... multiple personality resources & controversies
Astraea Multiple Personality FAQIt 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
We welcome your comments! Please send feedback through our mail form!
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.
A statement by Nancy L. Preston - Sybil's Friend
Interview with Nancy Preston
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)
"Do you have a message board?"
"Are you affiliated with Divided Hearts, Mosaic Minds, Shattered Selves, Split Angels, Enchanted Wings, WeRMany..."
We do not share most views of classic MPD/DID organizations, and have very little in common with them.
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 the inclination, 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!)
Note that we are not talking about "everyone dissociates", "highway hypnosis" and the like. This is a different issue. This is about a plurality of identities -- which may be very separate or more contiguous -- existing in and sharing one body.
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.
"If multiplicity is not caused by child abuse, why do all multiples in the literature have backgrounds of child abuse?"
*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.
"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.)
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?"
"I've seen the expression 'polyfragmented' referring to multiples. What does that mean?"
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."
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?"
"Or is this a healthy response to extreme situations?"
Taking responsibility for your own life, learning to care for your own collective/system/group/selves and self, building teamwork and cooperation, setting healthy boundaries and standing strong against those who would use or abuse you.That's right. Any multiple system can be empowered. Empowerment is the ability to take responsibility for one's life and make conscious choices rather than simply going along with what someone else says.
Empowerment is for all multiples. It is not only for natural (non-trauma) multiples; you can be empowered and be a multiple whose group originated in trauma. In fact, if that's your situation, empowerment is a wonderful thing for you, and is something your therapist (if any) ought to be encouraging.
Empowerment does not mean rejecting therapy, or even medication, if those are helpful to the system. Empowerment is about choice. It is about making one's own decisions rather than becoming overly dependent on authority to define and guide one's life. Even a therapist -- even a good one. Empowerment also means the right to interpret one's own system, rather than automatically believing everything other people tell you about yourselves. Empowerment means the group members work together, to communicate with each other (whether through notes or directly), to organise themselves into a responsible operating system, and see multiplicity as a positive part of their lives -- regardless of how their multiplicity originated.
"If you are multiple, doesn't that mean you have MPD/DID?"
Many people still believe that all trauma-based systems have MPD or DID. Or that if you are multiple, period, you have MPD or DID. That is ridiculous. It's saying that your origins as a group define whether or not you have a mental disorder. This goes back to the psychiatric nonsense that being multiple, the presence of others, is itself a mental disorder or a symptom of one.
The way we see it: If being multiple doesn't affect your daily functioning, then you don't have MPD or DID.
Trauma-based groups have pointed out that referring to abuse-origin multiple personality as a 'disorder' is a disempowering insult to abuse survivors. Abuse does enough to make a person feel that they are bad and wrong. If they become multiple as a response to trauma, then calling it a disorder further alienates the survivor. How much does the "disorder" label discredit survivors, and how is it used to perpetuate or justify psychiatric abuse?
Why do abused people have to be called disordered? Why can't it just be called "multiple personality"? Others can be called "traumatic stress" or "bipolar" or "schizophrenic" -- why does the "disorder" have to be added on? This feels like an insult to rape victims. They need to be empowered, and understand how their behaviors are a way to survive and heal. Healing can take a long time, but the stages can be temporary. Gay people got power from psychiatric labels of disorder. They aren't called disordered anymore. Rape survivors should get this power too. It's often the abusers that want the disorder label applied, because it discredits their victims. - Irene, commenting on NPR news story, 2007-10-03.
Myths & Misconceptions"How can you be a multiple personality... you seem so normal."
You know how much nonsense there is on television... why should it be any different when it comes to multiplicity?
"All of the multiples on TV are crazy. That woman on The United States of Tara acts batshit insane ... if that's a misportrayal and multiples aren't crazy, why do scriptwriters do that?"
Because it $ells.
"Does that mean you have them under control?"
I should say not. I wouldn't be caught dead running this damn penny-ante outfi... oh! I see what you mean. You're asking if we have a responsible operating system! Well, most of the time, we do. (We have had some difficulties recently, due to communication failure.)
Having a coherent, responsible operating system is something all multiples can and should work for. It's something that can be developed even if your system is not co-conscious -- and even if you can't talk to each other. We know several systems who have very little co-consciousness. They use lists and memos to keep track of things.
The key is not necessarily communication, but cooperation and responsibility. The will to be responsible, to take charge of the body's daily life and run it in a way that benefits the group.
Multiple personality has no relationship to schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a biochemical imbalance which causes disorganized thinking and inability to sort out and make sense of everyday sensory input. For more about schizophrenia, please read Schizophrenia: It's Not What You Think.
Multiple personality is the existence of more than one person or mind in a single body. It is not caused by biochemical imbalance; it is a matter of neurological hardwiring. It is not a thought disorder: it is a way of being in the world. It is a way of thinking and relating to one's other selves and to the world-at-large.
It's not a matter of multiples being superior so much as that the combination of skills in any system/collective/group can make it seem like we're able to do and understand a whole heck of a lot more. - Shaytar^Romy
Schizophrenia is not caused by superior intelligence, nor are people of above-average intelligence more likely than anyone else to have schizophrenia. For more about schizophrenia click here.
