Findings and Analysis

This thesis was initiated to conduct a psychoanalytic Study of the much acclaimed literature `Sybil` authored by Flora Rheta Schreiber in the Light of Freudian Theories. In this regard the researcher intended to find whether Freud`s theories can be applied to the character of Sybil as presented by Schreiber`s.
The above aim was intended by inquiring into the causes of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) and explore into the specific reason such as the impact of childhood experiences on a person`s experiences in adulthood.
For the stated inquiry in the initial introductory chapter, the researcher giving an overview of the character of Sybil as presented by Schreiber briefly described the features of the novel and furthered to brief the issues related to MPD such that a base can be built to identify a problem to be investigated. The prime identified issue as indicated in the studies of Freud include:
The view that adverse childhood experiences contribute to risk for psychological disorders in adult life has a long history in psychology and psychiatry
Childhood maltreatment, sexual abuse, having a caretaker withdraws from them emotionally, treating them inconsistently, and denying their thoughts and feelings are of important factors which lead to adulthood disorders and
Once unconscious conflicts and emotions were made conscious that they could be discussed and resolved`.
Thus the research furthered to investigate the existence of this theory as proposed by Freud.
This chapter in furtherance will present an overview of the research findings to further conduct the analysis in the light of the posed research questions.
As such this chapter is divided into two sections. The first initial section will present an overview of the data findings and the second analysis section will analyse the data in the light of the research questions poised in the initial introductory chapter.
Data Findings
To inquire into and attain the focal aim of the research, the researchers` principle investigation was on three aspects they include:
1) introduction to, Flora Rheta Schreiber`s novel Sybil
2) Sigmund Freud`s theories and legacy to psychology
3) Discussion of and analysis of Sybil`s alternative characters.
As such this section furthers to present an overview of the findings such that the same can be analysed in the light of the poised research question.
Flora Rheta Schreiber`s Sybil
Sybil is the real story of Sybil Isabel Dorsett who has developed around sixteen personalities for dealing with a severe traumatic childhood. From the time of Sybil`s birth, her life has been a battle after battle. By the time Sybil was two years old she had to fight against her surroundings so hard that no more energy was with her and she had to look for alternate selves to come to her rescue.
Sybil`s mother Hattie Dorsett was torturing her in an unimaginable manner. In course of attending Columbia University as a young girl Sybil experienced a time lapse. Her life at home was never comfortable and she was not able to recover.
As per the recommendation of her family doctor, Sybil met Dr Cornelia Wilbur, a psychologist. With the help of his sessions Sybil could start recognizing and accepting her multiple personality disorder on the whole. In her case the MPD was recognized only after she saw her doctor for a normal physical illness concerned with headache. The reason for this multiple personality disorder in the case of Sybil is only because of the exceptional trauma caused by her mother to her while she was still young.
Sybil started to expose the presence of another person within her body. Different types of personalities were exposed by Sybil in course of time which include the following i.e. a flirt, a pianist, a mother, the two men, an infant and a writer.
It is evident from the above discussions that any type of a typical childhood experiences can lead to disorders of this kind in adulthood. The same is very much evident from the multiple personalities of Sybil.
Sigmund Freud`s theories and legacy to psychology
Freud`s theory and legacy to psychology is considered as the key aspect for the present research which is investigating to apply his theory to the multiple characters of Sybil, the main character depicted in the novel of Flora Rheta Schreiber.
As such in the previous chapters a wide discussion of the Freud`s theories was carried out this section analyses the theory in the light of the focal aim of the research study.
Consideration to Freud`s theory to the multiple characters of Sybil gains importance in the light of the fact that the emergent multiple characters as described by Flora in her novel stands in the context of Freud`s theory.
The theory as proposed by Freud wherein the aspect of sexuality of a child passing through varied developmental stages in the life is similar to that of the description of the character of Sybil most importantly below the age of thirteen years. Thus more emphasis on analysing Freud`s theory is done in this section. The founder for psychoanalysis and the relevant psychodynamic approach towards psychology is Sigmund Freud. The inventions relating to the therapies for the treatment of mental disorders are some of the great legacies of Freud.
Freud is of a firm opinion that once there are conflicts in an unconscious state and when the emotions at that particular time are made conscious then the same could very well be discussed and even resolved too.
According to Freud the beginning years of any child`s life would certainly have an impact to a great extent in the later course of his/her life. Adult neurosis even before the child is nine years of age could be a vulnerable aspect of this. In the course of his associated work with his friend and colleague by name Josef Breuer, Freud has actually come out with his own theory of hysteria i.e. a form of neurosis which is resultant of a suppressed memory of any sexual trauma like rape or sexual abuse in childhood.
