Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Multiplicity and the feeling of opening your mind.

A multiple system, or one of its members (apologies because I will fuck up terminology here) commented on my last post about how often they face the "well, you're different, there's yer problem" attitude themselves. And it made me realize, this was one of those things I'd pretty much been skating with the prevailing wisdom on--"oh come on, you're crazy or a liar." And this was the first time I thought to question that. Here's the process I went through:

What have I heard from other people about this?
In Abnormal Psychology, we covered "Dissociative Identity Disorder" very briefly. The professor told us that it was a very strange phenomenon occurring very rarely after extremely severe trauma, and that any cases we encountered clinically were likely being faked for attention. (Doing something "for attention" is the worst in psychology. Yes, it's often disruptive or annoying when someone is "LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME" all the time, but some degree of attention is a legitimate need and a lot of people in psych treatment settings are freaking starved for anything more than "that's nice, now sit down and shut up.") And, of course, we should all be on guard for the personality that's an evil murderer, because there's always one of those.

Then again, Abnormal Psych also classified sexual sadism and masochism as terrible disorders in need of curing. Admittedly there's a little addendum about "if it is causing distress or impairment", but there wasn't any discussion whatsoever about how S/m without distress or impairment is a normal variation.

In addition, I'd run into some Internet Common Wisdom that pretending to be multiple is up there with pretending to be a dragon, as far as excessively imaginative people exaggerating their differences in order to be a Special Snowflake goes. (Being a Special Snowflake is the worst, because as in the psych hospital, it would be so much more convenient for me if everyone but me would accept their place as an out-of-focus background character in my story.)

What do people actually in this group say about themselves?
I followed the link in the comments and found--well, instead of filtering this through my own reading of it, I'll just link you directly to these FAQs about multiplicity: Ok Questions, Rude Questions.

Why do I feel differently about this?
If someone tells me that his name is Jeff and he's a man, but I can totally see he's got breasts, I don't tell him that he's "really" a woman, and if he disagrees he must have a disorder or just be some kind of attention-grubbing Special Fucking Snowflake. Or if someone tells me that his name is Jeff and he's a man and he's dating another man, I don't tell him that he's "really" attracted to women, and anything else is a mistake he made. Or, for that matter, if someone tells me that her name is Jess and she's a woman and she's working in a technical job and not having children, I sure as hell don't tell her what "real women" do with their lives.

In short, I don't prioritize my cognitive bias for having people live exactly the way they "look" over those people's rights to live their lives.

So why is this different? Why do I feel an urge to tell these people that they're "really" one person, because only one person can "really" exist in a brain? Honestly, I haven't got an answer beyond sheer familiarity. I'm used to only knowing one person per brain, and I feel like I've only got one in mine. But I'm far enough beyond infancy that "I'm not used to you, so you can't be real!" really shouldn't be a part of my worldview.

What's the worst that could happen?
The worst that could happen if I stick with the psych professor and Internet asshole's viewpoint, and go "ah hah, this person is either super crazy or just making shit up," is that I deny the existence of entire people. If it's upsetting for me to be told that some parts of my identity aren't real or healthy (fun fact: a woman who dates men can't possibly "really" be bi!), how much more would it suck to be told that I literally didn't exist? And while I'm thinking "crazy or liar," I can't treat multiple people with any kind of understanding or decency or even politeness, online or in the real world.

The worst that could happen if I accept people's own self-definitions of their minds and their lives, trusting that they know themselves better than some Internet stranger who took a psychology class? Well, I could be wrong. I could be getting suckered. And then what? I'd look a little silly. I'd be using the "wrong" pronouns and names, oh no. No one would be really harmed or discriminated against. All that's really on the line is my ego.

It's not all about a cold "well, what's the harm?" balancing, of course. Fundamentally, I do believe that people know themselves, at least better than any pompous outsider proposing to tell them who they really are inside. But it helps to keep in mind that believing someone about their identity, and being wrong, is not nearly as bad as the reverse.

So that's my journey, in one particular instance, from prejudice to at least trying to accept a class of people different from myself. I don't expect a cookie, but I do hope to provide a template. Mostly for the next time someone's identity makes me go "aw c'mon, you're not really that."


  1. For what it's worth: I think that part of the "nah, you just want attention" thing, from your prof is a case of psychology self-correcting. Diagnosing multiple personality disorder was really trendy (yes, diagnostic trendiness, terrifying) in the '80s, and some psychologists were basically encouraging people to develop multiple personalities in how they treated them. As will probably happen with ADD soon, the backlash took the form of "MPD is so rare that if you're finding it, you're doing something wrong" rather than a greater push to take people's word for their own experience.

