Plurality, also called “multiplicity”, is the experience of having multiple people (consciousnesses) living in the same body together.
Each person has or can have a different personality, gender/sex, sexuality, age, race, species, and often different skills, opinions, preferences, goals, and wishes. Each is their own full person, they are not “personalities” or different “moods”. They usually each have their own name, and often a name for their system or collective together (sometimes the body’s legal name).
No, there is nothing wrong with being plural in of itself. Sometimes though a system doesn’t work well together, and is thus disordered. Individuals within a system can have their own issues and problems like anyone else, but it doesn’t mean being plural is the cause. If a system is working together as a team it is very healthy and helpful for the system, like a team of anyone working together.
If a system is disordered then they may get a diagnosis such as DID or OSDD-1. DID (“dissociative identity disorder”, formerly “multiple personality disorder”) is an extreme and rarer form for plurality, and needs complete amnesia between members, along with loss of functioning outside for diagnosis. OSDD-1 (“other specified dissociative disorder”) comes in two kinds, 1a and 1b. 1a is when there is disorder and system members are less distinct or overlap with each other, as well as experiencing amnesia. 1b is when there is disorder, distinct members, but no amnesia.
Like anyone else! Call them by their name and pronouns, and treat them with respect.
In general thinking of a system like a family can be helpful for understanding how they work together and how to treat them. It’s ok to ask how some-one’s brother is doing, but it’s not cool to tell some-one you like their brother more than them (even if true it’s a bit rude).
It’s ok to ask how their others are doing. It’s ok to ask for a message to be passed on to someone inside too, but can be rude to demand people switch. If some-one switches mid-conversation (and switching is controlled), it is ok to ask them not to interrupt, the same way as another person talking over your friend when you’re trying to talk to them.
It’s ok not to get along with every member, and you don’t have to get to know every single member if they don’t want to interact with you or if they don’t front. You can still be friends with one member if another doesn’t like you.
As a system may not be “out” (as many don’t understand plurality and can treat plurals horribly, there’s a lot of stigma around being plural) they may have to pretend to be singlet in public. They will usually have a public name, like the body’s legal name or a nickname, which they’ll use for all members.
The ways some plurals describe what happens inside can sometimes sound very strange or even absurd to others, but to them it is as real as the outside world we all share. Respect what they say is happening as the truth. It’s ok to ask them what they mean if you don’t understand. It is always far better to ask than make assumptions with anyone.
There are many causes of plurality: some people are born plural, in some it happens later in life naturally (both called “endogenic”), it can be a result of trauma as a way to help survival (“traumagenic”), headmates can also be deliberately made my another (“tulpamancy”), it can be spiritual too. Some don’t know or don’t care about their origin (“quoigenic”), and systems can also be a mixture of different origins too. Within a system, individual members can have different origins as well.
A natural reaction where the brain separates out information from different areas, limiting access to memories, senses, cognitive abilities, and influence over the world. Chronic exposure at a young age can lead to the development of plurality, where dissociation creates barriers separating individual headmates within a collective system. Most people experience this in a less severe sense with daydreaming and getting ‘lost’ in a good book or movie. “Zoning out” and “spacing out” are a form of dissociation, as is detaching or “distancing” yourself from your emotions and going numb, not caring, or complete denial. Some people can dissociate and shutdown, going into shock, from very stressful/traumatic experiences. Dissociation is a survival/defence mechanism, by detaching painful experiences it aims to “spread the load” and lessen the burden. Non-plural dissociation is common in many other mental health disorders, including PTSD, anxiety/stress disorders, depression, dysphoria, and many more.
A disconnected feeling that the world around you is artificial or unreal.
A disconnected feeling that the world around you is artificial or unreal. A feeling of being an observer watching a story play out in front of you, without influence or responsibility. That you are not you, or your body isn’t yours.
Words Plurals use to describe what is going on within the system.
The collective of peoples in one body together, also sometimes called things like a family, team, collective, or tribe.
Member, Headmate (avoid using “alter”)
An individual within a system. Headmates is like roommates but in your head. Some systems use “alter” to describe themselves and are free to do so. But it shouldn’t be used as general term due to discomfort within the plural community as a whole.
Being in front means controlling the body, being “in the driver’s seat”. The person doing this is called the fronter, and the verb is fronting. Those not fronting are “inside”, or in the “back” (aka passengers, not driving). Those not in front may or may not be aware of the outside world (looking out the car windows, or just resting/sleeping inside).
Swapping who’s controlling the body, one person goes inside while another comes out into front. Switching isn’t always obvious, though there are common signs such as blinking a lot like when you wake up, and change in posture/temperament/voice. Switches can be fast or slow (slow switches can look like normal dissociation sometimes, “zoning/spacing out”), and sometimes a plural may rapidly switch between members especially when under high levels of stress. Many non-plurals have one, “go to your happy place”.
When a member is stuck/locked in front and can’t switch even when they want to.
Inside, Headspace, Wonderland, Internal word
Some systems have a space/world inside their head, where they go when not fronting. It can be anything, from a room or house, to a city, or a natural scene. Some systems don’t have one.