A theory of mind or personality has been described by Freud in the beginning of twentieth century. The central point to this psychological approach is actually the concept relevant to the unconscious mental process. This gives an indication that any kind of unconscious motivation has a role to play in the course of determining the nature of our behaviour. Freud had developed many hypothetical models in order to demonstrate as to how the mind or in other words psyche actually works. According to Freud, mental life has been divided into three compartments they typically include
1) conscious (Cs),
2) unconscious (Ucs) and
3) preconscious (Pcs)
Freud states that the conscious is actually a part of the mind which is the controlling factor responsible for all the awareness one has on the prevailing situations/conditions. The preconscious part of the mind consists of everything one can be aware of but at the same time not thinking about it. The unconscious part of the mind is actually not known to anyone of us. Freud has developed a personality oriented structural model in tune to these consciousness levels and described the same as ego and super ego. The different stages relevant to the psychosexual development as stated by Freud have been completed in a particular pre-determined sequence and the same can result either in a successful completion i.e. developing into a healthy personality or it can even result in a total failure too i.e. developing into a very unhealthy personality.
As per the theory evolved by Freud the sexuality aspect of any children actually passes through a series of developmental stages particularly in their first thirteen years of life. And at each and every stage the relevant dominating erotogenic zones at a particular age are being focussed rather centred.
As Freud says all of us have very strong sexual urges and aggressive desires. As per the claim of Freud all of us go through certain specific stages in course of our growing and these stages are actually determined by some kind of pleasure seeking activities as these focus around the same.
Discussion of and analysis of Sybil`s alternative characters
Basing on the discussions pertaining to the different personalities of Sybil i.e. the original main personality, as well as the other different personalities that the character emerged it is apparent that at an early stage itself it has split as the seven characters started emerging. These characters are named as Vicky, Ruthie, Blonde, Peggy Louisiana, Helen, Marjorie and Clara. The character named as Vicky has further split into four different personalities namely Marcia, Vanessa, Mary and Sybil Ann. The character of Peggy Louisiana has split further into another three more characters named as Nancy, Peggy Lou and Peggy Ann.
The entire story together could be made by Vicky as it was she who witnessed Sybil`s life right from her early childhood. Vicky has been a very important personality. She was the lone character who was continuously aware of what was happening in Sybil`s life besides having an access to all relevant memories of Sybil. She was equally able to communicate with the entire lot of personalities.
Four more characters have been evolved from Vicky and out of which two were positive and two were negative. While both Marcia and Vanessa were positive and even creative too, Mary and Sybil Ann happened to be negative and they have gone to the extent of carrying even Vicky`s emotional costs also.
The self concepts relating to these new characters have either been drawn from Vicky or the same had to obviously come from Vicky herself since she possessed all the necessary concepts. For example Vanessa`s confidence to perform as musician has actually come from Vicky and not from Sybil.
On the other hand Peggy was actually created by one of the earlier dissociations of Sybil in order to cope up with the anger what Sybil used to have against her own mother but never was able to express it out. This was a clear indication that when one comes across any angry personality then it can be said that he can be one among the common personalities in majority of the MPD patients.
Subsequently by splitting into angry part as Peggy Lou and afraid part as Peggy Ann, the importance of Peggy over Sybil could easily be seen from the fact that it was she who has taken over her life for over two years particularly when things were found to be too difficult to cope up.
Nancy (Winer, 1978) had also created Kitty first which happened to be her angry alter ego so that she can deal with all those aggressive strong feelings. Even Lillian was created just to cope up with the anger which Nancy had towards her husband particularly when she found out that her husband was having an affair with another woman while she was in the hospital at that time giving birth to her/their child.
Nancy (Winer, 1978) even created a seductive type of personality like Lillian just to take care of her sex life and to catch up her husband running around the other women. During the first menstruation of Sybil, Hattie has told her that it was indeed a curse as the same would lead to the creation of Mary.
Sybil`s male personalities are Sid and Mike. Both of them are the male authority figures in the life of Sybil and they are her father and grandfather. Whenever Sybil hears her mother`s voice she used to get so much frightened that she makes over into Ruthie the other character of Sybil who happens to be a helpless and a regressive pre-verbal baby.
