Displaced Parts Tribute to Sybil

Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) reflects a failure to integrate various aspects of identity, memory, and consciousness. Each personality state may be experienced as if it has a distinct personal history, self-image, and identity, including a separate name. Usually there is a primary identity that carries the individual's given name and is passive, dependent, guilty, and depressed Individuals with this disorder experience frequent gaps in memory for personal history, both remote and recent Individuals with Dissociative Identity disorder frequently report having experienced severe physical and sexual abuse, especially during childhood. Controversy surrounds the accuracy of such reports, because childhood memories may be subject to distortion and individuals with this disorder tend to be highly hypnotizable and especially vulnerable to suggestive influences.quot;
- from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
Fourth Edition, Published in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association, Washington D.C.


A Tribute To SYBIL
Young Sybil played by Natasha Ryan

quot;Sybilquot; was the pseudonym of Shirley Ardell Mason, who was born January 25, 1923, in Dodge Center, Minnesota. Her parents were Walter Mason and Martha Alice Hageman Mason. According to the book Sybil, as a child Mason suffered from extreme abuse at the hands of her mother. Childhood friends commented in a recent documentary that Mason's home life and relationship with her mother seemed strange and unusual.
In the early 1950s, Mason moved to New York City to pursue graduate studies at Columbia University. Plagued by blackouts and breakdowns for many years, she began seeing a psychiatrist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, who eventually diagnosed Mason with Multiple Personality Disorder. Wilbur discovered 16 different personalities within Mason and believed they were a result of severe child abuse. During 11 years of therapy, Wilbur and Mason worked to integrate these personalities into one complete self, and afterwards Mason found she was content and well adjusted.
In 1973, journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber wrote Mason's story with input from both Mason and Wilbur. In the book, Mason's name was changed to Sybil Dorsett to protect her privacy. The book Sybil was hugely popular and was made into a TV movie in 1976 starring Sally Field. Field won an Emmy for her performance, and the story of Sybil deeply influenced both pop culture and the mental health profession.
After the book was published, Mason moved to Lexington, Kentucky. Wilbur taught at the University of Kentucky, and the two remained close friends for the rest of their lives. Mason was an art teacher and a prolific painter. She lived a quiet life in Kentucky, going to a Seventh Day Adventist church, taking care of her pet poodles and cats, and playing Scrabble with Wilbur and a few close friends. She never married or had children. In 1998, Mason died of breast cancer at the age of 75, and it was not until after her death that she was publicly revealed as quot;Sybil.quot;
In recent years, doctors and other pundits have debated whether or not Multiple Personality Disorder (now known as Disassociative Identity Disorder) really exists. Some claim that Mason's 16 personalities were created by Wilbur's suggestions during therapy. Both Mason and Wilbur are deceased (Wilbur died in 1992).


