Archive for June 12th, 2008

Microscopic view (c) Lynda BernhardtIn my last couple of posts, I have been talking about my reaction to the remake of the movie Sybil, which aired on Saturday night on CBS. In this post, I am going to compare and contrast my integration experience with Sybil’s.

In the movie, Sybil’s healing really began when her various parts started talking about the abuse. Dr. Wilbur correctly recognized that Sybil’s awareness of the others’ existence was a huge step toward healing.

This was the case with me, too, although I did not need a third party to accomplish this. I had one part (“Irate”) who was badly triggered by an overnight stay at my mother’s house who stayed co-present for a while after that. She is the one who would “step into my face.” I could “feel” her presence and knew that her thoughts were “not mine.” This is what launched me on a quest to learn all I could about alter parts and understand what was going on with me.

In the movie, Dr. Wilbur hypnotized Sybil and then age-progressed all of the parts so that they would be one age. When Sybil came out of hypnosis, she remembered a lot more than she had (which, up until this point, had been nothing about the abuse). My experience was very different.

I never needed to use hypnosis, nor did I involve a third party in order to remember or integrate. I did all of these things alone in my bed at night. I did have a therapist for two plus years, but he served more of a “check-in” role, reassuring me that I was not “crazy” and helping direct me along the healing path. While I told him about the alter parts eventually, the focus of my therapy was on learning to love myself and talking about what happened, not on the specific parts.

I had no need to age progress any of my parts, although I have read that this is still part of the healing that many therapists recommend for people with DID. I needed to love each part and accept each part’s experiences, feelings, and emotions as “mine.” Then, they would integrate, regardless of the part’s age.

One other big difference is that Dr. Wilbur sought to integrate each part back into Sybil. Sybil was a host personality, not the original child. What I found was that I had to integrate my host (Faye) back into the original child, not back into the others. I also integrated the others back into the original child. Dr. Wilbur was correct that there were no “deaths.” All are still present inside of myself. I just experience them in a different way – parts of myself that are always “present” as a part of who I am.

One key part of healing that the movie did not get into (possibly because Dr. Wilbur was a pioneer and did not know this herself) was that I found the key to healing to be loving and accepting each part as “me.” I would reach out in love to each part, thanking each part for the role he or she played in keeping me safe and then inviting each part into the core so it could be “out” forever. When I integrated my host personality, I stopped being separate from the other parts and was forever always “out” after that – no more lost time.

I would not think that Sybil suddenly having access to a whole bunch of memories at one time would have been a good thing. The reason for splitting in the first place is to distance yourself from the event and accompanying emotions. Even today, as an integrated person who has dealt with the big picture view of each form of abuse, it is hard to look over my entire abuse history in one sitting. To do this at one time – to take in all of the horror in one view – without having healed each piece as you went along would be overwhelming. It might be that they did this in the movie to give you an idea of where the next several years of therapy were going. The caption at the end said that it took Sybil a long time to become whole.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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