Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

This I previously published on an extended blog Books on Child Abuse 1 [2] as number [29] . I am reblogging all these gradually as the books themselves deserve the attention and so they are easier to find, rather than buried in one long post. These are not reviews so much as short descriptions. The books I am blogging today are powerful ones which cover dissociation.

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber 

Intrigued first by “A Fractured Mind” [3] I have now read Sybil, the first widely known case of Multiple Personality in the early 1970s, featuring in a 1976 film [4] of the same name by Sally Field. In contrast to Robert Oxnams book this one is written by a third party to the psychoanalyst and the subject and thus is more objective.


Sybil, a pseudonym, in reality Shirley Ardell Mason  born in 1923 in Minnesota was physically and sexually abused by her mother from birth. This set the scene for dissociation and formation of 16 personalities.

An equally fascinating book, but from a different angle, we learn less about the interaction between the 14 girls and 2 boys, but more verbatim from tape recording from alters and analyst. Most were artists to some degree, each with their own style and degree of competence.

Forced to be a pioneer in the field of multiples, when therapy was temporarily proving difficult Dr Cornelia Wilbur treated Sybil reluctantly with sodium pentothal for a year and later with hypnotism.  Interestingly hypnosis was used to equal the ages of all the alters which up from 3 the youngest to 37 the oldest. This enabled integration to occur amongst the more similarly mature alters.

Although it took many years all the personalities were integrated by the age of 43, therapy having started over twenty years previously and from this account Sybil afterwards functioned as highly functioned individual.

All in all a fascinating book to which this summary does not do justice. Mutiple personality is now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder

Please note that victims of abuse may be triggered by reading this information. The Sanctuary for the Abused [A] has advice on how to prevent triggers.  National Association for People Abused in Childhood [B] has a freephone helpline and has links to local support groups. Other useful sites are One in Four [C] and Havoca [D]. Useful post on triggers [E]  from SurvivorsJustice [F] blog.


[1] Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber  ISBN-10: 0446550124

[2] Books on Child Abuse 1

[3] Cathy Fox blog on Fractured Mind by Robert B Oxnam

[4] Sybil the film

[A] Sanctuary for the Abused


[C] One in Four

[D] Havoca

[E] SurvivorsJustice Triggers post

[F] SurvivorsJustice Blog

This is all written in good faith but if there is anything that needs to be corrected please email

cathyfox the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free

About cathy fox blog on Child Abuse

the truth will out, the truth will shout, the truth will set us free...
This entry was posted in Books about Child Abuse, Child Abuse, Child sexual abuse, US of America Child Abuse and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

  1. holliegreigjustice says:


  2. Pingback: My Story – Matthew Jee tells his story | cathyfox blog

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