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HYPNOSIS, FALSE MEMORY, AND MULTIPLE PERSONALITY: A TRINITY OF AFFINITY*
Robert W. Rieber, Ph.D. John Jay College of Criminal Justice Department of Psychology 445 West 59th Street New York, NY 10019 (212) 237-8088 FAX (212) 237-8742 firstname.lastname@example.org *Paper presented at the American Psychological Association’s Annual Convention San Francisco, 1998 For 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 that secondary 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 (William James comments upon Morton Prince' paper)
"After all", as Miss Beauchamp used to say, referring to her different dissociated personalities, B1, B3, and B4—the saint, the devil and the woman, "they are all myself." And perhaps after all, Miss Beauchamp was not so very much unlike the rest of us. Morton Prince, April 28, 1915 (Rieber
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 rivaled Prince’s original classic, Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Cleckley’s Three Faces of Eve (New York, Popular Library,1957) and Flora Rheta Schreiber’s Sybil (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 that document the fraudulent construction of multiple personality. The author of this paper knew Dr. Schreiber, the author of Sybil, for many years before her death and therefore, will be in a position to present first hand information about the author and her work. The history of hypnosis clearly reveals four murky explanatory principles for the understanding of hypnotic phenomenon. The first is based on the notion that hypnosis is reducible merely to a 'brain state' (Hilgard, 1977). The second is based on the notion that hypnotic phenomenon is basically reducible to a 'mind state' (Braid, 1846). The third assumes hypnosis 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 at all (Barber, 1969). In this paper, however, the author will argue that hypnosis is best understood as 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 given capacity 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 a mental disorder but rather a complex metaphorical response to the complexities within a given culture. Although Kenney’s book is an important historical contribution to helping us understand the social factors that may facilitate the development of Multiple Personality Disorder, now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID in the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), it fails to appreciate the mental abilities inherent in the individual who is highly hypnotizable. The second work I would like to make specific reference to is by Ian Hacking (1998). In his book, Hacking takes on a worthy cause, namely a systematic expose of the shallow practices of a misrepresentation of DID and its intrinsic relationship to the recollection of false memories in psychotherapy. Carefully mapping out the historical background and endless polemics as well as 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, which Hacking alludes to in his book. Nevertheless, Hacking’s book suffers from a serious defect, namely he does not understand the nature of hypnosis nor does he adequately understand the dynamics of Morton Prince’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 with Kurt 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 do with 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 by Bourru and Burot (1885, 1886). The 'normal' person was the criminal type and therefore would not 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 handling of 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 concludes that there must be a transcendental ego. Who is right, Ribot or Braude? One possibility is that 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 abnormal throws some light on the normal and vice versa. Such a conclusion seems a superficial conclusion at best. Just because there have been so many historical misrepresentations of the diagnosis of DID in the literature, it does not warrant the conclusion that nothing can be learned from 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 learned about this important human capacity of dissociation in terms of how it has both creative and destructive 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 Sybil. Flora was most anxious to have the Sybil case written up in a legitimate scientific journal and was quite frustrated because the paper she and Dr. Cornelia Wilbur had prepared for that purpose had been turned down on several occasions. Flora knew I was doing research on the language of the mentally ill at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. With this in mind, she handed me a bag of cassette tape recordings that she described as 'good material for you to do a study on'. I remember 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 study had to do with 'pause time' and 'phonation time' in the dialogue of conversation. I believe Flora’s motivation 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 drawers for many years and believe I must have thrown a number of the tapes out because they were out of their cassette box and I assumed they were not worth keeping for re-use.