"I know multiplicity is not a disorder, because it takes a special kind of person to be multiple... it requires superior intelligence and creativity."
While we can appreciate the overcompensation -- disorganized systems and even well-organized ones often feel they are crazy and stupid, because there's no cultural validation for their experience -- the myth of the gifted multiple is not helpful to us. It has no more validity than saying we are all deranged serial killers. It portrays us as a race of possibly dangerous superbeings.
"The brainís magnetic field of 10
So even if multiples generate a larger biomagnetic field than singlets (there is no evidence yet that a bioenergetic field exists), it wouldn't be strong enough to affect material reality.
"i once suggested to a therapist in a group that specialised on mpd/did perhaps,, i used more then the 10 percent of my brain that most people used and was higher evolved then the average person, and that maybe they might consider that it was not an illness at al Well I bet you can guess how that went over"
You will frequently hear that Sybil, published in 1973, was the book that launched the 20th-century MPD craze among doctors and therapists who suddenly started finding it "everywhere". This is simply not true.
The first modern MPD craze began in the 1950s with the publication of Shirley Jackson's The Birds' Nest and the later publication and simultaneous film release of The Three Faces of Eve. Understanding something about the expectations placed on women at the time can help to explain why people were so fascinated by multiple personalities. Within the limitations of "homemaker", women were expected to assume a number of different roles. They were expected to cook three meals a day, keep the house clean, do all the shopping and care for the kids. They must do this all without apparent effort and while looking perfect. Women who tried to have a career alongside or instead of this (the analogy to the independent, trouble-making persona that all MPDs were supposed to have) were warned by "experts" that this could only lead to failure and possible mental breakdown. (Watch I Love Lucy with this in mind. There was even an episode where she faked MPD.)
The Birds' Nest/Three Faces of Eve MPD craze followed immediately on the Bridey Murphy reincarnation fad -- the idea of alternative identities, whether they were past-life personalities or split-off parts of your own consciousness, spread like wildfire through the popular culture. But your doctor wouldn't diagnose you with those. You would still be told that it was just stress and that everyone has many "moods" or "sides".
Multiple personalities came back into the forefront of American consciousness in 1973 with the film version of The Exorcist and the book version of Sybil (which had the word "possessed" on the cover so it would attract the same audience). Public response to The Exorcist book and film was massive, and fear of vulnerability to demonic possession had people consulting pastors and doctors. (Regan is repeatedly mistaken for having multiple personalities, even by the priest who attends her. In the book, there's a chapter where he researches MPD in detail, to prove it's what Regan doesn't have.)
Sybil was a novel, only loosely based on Shirley Ardell Mason's real life and therapy, but many people took it at face value as a "true story". The 1976 film (deliberately coded, through lighting, music and cinematography, as a horror movie) caught on, as planned, with the same audience as The Exorcist. Perhaps people were reassured to think that thoughts and feelings that seemed foreign to them came from a second personality and not a demon. But this still didn't cause the uptick in multiple personality diagnoses: that started later. Most people who went to a therapist to find out if they had MPD were told that it was very rare and the chances were virtually nil.
The MPD craze that affected doctors as well as clients really began in 1980 with the Billy Milligan case and the book Michelle Remembers. William Stanley Milligan's story was front-page national news. It was covered in many newspaper articles and on television and radio. He definitely was multiple. While Sybil had been portrayed as bizarre and half-insane, Milligan was always portrayed as behaving in a normal and even competent manner, making him easier to relate to for those who suspected they might themselves be multiple.
Two of Milligan's people committed armed robbery and rape (not murder). At a hearing (not a trial) in the the Franklin County Common Pleas court, he was declared not guilty by reason of insanity -- as his defense team had proven that he had multiple personalities. Milligan did not take the stand and did not exhibit different selves during the hearing. He was sent to the mental hospital in Athens, Ohio, then to a hospital/prison for the criminally insane, under brutal conditions, after numerous complaints that he was receiving "cushy" treatment in Athens.
Milligan's case brought multiple personality and legal defense to the foreground of American conversation. The idea that you could seemingly "get off" by entering a multiple-personality defense was not lost on other defendants such as the Hillside Strangler. However, Milligan did not "get off". He was never acquitted of his crimes by a jury of his peers, because he never stood trial. Moreover, Milligan's was a special case. Virtually all courts and juries trying similar cases have rejected Milligan-type defenses.
Milligan's story set the stage for a decade of speculative overdiagnosis, psychiatric abuse of multiples and insurance fraud. Some of the worst offenders, like Colin A. Ross, are still practicing. (In spite of the fact that he has gone right round the bend and believes in eye beams).
Feminists and the Religious Right, meanwhile, latched onto the story of Michelle Smith, who during hypnotherapy supposedly recovered memories of years of intensive Satanic ritual abuse. (This sort of fused the Exorcist and Sybil narratives in a way.) Dissociated alters supposedly removed the physical scars she received from the abuse and helped her bury the memories. In the increasingly conservative climate of the 1980s, the idea of Satanic ritual abuse caught on like wildfire, with MPD used as the rationale why alleged victims didn't remember. The book was discussed endlessly on religious television shows -- PTL Club, The Hal Lindsey Report, The 700 Club etc. Feminists saw it as a valuable document in their fight to stop child abuse. It was almost universally believed, until journalists from the British Daily Mail and elsewhere pointed out the inaccuracies and inconsistencies and finally uncovered the truth.
