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  • Sybil
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on February 16, 2001
It is impossible to say a book on such a sensitive and horrific issue as child abuse is a great book to read; in fact, this book is probably one of the most difficult ones to read that you will ever come across. Having studied psychology, it is a known fact that Multiple Personality Disorder(MPD) is associated with child abuse. The personality "splits" when the human psyche can no longer cope with the pain of abuse.
Sybil is a story of such abuse at the hands of a mentally disturbed mother - sexual, physical and emotional abuse prevail. Sybil is a true story based on one of the most severe cases of MPD and child abuse in history. Over a span of twenty years, it reveals the various "personalities" living within one woman. How one could even survive such atrocities is beyond belief. The time period of this story ends in the 40's. Today, research continues on this subject and much has been learned since Sybil's case, but one can never have enough knowledge.
Sybil's personalities eventually merge and in 1998, the real Sybil died, finding, we hope, final peace and contentment. If you are interested in books on MPD, another true life story is, First Person Plural: My Life as a Multiple, by Cameron West, PH.D.
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on June 7, 2001
In 1954, a thin, nervous young woman walked into the office of New York psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur complaining of unusual "spells". She would inexplicably "lose time", fading out of consciousness and coming to again hours or even days later, often in an unfamiliar city and wearing clothing she never remembered buying. Believing it to be a case of hysteria, Dr. Wilbur embarks on what she thinks will be a routine course of treatment. Until, that is, her patient strode into the office one day with a confident, almost aristocratic air. "Sybil couldn't come," she says, "you can call me Vicky." Dr. Wilbur realized she was dealing with a victim of multiple personality disorder, then almost unheard of. For Dr. Wilbur and the young woman (whom the author gives the pseudonym of Sybil) it was the beginning of an emotionally exhausting eleven-year journey to make a fractured human being whole again.
In the course of her treatment, Sybil proved to have no less than sixteen different personalities (including two male alters, Mike and Sid). The sophisticated Vicky was the "record keeper" of the selves, holding back the memories too painful for Sybil and the others to know. Peggy Lou was the repository of Sybil's anger--defiant, belligerent, contemptuous of Sybil and terrified of breaking glass; Vanessa, a redhead with impressive musical talent. Some, like Ruthie, were barely more than toddlers mentally.
Vicky had good reason to keep the memories in check. Sybil had endured a childhood so horrible the word "nightmarish" doesn't do it justice. The child of a schizophrenic mother, (called "Hattie") and a passive, distant Fundamentalist father, Sybil never knew what awful or outlandish thing her mother was liable to do. An abused child before the term existed, Sybil was forced to endure physical and sexual torture that seems chilling even in our tabloid tell-all age. Rape and inexplicable, unnecessary forced enemas were a daily ritual until the age of six or seven--the angry, frightened Peggy Lou had to emerge to endure the unending agony.
Schreiber paints a vivid portrait of Sybil's family and the conservative town in which she grew up, and while we discover a clear history of schizophrenia on the maternal side of Sybil's family, Schreiber places most of the blame at the feet of Sybil's father Willard. He had known of his wife Hattie's schizophrenia from the time Sybil was six, when Hattie submerged into a mysterious catatonic state for an entire winter. Yet he made no attempt to hospitalize her, weakly protesting that he couldn't separate a mother and her child. The child's one escape from this hellish woman came in the form of her grandmother--when she died, Sybil's self disappeared. When she re-emerges, she finds herself in a fifth-grade classroom--almost two years later.
After years of harrowing, almost fatal crises, Sybil's selves are eventually reunited in 1965--when she is forty-two. For forty of those years, she was a living mosaic, a collection of parts. Hers was touted as a classic case of MPD and childhood abuse. Yet, not long after the death of the real Sybil in the early nineties, controversy arose over the accuracy of the account. Some professionals alleged that Sybil had not been a multiple personality at all, and may in fact have never been abused. Dr. Wilbur knew this, they maintain, as did the author--the "personalities" had supposedly been planted in Sybil's mind under hypnosis. The truth may never be known, but it is an undeniable fact such cases do occur, and as such, "Sybil" is a primer for anyone wanting to know the nature and origins of multiple personality.
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on October 8, 2001
If you are interested in psychology Sybil is a must read. It is about a girl with sixteen personalities. It is based on a true story about her life. It is very well written and although it may get a little confusing, you eventually learn to recognize each individual personality within Sybil.
This book is a tantalizing journey through Sybil's life and journey to become whole again. It involves some graphic descriptions of horrible events that made Sybil split into multiple personalities and therefore may not be appropriate for children under 13 years of age.
I have learned a lot from this book and it has opened my eyes to the interesting field of psychology. I would have to call it one of the most interesting books I have ever read and I look forward to reading it again.
Therefore I hope everyone can take time out of his or her busy schedule to read this book.
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VINE VOICEon February 17, 2007
This book is the allegedly true story of Sybil, whose name was changed for the story to protect her privacy. Almost from the time she was born, Sybil was subjected to horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of her schizophrenic mother. As a toddler, Sybil learned that she would be severely punished for getting angry, or for crying, or for exhibiting a wide variety of other normal emotions. In order to cope with her situation, her mind broke apart and comparmentalized her personality, eventually creating fifteen other "selves." Each separate personality was assigned a specific role in Sybil's life, such as Vicky, the outgoing and worldly one who could be at ease in social situations, Peggy Lou, who got angry and smashed things, and Mike and Sid, who handled construction and handyman duties.

