Now, Religion in the News, a report and comment on religious trends and events being covered by the media. This week’s item focuses on psychology and is from the Associated Press, dateline: San Francisco, with the headline “Psychologist Says New Evidence Shows Sybil Story Bogus”—A psychologist says tape recordings that lay forgotten in his desk for 25 years show that the popular story of Sybil, the woman with 16 personalities is bogus.
“In a best-selling 1973 book, later made into a movie, Sybil was portrayed as developing alternate personalities who did things without her knowledge. The account blames the problem on abuse Sybil suffered as a child and says she overcame it with therapy.
“The newfound tapes suggest these personalities were actually created during therapy through suggestions to a highly pliable young woman,” says psychologist Robert Rieber of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Rieber said the tapes of conversations between Sybil’s psychiatrist and the book’s author show they were not totally unaware that the story they told was wrong.”
Tom: Now, Martin and Deidre, what do you think about this? Many, many of our listeners, I’m sure, have seen the film or films that also dealt with multiple personality disorder. What do you guys think?
Martin: Well, there are a variety of factors involved in this. First factor, MPD was almost non-existent, let’s say twenty years ago, and then all of a sudden there’s a whole proliferation of MPDs around. In fact, they’ve changed the MPD to DID, which is Dissociative Identity Disorder, and that’s one facet of it. How come all of a sudden we’re having so many of these when in the past we didn’t have hardly any or any at all?
Another factor has to do with this whole area of suggestibility in therapy. And suggestibility is a very, very powerful ingredient in a relationship. In fact, one of the key ingredients in hypnosis is the suggestibility of the person doing it, and the person that’s receiving it, how highly suggestible the person is. And so, when you get into a therapeutic setting, and you have a therapist who is suggesting things, and a person who’s hearing these suggestions and being suggestible in following them, you can end up not only with a multiple personality—you can find out inside of you is another person or persons—but you can also conjure up false memories. So you can conjure up false persons, identities, false memories, and particularly when you get back to early life when the suggestion is made, “Something must have happened to you.”
And so this whole area of MPD is rife with all kinds of problems. And it’s actually severely criticized by those people who are, you know, the professionals in the field.
Deidre: Yes, some people can go into therapy, they are having problems, they are looking for the source of their problems, they go into the past, and if the therapist believes that there are “alters” there, the suggestions—the leading questions—will be to say the name of the person, and so forth. And the best way to create so-called multiple personality disorders is through therapy, and the best way to get rid of them is suggested by one researcher who says, “Ignore the alters, stop talking to them, taking notes on them, and discussing them at staff conferences. Pay attention to the real present problems and conflicts rather than fantasy. If these simple familiar rules are followed, multiple personalities will soon wither away.”
Tom: We were talking earlier about Christian psychology, and they’ve gotten into this big time and…
Deidre: Oh yes.
Tom: Some of the documentation is incredible to me because some are recommending that these individual personalities be led to Christ and be converted to resolve the problem. What do you think of that?
Deidre: Well, this is all fantasy. It is—but people believe this fantasy. The therapists who do this really believe this. They believe that they are, by their questions, they are bringing this out, and I must say that this of course is connected a lot with the False Memory Syndrome as well. And sad to say, Christians have been involved in this big time.
Tom: To the destruction of many, many lives and families.
Deidre: It is the destruction of lie upon lie upon lie. In therapy, by the way—insight therapy—they don’t consider what would be factual. They don’t try to corroborate things outside of therapy, because what is true as far as fact, as history, is not as important as what is psychically true for the person. And so you—you aren’t dealing with truth any more. You’re dealing with fantasy.