Sybil “Sally Fields and Joanne Woodward, (1976 Movie Adaption)..”

Sybil is a 1973 book by Flora Rheta Schreiber about the treatment of Sybil Dorsett (a pseudonym for Shirley Ardell Mason) for dissociative identity disorder (then referred to as multiple personality disorder) by her psychoanalyst, Cornelia B. Wilbur.

The book was made into two television movies of the same name, once in 1976 and again in 2007. There has also been books published after the fact, challenging the facts of Sybil’s therapy sessions. A few examples of these are SYBIL in her own words, Sybil Exposed, and After Sybil.

Mason is given the pseudonym “Sybil” by her therapist to protect her privacy. Originally in treatment for social anxiety and memory loss, after extended therapy involving amobarbital and hypnosis interviews, Sybil manifests sixteen personalities. Wilbur encouraged Sybil’s various selves to communicate and reveal information about her life. Wilbur writes that Sybil’s multiple personality disorder was a result of the severe physical and sexual abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her mother, Hattie.

The book begins with a list of Sybil’s “alters”, together with the year in which each appeared to have dissociated from the central personality. The names of these selves were also changed to ensure privacy.

Sybil Isabel Dorsett (1923), the main personality
Victoria Antoinette Scharleau (1926), nicknamed Vicky, self-assured and sophisticated young French girl
Peggy Lou Baldwin (1926), assertive, enthusiastic, and often angry
Peggy Ann Baldwin (1926), a counterpart of Peggy Lou but more fearful than angry
Mary Lucinda Saunders Dorsett (1933), a thoughtful, contemplative, and maternal homebody
Marcia Lynn Dorsett (1927), an extremely emotional writer and painter
Vanessa Gail Dorsett (1935), intensely dramatic, fun loving, and a talented musician.
Mike Dorsett (1928), one of Sybil’s two male selves, a builder and a carpenter
Sid Dorsett (1928), the second of Sybil’s two male selves, a carpenter and a general handyman. Sid took his name from Sybil’s initials (Sybil Isabelle Dorsett), meaning that Mason’s personality would have been named Sam (Shirley Ardell Mason)
Nancy Lou Ann Baldwin (date undetermined), interested in politics as fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and intensely afraid of Roman Catholics
Sybil Ann Dorsett (1928), listless to the point of neurasthenia
Ruthie Dorsett (1890), a baby and one of the less developed selves
Clara Dorsett (date undetermined), intensely religious and highly critical of Sybil
Helen Dorsett (1929), intensely afraid but determined to achieve fulfillment
Marjorie Dorsett (1928), serene, vivacious, and quick to laugh
The Blonde (1946), a nameless perpetual teenager with an optimistic outlook

The book’s narrative describes Sybil’s selves gradually becoming co-conscious, able to communicate and share responsibilities, and having musical compositions and art published under their various names. Wilbur attempts to integrate Sybil’s various selves, first convincing them via hypnosis that they are all the same age, then encouraging them to merge. At the book’s end, a new, optimistic self called “The Blonde” emerges, preceding Sybil’s final integration into a single, whole individual with full knowledge of her past and present life.


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