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A Trinity of Affinity - The "Sybil" or Shirley Mason MPD scam

A Trinity of Affinity - The "Sybil" or Shirley Mason MPD scam

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Published by PaulGallagher
Published in History of Psychiatry, X (1999), 003-011.
Robert W. Rieber, Ph.D.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice 
Department of Psychology 

Published in History of Psychiatry, X (1999), 003-011.
Robert W. Rieber, Ph.D.

John Jay College of Criminal Justice 
Department of Psychology 

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Published by: PaulGallagher on Nov 02, 2011
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Published in
 History of Psychiatry, X 
(1999), 003-011.
Robert W. Rieber, Ph.D
 John Jay College of Criminal JusticeDepartment of Psychology445 West 59th Street New York, NY 10019(212) 237-8088FAX (212) 237-8742rwrieber@yahoo.com*Paper presented at the American Psychological Association’s Annual ConventionSan Francisco, 1998For reprints, send to the author at the above address.
This paper presents a discussion of the relationship between hypnosis, false memory, and multiple personality. Since Morton Prince’s classic case of multiple personality (Prince 1906),only two other cases rival Prince’s original work (Thigpen, C. and Cleckley, H, 1957; Schreiber,1973) in popularity.This paper illustrates startling new material regarding the third most famous of multiple personality case, that of Sybil. Tape recordings recently discovered document the fraudulent construction of multiple personality. The importance of the role of hypnosis is discussed in this presentation. The author of this paper knew the author of Sybil, Flora Schreiber, through many years before her death, and therefore is able to present first hand information about the author and her work.
"...to suggest during a trance the appearance of a secondary personage with a certain temperament and thatsecondary personage will usually give itself a name. One has therefore to be on ones guard in this matter against confounding naturally double persons and persons who are simply temporarily endowed with the belief that they must play the part of being double."
 Prince, 1890
Morton Prince, April 28, 1915 (
Rieber 1997
It was Morton Prince who wrote the first fully described case of multiple
 personality (The Dissociation of Personality
, London, 1906). Since then only two other cases have rivaledPrince’s original classic, Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Cleckley’s
Three Faces of Eve
(New York,Popular Library,1957) and Flora Rheta Schreiber’s
(New York, Warner Communications,1973). This paper will present startling new material regarding the third and most famous case of multiple personalities, that of Sybil. Tape recordings recently discovered will be presented thatdocument the fraudulent construction of multiple personality. The author of this paper knew Dr.Schreiber, the author of 
, for many years before her death and therefore, will be in a positionto present first hand information about the author and her work.The history of hypnosis clearly reveals four murky explanatory principles for theunderstanding of hypnotic phenomenon. The first is based on the notion that hypnosis isreducible merely to a 'brain state' (Hilgard, 1977). The second is based on the notion thathypnotic phenomenon is basically reducible to a 'mind state' (Braid, 1846). The third assumeshypnosis is nothing more than a person’s 'socially constructed reality' (Sarbin & Coe, 1972,Spanos 1996). And the last is premised on the notion that hypnosis is a myth and does not exist atall (Barber, 1969). In this paper, however, the author will argue that hypnosis is best understoodas a special kind of interpersonal relationship that requires a specific type of mental ability or capacity on the part of the person being hypnotized (Spiegel & Spiegel, 1978). This capacity of hypnotizability is a dynamic interaction process that takes place between an individual’s givencapacity for suggestion and dissociation. The degree of trust, motivation, and cooperation between the individuals involved is also an essential factor.Michael G. Kenny (1986) has skillfully shown that multiple personality is not simply amental disorder but rather a complex metaphorical response to the complexities within a givenculture. Although Kenney’s book is an important historical contribution to helping us understandthe social factors that may facilitate the development of Multiple Personality Disorder, nowreferred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID in the DSM-IV (American PsychiatricAssociation, 1994), it fails to appreciate the mental abilities inherent in the individual who ishighly hypnotizable.The second work I would like to make