  2. roseblack - As someone who has ADD, actually, I find ADD backlash profoundly annoying. It's weird hearing people say "we just need to let kids be kids!" when your experience of "just being a kid" is being uncomfortably unfocused and unable to think as clearly as I want. Also "we're doping these kids into zombiedom with Ritalin" when Ritalin is a stimulant that gives you the energy to think more clearly.

    Sorry, sort of unrelated, but sometimes I want to rent out a billboard reading "RITALIN: IT'S NOT THORAZINE" for the benefit of people who seem to think schools are just tranquilizing children for convenience.

  3. My name is Legion: for we are many.

  4. Thanks for this post. When I read the comment from the multiple (I really hope they weigh in) it was exciting because it was a completely new concept to me - to look at multiple and see anything other than disorder.

    I have not yet followed the link, but as I traditionally understood MPD, the personalities - at least some of them - do not know about the others. that to me would indicate that disorder is an apt description. But then I thought about the ego and the ID and what I've always called the Watcher - the feeling that there is a distinctively separate entity from myself lurking in the background, much wiser than I, but not inclined to offer advise. When I've spoken of this character many people have said they've had similar experiences.

    Who knows? I just know it's fascinating and new and I'm going to do some research and I agree with you completely that it's better to err on the side that doesn't ignore the existence and experience of other humans.

  5. I don't know the worst that can happen, but you can treat someone as a person, and help them out, and get attached to them, and then suddenly get "so-and-so isn't here anymore and we're not responsible for anything they did, LOL" and it's pretty bad.

  6. Assume for a moment it is made up. In my opinion if someone wants to be a multiple badly enough to deal with all the shit they go through for it, then they should probably just be a multiple.

  7. I realize that the slippery slope argument is frequently a logical fallacy, but I offer a reason one can justifiably be cautious of simply accepting people's self-identification.

    I can't figure out what the difference is between self-identifying as gay/trans/ace/etc. and claiming it's not an illness and doesn't need to be fixed, self-identifying as autistic/add/multi/etc. and claiming it's not an illness, and self-identifying as anorexic and claiming that it's not an illness.

  8. Anon - I think people ditching out on you abruptly is the real problem there. It sucks, but I'm not sure it would be any better with a physical person.

    Ixr - Well, the obvious difference is that someone can die in rather short order directly from anorexia. And besides that I don't know. Maybe that really is the only difference, and treatment is about saving their life and not about "well, that's just a wrong way to think, and we have to make you right."

    Well, I think anorexia is also continuously distressing, and involves intrinsic unhappiness rather than just unhappiness when they're not allowed to live as they want, but if someone tells me that they're happy as a clam and just don't want to eat... I really don't know.

  9. Sneak: Eek! We didn't expect to cause a response here! o_o <_< I was totally unprepared to do education and stuff either. Oops.

    Rogan: Anon-- to pull a bait and switch like that is a dick move. (Though to be fair, in the past we've had to do it with a singlet identity; we try to come out quick now because people get ATTACHED to our mask and it causes them emotional pain when they realize it's an act we do for our safety and their benefit.)

    And to avoid responsibility with a, "You can't blame me for my system member's behavior!" is... bothersome, at the very least.

    For instance, in the old classic example of, "if one system member kills someone, should the whole group go to jail?" the answer is of course, yes. If our system can't regulate itself to keep someone from hurting someone else, that is a serious problem we need to fix. I don't give a damn if I wasn't the person committing the crime; as a member of my system, it is part of my responsibility to make sure we keep functioning!

    On the other hand, if we're having a discussion and you piss me off, and I call you a cockbite, than I expect you to be able to realize that my system members may not be able to screen every word that comes out of my mouth; I expect you to take ME to task for it, not them.

  10. Re: Keith

    "Property was thus appalled
    That the self was not the same;
    Single nature's double name
    Neither two nor one was called."


  11. Re: Keith

    Oop. Er, that's Shakespeare. "Phoenix and Turtle." D'oh.

  12. If you really wanna judge 'em for yourself Holly, pretty sure LB live in your area - at least, I know they live in Boston, I'm not dead sure on where you are. Just be warned that Mac is a filthy pervert - it's part of why he's one of my best friends. ^_^

    (Kidding aside, I care about LB dearly, and am glad you were able to take such a good message from them.)

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  14. Thank you so much for this! It means a lot.

    To the anon, the system you had dealings with weren't the norm. That sort of dickishness is frowned upon highly amongst most multiples, and if one of us hurt you (proverbial you) we would all take responsibility in a case like that. Rogan's example fits. If I call you a name, sure, the responsibility is mine. But if someone breaks your heart or slaps you physically or something of that nature, you can and should take us all to task for that person's actions and we would be frankly offended if you didn't.

