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Healthy Plurality

For most of “my” life, “my” thoughts have “taken the form of” a conversation between 2 or more people. I think something, and someone else responds – sometimes in agreement, sometimes with a counter-argument. It might happen when I’m trying to make a decision or just thinking about something that’s important to me or has temporarily captured my interest. Sometimes it just … happens.

Sometimes I’m alone, but that’s actually kind of rare. Most of the time it feels like someone else is here with me; we experience all the same things together and (usually) support each other in coping with them. On occasion it’s like I’m in a crowded room with several conversations buzzing all around me – or, several people all shouting what they think I should do / say / eat. (Eat? Whoever said that? Yes, eating is the most important thing we do every day. No, breathing is! Eating and breathing, okay! We don’t have to decide what or whether to breathe – unless there’s cigarette smoke. Just leave “eat” in there, okay? Do we have to leave this whole conversation in here? It’s really embarrassing! It’s how our brain works …)

Umm, where was I? Oh, right. I hear it all with my mind’s ear, like when a song gets stuck … really, whoever wrote that? It just sounds so lame! Hey!

That’s what you get for trying to minimize the fact that the rest of us exist. So there.

I’m sorry I’m introducing readers to a (potentially) new concept. I didn’t want to weird them out too much at first. Give them a chance to learn what healthy plurality is before they have to deal with our arguments!

This is fun!

Anyway, I’ve been curious about the idea of plurality for some time, but I thought it could only be part of a disorder – what was once called “multiple personality disorder” and now (in the US) is called “dissociative identity disorder” … as far as I’m aware, they’re essentially the same thing. “My” way of being plural has always felt normal-for-“me” … which is a little weird to say because I’ve gotten so used to being depressed that in a way that feels normal too. So, let me clarify. Depression has always interfered with some aspect of my life, whether it’s feeling confident and important / respected in social situations, getting out of bed in the morning, taking care of myself, dealing with really intense emotions, etc. Being plural has been … interesting … but never actually a problem. Right, folks? No problem? … Usually. Any group of people will have disagreements and drama. Sometimes it gets a bit stressful; sometimes we’re not as supportive of each other as we could or should be.

I wouldn’t want anyone here to go away; I enjoy their company. It’s just another way of being, and “I” often find it adaptive. How? If I’m feeling lonely there’s someone I can talk to. I don’t have to make difficult decisions alone. There’s often a comforting voice, such as the one who reminded me that the incredibly harsh self-criticisms were the depression talking, and didn’t reflect reality. Or the one who convinced me to get out of bed today by promising I could have cookies for breakfast …

I recently had the opportunity to meet members of 2 multiple systems (independent people who share the same body) and learn a bit about their subjective experiences. I learned that plurality / multiplicity / multiple systems can develop naturally and don’t have to be the result of trauma / psychopathology. The people involved in such systems don’t need to integrate into one personality in order to be healthy. As at least one member of a multiple system put it, “We find that the easiest way to explain our thought processes is as a conversation among multiple people.” (not an exact quote)

Sound familiar?

I’ll admit, the possibility of being multiple is scary. Does this have to go in here? Yes, it’s part of my experience! As I meet others who share “my” body, how do I know that what they’re saying is coming from them and not me? I think I’m usually the one fronting (using our body to interact with the physical world). If I become more aware of, engage with, and get to know the others as individuals, do I have to give up control of our body to them? If I do, will I get it back? Yes. I can only deal with this – okay, fine, I’ll use “stuff” – for so long. Is any of this even real? Yes!

Ultimately, it’s all subjective. Of course it’s all happening inside my / our head – that doesn’t have to mean it isn’t real! (props to anyone who gets the reference) I’ve / we’ve lived this way for as long as I can remember; nothing will change unless we want it to. Being aware of it, even talking / writing about it, doesn’t change it. It just broadens our understanding of ourselves, and the many ways of being in the world(s).

I’m very new to the idea of healthy plurality and can only share my own experiences. To learn more from the perspectives of healthy multiples, including faq and the like, visit Healthy Multiplicity . com

You might also find this Glossary helpful.

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