Although the created personalities were aware of each other and able to communicate with each other to some degree, Sybil was completely unaware that they existed. What she knew was that there were many things she couldn't remember from her childhood, that seemingly ordinary objects and situations had the power to fill her with absolute terror, and that there were long periods of time she'd somehow blacked out. The most dramatic example of lost time was after Sybil's beloved grandmother's funeral, when Sybil was in third grade. She blacked out and returned to herself in a fifth-grade classroom. Her Peggy Lou personality had controlled her body for over a year.

This novel covers the course of Sybil's psychological treatment, leading her toward coming to terms with her childhood abuse and toward integrating her personalities into one complete self.

Although the validity of this story has been challenged, it is a compelling read even if treated as fiction. I was fascinated by the different personalities and the duties they adopted. I like the thought that the human brain is complex enough to put into effect this unique coping mechanism in order to save a child from completely falling apart.
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on July 17, 2000
My sister read this book for a college psychology class when I was around 8 or 9 and I remember her speaking of it incredulously. I finally read it when I was a bit older, and became so fascinated by the case of Sybil and her inner struggle for self-discovery. The film version with Sally Field was brilliant! I have read and re-read this book, endlessly engrossed with the whole issue of multiple personality and the sad, frightening reality of child abuse. Sybil is such a courageous, yet tragic person. I was saddened to hear of her death, but believe by coming forward during her frightening ordeal she has helped many of others struggling with a similar situation. In a class by itself. See the movie too!
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on June 20, 2002
I read this book over 20 years ago. It was one of the first books I read as an adult. It remains today the most fascinating book I have ever read. We are so used to outlandish fictional stories being thrown at us that we become jaded. Creatures that visit from other planets or monsters that have no purpose other than to scare teenagers are commonplace but unreal. What is much scarier than they could ever be is the real world. So horribly betrayed by what should be the most trusted person in her world - her mother; that Sybil must write her own science fiction story to survive. I remember staying up through the night reading this book. While the TV movie with Sally Field obviously isn't as detailed as the book, it too is riveting. To this day, I grow pale whenever the actress who played Sybil's mother Hattie appears on my TV - in anything. No other actor or actress has that effect on me. The recent airing of the TV movie has brought all this back to me. This is a great story of someone beating the odds and the eventual triumph of good over evil.
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on May 15, 2006
Ive read Sybil when i was 13,and it took me just a day to finish it. The moment i placed the book down, i started researching on split and multiple personality--Freud and the like.

