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Sybil October 29, 2013

Posted by mbintanghp in 'curhat', book, insight.
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ehm!!,,
so guys, what is your favorite ever novel, be it the fiction or non-fiction one? however breathtakingly Robert Langdon trying to stop a bald female prodigy spreading a world threatening epidemic virus, or however interesting it is to imagine Harry Potter getting detention by Snape because he produced a beaked-nose-shaped Patronuses, my pick is “Sybil”, a non-fiction novel depicting a girl suffering from a multiple personality disorder (MPD) disease. it was the first psychology related book I ever read, let alone MPD related novel. it left good, deep impression on me, well perhaps not as deep as when I watched Simon Pegg and Nick Frost fooling around on Hot Fuzz though (yeah rite). it’s good, and when “The Minds of Billy Milligan”, another MPD related novel, was published I didn’t hesitate at all to get my hands on it. the only regret I have about “Sybil” is that I read it in the translated Indonesian version, not on its original, English version. oh and yes, “Sybil” is better than “The Minds of Billy Milligan”.
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well I am writing this post not to get you guys into a tug-of-war with me debating which is the most badass novel ever as I don’t want to hear a pointless arguments like “even if Sybil is assisted by 100 Watsons she still can hardly solve a single case” or “surely Sybil will give birth to another personalities the moment she sees Legolas’ face”. it’s just a little thing I found when I tried to Googled “Sybil” yesterday. little yet it’s tickling me enough to force me to finally open my long time neglected WordPress blog and write it down to a blog post. and to trick you guys into reading this.
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let me tell you a bit about this novel first, especially for you guys who’ve never heard of “Sybil” before yet too lazy to check it on the net up even though you’re only one or two touches on your smartphone’s touchscreen away to get into Google’s page. this novel, written by a journalist called Flora Rheta Schreiber, was published in ’73 in United States. who or what the heck is Sybil? even though it rhymes with the name of a thriller movie directed by Quentin Tarantino, no Sybil doesn’t have any involvement with any kind of swords or yellow jumpsuits. nor it is related with a Divination class at Hogwarts. Sybil is a pseudonym for Shirley Ardell Mason, a young girl diagnosed with rare disease called MPD by her psychiatrist, Cornelia B. Wilbur. now MPD is referred with new term called dissociative identity disorder (DID) but I’ll just keep using MPD term on this post because, well, it’s not my fault that the new one those psychiatric experts came up with is not as cool as the previous one rite?
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a person suffering from MPD will have more than one personality. not in the sense of being a hypocritical or two-faced, backstabbing person, but it is like having more than one person on your mind with each persons have their own personality. lets say the main personality is a calm,rarely spoken one, and “he/she” is accompanied by an emotional poet personality, a 3-years-old personality, an enthusiastic basket lover personality, a hardcore manga otaku personality, and many other personalities. for example Sybil had a total of 16 personalities and Billy Milligan had 24. the secondary personality also might have different gender with the actual person. maybe now some of you are starting to imagine having a strong, athletic personality to fight a robber, a diligent, intellectual personality to help you pass  every exams, and a Gordon Ramsey-like personality which will come in handy when you’re facing a stubborn salesman. or “dikandani kok ngeyel” (*) kind of person. sounds cool huh?
get the f**%$&! outta here!!

get the f**%$&! outta here!!

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well, no. there are reasons why “disorder” was the only word those experts didn’t replace when they change the term of this disease from MPD to DID. first, we don’t know when the main personality will step up to the main stage and be in control of the body and when it will step down. the main character may even don’t realize the existence of those secondary personalities. and if I take the cases depicted in the novel, the main personality didn’t have control over the other personalities but some of the personalities were conscious and doing observation when the other personalities are on the stage. yes, the the secondary personality(s) may have bigger control over the mind and body compared with the main personality. the main personality also won’t have any recollection of what happened during the time it is not on the main stage. so you can imagine that at some point you are having a peaceful breakfast at home and the next thing you know you already thrown into the jail facing death sentence because you did a Naruto style’s “1000 years of pain” to your president.
Well, can't expect less from Naruto's mentor

