Sybil – Flora Rheta Schreiber Review

Here is the unbelievable yet true story of Sybil Dorsett, a survivor of terrible childhood abuse who as an adult was a victim of sudden and mysterious blackouts. What happened during those blackouts has made Sybil’s experience one of the most famous psychological cases in the world.

I’m really conflicted about my feelings for this novel. The premise of Sybil is so riveting. A young woman, after a childhood of abuse, cruelty, and torture develops sixteen other distinct personalities. However, I found myself unable to get past the overly clinical language and all of the psycho-analysis. I don’t have a psychology background at all and was only able to understand part of the diagnoses.

The descriptions of the experiences had as a child and what her mother did to her were incredibly shocking. I found myself both repulsed and horrified. To imagine any child having to endure that makes me sick, and it completely explains why Sybil’s subconscious fractured.

I found myself really frustrated with the circular and vague responses Sybil’s other selves gave when Dr. Wilbur attempted to make them understand they were a part of Sybil. (A big reason why I could never be a psychiatrist is that I have very little patience). I know the understanding is supposed to be gradual, but it was just hard for me to swallow. I suppose that’s why throughout the book I found myself questioning the truthfulness and validity of the personalities.

The whole book takes place over a decade. It was sometimes frustrating to realize that Sybil wasn’t making much progress toward integration and there were a lot of reiterated points. The truth is that her psycho-analysis was overly complicated and repetitive and I became disinterested in it.

Overall, I don’t think I recommend this book. It was just too analytical for my tastes. If anyone is really interested in the details about Sybil Dorsett, just Wikipedia the case instead of wasting your time with this book.


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