Clara is typically very religious and highly critical of Sybil`s waking. And Helen is very much similar to Sybil Ann and is always depressed and listless. Marjorie always enjoys intellectual competitions from which Sybil usually shirks away. Sybil`s awakening sexuality has been represented by the Blonde and in fact Sybil always wanted to be a woman of that kind. It was Blonde who helped Sybil to continue her love affair with Ramon.
Summary of Data Findings
Flora Rheta Schreiber`s Sybil is about her sixteen personalities developed to deal with her severe traumatic childhood. This is because of the torture by her mother Hattie Dorsett. She came to know about her multiple personality order when she met Dr Cornelia Wilbur, a psychologist. The two theories as stated by Freud can be applied here that read- 1) the initial stages of any child`s life will have an impact in his/her adult life 2) the aspect of sexuality of a child passes through different developmental stages in the life. Such stages in case of Sybil are nothing but the sixteen different personalities. Vicky, Ruthie, Blonde, Peggy Louisiana, Helen, Marjorie and Clara are the seven characters that were developed in the initial stages of her MPD. In addition Vicky has four different characters Marcia, Vanessa, Mary and Sybil Ann and Peggy Louisiana has three characters Nancy, Peggy Lou and Peggy Ann. Sid and Mike are two male personalities of Sybil.
Vicky is the main personality in the story of Sybil as she is aware of all the personalities and was able to communicate with all of them. Another main character is Peggy as this character was evolved during the time when Sybil found it difficult to manage the things. One more main character of Sybil is Blonde as this personality helped Sybil to maintain her love affair with Ramon. The character of Ruthie use to be evolved when the fear increases in the Sybil because of her mother`s voice but this personality is helpless to Sybil. Clara was very eager to learn, Helen was very determined in achieving fulfilment. Marjorie enjoyed all the intellectual competitions from which Sybil is away from.
Having discussed the case of Sybil, Freud`s theories and discussed the alternative characters of Sybil in relation to the psychological aspect and in consideration to Freud`s theories the research furthers to analyse the same in the next section.
Data Analysis
As stated this section of data analysis, analysis of data will be done in the light of the poised research questions. As such initially each of the questions is presented by initially justifying the importance of the poised research question and will further to analyse them in the light of the data that has been discussed in the previous chapters.
Causes of MPD
The initial first research question of the thesis was to inquire into the reasons and causes of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). In this regard an extensive study and evaluation of literary and empirical perception has been discussed in the previous chapters.
This section to find appropriate answer to the poised research question furthers to analyse the causes of MPD such that appropriate conclusions can be drawn in the light of the key focus area of the research.
The multiple personality is actually a brain disorder resultant of severe life experiences of any individual person. This is clearly evident from the characters of Sybil as she had a very horrific experience from her childhood. As informed and discussed earlier MPD severely displays two or several identities in a person and in case of Sybil the character depicted 16 personalities.
It has also been observed that while adopting certain personality the victim loses the self control and become unconscious and behaves differently by projecting unique style and describing themselves with a unique name. In case of Sybil the difference characters as identified by the author include calling the prime character with sixteen different names.
In addition to the above the various personalities emerging out of Sybil, at times also denied of the knowledge of other personalities and make the situation very critical this is a clear indication for to understand and come to a conclusions that the characters are indicative of open conflict.
During the process of therapy, Sybil however presented herself with disorders, where she was able to identify some of the emergent characters she refused to admit other characters.
Such type of disorders, as discussed in varied literatures and empirical evidences, indicative of the multiple personalities as acquired by the victim, it can be understood that it is mainly because of genetic mutations that takes place within and indirectly lead to mental or emotional or physical illness and sometimes even cause death of a person.
However in case of Sybil though there are no signs to argue that the causes was genetic disorder or lead the character to die nor there is any evidence depicting physical illness it can be however seen the character of Sybil that mutations did occurred as in all of the multiple personalities that came into light were reasons as sudden changes in the description of the self by identifying with not only different names but with different characters as well.
In general abused children in a society will become abusers without their self awareness and the most severe and common form of child abuse found to be is parents commit towards their children. Any type of shortcoming in the early parental care is usually associated with relevant psychosocial disorders and further the adverse childhood experiences invariably contribute to the risk of psychological disorder in the adult life. On the other hand, the trauma involving an extremely emotional content and child sexual abuse are also considered as one of the main causes of MPD and dissociation since such type of abuses or illness intervenes into one`s daily life and deteriorates their normal life.
Further it can be stated that the initial few years of any child`s life seem to have a greater impact on the rest of his/her total life and the vulnerability towards adult neurosis could well be acquired even before the child attains the age of nine. The first symptom of any multiple personality disorder generally involves amnesia.
