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Astraea Multiple Personality FAQ
It is a sort of prejudice, to assume that the body should be allotted only one mind, one soul, and that the presence of more than one indicates something wrong. - Anthony Temple, Astraea
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Just diagnosed? -- or just found out independently that there are people sharing your body? Confused and maybe afraid? Here is some common-sense advice
What is this FAQ For?
To bring to the public the following facts:
1. Multiple personality is real.
2. Multiple personality is not always the result of child abuse, and many people are naturally multiple.
3. Whether or not they have a background of abuse, multiples can and do live fully responsible, functional, productive lives without needing to integrate or even be in therapy.
4. There are lots of us. Walking around all over. We're just in the closet. But we aren't going away.
- S.W. of Amorpha
Our #1 Questions
"Do you believe Sybil, Shirley Ardell Mason, was really multiple?"
Yes, we do. We think her story was fictionalized for Sybil and that there has been a lot of controversy about it. People tend to take extreme positions either way; the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
To get a sense of what Shirley Ardell Mason was really like, you should read Sybil In Her Own Words: The Untold Story of Shirley Mason, Her Multiple Personalities and Paintings by Dr. Patrick Suraci, and Nancy L. Preston's wonderful memoir After Sybil.
Naomi Rhode, Sybil's closest relative, verifies her story
A statement by Nancy L. Preston - Sybil's Friend
Interview with Nancy Preston
"I was just diagnosed..."
Do you feel that your therapist was correct? Do you feel that you are sharing your body with others? Keep that in mind as you're reading this or anything else on multiplicity.
"I'm doing a report on this for school. Where can I buy books on multiple personality?"
Please visit our book list. We don't support or advocate what's in those books; they are there solely because our readers constantly ask us for them. If you need technical assistance getting your paper done, Astraea's Research & Transcription Service.
"Where can I buy the Sybil DVD?" (Sally Field, Joanne Woodward)
"Where can I buy the Sybil DVD remake?" (Tammy Blanchard, Jessica Lange)
Click here for full information on the Sybil film (Sybil DVD) starring Sally Field, and the Sybil remake starring Tammy Blanchard.
Please don't base your judgement of multiplicity, or these pages, on Sybil the movie, Sybil the book, or on the real-life Shirley Mason. She was not a typical multiple personality, and many aspects of her case are controversial. We carry this information only because so many people have written to us asking for it.
"Are there any actual good books you can recommend? Are there any books written by actual multiples themselves?"
Please browse through our book list. Books by multiples include When Rabbit Howls by The Troops for Truddi Chase, Chris Costner-Sizemore's I'm Eve and A Mind Of My Own, and Cameron West's First Person Plural. You can also read Nellie Parsons Bean's My Life as a Dissociated Personality (full text online), written in 1908. Each of these is written from a very personal perspective and should not be taken as representative of typical multiple experience, although the Troops were the first group to provide examples of such common experiences as co-running and co-presence.
"Please send me any links you can think of about..." "Any link you could reference please feel free to send me..." "PLEASE TELL ME WHERE I MIGHT FIND SPECIFIC INFORMATION- REFER ANY LINK OR BOOK"
We will do your multiple personality research for you, for $40 an hour.
Astraea's Research & Transcription Service
Other than that, use the web page; it's the best resource we have.
contain hundreds of links, everything we have. If what you need is not anywhere on our pages, then use a search engine. And if you ever find a link we don't have that you think we might need or like, write to us and let us know!
"Are there places where people talk about being multiple?"
Links to others' personal pages
Links to multiple personality discussion boards
Links to multiple personality chatrooms
"Are there places where friends and family of multiples can get support?"
Yes. There is a support board for friends and family of people with multiple personalities at *click here!* Multorum Animos.
Supportive friends and family members are also welcome at Plurality Resource web forum.
"Do you have a message board?"
We decided not to have a message board, for a lot of reasons. Click here for multiple personality discussion boards.
"Do you have a chat facility?"
No. Click here for multiple personality chatrooms.
Try #plurality and #pluralityadults at irc.synirc.org. Run by another group, we don't own or operate these channels. Open discussion of multiplicity, not MPD or DID or abuse-survivorship oriented. If you don't have an IRC program (e.g. Trillian or mIRC) go to http://cgiirc.synirc.net/ and enter #plurality in the "Channel" slot.
"Are you affiliated with Divided Hearts, Mosaic Minds, Shattered Selves, Split Angels, Enchanted Wings, WeRMany..."
No. We are completely independent, owned and operated by us, and proud to be hosted on Namecheap, one of the foremost supporters of Net Neutrality.