specific reference to is by Ian Hacking (1998). Inhis book, Hacking takes on a worthy cause, namely a systematic expose of the shallow practicesof a misrepresentation of DID and its intrinsic relationship to the recollection of false memoriesin psychotherapy. Carefully mapping out the historical background and endless polemics as wellas the various epistemological issues, Hacking's book has some important contributions to make.This paper will provide documentary evidence of the fraudulent aspects of the Sybil case, whichHacking alludes to in his book. Nevertheless, Hacking’s book suffers from a serious defect, namely he does notunderstand the nature of hypnosis nor does he adequately understand the dynamics of MortonPrince’s (1906) famous Sally Beauchamp case. One must also wonder why Hacking finds no problem with Jeffrey Masson’s theory discussed in his book (Masson 1984). This lack of criticism is especially puzzling since Masson’s role in the 'trouble in Freud’s archives' affair withKurt Eisler is as irresponsible and self- serving as most of Hacking’s false memory and multiple
 personality cases (Rieber 1998).While admitting the unwitting collaboration between patient and therapist has much to dowith the number and nature of the multiple personality, Hacking fails to see the significance of the reversal in the two characters in the classic 19th century case of Louis Vivet, as described byBourru and Burot (1885, 1886). The 'normal' person was the criminal type and therefore wouldnot count as the 'normal state' while the condition of the second person was docile and pious, etc.Clearly this is not an accidental reversal of a typical case, as that in the
book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
, rather it is much more typical of a psychopathic malingerer. To make things even worse,the use of Prince’s Beauchamp case suggests that Hacking failed to read Prince’s book carefully.If Hacking had understood what Prince had to say, he would know that Morton Prince’s handlingof this famous case was not 'monkey business' as were most of those Hacking discussed.Finally, we must take serious issue with Hacking’s discussion of Humphrey and Dennet(1989) and Braude (1991). Hacking argues his position as follows:
 He contends that the very phenomenon of a multiple personality demand a unity under the multiplicity. Starting with almost exactly the same suppositions as Ribot, he concludesthat there must be a transcendental ego. Who is right, Ribot or Braude? One possibility isthat one of the two men is right. The other is that both are wrong, no conclusions about the self can be derived from the phenomena of multiple personality. I take the later view.
If we understand Hacking correctly, he totally disbelieves that the study of the abnormalthrows some light on the normal and vice versa. Such a conclusion seems a superficialconclusion at best. Just because there have been so many historical misrepresentations of thediagnosis of DID in the literature, it does not warrant the conclusion that nothing can be learnedfrom DID regarding the nature of the mind. Surely if one accurately understood the'doubleganger' clinically in the history of Dissociative Disorders, there is much to be learnedabout this important human capacity of dissociation in terms of how it has both creative anddestructive potential in human consciousness and mentation (Rieber, 1997).
Personal account of my involvement in the Sybil case
Sometime during the fall of 1972 Flora Rheta Schreiber, who at that point was a colleague of mine at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, was discussing with me her book 
. Flora wasmost anxious to have the Sybil case written up in a legitimate scientific journal and was quitefrustrated because the paper she and Dr. Cornelia Wilbur had prepared for that purpose had beenturned down on several occasions. Flora knew I was doing research on the language of thementally ill at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. With this in mind, she handed me a bagof cassette tape recordings that she described as 'good material for you to do a study on'. Iremember having played one or two of the tapes to test the amount of background noise that was present in the recordings and abandoned the project because the tapes were too noisy. Our studyhad to do with 'pause time' and 'phonation time' in the dialogue of conversation. I believe Flora’smotivation in giving me the tapes was to obtain scientific publication in a good journal in order to support the legitimacy of the Sybil case. I stashed away the tapes in one of my desk drawersfor many years and believe I must have thrown a number of the tapes out because they were outof their cassette box and I assumed they were not worth keeping for re-use.

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