Young Sybil, played by Natasha Ryan

Knight Ridder Newspapers
BY JENNIFER HEWLETT
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Shirley Ardell Mason lived quietly in Lexington for more than 20 years, painting and running an arts business out of her home. Her friends suspected that she was quot;Sybil,quot; the subject of a 1970s best-selling book about a psychiatric patient plagued with multiple personalities. Now they know she was. Mason, who had lived in Lexington at least since the mid-1970s, died Feb. 26 at her home. She was 75. Until now, the identity of Sybil, who has been called the most famous psychiatric patient in history, had never been made public. That's all changing with a book scheduled for publication in 1999 and a documentary scheduled to begin filming in January. Peter Swales, a psychiatric historian in New York City, says he is coauthoring the book and will work on the documentary for British television. He says through research and interviews he has identified Mason as Sybil Isabel Dorsett, the pseudonym of the woman in the book written by journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber. quot;If I say that, indeed, Sybil was Shirley Mason, then it's fact. It's not going to be disputed,quot; said Swales. Rumors that Mason was Sybil have circulated in the Lexington area for years. Former neighbors said they started thinking the quiet and friendly woman might be Sybil when they noticed that Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, identified in the book as Sybil's psychiatrist, was a frequent visitor at Mason's home. Wilbur, who was a professor of psychiatry at the University of Kentucky, died in 1992. quot;They were fast friends. When Dr. Wilbur wasn't there, Ms. Mason was at Dr. Wilbur's house,quot; said Pat Cress, a former next-door neighbor of Mason. Cress was interviewed shortly after Mason's death. Mason, who displayed her work on the walls of her Lexington home, was an assistant art professor at Rio Grande College in Ohio in 1969 and 1970, according to college yearbooks. Neighbors said that both Mason and Wilbur had poodles. The book quot;Sybilquot; mentions Wilbur's and Sybil's poodles. Next month, a Georgetown, Ind., antiques and art firm will offer about 30 of Mason's paintings for sale in New York City. The paintings will be sold Jan. 16 and 17 at the Americana at the Piers in New York, said dealer Rod Lich. He estimated they would bring $1,000 to $3,000 each. Lich said his company bought the paintings from Mark Boultinghouse and Ron Hall, who operate an antiques business in Midway, Ky. Boultinghouse said they acquired more than 40 of Mason's paintings from her estate. quot;We are selling them as paintings done by the person who really was Sybil,quot; Lich said. quot;In all candor, that's what makes them valuable. It's the reputation of the artist. The image on the canvas isn't worth as much money as the name up in the corner.quot; In her will, Wilbur left Mason $25,000. And Wilbur left income from the book and any works derived from it to Donald Frei, the agent for Mason Arts Inc. The events in the book begin in 1954, when Sybil first went to see Wilbur. Sybil was a graduate student at Columbia University at the time. Wilbur treated her for 11 years. quot;Sybil,quot; published in 1973, created a sensation with its account of a woman who harbored within her more than a dozen distinct personalities, some of whom were males. Equally popular was the 1976 TV movie based on the book. It earned an Emmy award for Sally Field, who portrayed Sybil as a young woman who developed multiple personalities as a way to cope with fears stemming from her upbringing by a cruel, mentally ill mother. Joanne Woodward played the part of Wilbur. Together, the book and movie helped popularize what psychiatrists call quot;multiple-personality disorder,quot; or MPD. Before quot;Sybilquot; appeared, MPD was considered a rare mental disorder, and the American Psychiatric Association did not list it as a distinct disease. After the book and movie, there was a huge increase in reported MPD cases. By 1984, an international society devoted to the study of multiple-personality disorder had been formed. Many credit the popularity of quot;Sybilquot; for forming the model for multiple-personality disorder and fueling a big part of the MPD explosion. Recently, the illness was renamed dissociative-identity disorder. Shirley Ardell Mason was born Jan. 25, 1923, in Dodge Center, Minn., the daughter of Walter Mason and Martha Alice Hageman Mason. Shirley Mason never married. Swales said people who knew Mason in Minnesota recognized the similarities between her and Sybil when they first read Schreiber's book. quot;It came out in 1975 in Minnesota that Sybil was none other than Shirley Mason,quot; Swales said. quot;Even before she arrived in Lexington, she had severed almost all connections with her past,quot; Swales said. quot;All those people that had known her (in Minnesota) were in torment as to what had ever happened to her.... From a community point of view, she just vanished into thin air.quot; Like Mason's neighbors, art dealer Boultinghouse said he had heard the rumor about Mason and Sybil being one and the same., and that he had done some research on his own. He said he came across a clipping from a Midwestern newspaper about Shirley Mason leaving a teaching position to attend Columbia University. Sybil attended Columbia University after leaving a junior high school teaching post. It's not clear why Mason moved to Lexington. quot;It's one of those elusive sort of stories, and I think it has a certain mystique to it and always will,quot; Boultinghouse said.


Sally Field as Sybil

Kentucky art teacher was 'Sybil,' scholar confirms.
A re-examination of the most famous psychiatric patient in history.
By Mark Miller and Barbara Kantrowitz

The last day of Shirley Ardell Mason's remarkable life was peaceful. She was at home, in the two-story gray bungalow on Henry Clay Boulevard in Lexington, Ky., that had been her refuge for 25 years. Her breast cancer had spread quickly, but she didn't like doctors and hated hospitals even more. So her friend Roberta Guy arranged for nurses to provide round-the-clock care. On Feb. 26, 1998, Mason must have realized time was short; she asked for Guy, who lived just a 10-minute drive away. But by the time her friend pulled up, it was too late. Mason was dead.
A few weeks earlier, Mason had finally divulged her extraordinary secret, confirming what Guy had long suspected: the 75-year-old former college art teacher was the world's most famous psychiatric patient—the real-life model for quot;Sybil,quot; journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber's 1973 best seller about a woman so abused as a child that she developed 16 personalities, including women with English accents and two boys. The book was made into a 1976 TV movie starring Sally Field and was largely responsible for popularizing multiple-personality disorder—until then, a rare diagnosis.
Now, a year after Mason's death, the case is once again in the spotlight with three documentaries and at least as many books in the works. Some people close to Schreiber (who died in 1988), Mason and the psychiatrist who treated her, Cornelia Wilbur, now question the authenticity of Mason's condition. Before the publication of quot;Sybil,quot; there were only about 75 reported cases of MPD; in the 25 years since, there have been, by one expert's estimation, 40,000 diagnoses, almost all in North America. The book had the blessing of great timing: it hit the public consciousness in the ascending days of feminism, when people were also beginning to grow concerned about child abuse. A quarter century later, by the time Mason lay dying in her bungalow, many experts were disputing the validity of the multiple-personality diagnosis and blaming the book for spawning a bogus industry of therapists who specialize in hidden abuse. At the same time,
psychiatric historians and researchers have now begun to try to sort out the facts of the case that started it all.