    I can understand why you'd be hesitant to deal with multiples ever again, but we're not all like that. A lot of systems are actually decent people and hold themselves to pretty high standards.

    But I digress. Thank you Holly. We're going to have to post this anonymously I fear because blogger is being stupid, but our site is http://cartaala.dreamshore.net if you want a look.

    -Hyacinthe of Rhymershouse

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  16. We're so happy to see this; we recently tried to educate another prominent blogger only to be ignored continuously. Nice to know that someone's who's actually listened to is willing to listen. We're a median system (ref: http://www.karitas.net/pavilion/glossary.html#median ), by the way.
    After reading your article, some of us believe that you would do well to read Astraea's FAQ, along with some of the articles and links on their site (http://astraeasweb.net/plural/ourstuff.html and http://astraeasweb.net/plural/contacts.html ). There is a lot of information out there that most don't even know about. Especially this rant which I highly recommend, seeing as how it has most of the plural community's grievances in it: http://www.karitas.net/courts/writings/rebrant1.html
    Anyway, thanks for this, and don't worry- we accept full responsibility for our actions, and no one gets to run and hide from justice (they get dragged out by the others). Have a wonderful day, and thanks for reading such a long comment!

  17. Hey, LBT, I have a question that I really hope doesn't come off as rude, but that you didn't address in either the nice or rude FAQ's:
    Why do you feel like so many people are tied to one body, or more accurately probably like so many bodies only have one person attached to them?
    Second question, and this can get metaphysical REALLY FAST, but: were any/all of you anywhere before you were in your current body?
    And maybe this veers into WHERE DO WE ALL COME FROM, and into discussion of the soul, but yeah. Like one of you, I forget which, is from Texas; were you in a different body in Texas? or are you just from Texas somehow?
    I really hope I didn't offend, I just feel like so much of who I am is tied to the experiences I've had in my body, the way I've been raised, etc, that it's really hard for me to imagine coming from nowhere with a developed personality (and there I really mean personality, because you're all people, but each of you has a personality in terms of how you act how you emote etc)
    I'm rambling. I'm sorry. I'm also really fascinated on all sorts of chemical metaphysical levels and I hope I'm not making you feel like freaks :(

  18. same anon who just posted, also wanted to make sure my attempts to be respectful didn't come off as condescending! if so, sorry!

  19. It doesn't actually seem inconsistent to accept and tolerate the identity, but to admit that one sometimes finds a particular person jarring or confusing to deal with.

    (Tolerance requires that I don't rule out friendship; not that I be friends with a particular person.)

    The concepts of multiple identity discussed here are new to me, but I've got friends with whom I need to take extra steps to establish "is he in a mood where he can productively interact with me?" (Hyperfocus ADD was provisional explanation I was using.) It may annoy me, and inhibit intimacy, but it isn't a show stopper.

  20. RE: Anonymous

    1. Why do you feel like so many people are tied to one body, or more accurately probably like so many bodies only have one person attached to them?

    Miranda: I have no idea. None of us are students of neurology or philosophy. I suppose one could just as easily ask why so many people are straight. It may simply be that more people are rigged to be that way.

    2. Second question, and this can get metaphysical REALLY FAST, but: were any/all of you anywhere before you were in your current body?

    Miranda: Only Mac; if you wanted to know about his previous life, you would have to ask him, since I feel it is his business on whether to share it. The rest of us identify as having been split off the mythical Ur-person who was originally born in this body. We know of systems where everyone comes from elsewhere, or none of them do. It's variable.

    3. And maybe this veers into WHERE DO WE ALL COME FROM, and into discussion of the soul, but yeah. Like one of you, I forget which, is from Texas; were you in a different body in Texas? or are you just from Texas somehow?

    Miranda: Oh, this body (and ergo, the four of us derived from its experiences) spent most of its life in Texas. So I'm from there as well... even if my accent doesn't quite reflect that. Also, we didn't find your questions condescending or offensive, don't worry. ^_^

    RE: Camilla

    Rogan: We generally have had to institute a policy that unless all of us can get along with a person, it's generally best not to interact. Otherwise, it just gets too exhausting trying to control who's fronting. Otherwise, we haven't really found it to be too troublesome to interact with people. Some of us are more distractable than others, and at different maturity levels, but so far, I guess we've been lucky.

  21. Also, as a sort of sidenote to Holly's previous Model Minority post, since that kinda started this thing:

    I am doing that right now. Right now, we are all highly cognizant of being the Model Multiple.

