Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sybil in Her Own Words by Patrick Suraci, Psychologist

Sybil in Her Own Words by Patrick Suraci, Psychologist 12/15/11

....I recently published Sybil In Her Own Words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple Personalities and Paintings. It is a follow-up to the case of a woman who had 16 personalities, then called Multiple Personality Disorder. Flora Schreiber wrote this story titled Sybil. The therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur used unorthodox, but not unethical, treatment for ten years, such as, psychoanalysis, hypnosis and Sodium Pentothal which resulted in the complete integration of the 16 personalities.

Sybil was the pseudonym for Shirley Mason who was born on January 25, 1923, in Dodge Center, Minnesota. She was an artistically gifted and shy only child. Her family was well known in this little town; therefore, her mother's bizarre behavior was overlooked. During Shirley's treatment the alternate personalities emerged and told of the abuse by her mother. Whenever her mother committed an atrocious attack on Shirley, she would split and development another personality to cope with the trauma.

Attacking the veracity of Sybil published in 1973 did not begin until April 24,1997, when Dr. Herbert Spiegel gave an interview to the New York Review of Books. He stated that Sybil was not a multiple, but rather an hysteric. He claimed to have hypnotized her, performed regression studies and filmed her for the class he taught at Columbia University, thus, discovering that Sybil's therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, had been: "helping her (Sybil) identifying aspects of her life, or perspectives, that she then called by name. By naming them this way she was reifying a memory of some kind and converting it into a 'personality'..." In fact, he accused Dr. Wilbur of implanting false memories....

When I asked Dr. Spiegel for the film hypnotizing Sybil, he said he could not find it. When asked why he had waited 24 years to report this so-called fraudulent case, he said no one had ever asked him about Sybil....

After Ms. Nathan received many negative criticisms over her inaccuracies and fabrications in Sybil Exposed, a fact checker from the Times claimed she had verified the documents in the Schreiber archives in the Special Collections Library at John Jay College. The sign-in book, which is meticulously guarded, requires a person's signature and date. There is no such entry from this fact checker.

While researching my book, Shirley's cousin Naomi Rhode, found an audio cassette made by Shirley and Dr. Wilbur on February 18, 1977.They were discussion publishing a book about Sybil's paintings. They spoke about the time Dr. Wilbur sent Shirley to Dr. Spiegel. Dr, Wilbur says, "I think that hysterics are people who are willing to enter into a contract with someone whom they trust.

Now if they don't trust that individual to some extent, they may appear to enter into a contract, but they don't really. And as an example of that, I would like to point out that, although Sybil was very readily hypnotizable by me...An expert used her as a demonstration subject, and she agreed to this and he was disagreeable to her.

As a consequence he could not really hypnotize her" Shirley added, "She (Sybil) didn't trust him as much. He tried to make her make something special out of things in her life that weren't special, like birthdays...".

....Shirley gave me information, journals, art work, anything I wanted to make my book an accurate picture of her life. She wanted people to know the benefits of therapy and that she was cured and lived a productive life....

Patrick Suraci received his Ph.D. in psychology from the New School for Social Research. He taught at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Baruch College, City University of New York. He worked as a staff psychologist for the New York Police Department and is now in private practice in Manhattan. His first book was Male Sexual Armor: Erotic Fantasies and Sexual Realities of the Cop on the Beat and the Man in the Street and recently published SYBIL in her own words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple Personalities and Paintings.