Mason was raised in the small, conservative town of Dodge Center, Minn., the only child of Mattie and Walter Mason, a hardware-store clerk and carpenter; both were strictly observant Seventh-Day Adventists. When quot;Sybilquot; came out, dozens of the town's 2,000 residents recognized Mason. quot;Everything just fit—the description of her mother, of the town, of the old brick schoolhouse kitty-corner from her house,quot; says Wendell Nelson, 58, an antiques dealer. Residents recall a somewhat withdrawn, slender girl with a talent for painting. Betty Borst Christensen, 76, grew up across the street from the Masons. quot;Shirley was very protected,quot; Christensen recalls. quot;Her mother didn't let her do much.quot; Mason's second-grade teacher, Frances Abbott, now 93, remembers that Mattie Mason would grab Shirley's hand quot;in a vise lockquot; when they crossed the street. quot;Shirley couldn't get free even if she tried. She was a timid little soul always under Mother's care.quot; In the book, Sybil's mother subjects her to horrifying abuse; many people in Dodge Center say Mattie (quot;Hattiequot; in the book) was bizarre. quot;She had a witchlike laugh,quot; recalls Christensen. quot;She didn't laugh much, but when she did, it was like a screech.quot; Christensen remembers the mother walking around after dark, looking in the neighbors'windows. She apparently had once been diagnosed as schizophrenic. Still, no one claims any direct
knowledge of the sexual and physical abuse described in the book. quot;There is strong evidence that [the worst abuse in the book] could not have happened,quot; says Peter J. Swales, the historian who first identified Mason as Sybil.
In 1941 Mason left for what is now called Minnesota State University at Mankato, 60 miles away. She seemed to be on the fast track, says Dan Houlihan, a psychology professor at the school who has studied the case, and she's featured prominently in yearbooks for her first two years. Then she apparently suffered some kind of breakdown and didn't graduate until 1949. She met Wilbur, the psychiatrist, in Omaha after another such collapse; in the early 1950s she moved to New York, where Wilbur then lived, and became her patient. Their therapeutic relationship lasted more than a
decade. In the book, the story has a happy ending, with a dramatic breakthrough in 1965 that allows a fully integrated Sybil to emerge ready to begin an independent life. The real story is more complicated. According to Swales, the therapy ended in 1965 in part because Wilbur had decided to take a job outside New York. Mason did go on to hold several jobs, but she never strayed far from her former therapist. At that point, quot;Wilbur and Shirley virtually merge,quot; Swales says. quot;She won't make a decision without Wilbur.quot; Mason never married and had no children.
There's no doubt that Mason had very serious emotional problems, but how true was her story? She once recanted her allegations of abuse in a letter to Wilbur in the 1950s during therapy in New York—although Wilbur believed the letter simply indicated her patient was in denial. She never recanted again; in fact, Mason told a psychiatrist friend just months before her death that quot;every word in the book is true.quot; But even if Mason was abused, did she really split into 16 identities, which
Wilbur claimed to be able to summon at will? Some researchers say that Mason probably wasn't a quot;multiplequot; before she met Wilbur. A psychiatrist who worked with the patient he will refer to only as Sybil says that she was a quot;brilliant hysteric,quot; highly hypnotizable and extremely suggestible. The doctor, Herbert Spiegel, still in private practice in New York, believes Sybil adopted personalities quot;suggestedquot; by Wilbur as part of the therapy, which depended upon hypnosis and heavy doses of sodium pentothal. Eager to be helpful, Mason read the psychiatric literature on MPD,
including quot;The Three Faces of Eve.quot; quot;She didn't start out a spontaneous multiple, but she took on the clinical characteristics of one through the interaction with her therapist,quot; Spiegel says, adding, quot;It was nothing fraudulent. They really believed this.quot; Skeptics argue that in the dance of psychoanalysis between patient and doctor a kind of mutual delusion, a folie deux, can develop. The full truth may not be known until Wilbur's
archives are opened in 2005.
Whatever the course of the therapy, it does appear to have helped Mason.
In 1973, thanks to profits from the book, in which all three women—author, psychiatrist, patient—shared, she moved to Lexington, where Wilbur had settled to teach at the University of Kentucky. Her home was near Wilbur's grander mansion. Sometime in 1990, Wilbur diagnosed Mason with breast cancer. Because of her fear of hospitals, she
decided against treatment. The disease went into remission, but the next year Wilbur developed Parkinson's. Now Mason cared for her former therapist, moving in to do it. Guy worked for a nursing agency and was
hired to help. Eventually all three became close, and Guy joined in crossword puzzles and the Scrabble games that Mason and Wilbur loved to play.
From time to time, other people working in the house would notice the
many copies of quot;Sybilquot; in the library and speculate that Mason was the patient. They quickly lost their jobs. After Wilbur died in 1992, leaving her former patient $25,000 and all quot;Sybilquot; royalties, Mason became even
more reclusive. She had long since cut off contact with most of her old friends and her family. Guy took on her banking and shopping at a health-food store because Mason was a vegetarian. In her last few years, Guy says, Mason spent most of her time taking care of her cats, gardening and painting until arthritis made it too difficult to hold a brush. Despite
painful memories of the repressive church in Minnesota, she remained devoted to her Seventh-Day Adventist faith. quot;She was happy,quot; Guy says. In the summer of 1997, the cancer came back. Once again Mason declined medical treatment, telling Guy she had had quot;enough trauma in her life.quot; She began giving away her books and paintings to friends and
shredding her personal papers. She left most of the rest of her estate to a Seventh-Day Adventist TV minister. quot;She was not afraid of dying,quot; Guy says. Psychiatrist Leah Dickstein, a friend of Wilbur's and Mason's, spoke with her near the end. quot;She said she was at a point where she had forgiven her mother. She let that anger go.quot;