    Are we acting too flakey? Too defensive? Too issues-ridden? How can we come off as true and serious without coming off as melodramatic? Are we explaining everything well enough that people who assume we are ill until proven otherwise will actually be willing to assess their opinion? How can we explain our frustration with how society treats us without looking "too angry"?

    This is not meant as an indictment of any of you. But I thought it might be worth a mention.


  22. I possibly flubbed the language on my very first try (sorry). I find that it's awkward and jarring, if I have to go through what strikes me as 'ritual' to initiate conversation. I have a "open door slowly and wait for verbal acknowledgment" dance that I use on my husband when he's immersed in something, and in complexity, it feels like it's at the limit of what I can tolerate for everyday interactions.
    (So the problem is that I can't make a simplifying assumption about his mood and willingness to talk to me.)

    From extrapolation, if I had to explicitly confirm who I thought I was dealing with, each time, I might feel similar distress.
    (Because I depend heavily on assumptions, like all humans do. I also seem to value predictability (in others) more than many.)

    (I hadn't considered the situation of getting along with some of you but not other of you. I was thinking of the logistical constraints of getting along with your whole system.)

  23. Hope y'all don't mind me answering this one LB, but explicit confirmation isn't really all that hard with them - everybody pretty much has their own voice. One of the other multiple systems I know will specify who is talking if necessary, but generally I can tell by the voices, too.

  24. For what it is worth, I wanted to point out that there are a number of researchers/theorists out there that tell us that the sense of us being "one person" is an illusion anyway. Daniel C. Dennett may be the most well-known, but certainly not the only, person to write that there are many competing neurological processes that occur unconsciously, and with us "normal" people one conscious experience (one set of qualia) arises from these competing processes. Our brains are, in many ways, many independent modules linked together, and not a cohesive and efficient whole.

    It may be (and this is truly mere speculation) that Multiples are just able to experience different versions/sets of those unconscious processes in different ways. In other words, it may be the case that we are all any people, but only some people consciously experience this.

  25. Rogan: I appreciate that you are being the model minority right now...noted. But having now read the bad and good questions links I think there was enough not-so-model minority info in there for one to get a fairly balanced view of things. For example you admitted to frustrations, described Gigi as creepy and batshit crazy, you listed "you're never alone" as both a pro and con, which I can relate to, singlet though I be. I appreciate you and your system members' willingness to educate, thanks.

    And I have questions you may or may not be able to answer, but I didn't see asked. How prevalent are multiples among the general population? And I guess by that I mean multiples who do not consider their situation as a disorder. Is this going to be the next civil rights issue? It sounds like once you're diagnosed you face a very real threat of forced integration, forced incarceration and so on. Beyond that, Rogan and Mac suffer double jeopardy, don't they? Not being able to officially marry because they are both men, and both in one body. You say you're married, and I assume that friends and family acknowledge this. But do you care that society likely never will in your lifetimes, or is it a non-issue?

    Oh, and I was surprised you found a therapist that wouldn't diagnose you with MPD and would treat your system as a backdrop. Were you extremely lucky or is there some new trend of acceptance in the mental health field?

    Thanks again.

  26. I'm a singlet. However, I don't experience myself as a unified self, necessarily; I experience facets of myself, and noticing that I have facets and that they are not always in accord with each other is valuable.

    In my mindfulness work, we did an exercise that was really, well, mindblowing for many of the people in the class. It goes something like this, although the insight was something I take for granted and I may not be presenting it properly:

    Notice that you have a body, and in so doing, notice that the part of you that is noticing is not the same as your body. Then notice that you have emotions, and notice that the part of you that is noticing is not the same as the part of you that is feeling. Notice you have thoughts, and notice that the part of you that is thinking is not the same as the part of you that is feeling. Our bodies can be hurting, our emotions can be painful, our thoughts can be racing and obsessive, and there is still a part of us that can notice this. That part is not in pain. It is not angry or sad. It is not obsessed. It's just there, noticing.

    Some call it a soul, or a watcher, or all kinds of other things; I think of it as meta-me, the bit that can look at the inconvenient meat body and the crazy monkey brain and pull together a narrative sequence that can become an identity.

    I personally get stuck on metaphysics and souls taking up residence in other bodies, particularly when it's someone from fiction. I find it terribly interesting, in the way atheist me finds the religious experience fascinating. Younger me dismissed such things as soulbonding with fictional characters as absurd. Present me still figures it's impossible on its face but is more curious about how people come to find it the most satisfying explanation about themselves. Also, nowadays I'm better at taking such things as a metaphor someone finds useful, and accepting that my own determinations of what is possible may also be just the metaphor I find most useful.

