Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Caseby Published 18 Oct 2011
|Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.pdf|
Sybil: a name that conjures up enduring fascination for legions of obsessed fans who followed the nonfiction blockbuster from 1973 and the TV movie based on it—starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward—about a woman named Sybil with sixteen different personalities. Sybil became both a pop phenomenon and a revolutionary force in the psychotherapy industry. The book rocketed multiple personality disorder (MPD) into public consciousness and played a major role in having the diagnosis added to the psychiatric bible, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
But what do we really know about how Sybil came to be? In her news-breaking book Sybil Exposed, journalist Debbie Nathan gives proof that the allegedly true story was largely fabricated. The actual identity of Sybil (Shirley Mason) has been available for some years, as has the idea that the book might have been exaggerated. But in Sybil Exposed, Nathan reveals what really powered the legend: a trio of women—the willing patient, her ambitious shrink, and the imaginative journalist who spun their story into bestseller gold.
From horrendously irresponsible therapeutic practices—Sybil’s psychiatrist often brought an electroshock machine to Sybil’s apartment and climbed into bed with her while administering the treatment— to calculated business decisions (under an entity they named Sybil, Inc., the women signed a contract designating a three-way split of profits from the book and its spin-offs, including board games, tee shirts, and dolls), the story Nathan unfurls is full of over-the-top behavior. Sybil’s psychiatrist, driven by undisciplined idealism and galloping professional ambition, subjected the young woman to years of antipsychotics, psychedelics, uppers, and downers, including an untold number of injections with Pentothal, once known as “truth serum” but now widely recognized to provoke fantasies. It was during these “treatments” that Sybil produced rambling, garbled, and probably “false-memory”–based narratives of the hideous child abuse that her psychiatrist said caused her MPD. Sybil Exposed uses investigative journalism to tell a fascinating tale that reads like fiction but is fact. Nathan has followed an enormous trail of papers, records, photos, and tapes to unearth the lives and passions of these three women. The Sybil archive became available to the public only recently, and Nathan examined all of it and provides proof that the story was an elaborate fraud—albeit one that the perpetrators may have half-believed.
Before Sybil was published, there had been fewer than 200 known cases of MPD; within just a few years after, more than 40,000 people would be diagnosed with it. Set across the twentieth century and rooted in a time when few professional roles were available to women, this is a story of corrosive sexism, unchecked ambition, and shaky theories of psychoanalysis exuberantly and drastically practiced. It is the story of how one modest young woman’s life turned psychiatry on its head and radically changed the course of therapy, and our culture, as well.
Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case Reviews
I abandoned this book one-third of the way through. The case of Sybil and her diagnosis of multiple personality disorder sounds interesting, and Debbie Nathan's writing is based on documents archived from the case that reportedly show the original story of Sybil was fabricated and the woman may have been coached to exaggerate her behavior and memories.
However, Nathan's book jumps all over and wasn't written coherently. Often I will try to push through on a nonfiction book, but this one just didn't work for me. Maybe you will like it more.
Concerned..Nathan's book full of untruths:
As Shirley Mason's closest living relative, I was close to her for the 30 plus years through the saga of her life journey. In fact, I was with her the weekend of her death, at her request, and was one of the only people that was in constant contact with her all those years. I kept her identity confidential at her fervent request. Through all these years up until literally the day before she died, she verified the complete accuracy of the book, 'Sybil'. I find it very interesting that Debbie Nathan did not come to the person closest to Shirley Mason for facts, but rather wove a web of suppositions that are not factual. Knowing Dr. Connie Wilbur, and Flora Shrieber also, the book concerns me greatly. It is an attack on their credibility, their research, and their professionalism. And, the book is a complete attack on the person I loved, Shirley Mason.
Naomi Rhode, cousin of Shirley Mason
IT WAS ALL A LIE...
...or was it?
A few decades back, there was a movie called Sybil which was sort of a buzz movie. Before that, the story was a book. I've never read the original book, but I have seen the movie a few times. Basically, the book was about this woman (whose named had been changed) and her experience with Multiple Personality Disorder (as it was called back then).
The movie was Crazy with a capital C. This chick had been raised by the mother of bizarre and had suffered through extreme abuse at the hands of this woman. Because of everything that "Sybil" had gone through, it was assumed that much of this abuse could have been a huge part of the reason why Sybil was forced inside of her own head to a place of needing extra personalities as a coping mechanism.
Or so we thought. According the author, there are public records (tapes, transcripts, etc. from therapy sessions) showing that some of the story might have either been fabricated or at the very least "coaxed" out of the patient through the use of extremely aggressive hypnotic and drug-induced therapy.
So I was reading this book...taking notes, highlighting passages, etc. I was interested to find that some of the story that I know might not be completely accurate.
But then the plot thickens... I logged onto GR to skim a few reviews and see what others were saying about the book and saw This review and the following comments.
I think I'm not going to touch this with a ten foot pole. I have no clue what's what.
Was the book interesting? I think it was in parts. Being as that I'm not the type of person who needs to know details going all the way back to the grandparents, there was a lot of info that didn't really interest me in particular, but it might have been fascinating to others. I was mainly curious to see what was behind the story of Sybil.
However, I did find out some very bizarre history about the early beginnings of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Enemas were apparently the "in" thing, and constipation led to sexual deviancy! Who knew?
