sybil.jpg (30600 bytes) Sybil
Isabel
Dorsett*

The most famous case of multiple personality

She seems to have experienced 16 separate personalities, two of whom were male.

It was the horrific child abuse Sybil's psychotic mother inflicted on her, along with the failure of her father to rescue her from it, that caused these personalities. Each one embodied feelings and emotions the 'real' Sybil could not cope with. The waking Sybil was deprived of all these emotions, and was therefore a rather drab figure. She was unaware of her other personas; while they were in 'control' of the body, Sybil suffered blackouts and did not remember the episodes. It was only the intervention of Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, a psychoanalyst, that alerted Sybil to them.

The sequence of "splitting" which by which these alter egos appear to have emerged as separate identities is outlined in the 'family tree' above. You can explore these personalities - who they were, and why they existed - by clicking on their names, below.

Sybil, the original core personality split, early on, with the emergence of:

Vicky Ruthie The Blonde Helen Marjorie Peggy Louisiana Clara

 

Vicky split further, to give rise to:
Marcia, Mary, Vanessa and Sybil Ann
Peggy Louisianna split again, to give
Nancy, Peggy Ann and Peggy Lou

Peggy Lou split yet further, to give the boys, Mike and Sid.


Also, the lesser known but equally interesting story of Eric, 1982


The angry or aggressive personality
An angry personality appears to be one of the most common in MPD patients. Peggy was created by one of Sybil's earliest dissociations in order to cope with the anger which Sybil felt towards her mother but was never able to express. Later splitting into Peggy Lou (angry)and Peggy Ann (afraid), the importance of Peggy to Sybil can be seen in the fact that she took over for two years of her life when things were too much to cope with (remember that Peggy Lou was the one who kept her arithmetic skills to herself so that Sybil struggled back at school as her waking self). Nancy (Winer, 1978) too, first created Kitty, her angry alter ego, in order to deal with the strong aggressive feelings she felt for her mother after she found her sleeping with her first serious boyfriend. Lillian, too, was created in order to cope with the anger Nancy felt towards her husband when she discovered that he had been seeing another woman while she was in hospital giving birth to their child.

The personality who deals with sex
A personality formed to deal with sex appears to be fairly common. From the data above it is clear that the personality can have many different characteristics. Within its function, the personality may portray different attitudes towards sex. Many of Sybil's alter egos are very prim and proper about sex due to her/their religious beliefs. Alternatively, Nancy (Winer, 1978) created a seductive personality, Lillian, to look after her sex life, having caught her husband playing around.

The know-all
It seems that there has to be someone' to be in control and know what is going on, if the waking self is no longer aware of all his/ her movements. Vicky is a very good example of this. Until Sybil enters therapy she is not at all conscious of what she does during her "blank moments", only that they happen. Vicky is able to bring the whole story together as she has witnessed Sybil's life from an early age. Vicky's poise and confidence even brings the therapist to wonder whether it is not Vicky with whom all the other personalities should be integrated rather than Sybil.


* Department of Psychology, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne (http://york39.ncl.ac.uk/www/P3.html)