We do not share most views of classic MPD/DID organizations, and have very little in common with them.
"You name a lot of other webpages -- by Amorpha, the Rhymers, the Jin'tari, Pagmies, etc. Are these members of your group or are these other multiples, having their own separate physical bodies?"
They are other multiples with their own separate physical bodies. They are not us. The only handle we use for ourselves on the website is astraea. We are KSOL1460 on tumblr and Livejournal. We are Astraea Group on twitter. We are out plural there, but mostly talk about other things of interest to us, rather than the usual multiple personality issues.
Andy has his own page here: Anthony's Page
"Is there any group for multiples that you do endorse or would recommend?"
Try Livejournal Multiplicity. It's a very large but slow moving community with many different views. Singlet friends & family of multiples are welcome.
What is multiplicity?
"What is multiple personality/ multiplicity?"
Multiple personality is the existence of more than one person or mind in a single body.
"What causes multiplicity? How do people become multiple?"
At present, there are a lot of views as to the origins of plurality, and a lot of multiples (and even some singlets) believe it simply doesn't matter.
Some people think it has to do with differing brain structures, and others with how the mind is conditioned by societal and cultural cues in childhood. Our view is that plurality, or an inclination towards plurality, is something which is naturally present in everyone to some degree or another. The way in which it is experienced depends upon what the individual mind (or minds) choose to make of it. (thanks Amorpha!)
Read Multiple Personality Is Natural by Andy Temple
The standard or classic psychiatric view is that being multiple is a disorder of the mind. To them, having more than one mind or soul is not just a sign of something wrong: it is wrong. This view has its roots in Christianity and in the philosophy of Rene Descartes which influences most branches of science to this day.
Cornelia Wilbur, the psychiatrist who treated Sybil, defined and described multiple personality for modern psychiatry. She assumed that multiplicity was always caused when a child suffers severe trauma and "dissociates" for protection. Doctors like Richard Kluft and Frank Putnam followed up on Wilbur's notions when they worked with multiple personality clients. They created an entire belief system around her views, subsequently attempting to fit all multiples into that narrow bandwidth of description.
Again, trauma-dissociation-splitting-amnesia is not the experience of all multiples, although a few report they know for a fact that's what happened to them. But there are multiples who were never abused at all; others who were and remember perfectly well. None of this is universal. Again, many multiples now believe origins do not matter; what matters is for the different selves in the group to cooperate, making a life for themselves in the present and working together to resolve past issues if any.
"If multiplicity is not caused by child abuse, why do all multiples in the literature have backgrounds of child abuse?"
Because they're the ones who have come to the attention of the researchers and mental health professionals who write such things. People come to therapists for help with all sorts of life problems. Many psychological problems are caused by some form of child abuse. Some of the people who come to therapy are multiple. Voiola.
"But these doctors are trained professionals. They know all about the mind and behavior. Don't they know better than a lay person what is happening with multiples?"
*sigh*... hate to break it to you, but even dedicated, trained professionals are still human beings and as susceptible as anyone else to theories, fads and just being wrong. During the 1980s and 90s, MPD and DID were very "hot" in mental health circles and in the media (which, then as now, fed off each other). Many doctors and counselors wrote journal articles and books, were interviewed in magazines and on television. They said over and over "So little is known". They confessed repeatedly that they really didn't know that much about it and were trying to find out. They went with the trauma-dissociation-splitting premise because it seemed to make sense. And still does, to some of them.
Being multiple seems so bizarre, so unimaginable, to many singlets, that they assume it must be some kind of attempt to escape reality.
Also, professional psychologists, social workers and psychiatrists are just as vulnerable as anyone to the line of thought that Y happened after X means X caused Y. Like, "A number of people went to the Methodist Church over a five-year period. During that time, several of the women had babies. Therefore, going to the Methodist Church gets women pregnant."
Mental health experts do not know you better than you know yourself. The best ones will tell you so.
Early researchers such as Theodore Fluornoy believed that dissociation and multiplicity were caused by societal oppression, but they had a slightly different take on what dissociation was. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, societal demands and expectations caused women (and a lot of men) to repress and deny parts of their mental and emotional life that had been declared off limits. The idea some professionals held at that time was that if a person had enough of these dissociated bits, they might reach critical mass and form a second personality.
This was not the only origin story being considered at the time. Spiritualist type phenomena, including spirit visitation, were taken very seriously by many researchers (see more about this at survivalafterdeath.info) (site is back online!). Persons in multiple systems who claimed to be spirits, were often taken at their word as being what they said they were until proved otherwise. Here, you can read about Margaret in The Doris Fischer Case of Multiple Personality (long PDF, entire text by Dr. James Hyslop and Dr. Walter Prince). There were also Oliver Sachs-like accounts of multiple personality manifesting after a head injury.