I remember when I read "Sybil". It was during my first year of college. Things were so different back then. We have to remember when reading Nathan's book that child protective laws were nil during that time. Children were considered chattel. Children and/or adult survivors didn't dare report child abuse to anyone. They were either punished or called liars. The idea that a person could 'tell' someone, especially privately, was brought to life in 'Sybil'. Dr. Wilbur listened and believed. It wasn't just therapists who were suddenly hearing stories of child abuse. Friends I had known my whole life read the book and told me their 'secrets'. They had been being sexually abused. It 'was' a social epidemic - the silence was broken. And child protective laws were finally being made.
Nathan would like us to believe that three woman 'created' a story that would catch public attention. That 'woman' ran to therapists with stories of abuse looking for attention - therapists 'created' personalities, etc. Before falling for this tale she has woven for us, read Sybil again. More likely and based on very solid research, the story of Sybil is true, and it finally gave survivors the strength to tell someone. Child abuse was rampant during that time, DID is a valid diagnosis caused by early childhood trauma, and therapists were doing what they could to help those who were coming forward.
She misstates many of the facts right out of 'Sybil', especially about the medication. It is well-know that Dr. Wilbur did not act unethically. Nathan is not qualified in the area of psychology, but makes assumption based on thin air.
Several years later, I studied the book 'Sybil' in more detail during my graduate studies in psychology. There is so very much 'valid' and documented research out there that makes Nathan's 'interviews', book citations, etc. laughable.
Good reading? No - boring - mostly. The only interest I had was wondering why 'she', or anyone would want to scandalize a piece of work that stands solidly on its own merit - a book that showed survivors that there are people out there who care, and that there is help available. The message is still in the book 'Sybil'. Yes, middle school children will read and know that they 'can' tell and someone will listen. It is okay. I think I will buy 3 more copies of 'Sybil'.
So everybody jump on the bandwagon there's another book denying the reality of multiple personality well, it's called Dissociative Identity Disorder now, the MPD label was dropped back in 1994. This time it's the new book by Debbie Nathan called "Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case".
In interviews, Nathan states she has fact-checked the book and done years of research so I think to myself, much of it must be true right? Well, if it was, in a way yes - facts are facts. But the presentation of the facts can be in such a way as to make them seem more grandiose or less depending on what the author wants you to believe.
My first and continuing thought in all of this is "Why does this author want to write a book that could hurt so many people?" I have my thoughts on this but never find the answer in the book. It begins in the introduction that "Debbie Nathan gives proof that the allegedly true story was largely fabricated." and goes onto build what looks like a horror story of ghoulish proportions. It portends to have all the makings of a great fiction book; greed, sex, gore and maybe that's what this book was in all actuality - Fiction
Throughout the book you meet the individuals of the person known as Sybil, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (her Psychiatrist) and Flora Rheta Schreiber (the person who writes the book Sybil). The style is confusing. The way she moves between people it's not easy to connect the dots unless you actually take her at her word that this is truth. Some of the historic facts about the women are rather interesting (if it is true). Learning about how they grew up and what challenges they faced actually made the book Sybil more believable to me.
Unfortunately, what I see is pieces of truth, interwoven with statements of the author's opinion and comments made to capture the reader with a sense of disgust. For example, when the author discusses the "truth" of Dr. Wilbur taking part in the early days of performing lobotomies, she uses this description, "Now she was also drilling holes in their skulls and turning their brains into pulp". Anyone familiar with the history of medicine knows that the practice of medicine has come a long way from its early days. Remember blood-letting (using leeches to drain people's blood to cure disease). The author takes facts out of context and makes them seem like you should be aghast.
The author continues this theme throughout the book even into her notes pages. For example, instead of saying "Mason's diary entry" she uses the terminology "All so-called diary material". This shows the disbelief and utter disdain the author has for Sybil although she will tell you that she believes that she was misguided and used by Dr. Wilbur and Flora Rheta Shreiber.
The author does not only try to debunk the Sybil story, she appears to have an agenda against anyone that believes in D.I.D or what she calls MPD/DID. Even in her epilogue, she takes to task the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD) and some of its major contributors. Ironically, as I was doing research on the veracity of the book, I came across quite a heated debate between the author and members of the ISSTD. The author had been accused of portraying things improperly in the book and was not taking criticism well. This includes the fact that since the book has been out people are fact-checking the book and finding major errors in her work. A specific reference I can quote is one where she misquotes someone from the ISSTD. This person has written a letter advising what she actually stated to the author.
All in all, if you read the book critically and don't buy into the author's manipulation of facts and remember that none of the three woman she tries to condemn are here to dispute any of her claims, I think the book actually can be taken one of two ways... either as a really good book of fiction itself OR as proof that Sybil was true and that her primary guide through this thing we now know as D.I.D. did they very best she could knowing the time in which she experienced the things she did.
Otherwise, don't get caught up in all of the out of context "facts", the glaring agendas and the inflammatory language.
If you want to use this to fire yourself up... buy it but do so in real copy -- it's very hard to note and verify notes in the Kindle version. Better yet, get it from the library so you don't have to give her any more cash. It's not worth it. Otherwise, stick to something better because this really isn't worth the trouble