Amy's Reviews > Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
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Dec 19, 11

bookshelves: disturbing-famlies, dysfunctional-family, mental-illness, therapy, abuse, incest, rape, recovery
Read in January, 1999, read count: a few

Synopsis

Sybil Dorsett is a strange young woman working as a substitute teacher in New York City. She becomes incoherent while having a cut on her arm treated at a hospital emergency room. The psychiatrist on duty, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, examines her and finds her talking and behaving as if she were a nine-year-old child. She suddenly returns to normal, and when the doctor questions her, she admits to having had blackout spells most of her life. Sybil agrees to continue treatment. She asks her father, Williard Dorsett, for financial assistance when he visits New York with his new wife. Instead, he suggests that Sybil return to live at home.
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A crisis develops when a stranger called Vicky telephones Dr. Wilbur in the middle of the night saying that Sybil is in a hotel room in Harlem contemplating suicide. The doctor finds her in a depressed state, again reverted to a childlike persona. Dr. Wilbur realizes that Sybil is suffering from multiple personality syndrome. At her next appointment, Sybil arrives in the character of Vicky, a confident and self-assured thirteen-year-old. Dr. Wilbur encounters other personalities through hypnosis: Vanessa, an accomplished pianist; Peggy, the troubled nine-year-old; Marsha, depressed and suicidal; even an old woman who is a surrogate grandmother. Through treatment, the psychiatrist discovers that Sybil’s deceased mother, Hattie, was behind the fragmentation of her personality. When she was growing up in rural Wisconsin, Sybil suffered terrible abuse as a child from her mother, who treated her daughter normally in front of her father and others, but mistreated her continually when they were alone, pushing her downstairs, burning her hand on the stove, and locking her in a storage bin in the barn. Each of Sybil’s personalities has different memories of the abuse, except for Sybil herself.

Another crisis develops when Sybil starts dating Richard, a street musician. After cooking Christmas dinner for Richard and Matt, his young son, Sybil starts acting irrationally. Hearing her say the name “Dr. Wilbur,” Richard calls the doctor, who warns him about her condition and tells him that she may become suicidal in the persona of Marsha. Richard prevents Sybil from jumping off the roof. When Dr. Wilbur arrives, he overhears Sybil telling her that she is in love with Richard but would prefer not to see him again until she is cured. Shortly afterward, Richard moves away. As Dr. Wilbur makes progress in treating Sybil, she encounters resistance just before she plans to leave for Chicago for a medical lecture. Sybil claims that she is faking, that there are no other personalities. After her Chicago conference, Dr. Wilbur drives to Sybil’s hometown in Wisconsin. She searches through her old house and finds purple crayon markings in the storage bin in the barn, confirmation that Sybil’s original story under hypnosis was true. The psychiatrist consults with Dr. Quinoness, the local physician, who reveals a series of shocking events from Sybil’s medical records. He confesses his shame in having taken no action at the time.

Returning to New York, Dr. Wilbur convinces Sybil to confront her most frightening memories. She recalls how her mother gave her enemas, forcing her to hold the water while her mother played Dvorak’s New World Symphony on the piano. When the water leaked out, her mother would tie her up and poke at her genital area with knives and hooks. Screaming, Sybil spoke aloud of her rage about the abuse she suffered. By reliving this most painful event, Sybil accepts all of Peggy’s memories, and the personalities merge. After this breakthrough, Sybil, with Dr. Wilbur’s help, is able to join with all of her other “selves” and become a whole person again.

Read more: Sybil (1976) - Overview, Synopsis, Critique - Wilbur, Mother, Sybil’s, and Abuse - JRank Articles http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/article...
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Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by Melissa (new)

Melissa O'quinn I FIND THE ENDING OF THE BOOK HARD TO BELIEVE, THE PROCESS FOR JOINING ALL THE PERSONALITIES IS NOT POSSIBLE. YES MEDICATION, HYPNOSIS, DRUG THERAPY, AND OTHER VARIOUS METHODS HAVE HELPED BUT NOTHING CAN "CURE" THIS AT LEAST NOTHING THAT HAS BEEN FOUND.

IM SURE ITS A WONDERFUL READ AND VERY EDUCATIONAL. I HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE SO MANY TIMES AND THE VERY IDEA IS BOTH FASCINATING AND SCARY , WE ARE BUT A MERE VESSEL CARRYING OUR EMOTIONS AND WHAT EVER PERSONA CHOOSES TO INHABIT US AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT CAN AND WILL MANIFEST AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT, IT IS SAID THAT WE ALL HAVE THIS IN SOME FORM OR ANOTHER WHILE, SOME ARE MORE PROMINENT THAN OTHERS.

WOULD VERY MUCH LIKE TO READ THE BOOK
THANK YOU FOR SHARING.


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