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

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
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's review
Apr 28, 2009

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bookshelves: health-and-medical

It's funny how you read a book for the first time, especially for a specific field of study. You get a chance to examine it very closely and are able to dissect it carefully hoping to get at its underlying truths. The first time I read this book, I looked for flaws, unable to take it at face value. It was only years later that I am able to look back at it and take it at face value, such as it is.
The book is well written, but after the bizarre nature of the subject matter wears off, all you see is the bare schema of the different personalities, a kind of a character study. I was certainly not the first person even in my class to suspect that this dissociative identity disorder character did not really exist.
Later examination of the patient revealed that her multiple personalities came about only after she was in therapy, perhaps induced by hypnosis and sodium pentothal. She admitted that her psychiatrist wanted her to speak in other personalities and there is apparently no record of any real child abuse. The writer certainly worked with the psychiatrist to be able to create a very scary story. I just don’t think it was a very real one. I am one of those people who doesn’t yet believe in dissociative identities, even though I have seen things which are close.
At the time I read this, all I could think about was the treatment for it and clearly the treatment in the book brings out more and troubled issues. One wonders through reading this book whether it is possible for psychiatry/psychology to help anyone in this day. Today the field of psychology is far closer to politics... and in fairness maybe it has been for a long time. The real question is whether, like lots of things today, psychiatry/ psychology doesn’t self-perpetuate itself by creating more psychoses than would have otherwise existed without it. I tend to think that it does.
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