Collective Phenomenon multiplicity
plurality 101

If you have a question which hasn't been answered elsewhere on the site, check this section. Read our Myths, Why?, Glossary and Definition of Multiplicity pages for answers to other questions. We will update this intermittently as we think of more clarifications/points to add.

Q: What is it like to be multiple?
A: We can only tell you what it's like for us to be multiple. That's all any multiple can ever tell you, even if they try to claim their experience as representative of others'. For us, the experience is that there's you-- whoever 'you' may happen to be-- and sometimes there's quiet. Sometimes you're the only one. But you know you can reach out into mental space and others will reach back; or you'll at least get the distinct feeling, somewhere in your head (it's hard to describe it as being physically located in any specific way) that they're present, or you might just get some impression of emotion from them. Sometimes others hang around making comments and talking to each other; sometimes they're silent but you feel their presence and reactions. And sometimes they're right there in the body with you, so you can't always tell where you end and they begin; but you know that they're definitely not you, and they're thinking about things in a different way than you. And the next moment, maybe they're the 'you' and you're one of the 'them' in the back of the head.

Q: Modern psychology considers multiplicity a disorder (or, alternately, a delusion induced in patients by incompetent therapists). You say it can be a healthy state of being. How can it be healthy to have more than one self?
A: What is the difference between "disorder" and "normal"? In most cases, the dividing line is imposed by people who consider themselves to fall on the "normal" side of things. Psychology is an excellent tool for pathologizing the behavior of people who disrupt the social order too much. Diagnosis is just as often based on whether one's behavior makes others uncomfortable as on whether it's a detriment to that person.

Our society's belief in dualism and the idea that one body equals one person are deep-rooted. We see a single body, and equate it to a single self, a concrete, static, unchanging set of characteristics. We may accept the idea of a single self having different "sides" or "facets" they present in different areas of their life (and some doctors will try to convince you that multiplicity is no more than this), but many people hit a mental wall at the idea that one body could equal more than one person. It's difficult to accept because it's utterly alien to our social and cultural groundings. There is no cultural context or permission for it besides the clinical MPD model, or, for some people, religious contexts of possession or memories of past incarnations. However, the real lives of many multiples aren't necessarily close to any of these models.

Western cultural contexts offer us few models for the idea of people sharing a body living as a cooperative group or a family. Popular entertainment about multiplicity and possession usually depicts an endless struggle, a battle for control of the body, often between the stereotyped "good one" and "bad one." With such role models as this, it's no wonder that many people are amazed at the idea of cooperative multiple systems. The idea that everyone besides the "host" necessarily represents a split-off conflict, trauma, or undesirable character trait reinforces the belief that multiples are potentially dangerous and have to participate in constant struggles to keep the "bad ones" suppressed. We are told that all problems in our life, no matter what they are, must have something to do with being plural and are proof of our inherent instability, and that our problems would all be fixed if we could just be made to see that "they're all part of you."

Ultimately, what defines a particular thing as a state of disorder is not what psychologists say it is, not what society believes it to be, but rather its impact upon the people who experience it. If we can share our one body among many people and not suffer from it-- indeed, be happier, more productive, and more stable than we were when we were trying to be a single person-- how is that a disorder? What makes it wrong? What makes it unhealthy? Our experience of ourselves has taught us that plurality in and of itself is not detrimental or destructive.

Q: Where do you think multiplicity comes from?
A: We've read plenty of theories, but we still don't think there is one single, universal, definitive "cause." Some people think it has to do with differing brain structures, and others with how the mind is taught to react and respond in childhood. Our view is that plurality, or an inclination towards plurality, is something which is naturally present in the human mind to some degree or another. The way in which it is experienced depends upon what the individual mind chooses to make of it.

Q: Is there a cure for multiplicity?
A: It can't be cured because it is not a disease. From what we have seen personally, and from the first-hand accounts we have read, 'integration' is by no means always permenant. Ultimately, many systems who have attempted to integrate realize that living as a group is more natural for them.

In the case of systems who feel they truly did begin by splitting, we don't know. We are not one of those systems, and we don't know any of them well. If life as a single person feels more natural and desirable for them, it may be a different case than that of systems which arose naturally-- but again, we don't speak from personal experience here. However, we have met systems who said they were definitely created by traumatic incidents in the life of the body, but had no desire to integrate and were living comfortably as a group.

Q: Can drugs cure multiplicity?
A: Drugs cannot 'cure' multiplicity, force integration, or cause anyone in the system to "go away," although they can cut off communication within a group-- giving the appearance that the system has integrated or that only one person remains. In the long run, the others will still be there-- just repressed and cut off from the front. Multiples commonly report that neuroleptic drugs (both the newer, "atypical" ones and the older ones) impair or even destroy their communication system. Some multiples have reported that antidepressants, sleep aids, and even allergy drugs can impair their communication, although, of course, individual effects vary from system to system. Overall, any drug may have potentially unpredictable effects on a multiple system and on people's ability to front and communicate.

In an era where pills are seen as a quick fix for everything, outing yourself to a doctor is often a dangerous proposition. Unfortunately, after the scandals of the 80s and 90s, many doctors are reticent to acknowledge multiplicity or treat multiple clients. If you admit being multiple to a therapist nowadays, based on the experiences of a lot of multiples we've talked to, you may find yourself diagnosed with a "thought disorder" in short order, and put on drugs to 'make the voices stop'-- in other words, to destroy the communication system.

