 1992. Therapist Sliker writes about subpersonalities lucidly, from experience and study of the pioneering works of Carl Jung and Roberto Assagioli. Assagioli helped found a kind of subself therapy called psychosynthesis.

Steiner, Claude M. Scripts People Live - Transactional Analysis of Life Scripts; Grove Press reprint, (New York), 1990. Though his concepts and terms are different, much of what Steiner writes is about personality parts and their effects on relationships and life satisfaction. See also "Games People Play," by Dr. Eric Berne.

Stone, Hal, Ph.D.; and Winkleman, Sidra, Ph.D.; Embracing Our Selves - the Voice Dialogue Manual; New World Library, San Rafael, CA; 1989. An intriguing introduction to understanding and responding to the many voices within us. Their excellent related books Embracing Each Other and Embracing Your Inner Critic are based on the ideas in this volume.

Watkins, John. G. - We, the Divided Self; Irvington, New York, NY; 1982

Watkins, J. G., and Watkins, H. H. - Theory and Practice of Ego-state Therapy: a Short-term Therapeutic Approach," in H. Grayson (ed.) Short Term Approaches to Psychotherapy; Human Sciences Press; London, 1979.

Watkins, Mary - Invisible Guests: The Development of Imaginal Dialogs; Spring Publications, Inc. reprinted 2000.

        Also scan this larger reading list for lay people.

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Updated September 25, 2014