I read the book once and never had the chance to do so again (im turning 20) but the impact it had on my life up to this day is truly tremendous. I never really imagined that anyone, regardless of the intensity of abuse he or she experienced in life, could ever have 16 totally different personalities.

Sybil, for me, is not just a book about multiple personality. Its delves also into how important is our childhood to us, how essential are the experiences we had in becoming what we are in the present. Also, Sybil tackles the value judgments we hold on to and the way these values shape our personalities.

This book, piques both the intellectual and emotional side of the readers. I recommend this to anyone, of whatever age (although this is not an easy read) to understand the depths of the human mind and realize that all of us are complex in our own personal way.
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on February 9, 2005
This book is impossible to put down; I started reading it and just couldn't seem to stop. It is wonderfully written narrative, which leads to insights of the human mind and abnormal psychology. "Sybil" causes great philosophical questions of mind and body to arise. The horrific account of sexual and mental abuse will shock you. This book is a must read, it is an account that I shall never forget.
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on June 1, 2004
Sybil is an amazing book about a young woman, who over the course of her life, was over taken by sixteen different personalities. The book starts off as Sybil the adult going to see Dr. Wilbur about her psychiatric state. Sybil has known all her life that something was strange about her but could never figure it out. She had no idea that real people with their own minds and thoughts were taking control of her body anytime they pleased. Dr. Wilbur met all the personalities and talked with them each one on one until she found out the origin of how all sixteen people came to live in one body. The main part of her state of mind was her mother. Throughout her whole life, her mother constantly made remarks about Sybil and everything she did. Sybil's other selves is what happened because of her mothers abuse. Sybil is a fascinating book were you can witness a woman about to fall apart come together through a long journey to finally becoming herself again.
The best thing about Sybil was the way Flora Schreiber captured every feeling and every emotion Sybil had to offer. Schreiber is a talented writer who let the reader know exactly what was going on step by step. She showed not just how Sybil's character felt in a situation but how every other person felt. She introduced characters in a way that made you feel like you knew them even before you picked up the book. Schreiber brought you into the minds of sixteen different people, but showed you that although they were the same person, they were completely different.
Sybil was excellent and I found it hard to think of what I didn't enjoy about the book. However, I did find that throughout the book it was a little difficult to follow along with the story line and all the different personalities. Although there were separations by chapter introducing the different selves, they often brought one and then another into the story line eventually mixing them all together to the point where I was a little confuse abut who was who. All in all, the book was a beautiful piece of work that everyone should experience once.
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on July 3, 2002
This book is a riveting true story revolving around a young
woman's two decade harrowing struggle to become one. Sybil,
an multiple personality disorder victim, is the result of an
abusive schizophrenic mother whose abusive rituals included
the painful, disgusting process of hanging Subil suspended from
the ceiling and scarring her... In order to overcome
her overwhelming emotions, Sybil creates a vast collectionof
totally separate, individual personalities, which gradually
develops into a staggering total of 16. For years, Sybil
vents her many different emotions into each of her categorized
personalities, some of which are Mary (a religious figure,
portrayed after Sybil's actual "saintly" grandmother), Peggy
Lou (a tempestuous, confident fire-breathing country bumpkin),
Vicky ( the stylish, sophisticated "keeper" of the "girls"),
Venessa ( an impressive musical talent ), and even two male
figures, modeled after her father's covetted sons. When Sybil
becomes so disoriented in the tug of war between personalities,
she must get treatment. Dr. Wilbur becomes Sybil's guiding light
in her intense journey for oneness, trying to reveal the
secret behind Sybil's inexplicable abrupt personality "switches"
through years of psychological therapy. Eventually, Sybil
does claim victory over her disorder and becomes one again.
This is the most incredible, most riveting true story I've ever
read! You'll be devoured by its pages, it is so all-consuming.
"Sybil" is so amazing, one must question its truth. What a
great book! Not only is it just a literary read, it is definitely an incredible human experience! It palpitates with
substance and beauty, and presents richly woven, detailed
characters. Absolutely unbelievable! Sybil rules!
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