Q: Did you receive this diagnosis in therapy? How do you know you haven't just been led by a therapist into believing you're multiple?
A: Some of our group members have been in therapy for reasons unrelated to multiplicity. Our encounters with most mental health professionals were unproductive at best and harmful at worst. We have no desire to pursue any further therapy.

For a long time we were reluctant to admit this, but when we were younger and much more naive about what we should and shouldn't tell to therapists, we did talk about having "other people inside me," and were immediately diagnosed with DID just on the basis of that. That diagnosis is not on our current medical records, though, and we don't want a diagnosis of DID. The only standard we hold ourselves accountable to is our own. We know we are we, and we don't need a therapist to slap us with a pathologizing label to believe in ourselves.

Q: Have you ever been in therapy to recover memories of abuse?
A: No. We have never had any kind of therapy for multiplicity.

Q: You say elsewhere on the page that people can be led to believe things about their past which didn't really happen. Don't multiples always believe that their alters were created by sexual abuse and that they have to have recovered memories in order to get better?
A: No. We don't believe that. We're not "alters," we're people, and we don't have any recovered memories. Our life has not been perfect, but we have always remembered the bad parts of it, and we would have been multiple whether or not anything bad had ever happened to us. We don't fit the clinical model. We are just many people in one body, and for us, it has nothing to do with dissociation, repression, hypnosis, or recovered memories. Doctors made up a model of multiplicity that said it had to be intrinsically connected with repressed/recovered memories. That doesn't mean the two actually have anything to do with each other. They could also have made up models of multiplicity that said it had to do with giant spiders, smelly gym socks, or the ability to make really good pie, and that wouldn't mean that multiplicity actually had anything to do with any of these things.

The concept of multiplicity in Western society pre-dates recovered memory therapy by over a century. Multiplicity is not about memory, repressed memories, or abuse. It has nothing to do with whether you can recover repressed memories or whether your memories are true or false. It is about more than one self per body. We've talked to some systems who said they really did have the experience of people "hiding" memories from each other, but we don't work that way. And even if a memory is known to some people in a system but not to others, it doesn't necessarily mean that memory has to be bad, scary, or traumatic. It may have just been that the people who were present when the event took place didn't pass it along to everyone else.

Q: How do you know you're not just naming different parts of yourself or different moods and mistaking them for seperate people?
A: One of the beliefs perpetuated by early therapists and MPD/DID literature was that, since all selves were assumed to be a "part" of an original person, each of them was only capable of a single function or emotion-- the angry one, the scared one, the seductive one, etc. There are people who do mistake having different aspects of their self for having seperate selves, or name their moods and decide them to be different personalities. However, we're certain that we're not doing anything like that. Why? Well, all of us have full ranges of emotion, and don't identify in particular with one emotion-- we're all capable of being happy, upset, scared, angry, etc. We don't switch every time we start feeling a particular emotion.

Q: Who is your host or core personality?
A: Don't have one. Our system doesn't work that way. Some people were here before others, but there's no 'original' person who we know of. (We also dislike the word 'host' because it implies that only one person has a right to be here, that the others are just parasitically hanging on.) We went through a long period of having a succession of frontrunners who would each remain the exclusive front for several years, but none of them were any more 'real' than any other.

Q: How can personalities in the same body be of different genders? Or of different races or sexual orientations?
A: Gender is about what's between your ears, not what's between your legs. It's about what you identify as and feel yourself to be, not about your physical sex. People in the same system can identify as being of different genders, and of different racial/ethnic groups. As for sexual orientation, the concept of strict divisions of homosexual and heterosexual is a relatively modern and somewhat artificial one; like identity, sexual orientation is something which in most people can vary throughout their life.

Q: How can you be multiple when you don't fit the criteria of being unaware of the others' existence and not remembering what happens when someone else is up front?
A: Why do we need to be unaware of each other in order to be acknowledged as "real"? Go back to our definition of multiplicity page and read what it says. We are many people in a single body, which is the heart and essence of multiplicity.

Q: Why do some people say they have fictional characters or people from stories as part of their systems? How is that possible?
A: Well, we're not saying that the characters literally hop right out of stories to take a ride in one's brain, although some choose to interpret it this way. Actually, in our experience (both personally and from what we've read), having people in a system who are modelled after or supposed to be various fictional characters is not uncommon. Billy Milligan, for instance, has theorized that their Arthur was originally modeled after Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately, since multiplicity is (or was, in the past) viewed by both therapists and skeptics as a form of make-believe gone too far (whether as the delusions of an abused child or as an adult play-acting), the idea of fictional characters as part of systems has been used to deride and denigrate multiples, as if it 'proves' the extent of our delusional nature.

Our society has long been uncomfortable with the idea of any kind of fantasy or imaginary life in adulthood, viewing it as a sign of pathology. Ironically, many actors, writers and artists have described having the characters they depict or portray 'living in their heads,' talking to them, having a degree of will of their own. As far as we're concerned, this proves not that there's anything wrong with them but rather that multiplicity is natural: that the human mind has an innate ability and tendency towards forming other minds.

Q: Are you Scientologists?
A: No, and we won't link to any page known to be affiliated with $cientology. We have some anti-psychiatry and patients' rights links in our links section, but none of them are connected to or run by $cientologists. Believe it or not, people who are opposed to the existing system can oppose it for a wide range of reasons which don't need to have anyting to do with a cult ideology.

Q: Why don't you have more personal information about yourself on your page?
A: Because we don't want to give out that information-- not because it's scandalous, just because we're private. This page mainly exists as a source of information about multiplicity and an alternative to mainstream MPD/DID views-- it's not a page about our system or our history.