At any rate, I had completely forgotten about the tapes until the spring of 1997 when Dr. Herbert Spiegel, a colleague of mine, was discussing an interview which was conducted with him about the Sybil case (New York Review of Books, article by Borch-Jacobsen, 1997). It was during that occasion I remembered that I probably had some tapes Flora had given me concerning the Sybil case. A search through my office desk drawers revealed two one- hour tapes consisting of a dialogue between Wilbur and Schreiber regarding the writing of their book. After having recently listened to the recordings for the very first time, I was shocked to hear how much important information was contained therein that would help us understand the real story behind Sybil as a multiple personality. Herbet Spiegel, in his interview with Borch-Jacobsen (1997), made it quite clear that although he had an extensive clinical knowledge of the case, he was not interested in collaborating with Schreiber and Wilbur in the writing of their book. They were interested in writing a book on multiple personality and Sybil was, as Spiegel put it 'a case of hysteria and not a multiple personality'. Upon careful examination of the two hours of conversation and the production of the written protocol of the tapes, highlights of the Schreiber-Wilbur dialogue and their significance will now be discussed. Highlights and significance of the tape recording1 The tape recordings can be broken down into ten section headings: 1. Dr. Cornelia Wilbur labels Sybil as a multiple personality Here all the personalities are said to be ‘free to come forth, no matter who uses the body’. Wilbur states, 'Then she [Sybil] went on, uh, and told me about Peggy Lou and Peggy Ann. And then I said to her… I wanted all of them to feel free to come during the appointment hours, no matter who was… using the body. I wanted all of them to feel free to come.' Wilbur then indicates she will tell Sylvia that she was a multiple personality. 2. Dr. Wilbur gives the multiple personalities their personal characteristics and plants Vicky rather than probing her It is clear from Wilbur’s own words that she was not exploring for the truth but rather planting the truth as she wanted it to be. For example, she explains, 'And I said, well, there’s a personality who calls herself Peggy. And uh, I said, she is pretty self- assertive… she can do things you can’t, and she [Sybil] was very, uh, obviously perturbed by this.' Wilbur continues, 'And I said… she wouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t approve of. She might do something that you wouldn’t think of doing… And, uh, I told her… there were at least two others, or three others, two Peggys. And,… it was Peggy Lou and Peggy Ann. And I said the other one calls herself Vicky. And she said, oh, I remember that.' 3. Inventing the primal scene, the grand illusion of an explanatory principle, and making the punishment fit the crime in the book The Freudian idea of the primal sexual scene and sexual abuse are obviously topics that will make any book both sensational and sexy. In keeping with these themes, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur states, 'And this business of the primal scene. And being forced to sleep in the same bedroom with her fucking parents. And I mean they were… is a very large thing you see. And this thing
you see, that constantly drove Mary to want to have her own house.' Flora Schreiber replies, 'Connie… Did Mary carry the burden of the primal scene? I thought it was Peggy who did.' At this point, Wilbur begins to discuss the story in the first chapter of the book. Here she brings up the details of the primal scene, during which Sybil is only a few years old. Assuming literary license, Flora elaborates by remembering for Sybil as she would imagine it to be. Wilbur explains, 'They screwed in front of her. She could see because her crib was here, the window was there, and the streetlight was right outside. She could see her father having an erection and putting it in her mother’s vagina… Did you know that?' 4. Projection of their own guilt of being a fraud to others; there is a madness in their method and method in their madness The conversation then drifts into the benefits of the enterprise and Wilbur mentions her wish fulfillment, 'I hope to God the book makes money before Florence [Sybil’s mother] drops dead.' The question of what kind of therapy was administered then becomes the topic of conversation. Wilbur says that she heard Franz Alexander allowed himself to get personally involved with his patients in order that he might help them. Wilbur states, 'So because I became involved enough… in the multiple personalities so that when trouble arose, I, there wasn’t anybody else had to go to bat for her. She had no family. And if anybody was going to keep track of her, I had to. Well, now this, according to the formalist, in psychoanalysis, is stepping outside. But I learnt this trick from a very, very fine source. I learned it from Franz Alexander. And uh, uh, the reason was, because I respected these people a great deal.' Schreiber replied, 'Had you worked with them?' Wilbur answered, 'No I had not. But I knew a great deal about their work and knew that, uh, they were not beyond experimenting in terms of their relationship with patients.' 5. Manufacturing Sybil’s memories One must remember that memories especially in DID cases can be easily created if you are not careful. Dr. Wilbur states, 'The first time we got any memories back, was… when… I gave her pentothal… and I said, when you were on pentothal you said so and so. And she said, oh I hadn’t thought about that in years. I’ve forgotten all about it… So I decided that I lost too much… trying to tell her what she said. So what I did was to tape what she said… played the tapes back so she could hear herself say it. Now this was very interesting. She would remember this for a certain period of time and then she would lose some of…it… Re-forget… Now one of the things that happened with the pentothal was that she liked it a great deal because it relieved her anxiety and the day after she had pentothal, she felt perfectly well… And, as a consequence, she became quite… involved. And on two or three occasions very demanding, about having pentothal… And it worried me because I had the feeling she was getting addicted. At least psychologically. And I didn’t want to go from a multiple personality to an addiction.' After the pentathol was administered, hypnosis was also administered in what Flora Schreiber called 'unleashing the unconscious'. Schreiber refers to sodium pentathol as 'truth serum' which of course it is not but, for her purposes, it works well. She goes on to make reference to what happened in hypnosis as she says to Dr. Wilbur, 'You introduced me to all the
