Sunday, November 13, 2011

Review of "Sybil in her own words" by Patrick Suraci, Ph.D.

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After reading the book "Sybil in her own words" by Patrick Suraci, Ph.D., I realized the importance of this book. The people in the Sybil story are treated like human beings and they are allowed to speak about their own life stories. What is interesting about this book, is that it is written by a professional who has experience with the scientific knowledge of MPD.

The book shows how Dr. Connie Wilbur's treatment was successful and that Shirley Mason (Sybil) never had a relapse or return of her MPD symptoms after her treatment with Wilbur. She was able to live a full life, as shown in her interactions and discussions with Patrick Suraci, Ph.D.

In chapter seven, Dr. Suraci goes back to Shirley Mason's home town to check on her story and validate it. He speaks with three women, Wilma Bode, Betty Christen and Patricia Alcott, who were classmates and playmates with Shirley in her childhood. Wilma and Betty were two of the few children that were able to enter Shirley's household.

Wilma stated, "We always said that her mother was an old witch." She describes Shirley as having troubles concentrating in school and not knowing if she was day dreaming or that her attention was drawn away. Wilma is asked if she believes if Shirley was abused. Wilma states that she believes that some of what is written in the book did happen.

Betty talks about Shirley's mother. She states that her mother never came over to visit, but would come over and look (or peek) in the windows when they had company. She said that "Ms. Mason relieved herself in a neighbor's yard."

Patricia describes Shirley's mother as "strange, stern, raucous" and "someone to stay away from." She states that Shirley's mother (Mattie) "had a shrill voice and ridiculed Shirley." Shirley's mother repeated things over and over again. Patricia stated Mattie "played the piano too loudly, bombastically, venting anger. She was harsh." She said that Shirley's father (Wilbur) "stood in shaded corners with his head down."

Patrick Suraci describes the mechanism of "splitting" that contributed to the development of Shirley's personalities. Shirley came to view Mattie sometimes as the "good mother" and sometimes as the "bad mother."

In his chapter on Shirley in New York, Patrick Suraci speaks with Jim and Naomi, Shirley's closest living relatives. Jim had noticed that on the phone Shirley "was a different personality, a different person." Naomi agreed and described a strong change in personality also. Naomi in Chapter Nine tells Patrick that Shirley and Dr. Wilbur confirmed that the book Sybil "was 100% accurate."

The pictures in the book are excellent. Under one of the pictures drawn by Shirley's alter Peggy of a Christmas tree (in black and white), the note describes that Christmas was unpleasant for Shirley because she would receive a lot of games and toys which her mother would put away and not let her play with. Shirley was told she could play with them another time. Yet her mother would give them away to a poor family that didn't have anything.

Patrick Suraci states in his chapter Controversy Over Sybil that Mason, Schreiber and Wilbur were offered money, television and media interviews to reveal Shirley's identity, but did not do this. He discusses the problems with Dr. Herbert Spiegel's view of the Sybil story, as well as other skeptical of the story.

I highly recommend this book to those interested in the Sybil story. It is very well documented, using actual transcripts of conversations with those in the story and those that knew Shirley, showing that the original Sybil book was an accurate description of Shirley's life.

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