BEYOND THESE WALLS:
THE TRUE STORY OF A LOST CHILD'S JOURNEY TO A WHOLE LIFE
Rachel Gunner & Hanna Gabriele

 


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Argun Books, 2006
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Non-fiction. Multiple Personality

Hanna Gabriele barely manages to force herself to meet therapist Rachel Gunner. But her boss, who doesn’t want to fire her, keeps telling her to get help, so Hanna (not her real name) is giving it one more try.

She would much rather commit suicide and be done with it. Hanna’s twenty-eight years of life have produced a woman who battles others and mutilates herself. Her childhood was so horrible that mental health professionals have refused to believe her, and attempt after attempt at a cure failed. She has ended up at last with a correct diagnosis: multiple personality, or as the latest psychiatric label has it, Dissociative Identity Disorder. But at least half of her personalities are still attempting to “kill the body,” and the internal clamor of twenty-six personalities is maddening.

Hanna finds in Rachel Gunner what she has not found in any of her other medics: respect. Rachel finds a connection with Hanna the first time she looks at her. They begin their fight: Rachel to keep Hanna alive in order to help her heal, Hanna to trust an adult for the first time in her life. Rachel has much to learn about treating a child-woman with every reason to fear authority, and a lot of what she learns runs counter to standard practice. Part of that treatment is writing this book together.

Hanna describes a few of the most traumatic experiences, complete with physical sensation, even scent. The descriptions are horrifying, but they are mercifully brief – for us. For Hanna, they are permanent. No sane person would think of doing the things that were forced on that child; they left her feeling forever contaminated.

So far as we know, people with multiple personalities (not schizophrenia – that is an entirely different condition) were unconditionally controlled, as children, by adults who were destroying them. They involuntarily split off new personalities as the only way to escape from intolerable, on-going brutality. To Hanna and her other personalities, the drugs, accusations, and hospitalizations forced on them by mental health professionals were exactly the same as the drugs, accusations, and imprisonments forced on them by their monstrous mother and her depraved friends. Rachel has to take a new approach, one that doesn’t try to assume control.

This makes BEYOND THESE WALLS a must-read for those who would heal fractured minds. Rachel and Hanna trade chapters, covering the same ground from each viewpoint, explaining what worked and what didn’t. Hanna is able to explain exactly why a technique worked or didn’t and what it all felt like, and Rachel tells about groping toward their final success. Their relationship is key to the formation of a mature and creative spirit.

I was fascinated with BEYOND THESE WALLS. It is definitely not only for professionals. People who enjoy reading about internal odysseys toward health, especially multiple personality case histories, will find in it much that is new and satisfying. SYBIL, THE THREE FACES OF EVE, and WHEN RABBIT HOWLS were all bestsellers, and BEYOND THESE WALLS has just as much human interest. You can find it at www.argunbooks.com .

Dec  2006

 

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