It was Dr. Pierre Janet who redefined dissociation in the early 1900s, as distancing oneself from reality following trauma. His writings formed the basis of Wilbur's definitions.
"Why do doctors say that a person has to be traumatized before a certain age?"
"Does this have anything to do with having imaginary friends?"
An anonymous contributor writes:
"Most MPD/DID studies try to make their ideas correspond to relevant theories of cognitive development. That's where you get all of the seemingly random cut-off ages for becoming multiple [If you do not pass go before X stage, you fail.] The formation of imaginary friends occurs during the same stages where many of them think MPD/DID begins to form so they incorprate this into their ideas. They don't really think that imaginary friends are the beginning of MPD/DID.
(Jay says: When that happens, it's probably more about fictives.)
"There is a patronizingly common belief that MPD/DID patients are living in a fantasy world hiding from reality. The repeated description is that MPD/DID is a creative coping mechanism by highly imaginative people. When hypnosis is added to the description it's taken a step further to mean highly suggestible people. It gives the connotation of MPD/DID as a maladaptive form of make-believe and what else can make-believe be but a cohort of imaginary friends.
"There's also the use of imaginary playmates to explain why the doctor finds herself holding a therapy session with Rainbow Brite."
Click here for an example of the kind of psychiatric view the above contributor means.
"Is it possible to know or discover that you are multiple without ever having been diagnosed by a professional?"
Absolutely! We were never diagnosed as multiple. No professional ever told us that we were. (Since 2009, we have been in therapy for other emotional and recent family issues. We were not out multiple to our first counselor, where we mostly worked on cognitive behavioral skills that could benefit anyone who took the front. The current one actually has a clue and thinks the idea of integration is ludicrous.) We know other multiples who were never diagnosed as having MPD or DID, and/or who have never been in therapy for it. These are self-acknowledged or self-identified multiple systems.
Here's a few of their homepages:
Ex Uno Plures
"How do you tell if you are multiple?"
We have been playing around with a checklist for a long time, but really, at rock bottom, what you need to ask yourself is: Have you had the experience of sharing your body with one or more other people? That is really all there is to it. Multiplicity is about more than one person per body. Trauma and dissociation are not necessarily part of the package.
"What's the difference between being multiple and being fragmented?"
The word "fragmented" was made up by doctors (probably Dr. Richard Kluft -- he loves making up terminology) who mistakenly thought that every multiple started out as one whole person who fragmented into many. Some professionals use it to refer to people in a multiple collective (system, group, family) who seem to do only one thing when they are out front. (Sure, only one thing that the doctors ever see them do.) Or a kind of extreme form of compartmentalization of thought and action. This is controversial, and not everyone agrees. Some plural systems do experience some of their people as fragments only; sometimes they create them deliberately; they may call them shells.
Some therapists get very into the idea that every new action is caused by a new person or 'fragment'. We've had letters from multiples who have been through therapy with doctors who count a change in makeup or hair style, a new shirt or dress, or even a particular mannerism, as a new "part" or fragment. It was commonly done in situations where a client wasn't even multiple but was diagnosed with MPD by overzealous professionals. An example is given in Joan Acocella's book Creating Hysteria: Women and Multiple Personality Disorder -- in fact, it's in this online chapter from the book.
"I've seen the expression 'polyfragmented' referring to multiples. What does that mean?"
Again, this word was probably made up by Richard Kluft. It refers to the fact that some people in multiple systems are multiple in their own right. They have systems of their own. This is a very routine thing, but it seems that the more common and natural something is, the more the psychs have to make it sound like something incredibly technical and incomprehensible to the lay person. Some multiples approve of the term and some do not. A few people tell us that their doctors said 'polyfragmented' simply for large-population groups -- over a hundred.
"Please send me all the information you have on the genetic origins of multiplicity."
There's hardly anything. Most of what we have is anecdotal evidence. Most people doing research with multiples have not thought to ask for healthy, non-abused multiples; it's simply assumed they don't exist. There is brain-mind research going on now but it's in the very beginning stages.
"where I can find statistics about how common MPD is and what the most documented "persons" were within a person with MPD?"
Statistics are difficult to find. One of the most irritating things about the '90s recovered-memory movement in which thousands of people were misdiagnosed with so-called MPD is that there was little to no documentation. Following Dr. Cornelia Wilbur's lead -- she never published a scientific paper on her work with Sybil in any peer-reviewed journal -- statistical records were not kept on the grounds that it was more important to believe the clients' stories regarding past trauma. At one point some doctors speculated that about 1% of the U.S. population were multiples.
