By Mehak Bahri
Each individual experiences different kinds of emotions. Emotions or feelings can be a tricky concept. Sometimes feelings, like love, or devotion last for an entire lifetime and other times feelings stay for an hour or less.
Talking about personalities, our own identities, are they concrete and structured into one category?
It isn’t necessary that you behave in the same way as you do in front of your ‘rishtedaars’ and how you chill with your friends.
Our identity is a whole unit; but we have different feelings and emotions all within our single identity.
If I gave you another example; daydreaming. We’re all guilty of it, especially when we have a two pound book in front of us during the days before our oh-so-tiresome examinations. During our daydreams we’re aware of our surroundings. What if, during the bouts of daydream a person loses sense of the environment and ends up in a completely different space, without knowing how they got there and why?
Shirley Ardell Mason, or popularly categorized as ‘Sybil’ was the woman responsible for how the world came to know about SPLIT PERSONALITY DISORDER, or DISSOCIATIVE IDENTITY DISORDER.
Sybil was the character created by Dr. Wilbur, Mason’s psychiatrist who did not want the world to know the true identity of her after she published the study of Mason’s split personalities and how they were treated.
When Dr. Wilbur first diagnosed Sybil with Multiple Personality Disorder, she was dismissed as being an attention hungry woman. “Sybil is probably suffering from Hysteria, which is a women’s disease. Check her menstrual cycle,” was what other psychiatrists shrugged off Dr. Wilbur’s concerns with. Little did they know, they had mistaken a full blown tornado for a light drizzle.
Dwelling into Sybil’s past, Dr. Wilbur was exposed to the most horrific experiences that any little girl can go through. Sybil’s mother was a diagnosed schizophrenic and subjected her daughter to severe mental, physical and sexual abuse. The mother wanted Sybil to go Heaven, and so she performed all these ‘punishments’ so she would be redeemed. This was all done under the eye of the father who simply said that raising a child is a mother’s job. The only two people that Sybil was close to were her Grandma and her previous boyfriend, Tommy. Both of them died, tragically. During her early childhood Sybil transformed into Peggy, an alter personality who was always angry with ‘all the people’.
Different incidents brought out different personalities in Sybil. The total came out to be SIXTEEN. Sixteen personalities lived inside Sybil that she had no idea about. Sometimes they made her buy clothes she never wanted, they made her do things she wouldn’t have done ordinarily. If you put yourself into Sybil’s shoes the real horror would unfold. Imagine, you’re studying Economics, and all of a sudden you’re on a Giant Wheel and you have no idea how you got there.
The past is present when you carry it with you. Sybil carried her past with her. She was a three year old, an eight year old, an eighteen year old who was in fact, well in her thirties. If getting angry was a sin according to Sybil’s mother, Sybil’s alternate personality, Peggy would do that for her. If mingling with boys was a mistaken indulgence, then Vicky would surface within Sybil; the flirty French girl. A little girl pretended, but she pretended so intensely that the pretending became real.
Sybil had 16 distinct personalities. Sybil herself had forced herself to forget all bad memories that her mother had scarred her with. She had 15 other personalities to remember those for her. All these personalities within her had their own identities, memories and series of conflicts. Yet, none of them had the dimensions of a complete individual.
Despite significant proofs, the major one being Sybil’s paintings; 16 different painting styles as if they were painted by 16 different artists but all with the same hand, many believed her case to be a hoax. Before Sybil, there were only a 100 registered cases of Dissociative Identity Disorder and her case 40,000 cases surfaced. Her case was dismissed as a simple hysteria disorder, a public gimmick, Dr. Wilbur’s chance at fame, and just another media stretched hoax. It would have been better if it were a hoax.
The terrifying, intimidating horrors that Sybil experienced would DEFINITELY have been better if they were just fake. Well, at least after Sybil “Multiple Personality Disorder” was a viable psychiatric diagnosis.
Was Sybil pretending like she did during her childhood when her mother abused her? Did she really have those murky personalities within herself? Was each personality controlling one emotional trait of Sybil? It is up to you, however you want to answer those questions and whatever your beliefs hold.