Thus, MPD can be argued as a result from an extremely and repeated trauma which takes place during certain important stages of development of any individuals childhood experiences. Most often this kind of trauma involves severe emotional and physical or sexual abuse. The problem with the diagnosis of Multiple Personality Disorder is that the disease is often hidden behind other disorders that have stemmed from MPD such as depression and/or anxiety.
Impact of Childhood Experience on adult disorder
The second following key research question poised in the light of the discussed problem statement was to investigate into and find the role of childhood experiences in adulthood disorders.
In this regard the researcher in the previous chapters extensively discussed the issues in two forms. Firstly the evidences as intimated in the novel by Flora in the form of the prime character of the novel Sybil, wherein a thorough description of the character`s childhood experiences and its impact leading to and emergence of multiple characters during the adulthood of the character is found. Secondly the theory as established by Freud that categorically attempted to inform how the initial years of any child`s life experiences would impact the later years of that child`s life i.e. adulthood.
Analysis of the character of Sybil and the theory of Freud does indicate impact of childhood experience on ones adulthood.
A more detailed analysis of the same is done in this section such that related conclusions to establish the connection between the multiple characters of Sybil and Freud`s theory can be categorically stated to justify the conduct of the research and to find the answers to the poised key research questions.
The multiple personality disorder in adulthood has its roots in childhood experience. The impact of the childhood abusive experiences in relation to growth and development were well documented and the same is associated with different mental health problems. In relation to adult disorder Anon (2012) describes it as the impact of childhood experience and it occurs because of severe emotional or physical abuse or it could even be sexual abuse or trauma.
The case of Sybil is a clear example of the impact of childhood experiences resulting in adulthood disorder. According to Flora, Sybil has an awful childhood experiences wherein she had to undergo varied physical abuses resulting in emotional as well as physical abuse. The fearful physical and emotional abuse of the character was to such an extent that clear indications of sexual abuse are also evident.
The above analysis is indicative of the earlier discussions of the character that indicating the impact of childhood experiences of Sybil resulting in MPD in the adult life of the character. Evidence to this effect can also be found in the studies of Goldbert (1994) who categofically informs that the childhood experiences have been found to be stronger enough to predict the subsequent development of certain mental health disorders that include parental psychopathology, interpersonal traumas particularly sexual abuse and even an emotional abuse. The studies of Goldberg (1994) further informs that the prevalence of depressive disorders that have been increased are linked to the sexual or emotional and childhood physical abuse.
In accordance to the argument of Goldberg, Sybil also has developed depressive disorder that furthered to take the form of MPD in the course of time all because of the awful childhood experiences wherein Sybil underwent stressful physical, metal and sexual abuses.
The abusive environments in which children experience physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse will later produce mental disorder during their adulthood. The physical tortures and mental traumas experienced by Sybil in her early childhood from her mother have had its influence on her and has given rise to multiple personality disorders in her.
The emergence of these multiple personalities is however developed within children because of physical or emotional abuse they receive from their parents. Such abuse during the early childhood becomes the main cause of disorder that would emerge later in their adulthood.
The adverse childhood experiences not only includes physical, verbal or sexual abuse but also considers family dysfunction that later have its impact on health in adulthood that include depression, physical and mental illness of a person. The same was observed in the case of Sybil who suffered a lot from both physical and mental illness.
Flora Rheta, a journalist specialised in psychiatric issues expressed that Sybil when she was a child suffered bizarre and sexual abuse at the hands of her mother, furthers to argue that she had also left with no memory of herself, but of her other personalities.
Thus, indicative of the discussed literary contents on psychoanalysis and in comparison to that of the character of Sybil as presented by Flora, this research is of the opinion that the multiple personality disorders of Sybil were all triggered mainly due to mental, physical and sexual abuse by her mother when she was a child further to establish that diverse childhood experiences impacts a individuals adulthood.
Possibility of application of Freud`s theory
The final and key research question of the present thesis was to find the possibility of application of Freud`s theories on the alter characters of Sybil as presented by Schreiber.
Defining the above indicated question gains importance in the light of the fact that there exists similarity of the Sybil`s characters as depicted by Schreiber to that of the Freud`s theory and imperatively the researcher`s focal aim of application of Freud`s theory to the character of Sybil.
Thus, based on the extensive researching on Freud`s theory focusing on aspects discussed in previously further analysis of the same is done in this section such that related conclusions within the context of the key research question are made in the concluding chapter.