personalities… Uh, you did do that on the pentothal?' Wilbur replies, 'Well, excepting sometimes… well, I did do it on the pentothal too. I mean, I would say to whoever was talking to me… well who are you? Well, I’m talking for, you know, and they’d name three or four. And I would say, what does Peggy think about this? What does Vicky think about this? And they would say, Well, I don’t know. And I would say, can I talk to Vicky… I could summon them [all].' 6. Shaping the rationale for Sybil as an honest liar Wilbur says to Sylvia, '…isn’t there is some connection between you and these other personalities?' Then Wilbur goes on to explain to Sybil that she was a multiple personality and there was a connection. She says, '…right after, I explained to her that she was a multiple personality. And I said, I am sure… there is a connection between you and these other states. And you need to find that connection… to build a bridge between you and these other states.' 7. Sybil becomes confused about her personalities, especially whether they are aware of each other At this point it is important for Schreiber and Wilbur to work out who is who in the line- up of multiple personalities. Wilbur begins the discussion by mentioning the following: 'She [Sybil] said, I can explain it to you but it is very difficult. She said, here on this side is Sylvia. And here on this side is me, Peggy and, I guess, some others.' Wilbur goes on to say, 'See, I knew about Peggy and Vicky at this point but I didn’t know much about the others. And she said, that there isn’t any connection between us at all… Except way underneath… And she stuck her hand under her leg like this. Yep. She said, except way underneath. And she said, there isn’t really a connection, there’s just a possibility of a connection… Well, I’ve thought about this many, many times. And I think that what she was trying to say, was that, if you consider all the altered states of consciousness, say in layers… that up here… There isn’t any real connection between Sylvia, and us. But way down deep, there is a connection.' 8. Creating the cause, i.e., 'The Abuse Excuse' We now get into the particulars about the sexual abuse. Dr. Wilbur, explained, 'If Sylvia got put upon by somebody they [the other personalities] were just terribly annoyed that Sylvia didn’t do something about it.' Flora Schreiber comments, 'Yeah, but in childhood when mother… ah, stuck a… you know, ice water up Sylvia’s bladder. The rest of them felt it.' Wilbur replies, 'Uh, yeah, because they shared the body but they didn’t have the emotions.' Schreiber responds, 'Now Peggy, and Clara, and Ruthie, report cruelties. Several of the personalities report cruelties…' Wilbur, 'But you need to watch it. Are they reporting cruelties that they were experiencing?' Schreiber replies, 'Or are they the Greek chorus for Sylvia?' 9. The amnesia wears off and Sybil admits to her false confession It is typical for hysterics as well as some Dissociative Identity Disorder individuals to have an amnesia effect and then for it to wear off, thus making them look as if they are inconsistent in their understanding of what happened to them. Sybil gives us a beautiful illustration of the
amnesia effect. For example, Flora Schreiber states, 'And there is one thing you mustn’t forget… is Sylvia’s fantastic letter… In which Sylvia said it was all a hoax. You know, that she never was a multiple personality. And, her mother was very good to her, and everything. It was a total denial.' 10. Teaching Sybil to hate and then explaining it Our last section deals with an irresponsible byproduct of getting too emotionally involved in the treatment of your patient. Wilbur and Schreiber have become the surrogate parents for Sybil and the consequence is that they must destroy any competition including Sybil’s real parents. This is exemplified in the following text: Wilbur states, 'Because I was pushing her. And uh, she wanted to get out from under… I was pushing her in terms of, you don’t love your mother. Your mother was wicked, bad, cruel, painful. And you really hated… If you don’t hate her, you ought to. And there is something the matter with you if you don’t hate her because a normal response to this kind of treatment would be hatred. Bitter hatred. And she couldn’t figure…to say I hate her. So… after she wrote this letter that came through with I hate her, I hate her, I hate her.' Summary and conclusion Thus far, with brief and unable pen, I have been able to tell the story of how it is possible to manufacture a multiple personality. The conditions surrounding my ability to expose this case were entirely serendipitous. Had it not been for a personal friendship with Flora Schreiber and Herb Spiegel, none of this material would have surfaced. More specifically, the tapes that Schreiber had given me would never have been looked at again if not for the interview in New York Review of Books that Dr. Spiegel participated in. As to the question of whether or not the Sybil case was an out and out fraud, that of course depends upon your personal definition of that term. No matter what you wish to call it, it was a conscious misrepresentation of the facts. The fine line between self-deception and deception of others is an important issue here. Unquestionably, Schreiber and Wilbur wanted to make Sybil a multiple personality case no matter what. This is clear when you examine their response to Dr. Spiegel that the publishers wanted a book on multiple personality when Spiegel had already informed them she was just a case of hysteria. From my personal knowledge of Flora Schreiber, I am quite certain that she had convinced herself that the story was true. As I said before, there is a fine line between deception of self and deception of others. Once you start making up a story to suit your own needs it can take on a life of its own. The creator of Sybil more than likely suppressed a remembrance of how it began once they got into the thick of it. Once it became a financial success there was no turning back. In the final analysis Sybil is a phony multiple personality case at best. Further more, this tendency to go over the top and not know where to stop with multiple personalities will continue to persist until we cease to be proud of those things we should be ashamed of. REFERENCES American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders., Fourth
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