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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
As a young child, Sybil Dorsett (Sally Field) was so severely abused by her schizophrenic mother Hattie (Martine Bartlett) that her psyche dissociated into 13 different personalities, each hiding or preserving aspects of her psyche and causing her to seek help from psychiatrist Cornelia Wilbur (Joanne Woodward).
The TV miniseries Sybil was based on a 1973 book titled Sybil: The True Story of a Woman Possessed by 16 Separate Personalities by American journalist Flora Rheta Schreiber. The book was adapted for the screen by American screenwriter Stewart Stern. The book was also made into the television movie Sybil in 2007.
Several years after Schreiber's book was released, it was learned that Sybil was based on the case of Shirley Ardell Mason. However, in 2011, American journalist Debbie Nathan published Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case in which she claimed that Sybil/Shirley merely suffered from pernicious anemia and that Dr Wilbur manipulated Mason in order to obtain a book deal. Unfortunately, Mason, her mother, and Dr Wilbur are all deceased, so there is no way to ascertain the true situation.
Once known as multiple personality disorder (MPD), the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) defines 'dissociative identity disorder' (DID) as the presence of two or more distinct personality states that control the behavior of a primary individual, resulting in gaps of memory and often the result of severe childhood trauma.
According to Sybil, every morning Hattie would tie her to the table in the green kitchen, insert flashlights, knives, buttonhooks, and other sharp things into her vagina, give her a cold water enema (possibly also filling her bladder with water), then tie her to the piano with dishtowels and force her to hold the water until she finished playing music by composers such as Bach, Beethoven, and Dvorak.
It's the 4th movement of Dvorak's New World Symphony #9.
After finally remembering what Hattie did to her in the green kitchen, Sybil cries out, 'I am Sybil, and I remember! And I hate her!' Dr Wilbur and Sybil both agree that it may now be safe to reintegrate all the separate personalities. Wilbur hypnotizes Sybil and begins to summon them forth one by one (they are depicted as stepping out from behind trees) -- first Vicky, followed by Marcia, then the others, ending up with angry little Peggy, whom Sybil cradles in her arms. In a voiceover, Dr Wilbur explains, 'Our work together lasted 11 years. Today, Sybil lives peacefully in a small college town where she's a professor of Art. There's not enough time in the day for her to do everything she wants. But that time, in every sense, is her own. She tells me she's happy. I know she's free.'
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