    I can look at the number of people who believe they have the same anime character living within their skulls and decide that there's no possible way that could be literally true... and still meet a system that has said character living within it and accept the truth of them. I mean, what do I know? Their subjective reality is a lot more important than my ideas of what is objectively possible.

    What I don't know is if it's patronizing or rude to talk about this. If I were a character from an anime, I'd probably be pretty upset by someone who insisted I didn't really exist. If that someone still treated me with respect as an individual? I dunno.

    But at the same time, I'm not offended by people who insist I have a soul, or that I don't. Other people have all kinds of ideas about the objective truth of me, and that's okay as long as they're not browbeating me about it. But I'm privileged as a singlet whose existence isn't routinely dismissed.

    I dunno. It's hard. To my knowledge, I have not interacted, in person, with anyone who was part of a system, or with members of a system putting on a group front for their comfort or safety. I hope that, when I do, they will feel safe coming out to me, and that I'll avoid any of the standard annoying responses people make.

    I guess what I don't know, and why I'm writing such a long navel-gazing comment, is whether I'm *actually* safe for a system to come out to. That's disconcerting to me.

  27. Wow. This has been a most enlightening post and comment stream, thank you.

    Regarding telling future psychologists that DID is so rare that anyone they encounter claiming to have it is fake? Yeah, I think this is a huge problem. I can see why it occurs as a backlash against possible overdiagnosis in previous years, but really, even the most rare psychological profiles show up sometimes. If all practicing psychologists are under the impression that they will never encounter this, then even if 99 out of a hundred people claiming to be multiples are faking (which I think is preposterous, but even if), that one percent is still getting completely screwed. Treating mental health like a numbers game is doomed to failure.

    In response to lxr's comment way upstream (regarding the difference between self-identifications), the big issue is thought distortion. A person (or system) with thought distortion is not in a position to decide whether they are in danger and need help psychologically, or are stable and functioning well.

    An example of what I mean by thought distortion: when I'm have a depressive episode, and my mom ends a phone call to me with "I love you", and part of my brain goes "No you don't! Liar! You hate me! You've hated me since the day I was born!". It's the ability to hold a strong false belief (often a very self-destructive one) in the face of overwhelming evidence that the belief is false.

    Thing is, anorexia is basically defined by thought distortion. It's one of the major symptom categories and you can't be diagnosed as anorexic unless you have it. If you have the kind of disordered thinking that allows you to believe you are obese at 80lbs, you cannot be responsible for judging your own mental and physical well-being.

    Multiple systems or people with aspergers or add can have thought distortion (no human is totally immune to the possibility, although some are more predisposed than others) but that symptom would be an addition to their psychological profile, not an inherent defining characteristic of it.

    The "slippery slope" argument is an illusion. While deciding as an outsider, whether someone's thinking patterns are disordered or not is challenging at best, there is a line between "yes, you can make that call for yourself" and "no, you need some help to get the needed objectivity".

  28. I work with a woman who was diagnosed DID (I'm a Case Manager in mental health), and she has SEVERE SEVERE sexual trauma in her history. She's recorded as supposedly having several alters, though I've only heard of maybe 2 or 3 presenting themselves in the last 5 years or more. I have not seen any alters, nor has the case manager before me.

    When one of her alters take over, she does not know it. She does not recall it, does not have access to that person's memories, and cannot talk about it unless she's told of the occurrence (and even then will not have any information to offer), because it was not her at that time. She describes it as blacking out, but is very careful to point out that she does not notice any time has gone by, unless she "comes to" in a place she wasn't just at, or if many hours have gone by.

  29. I forgot to mention that she CANNOT "conjure" an alter and has no control over their appearing. She's been working very intensively with a therapist to try to get to the roots of her PTSD and dissociation.

    I remember seeing an episode of like Maury or something on Multiple Personalities and I wanted to throw the TV because it was SO OBVIOUSLY FUCKING FAKE. oh my god. It was mocking Mental Illness so hardcore I could have died.

  30. minuteye: It's the ability to hold a strong false belief (often a very self-destructive one) in the face of overwhelming evidence that the belief is false.

    This isn't an especially useful answer, because neither "thought distortion" nor the categories we're thinking about are truly binary. In my experience, the fact that Alice and Bob have the same body is overwhelming evidence that Alice and Bob are the same person. In almost every case this is true. So are multiple systems rare exceptions to that, or are they just mistaken?

    For that matter, the fact that Alice has a penis and testes is very strong evidence (in the inductive sense) that Alice is a man. If she claims to be a woman, is she a somewhat rare exception, or does she have "thought distortion"?