Her alter egos:

Sybil: The 'real' patient, Sybil was 'extremely suggestible'
Victoria Antoinette Scharleau (1926): nicknamed Vicky; a self-assured, sophisticated, attractive blonde; the memory trace of Sybil's selves. Warm and cultured, claimed total recall
Peggy Lou Baldwin (1926): an assertive, enthusiastic, and often angry pixie with a pug nose, a Dutch haircut, and a mischievous smile.: Assertive and eager, but obstinate and quick to anger
Peggy Ann Baldwin (1926): a counterpart of Peggy Lou with similar physical characteristics; she is more often fearful than angry. More tactful than Peggy Lou, also more fearful
Mary Lucinda Saunders Dorsett (1933): a thoughtful, contemplative, maternal, homeloving person; she is plump and has long dark-brown hair parted on the side. The most religious personality; a maternal homebody
Marcia Lynn Dorsett (1927): last name sometimes Baldwin; a writer and painter; extremely emotional; she hasa shield-shaped face, gray eyes, and brown hair parted on the side. A fiery painter and writer; British accent
Vanessa Gail Dorsett (1935): intensely dramatic and extremely attractive; a tall redhead with a willowy figure, light brown eyes, and an expressive oval face. Attractive and dramatic, Vanessa scorned religion
Mike Dorsett (1928): one of Sybil's two male selves; a builder and a carpenter, he has olive skin, dark hair,
and brown eyes. A proud, swarthy carpenter; wanted to 'give a girl a baby'
Sid Dorsett (1928): one of Sybil's two male selves; a carpenter and a general handyman; he has fair skin, dark hair, and blue eyes. Also a carpenter, but fair-skinned and less outspoken
Nancy Lou Ann Baldwin (date undetermined): interested in politics as fulfillment of biblical prophecy and intensely afraid of Roman Catholics; fey; her physical characteristics resemble those of the Peggys. Paranoid; obsessed with Armageddon and conspiracy
Sybil Ann Dorsett (1928): listless to the point of neurasthenia; pale and timid with ash-blonde hair, an oval face, and a straight nose. Pale, timid and extremely lethargic; the defeated Sybil
Ruthie Dorsett (date undetermined): a baby; one of the lesser developed selves. A toddler, the Ruthie personality was poorly developed
Clara Dorsett (date undetermined): intensely religious; highly critical of the waking Sybil. Very religious; critical and resentful of Sybil
Helen Dorsett (1929): intensely afraid but determined to achieve fulfillment; she has light brown hair, hazel eyes, a straight nose, and thin lips. Timid, afraid, but determined 'to be somebody'
Marjorie Dorsett (1928): serene, vivacious, and quick to laugh; a tease; a small, willowy brunette with fair skin and a pug nose. quick to laugh, enjoyed parties and travel
The Blonde (1946): nameless; a perpetual teenager; has blonde curly hair and a lilting voice. A nameless teen, fun-loving and carefree.
The New Sybil (1965): the seventeenth self; an amalgam of the other sixteen selves.

Young Sybil, played by Natasha Ryan

Was Sybil's Story Bogus?
Of course, the debunkers now turn up to try to cash in.
Why wasn't this revealed when Shirley was still around?