The Multiple Personalities in Sybil The movie Sybil brought out several different emotions and reactions personally for me. The story line follows a young woman’s struggle with personality disorder; the cause and effects of her disease throughout her life, and the process of her repressed memories finally coming to the surface. Although I wouldn’t say that the disorders that Sybil and I have are comparable, the process that she went through in becoming aware of her disorders and the devastation she felt when the repressed memories started to surface were almost identical.
I felt so much empathy for Sybil at different times that I had to hold back the tears. Actually at one point when she began to feel the panic take over her due to the green kitchen, I could begin to feel my chest get tight almost as though instinctively I understood what that meant for her. Her 14 personalities seemed to more so be a coping mechanism that she had learned to use throughout her life that enabled her to deal with the extreme dysfunction and fears she endured as a child. Each one seemed to bring out the personality or traits that she herself was unable to produce.
It was most likely where the repressed memories first began to get buried. This way Sybil herself wouldn’t have to experience the trauma. The other personalities protected her from it. Much like Sybil, I didn’t understand why I had always had the nightmares, anxiety, or the flashbacks that I did at inappropriate times in my life. I always felt like something was shamefully wrong with me, but if I kept it to myself they would eventually go away. Instead they progressively got worse over the past few years until eventually I was no longer able to hide it. Again similar to what Sybil felt.
When I did secretly see a therapist for the first time it was absolutely emotionally draining, and the first time that I had told another person about what I went through. It seemed to be the same for Sybil’s personality as she finally was open to talking to someone. Sybil developed the ability to dissociate into forms of other people in order to deal with the trauma. My talent that I learned is to disassociate from myself emotionally. Dissociative Disorder is what it was diagnosed with, but basically I learned to shut off my emotional side and be robotic in times where the stress or fear is so high that I can’t cope.
There were actually times throughout the movie where the emotion was so high that I had to divert my attention onto something else in order to not have a panic attack from the overwhelming feelings that surfaced in me. Finally, the moments of which she started to have clarity in which her repressed memories or flashbacks started to playback like a movie also hit very close to home. Much like her experience, after several months of therapy where I felt more lost than before I began, the flashbacks became clearer.
Both Sybil and I experienced similar experiences as children and dealing with the physical and emotional abuse of someone that was supposed to be a protector. The after effects of this upbringing were felt throughout my life; although for most of it I didn’t recognize them. The feelings of shame, abandonment and hurt are something that Sybil and I will have to work through our entire lives. The most important thing I took away from watching this movie is simple. I am more determined today to not let the things that I could not control that happened to me, continue to control me today.
Watching how Sybil learned to make the most of her life by facing the disorder head on and not letting it control her was inspiring. It may not always be possible, but failing to strive to be better only makes us weaker and prone to give in when times are rough. I refuse to let my past define me. Instead I will define myself in my future by choosing what makes me who I am. Honestly, it is things like watching others struggle in similar ways such as Sybil did that continue to push me to be the person that I want to be.