    Joshua Norton claimed to be Emperor of the United States. Norton was flat broke and lived in a flophouse in San Francisco and his commands were largely ignored, and also the United States doesn't have an emperor. So was he emperor or just confused?

    Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be the Jewish messiah. He was probably not a direct descendant of King David (his exact parentage being somewhat unclear), the Jewish community at the time never accepted his claim, and whatever he was planning to do to restore the ancient glory of Israel was cut short when the Roman prefect hanged him as a public nuisance. Was he the messiah or not?

    (In case it's not clear, I don't have good answers to any of those questions.)

  31. The anon who got all metaphysical is back with one more question, this one for Mac and Rogan:
    Assuming whoever is fronting feels the sensations of the body, how do you guys have sex? Can you share the body and have it masturbate? or can you experience orgasms that are simply in the mind without having any connection to the body?

    if you can braingasm can you teach me?

  32. LBT - Thank you very much for answering questions in this thread--I appreciate it greatly and I'm fascinated, but I also want to make it clear that I wasn't trying to call you out by linking your FAQ; I just thought it was a very well-written primer on healthy multiplicity. So thank you very much for educating here and don't ever feel like you have to. :)

  33. And anon, they kind of cover the "how do you have sex" under "Rude questions." C'mon now, they're strangers to you and they're not sexbloggers.

  34. RE: NoxiousNan

    Gigi: I am not batshit crazy. I am different. >:|

    1. How prevalent are multiples among the general population? And I guess by that I mean multiples who do not consider their situation as a disorder.

    Rogan: No idea. It's not like we can meet in special multi clubs and bars, or like we have conventions. There's a few online spots, but not many, and they're hard to find on your own. We're pretty social and we've yet to meet more than two other systems within any given area we've lived in--and often, they're shocked to discover we exist.

    2. Is this going to be the next civil rights issue? It sounds like once you're diagnosed you face a very real threat of forced integration, forced incarceration and so on.

    Rogan: Who knows? I feel like multiples splatter all over in realms of disability, queer, gender, and especially neurodiversity activism, but I've yet to see much organization. There seem to be so few of us around that there isn't a lot of force behind us.

    3. Beyond that, Rogan and Mac suffer double jeopardy, don't they? Not being able to officially marry because they are both men, and both in one body. You say you're married, and I assume that friends and family acknowledge this.

    Rogan: Our friends do. Our family... it's a slow process. Most don't know we're multiple. (We're coming out as trans now, and the last thing we want is for people to assume we're attempting to transition because "the voices tell me to do bad things" and try to intervene.)

    4. But do you care that society likely never will in your lifetimes, or is it a non-issue?

    Mac: It hurts. I do care about it.

    Rogan: Yeah. Even though we already are legally one in the eyes of the law, and require no legal assistance, the word still has a lot of power.

    Mac: Also, I'm the front man at work, and I interact as a trans guy married to another trans guy. I had to be careful to say to my boss that we weren't legally married, for tax reasons. It bums me out, really.

    5. Oh, and I was surprised you found a therapist that wouldn't diagnose you with MPD and would treat your system as a backdrop. Were you extremely lucky or is there some new trend of acceptance in the mental health field?

    Rogan: Lucky, I think. The official stance on multiplicity is less than forgiving. My favorite quote on the matter comes from here: http://www.isst-d.org/education/Adult DD Treatment Guidelines-ISSTD-JTD-2005.pdf

    "Some members of the Guidelines Task Force recommend that clinicians avoid using terms such as 'people,' 'persons,' or other terms that might convey or reinforce a belief that the alternate identities are truly separate individuals."


    Rogan: We try to tag our online speech for precisely this reason. Otherwise we run into problems with folks discussing development-inappropriate material with the kids, and so on.


    Er, these comments are getting long, so we try and break them up. If we get spammy, feel free to tell us to cool it.

  35. RE: ANON

    Rogan: I will not answer questions about my sex life unless I know you better.

    Mac: If you're REAAAAALLY curious, I could maybe demonstrate with a large dildo, a tube of lube, and a bag of jelly beans. :D


    "And anon, they kind of cover the "how do you have sex" under "Rude questions." C'mon now, they're strangers to you and they're not sexbloggers."

    Rogan: For this alone, I will bear you one child, free of charge.

  36. RE: LEAH

    Co-consciousness and trauma vary from system to system. We've known systems like the one you describe with blackouts, no front controls whatsoever, and horrific abuse in the past. We've also known systems with no memory issues whatsoever, their fronts are generally under schedule or control, and their traumas are unrelated to their multiplicity. (I have yet to meet someone with no trauma whatsoever.)