The psychoanalytic theory of Freud has provided a radical new approach not only for the analysis but also for the treatment of any kind of abnormal adult behaviour. An attempt of application of the theory as proposed by Freud upon the character of Sybil`s MPD also cannot be ruled out as the theory of Freud indicates all of the possible features as observed by Freud.
Citing an example for the include the argument of Freud that psychoanalytic concept of any human behaviour as proposed by the philosopher is actually based on a particular psychoanalytic theory and in case of Sybil a careful observation of the different characters and their behaviour clearly indicate `typical human behaviour` as discussed earlier in psycho analysis.
More emphasis can be also gained analysing the Sybil`s character with the theoretical and psychological concepts like ego and superego as proposed by Freud.
The theory of ego and superego as proposed by Freud are actually in fact useful tools for understanding the mind`s dynamics and the dynamics of Sybil`s mind in relation to the varied personalities is a clear evidence of egoistic characteristics as informed by Freud in his psychoanalytic theory more imperatively in the `structural personality model` wherein Freud has developed a structural personality model involving what he termed as id, ego, and superego that conceptually describes and defines the conscious and unconscious mind of an individual.
Freud theory says that the unconscious is actually the source for all our motivations, no matter whether they could be simple desires for some food or sex or for some kind of neurotic compulsions or even certain motives of an artist or a scientist. In case of Sybil the multiple personalities depicting different characters in support of the original Sybil is a clear indication of the unsatisfied desires of actual Sybil which were attempted with the emergent personalities.
Freud`s theory furthers informs that the unconscious impulses normally find expression in the dreams, tongue slipping, transient forgetting and some neurotic symptoms related to mental illness and some kind of socially approved behaviour connected with either an artistic or a activity that gets involved in literary output as well.
In case of Sybil, neither the character attempted to find resolutions in the dreams nor was there any slip of tongue however the fact that not all of the personalities of Sybil did recollect the characters of other personalities and however some of them did recollect the characters of other personalities is a clear indication of the `transient forgetting` and `neurotic symptom` resulting in mental illness and giving rise to MPD.
Each of Freud`s theory strongly believes that once there is a conflict in the unconscious state and emotions have been made conscious then they can easily be discussed and even resolved as well.
In the course of his collaborative work along with Breuer, Freud has formulated his own theory of hysteria and according to which hysteria is actually a kind of neurosis which happens to be the resultant of a suppressed memory of any sexual trauma like rape or any sexual abuse in the childhood.
The concept of unconscious mental processes is the main point to a psychological approach which suggests that these unconscious motivations should have a role in the course of determining our behaviour.
As per the theory of Freud the sexuality aspect in children passes through a series of developmental stages while they were still in the initial thirteen years of their age and each stage focussing on a particular erotogenic zone which dominates the given age.
The psychological stages as described by Freud were widely employed by most of the psychologists in order to understand the development in any child as such the attempt of the researcher in application of the same to the character of Sybil can be further justified
Summary of Data Analysis
The research as part of the focal aim to conduct a thorough investigation to study the character of Sybil as presented in the novel authored by Flora Rheta Schreiber and evaluate the described features characters in the light of the theories of psychoanalysis as proposed by Freud, furthered to analyse the same in the light of the key research questions poised for the present investigation.
Based on the analysis of the research findings the researcher is of the view that the present study was successful in finding appropriate answers to the research question.
In the context of the first research question that was initiated to find the main reasons that causes multiple personality disorder (MPD) the literature and other related studies and empirical studies have categorically indicated varied causes when analysed in the context of the present research study it is found that principally the trauma that a individual faces in the childhood facing acute physical, mental and psychological stress due to similar abuses are mostly inclined to turn into multiple personality disorder as a result of the individual attempt in coping with the stress other personalities come into picture.
Similarly in the context of the second research question that was intended to find the role of childhood experiences resulting in adulthood disorder the analysis of the literary indications and the prime character of the novel Sybil are assessed to be similar in many aspects. Similar to the scientific theory that indicates extensive disorder in an individual`s adulthood is mostly because of the childhood experiences. The novels prime character, Sybil who underwent severe physical and emotional abuses in her childhood resulted in more severe adulthood wherein 16 multiple personalities seem to have emerged.
Finally in terms of the third research question wherein the researcher intended to find whether Freud`s theories can be applied to Sybil as indicated in the analysis most of the aspects of Freud`s theories are relatively evident in the character depicted as Sybil by Flora.
Indicative of the above discussion the researcher is of the opinion that all of the three key research questions poised to inquire and investigate into the focal aim of the study are successfully attempted to have found an appropriate answers.