The outside world we all interact through.
When two or more headmates front together.
When someone not in front is aware of the outside world and body.
Being aware of each other’s thoughts.
Controlling a specific part of the body from inside, for example the hand to type. (They’re not driving, but can nudge the wheel to help when needed.)
Some-one who isn’t plural, only one person/consciousness in a body.
When you feel likely to switch soon, or multiple switches in a short period.
The combination of two or more system members to create a new system member. Fusions can be temporary and undone at will and can also be permanent.
When two or more system members are co-fronting, but not distinct. If the members are distinct, this is co-consciousness. If the members are fully combined, this is fusion.
The feeling associated with lots of blending happening.
Any word, image, or other association that causes a reaction (such as emotional, visual, physical, or switching).Can be negative or positive. Examples: A threat could trigger a switch to a protector; toys could trigger a switch to a little.
Different types of headmates in Plural systems.
Variously and ambiguously defined as a headmate that fronts the majority of the time and/or is in charge of day-to-day responsibilities, or a headmate who is most responsive to the system’s commonly used name (legal or otherwise).
The first person in a system, before any other arrived/appeared. Some systems are born plural and thus don’t have an original.
A headmate that exists in some systems that is the ‘core’ of their being, often thought of as the headmate that existed before all others. Not all systems possess a core, and sometimes the host is also the core.
A headmate whose role is to protect the body, system, host, or others.
A headmate who purposefully harms the body, system, host, core, or other, sabotages the system’s goals or healing, or work to assist the system’s abuser(s). Protection can be physical, mental, emotional, sexual. Threats will often trigger switches to protectors.
A headmate who purposefully harms the body, system, host, core, or otheror another headmate, sabotages the system’s goals/ or healing, or works to assist the system’s abuser(s). Many persecutors are often trying to help protect the system, and as called “persecuting protectors”.
A headmate who is younger than the rest, normally a child. They are often less able to deal with violence and traumatic situations. Treat them as you would someone of their age (even if the body is much older), minors are more vulnerable and can never consent.
A headmate that does not have a very well-developed personality. Usually they handle a restricted range of emotions, memories, or tasks. They may be “stuck” in time or in an emotional state and have not evolved into full people. Singlets can have these too, PTSD flashbacks are an example.
A headmate that identifies as someone or something external to the system.
Fictive, Fictional introject
A headmate that is based on, or identifies as, a fictional character.
Factice, Factual introject
A headmate that is based on, or identifies as, a non-fiction character/real person.
Main Fronter, Primary
A headmate that handles day-to-day life, or fronts the most.
A headmate that takes care of the system, either internally or externally.
A headmate who holds (and sometimes “hide”) specific memories, usually upsetting or traumatic in nature, in order to protect the others.
A headmate who controls either switches or who gets access to what memories.
A headmate who holds vast knowledge about the system, and sometimes, also about past trauma.
Usually includes the functions of Gatekeepers and Internal Self-Helpers, sometimes also those of Protectors. A system manager might organize the headspace, manage access to memories, control switches, and more.
A headmate who identifies as or look like animals, anthropomorphic creatures, fantasy creatures and more.
A subtype of non-human headmate, although not very common. They are often only internal and can present themselves as plants, household items, ghosts, corpses, and more. A headmate can identify as literally anything, but they are still a full real person.
How Plural systems are formed.
A naturally occuring headmate, can often appear to just turn up one day with very little or no explanation as to their occurrence. They are more common in systems that already have a Tulpa or Traumagenic member. Some people are also born plural.
A system member originating from a traumatic event, thought to be a kind of self defense mechanism of the body.Traumagenic system members are often present in people with DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder).
A tulpa is a system member purposely or accidentally created by someone via continued interaction with an imagined presence. The general consensus is that if someone spends enough time interacting with or focusing on an imagined character or presence that they will eventually become sapient. authors saying they have had experiences where characters “write themself” and “come to life” in their head, talking to them independently of how they have previously been imagining interactions with the character.
Different types of Plural systems.
When two or more headmates accept a common identity and are no longer distinct. This is often accomplished through fusion.
The process of getting a new headmate. Despite the name doesn’t always mean an old headmate loses anything in the process.
When an identity, usually a singlet original, dies and breaks into several new headmates. Often caused by severe stress/trauma.
A grouping of headmates within a system.
A grouping of headmates that have separate forms, but are considered separate from other subsystems or headmates. An example is two groups of headmates, each aware within their groups but oblivious about the other group.
A headmate with headmates. In headspace, they share a form with each other and can switch within this form, like how a system switches in meatspace.
A headmate made of several “facet” headmates with overlapping identities, “We are all Emily”. Part of the spectrum between singlet and plural. A median’s facets may be very different from each other but still identify as part of the same whole person together. They often share some personality traits, can switch seamlessly amongst themselves, and have a high degree of interconnectivity. If a system is made of one median and no other separate headmates the system is thus a median system.
Normally categorized by having at least two of: 1) more than 100 headmates, 2) a lot of fragments, 3) subsystems, or 4) multiple levels in the system with amnesiac barriers, often called “layers”.