    Both of them are valid forms of multiplicity, and we would like to hope both can co-exist in the world.

    --Miranda and Rogan

  37. My take on my own identity is that 'I'm fairly certain that I have a set of internally consistent thought patterns, interests and beliefs, and I meet the philosophical criteria for a person in that I'm a thinking entity, and perceive my headmates as "non-me" entities that I happen to share headspace with.' I have the same level of complexity that a separate-bodied person would.

    The same applies to the other people that I happen to share brainspace with: their thoughts and identities have their own 'qualia' or 'flavours' to them that define who they are.

    This post makes me feel as though it might actually be worthwhile to participate in discussions with nonplurals about multiplicity and identity—most of the discourse I've participated in has been related to trans/gender identity, and most of it offline under a singlet guise. I haven't really discussed plurality in contexts other than within the plural community, although I do write articles on our group's site. That's still more passive, though, rather than actively going out and engaging people about the topic.

    Mark F: read this: http://www.questioningtransphobia.com/?p=152; it might help out with some of the trans-identity stuff.

    (ps, I'm a friend of the LBT people and of the Rhymers', and I came here to add in my own experiences as someone in a plural collective.)

    If you'd like to visit our group's website, it's here: http://www.exunoplures.info.

  38. @Mark Z.

    You're right! That wasn't a very helpful definition. I've spent a lot of my life talking to therapists, so I have a bad habit of assuming everybody already knows all the terms I know and agrees about what they mean.

    "Holding a false belief in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary" would include delusions, such as some of your examples. Regarding a more specific definition of thought distortion, I shall simply refer to the wikipedia page on the topic, which lays it out quite simply:

    (if triggered by discussion of sex offenders or slut-shaming, however, I would avoid reading the latter part of the article)

    Sorry for the cop-out, in my fatigued state, I think trying to define it in my own words would be ill-advised.

  39. hi, this is to Rogan an it might be too personal, i'm sorry if its too much.

    as a trans person I find that both my body doesn't match up to how i feel it should be, and this causes me to be gendered in a way that causes me distress (or at least it did before transition). i don't have a headspace the way you described (maybe because im a singlet, or because im not very visual so i cant really grasp exactly how it works.)

    when you refer to yourself as a transman, do you mean that the conflict comes from the perception of the external body's perceived gender (especially if fronting) or do you mean that your body and social self within headspace were not perceived as being male. how did/do you transition in this sense, is it as simple as informing your head-mates of your internal gender and conjuring your (headspace) body into a more pleasing configuration, or is it more difficult?

    i want to thank you all for taking time to educate us. if any of my comments come off as too much i want to apologise, my curiosity has a habit of getting the better of me.

  40. RE: Jade

    Rogan: That question's totally fine with me. The conflict comes from the the external body, vs. my internalized self-image (AKA, my body). In headspace, I've been perceived as male since the day I popped out of the collective unconscious. Alas, the external body doesn't fit me quite properly, and it drives me batty. (The being gendered incorrectly is obnoxious, but manageable, while the body conflict would probably eventually prove terminal to me, left unchecked.)

    So in headspace, I'm cis. However, since my life is massively influenced by the corporeal world and body, I ID as trans.

    Sneak, however, is an androgyne, and DID have to come out in headspace. I'll let zie explain it zerself.

    Sneak: Hi! :D *wave* In my case, I did have to come out to our system after a bit. My headspace transition was pretty simple: "Call me zie and zer now!" "Okay!" It took everyone a while to learn my new pronouns, but they were diligent about it and ta-da! All transitioned. My self-image underwent a couple minor changes, but not much. Different systems differ on this, but here, our self-images aren't under our conscious control, unless you do something basic like cut your hair, change your clothes, that kind of thing. But you can't, like, lose forty pounds or grow a foot or something just because you will it. Our headspace doesn't like us messing with it like that.

  41. Hi, Holly. I've lurked for awhile but never posted. I'm a multiple, too. There's four of us in here, plus stacks of past lives going all the way back to apes and monkeys. Three of us are girls, but the boy born into this body is here, too. We work together as a family and do a lot of high-powered meditating, the sort that clears out your chakras. Working together we've gone from suicidal depression to happiness, 300 lbs to 200, heavy masochism to much, much less masochism and dependence on antidepressants to no dependence on anything except the occasional glass of homebrewed kombucha.

    I don't really have a point, here. It just felt really, really nice to introduce myself on your wonderful blog, at a time when you're talking about the subject. I hope you don't mind.

