A reader emailed me an article entitled Real ‘Sybil’ Admits Multiple Personalities Were Fake. I was interested to hear how this could be considering that Sybil (pseudonym for Shirley Mason) passed away in 1998 and so is in no position to have recanted her story recently.
After reading this article (I have not read the book), I think the headline is a bit strong for the purported evidence of Sybil making the whole thing up. Based on the article, the “proof” is one letter that Sybil sent her therapist, Dr. Connie Wilbur, in 1958:
I do not really have any multiple personalities. … I do not even have a ‘double.’ … I am all of them. I have been lying in my pretense of them.
This is just an excerpt, but I would argue that this letter could be read differently than the author is apparently reading it. How many times have I said that all of someone’s alter parts are them? I am the sum of all of my parts and more. Each alter part could arguably be viewed as a “pretense” or even a “lie” because no one part is all of me. For example, my host personality could have passed a lie detector test about never having been abused because that part was created to perpetuate the lie that I hadn’t been abused. If that excerpt is the smoking gun, I am not buying the case.
I wonder why this author is so invested in “disproving” dissociative identity disorder. The article says,
Within a few years of [the book Sybil’s] publication, reported cases of multiple personality disorder — now known as dissociative identity disorder — leapt from fewer than 100 to thousands.
My guess is that if we assume that Sybil made it all up, then the rest of us are just making it all up, too.
Here’s the thing – Just because people don’t talk about something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Let’s take self-injury by masturbation as an example. This was a topic that nobody talked about. I first heard about it over at Isurvive when a member posted about struggling with this form of self-injury. This form of self-injury was so “unheard of” that a moderator deleted the post because she believed that it was a prank.
Thankfully, the member had posted the same thing in two separate forums, both in the Main forum (where it was deleted) and in the Dependence & Compulsions forum, where I saw the post. I had never heard of self-injury through masturbation, but I recognized the similarities to other forms of self-injury and posted an encouraging response. The board owner recognized this was a legitimate post and instructed that it not be deleted.
From that one post, I wrote the blog entry entitled Masturbation as a Form of Self-Injury after Sexual Child Abuse, which currently has 157 comments, many of which are readers confessing that they, too, struggle with this form of self-injury but thought they were the only ones.
Now, did all of these readers just start engaging in self-injury through masturbation because they read my blog? Of course not! They found the courage to talk about it because someone else found the courage to break the silence. That’s what happened with dissociative identity disorder (DID). Sybil broke the silence, and then others found the courage to break their own silence. Discrediting Sybil is not going to change my experience one bit.
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