"Please send me the names of all the books on non-trauma multiplicity."
The only book we know of that discusses non-trauma multiplicity in ANY way, is Sandy Stone's "The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age." It's a postmodern but easy-to-read look at how the Internet is changing the meaning of words like identity, and how things are becoming more flexible as far as the idea that each person only has one personality, 'cause so many don't, any more. We can't recommend this book enough.
Sandy's piece on the Sarah trial, (Violation and Virtuality), talks about the idea of nontrauma multiplicity and its place online, although Sandy doesn't seem to know about SANCTUARY, which was very much around when she was writing this, along with places like Refuge that specialized in multiples' other worlds or "inner" worlds; she seemed not to be aware that multiples had ever interacted on a MUD, much less that there were several MUDS for multiples.
"Why don't you have any material on the diagnosis and treatment of multiplicity?"
Try the book list or visit this website to read free back issues of the Dissociation journal. We disagree strongly with many of the views presented there and in most of the books on "MPD" and "dissociation" we are selling. They are there only for information.
"Everybody has multiple personalities -- for example, I'm a different person when I'm with my parents than when I'm playing with my kids or working at the office. Is it a matter of complexity or just a belief on the part of a part of someone that it is in some way "other"? Aren't you just being a little more creative with it and assigning those parts of yourself names and histories?"
Look at it this way. When there's one person who says "I'm a different person at the office than I am with my friends," that's more like one engine, just shifting gears. With multiplicity, there are several engines. (Thank you to our longtime singlet friend Steve G.)
"I still don't get it. One body means one person. How can there be more than one person?"
When babies are born, some are born single. Some are twins, or triplets, or more. Some are conjoined twins. Some people have more than one set of DNA in their body, yet live as a single person, in one body. Some people are born with a fragment of another person growing in them, that sometimes has to be removed surgically. Among the twins (or triplets or more), some are "identical" (yet separate), and some are completely different from each other. All of this applies to the physical bodies.
If there can be this much variation in how bodies are formed and how interconnected they are, then why shouldn't the formation of minds have just as much variety?
Twins don't think of themselves as being messed up because there's more than one of them. There is great variety in the way things are formed, more than most people imagine there could be. Human beings are not as "standardized" as people think; there are more variations than most people would expect.
Just as most people expect that one single baby at a time will be born, most people expect just one mind... there's no reason why either of those things should be true. And once a person realizes that there can be more than one body, there can also be more than one mind. Perhaps totally separate... perhaps interconnected. Connected to a greater or lesser extent. (Thank you, lj-nancy_nensi).
"I've heard of systems that number in the thousands. The Anachronic Army say they have over five thousand. Isn't that confusing?" "How do you possibly keep track of over a thousand different alters? The mind boggles."
It's not a question of keeping track. Have you ever seen a beehive? Just as it's unnecessary to keep track of individual bees, so it is with persons in a system. They are free to come and go as they like, so long as all the earth-world stuff is accomplished, i.e., school, paying bills, &c. People who report having that many people (ourselves included) are likely counting members of their group who never take the front. This is especially true of gateway systems.
Healthy Multiples & Empowerment
"But this leads me to the question, what is a healthy multiple?"
A healthy multiple is a group of persons living in one body, who have established some form of communication or a way to keep track of what is going on in the world-at-large; who run the physical life in a responsible way; who are functioning reasonably well in terms of activities of daily living; who do not use their multiplicity as an excuse to mistreat or take advantage of other people. In brief, a group for whom multiplicity is not a problem, a disorder, or a sickness, but simply the way they are. Healthy multiples come from a variety of origins from trauma/splitting to natural/born that way.
Some people get healthy multiplicity confused with natural (non-trauma-split) multiplicity. Healthy multiplicity is that which doesn't interfere with the group's current level of daily functioning. It's not about dissociation, memory continuity (or lack thereof -- blackout multiples can use lists) or about having or not having a trauma-split origin.
"Then the fact that you are a multiple is not an indication that something is not healthy?"
Right. Well-meaning counselors often point to the fact of multiplicity as "proof of trauma" -- in other words, that being multiple, in and of itself, means that Something Bad Happened. Again, experiences that seem bizarre to outsiders are often assumed to be part of some kind of "escape from reality". (Until the late 1960s autism was assumed to be a response to abuse, a deliberate flight from reality.) It is a sort of prejudice, to assume that the body should be allotted only one mind, one soul, and that the presence of more than one indicates something wrong. ^Andy observes that the people who have documented multiplicity down through history must have been frightened by the idea, no doubt because they we