Well, can’t expect less from Naruto’s mentor

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it said that while the cause of this MPD is still not entirely understood, most of them are traumatic episodes happened at some point of one’s life. maybe like seeing a beloved one murdered in front one’s eyes, being the receiving end of a sexual abuse at school, or losing the entire family in a traffic accident. or when you wrongly watched “Proposal Daisakusen SP” first before watching the 11 episodes ToT (curcol) (**). the trauma(s) is too hard to take so that the mind has to cope with the trauma in a different way. the mind produce a new “character” to deal with that happening trauma. i think the memory of those traumas are flushed out from the main character when the secondary personalities are born (so about the “if Sybil meet Legolas” scenario, 100 bucks for Sybil will give birth to 10 Barney Stinson-like personalities at once). not related with MPD but have you watched Life of Pi? Pi Partel told that irrational story not to cover his ass because if that’s his true intention then he should make a realistic story rite? in my opinion, that’s just the way of his mind coping with the tragedy, to keep himself sane. so his mind unconsciously recreated the whole story, shifting the whole blame to the non-existent fantasized tiger. in the process his mind also furnish the story with a fairy-like island and ocean, which was quite cool. but hey what am I kidding, still nowhere near Hot Fuzz.
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okay! sorry for the long detour, lets get off to the main topic. Sybil was a big, big hit. the “Sybil” brand gain profits from books, movies, T-shirts, dolls (what?), and even board games (okay I’m imagining a 16 players monopoly board for 1 person). Sybil is still being sold up until now, and there are also many Sybil related books were published. furthermore many psychology research made based on Sybil case. so what I found yesterday? well I found this article (http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/10/24/was-sybil-faking-multiple-personalities/)
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SYBIL FAKING MULTIPLE PERSONALITY..???

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it’s quite shocking that it is debated whether the story of Sybil is genuine or not. and actually it seems that such debate was already taking place even before I read the book. a little further stroll in the Google pages brought me to “Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality” a book written by Debbie Nathan, published January 2011. let me quote some part of its introduction part :
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“Nathan reveals what really powered the legend: a trio of women—the willing patient, her ambitious shrink, and the imaginative journalist who spun their story into bestseller gold”
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WHAT..?!? A MERE MADE UP STORY..?!??

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she labeled Cornelia B. Wilbur, the psychiatrist who also had a cameo in the “Minds of Billy Milligan”, an ambitious shrink?? really, those three were just gold diggers?? so after all of this I was buying a fake story??
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but then I found another book, it is called “After Sybil… From the Letters of Shirley Mason” by Nancy L. Preston, published this very year. Sybil is Nancy L. Preston’s art teacher, the path Sybil choose after she finished her therapy and was declared “health”. basically, I think this book is trying to imply that this Sybil story is genuine, not a cheap story fabricated to gain fame and gold. I won’t dwell on the arguments presented on these books as I haven’t read it.
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I believe there are many more books and research debating this topic but unfortunately we can’t confirm the genuinity of this story as those three already passed away. well, do we need to? as for me, I happily chose to believe. doesn’t mean I regarded Nathan’s book as a made up story as I believe she had her homework done before publishing the book. but hey, this “Sybil” is a good book for every book lover, so if you have spare time why don’t you grab this book and let yourself sink into the Sybil world. getting a peek at how she awoke and found herself in a strange place without having not even a slightest idea how she got there, how Sybil dealing with her other selfs, or how Cornelia B. Wilbur communicating with each personalities and merging them into one integrated Sybil.
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about MPD, this MPD disease is real, and like schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it’s a recognized and valid psychiatric diagnosis. however unlikely you think we will get this disease, knowing some of its symptoms won’t do us any harm will it. surely you don’t want having a moment that when you awake you realize you already spent 2,5 years living in another country eh (okay another curcol).
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by the way, I have to apologize for one or two things. first, sorry for the inconsistencies you might find in this post as my writing stamina already pretty much drained up on the latter half of this post lol. any constructive feedback is welcome. second, sorry there might be one or two spoilers :p
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(**) curcol : casually putting one’s problem or worry in to his/her talk without realizing it. a “curcol” is legit only if the listener realizes its a “curcol” lol (note: remember guys, do not mention the word itself inside the definition of the word)
(*) dikandani kok ngeyel : think of the stubbornness of a very stubborn salesman you can imagine, and then triple its stubbornness

Comments»

1. PATRICK SURACI, Ph.D. - August 12, 2015

I Believe everything you said about Sybil and the other two books is accurate and can be confirmed by Shirley Ardell Mason’s own words in my book “SYBIL in her own words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, her multiple personalities and paintings.” It can be found on Amazon. Patrick Suraci, PhD.


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