  42. hi
    if LBT are still reading this, I'd like to have a question: based on the site, it's not that clear if all of you have a continuous consciousness (except when you sleep) or if it comes and wains (as how Sneakergirls writes in one of the comics that when she's not around, she's "asleep"). Do you people have a continuous life in real time, which you spend out, inside, or at the margins, or is it a film that sometimes get paused so you can play something else? Sorry for the stupid metaphors.

  43. like, should i imagine the inside of your head as it appears in the stories, with lots of activities going on in the same time, like the body is lying down and doing nothing while there is a party inside and miranda tries to read in the other room and gets upset because of the noise, or is this just a way to explain stuff? I don't want to sound rude, it's just that there was a comic by someone else from a group, where the character said that, since they have a schedule for fronting, his workweeks go very fast (2.5 days of work/week). I guess people are different.

    and: do you still feel a need for external friends, or you can be perfectly happy amongst the persons in the same body? Is there any difference (besides that external friends are easier to get rid of)?

  44. RE: Anonymous

    1. Do you people have a continuous life in real time, which you spend out, inside, or at the margins, or is it a film that sometimes get paused so you can play something else?

    Miranda: We have a continuous life in real time, though how aware someone is of headspace vs. corporeal reality will depend on how often they front. It takes a ludicrous amount of mental bandwidth to pay attention to everything.

    And we know the Zyfron system, which makes the comic you mention. Alas, time does not run similarly for us! :)

    do you still feel a need for external friends, or you can be perfectly happy amongst the persons in the same body? Is there any difference (besides that external friends are easier to get rid of)?

    Miranda: It depends on how active the system member is, but generally, we need external friends or we will start wearing out. We need social spaces where we can be out of the closet, and there's only so much time you can spend in solitude talking to your system members before you start feeling a bit mad.

    Rogan: As for the difference... four of the fiveish system members here were part of each other once. We can still have fruitful discussions with each other and be quite happy for periods of complete solitude, but indefinitely? We need a little variety in our social life. We know each other so well that sometimes you run out of things to say.

  45. Pervocracy is generally and interesting read and this, coupled with the the OK things / Rude things lists (very informative, hat's off) and on top of that the comments made this one of the most interesting reads I've had in a long while.

    I've never knowingly met a multiple in my grown life. Might have as a teenager online or whatever. I hope from this discussion that I'd be able to handle it in a sane way, as I try to do with trans/bi/gay/blind people. The most problematic thing to me is how interesting I find it all, generally leads to wanting to ask a bit too many questions.

    Time to keep reading the OK/Rude lists.

    All cred to Holly for (among other greats posts) detailing her reasoning on this, which was very sane and a powerful argument and all the multiples that stepped up and posted. The brain is interesting, the way you experience yourselves is interesting. I'm giddy with knowledging.

  46. Wow, just, thank you so much for posting this. We really mean it. It's amazing that there are people out there that actually do have some reason about them and that is enough to keep me believing in the goodness of people. Thank you again, and.. good grief this needs a reblog.

  47. This makes me so happy! "I" have Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was caused by abuse; basically, the need to not be the one being sexually abused. I, as the most recent host (person using the body the most often), only learned about it in the past two years. I can talk to my alters and watch them when they're fronting because of co-consciousness, or the lowering of dissociative barriers. However, I have almost no memory for most of my life. If I do anything with another alter, when they leave, they take the memory of what happened with them. I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; the alters are the people who keep me safe and help me to cope. They're basically a survival mechanism. Despite this, they're just like "normal" people. We all have our own hopes, dreams, likes and dislikes, skills sets, and even vocal patterns and accents. This is very real.
    ~Rage of Those Interrupted

  48. ^We happen to know Those Interrupted. Although not in real life.

    It was interesting to read this. Our system split from severe trauma. Our main was not aware of it for most of her life. It took additional trauma as an adult, plus a variety of other things, to impress it upon her. We have over 50 in our system, and we are all very much real. We may have to share the same body, but that is merely an unfortunate reality. Our main *is* co-conscious most of the time, and she does not completely black out usually. It does happen occasionally.


  49. Nearly a year after the initial post, and this was linked to me by a friend I had pointed at this blog (she was back-reading it in its entirety, apparently I never got around to it).

    I'd like to thank you, Cliff (now) for posting this and for opening the discussion about multiplicity. I/We are a collective of presently 9 active people (people who use the front). I, the main front personality, would personally really like to thank you for the links and the openness that has provided further links to pluralities. It was nigh impossible for me to find, in 2006, blogs by multiples, and now I'm happily perusing blogs that have all of us excited for new knowledge and new connection.

    Thank you so much.
    ~Sycamore Collective (front: Jane)