After reading about Sybil for TWO WEEKS (yes it took me that long) I can honestly say I am glad to have read her story. As a psychology student, I wanted to read this so badly. It is so intriguing the way our minds develop and how it can protect us from a variety of situations.
For those of you who don't know, Sybil is the first reported Multiple Personality (now called Dissociated Identity Disorder [DID]) to be psychoanalyzed. She was living on borrowed time, lost time, and confusion. She often woke up not knowing what she had done for the past few days, weeks, and sometimes even years. She had forgotten her multiplication tables in 5th grade because she had no memory of learning it. She would find broken glass with no recollection of how it had gotten broken. She would come home to find new things she assumed her father had built her, even though he didn't live near her or visit often... She would find herself walking down unfamiliar streets in the winter with no gloves, jacket, or hat. She had no idea it was because someone else had led her there, someone in her own body.
Sybil had 16 different alters (average alters for DID patients is 8) who occasionally took control of Sybil's body and began living the lives they had dreamed. Throughout the book, Sybil has to come to terms with the fact that these alters (her doctor, Dr. Wilbur, called them personalities) were a part of her and she had to understand what they wanted and how they could help her become a "whole person". The alters were different ages depending on when Sybil's mind developed them to help protect her against whatever was happening at the time.
Dr. Wilbur learns of Sybil's abuse (common in DID patients). She was sexually abused by her mother at a very young age. She shared a bedroom with her parents until she was nine years old and often witnessed their sexual acts. Her father was deeply rooted in their local church and often pushed his Armageddon views onto his daughter. When her favorite grandmother died, her parents "forgot" about her and left her in the bedroom until the funeral was over. Each of these events, and many others, caused Sybil to disassociate from herself because the emotional baggage was too much to carry. Each of her alters became an emotion that she could hand off to them as a way of saying "Please take care of this for me, I do not wish to be included."
For 11 years, Dr. Wilbur and Sybil worked together to find the trauma that caused this phenomenon, analyze each alter as an individual, and eventually integrate all the alters into one person, Sybil.
Before I read this I found many reviews that questioned whether or not Sybil was actually suffering from DID or if her doctor pushed the idea onto her. Honestly, I believe she was definitely suffering from DID. However, the terminology of the book is slightly outdated (I mean it was the 1950's what do you expect? I mean she went to shock therapy for God's sake). But it really showed how psychology has evolved over the years, but the ideals behind it remain the same.