Reports of multiple personalities -- not necessarily Sybil-type MPD -- have existed since ancient times.
Multiples who were well known in psychological literature prior to Sybil include:
Additionally, a few of the cases presented in our Early Accounts of Multiple Personality predate Sybil.
This has happened several times, and there is definitely case law precedent for allowing several people from a multiple system to testify in court. The 1990 Mark Peterson case in Wisconsin received much media publicity when Sarah, an Asian-American woman, brought rape charges against him for seducing a trusting young adult in her group.
Therapy"Do you have a database of therapists?"
No, but there are a couple of such databases available. If you are looking for a therapist in your area, the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation has a database of MPD/dissociative disorder/PTSD/trauma recovery therapists.
All back issues of the Many Voices newsletter are now available as free PDFs, there will be NO new issues BUT two new online support communities.
Holding Space -- "for people still waiting to feel like someone understands them and they are not alone... a place where we can exchange ideas, talk openly about trauma, PTSD, and living with DID without the worry about security in social media" (so it will NOT be on Facebook!!)
A Life After Trauma -- "listings of online support groups, meet ups, conferences, helpful websites, phone apps, books, blogs and tools for you to use to begin to move past your trauma."
Contact Information: firstname.lastname@example.org Holding Space, PO Box 51552, Bowling Green KY 42102
Founded in 1989, Many Voices was an independent newsletter written BY (not just for) people recovering from child abuse or trauma, dissociative disorder, PTSD or trauma -- multiples and singlets. It was the flagship publication for the voices of abuse survivors and multiples to speak up and be heard.
Lynn's daughter Diane says: "In January 2014, the following was found in minutes from a Board of Directors Meeting dated 9/20/2011. Lynn was nine months into Chemotherapy at this point.
"'ISST-D Liaison. I already contacted our liaison at ISST-D telling her to expect that we will have "contingency plans" to discuss with them.
"'I have had excellent contacts with them since MV began, and if we are not able to keep MV going, (when I am gone), this is the place I want to "take over", even if all they do is make back issues available on the web in perpetuity.' (THEY HAVE! Back issues free online now!)
"Many Voices issues are now the property of The International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation."
"Is there a cure for multiplicity?"
Psychologists seem to feel that anger is a natural emotion and it's how we handle that anger that's what's important. That it not be allowed to be destructive without or from within. I mean, Anger can be harmful, yes, but so can other emotions; anger can lead you to strike someone or to stand up for someone. But love can lead you to be a better person, or it can fill you with jealousy or resentment. - SF Debris review of Babylon 5 episode 1."Our therapist wants to integrate us. He keeps saying that we'll all feel much better as one person and that nobody really dies."
If you do not want to integrate, he has no business trying to talk you into it. Tell him this. You are paying him to help you guys, not to force you into some imagined standard of normal behavior. His business is to help you with life problems, and assist you to be functional in activities of daily living. These things do not necessarily require integration. If you and the others in your system talk it over and decide on integration, that's different -- it's your choice.
Read Andy's essay on integration
"I've been reading your website. Are you serious.. you mean I don't HAVE to integrate?"
Many of the MPD clients of the 1980s were of an age where there are naturally a lot of changes in visual acuity. People at that age may need three or four eyeglass prescriptions in a year. This could also account for the "increased forgetfulness" experienced by many clients which was believed to be caused by switching but is a natural effect of aging. Many people go through this as young as thirty.
"What about the severe headaches that are nearly always reported in articles or books on MPD?"
What's it like?"What's it like to be multiple?"
For us, it is a constant sense that others are present. For every person who is up front, running the body in the earth world, there are two or three others who may be hanging around observing, making comments, or just listening in. The feeling of manyness, of knowing there is always someone close by, is very comforting to us. We have had difficulties when this sense was lost (others may have been nearby, but the front-runner could not feel them).
"If a person does not define and accept that he has "multiples", this means he sort of gets "lost in space", doesn't it, because he has no idea what is going on?"
Yes, it can really feel like the Twilight Zone. It can feel confusing, disorienting, or downright crazy. Learning to accept that the other people are there, and that communication is possible, will help make it feel less crazy.
"Are alters really separate personalities?"
If they experience themselves as distinct individuals, then they should be treated with the respect that that is what they are. Always treat the persons in a multiple group as separate people unless they tell you otherwise.
Note: most multiples really dislike the term "alter" because they do feel that the members of their group are distinct and separate people. Professionals use the term "alter" specifically to emphasize that these selves are nonpersons. It's better to refer to members of a group as people or selves, unless the group you are talking to specifically tells you what they want to be called. Please ask if you are not sure.
"Should I interact with the people in a multiple system, or keep my relationship with them confined to the host or presenting self?"
You can talk to whomever talks to you. Get to know them as individuals. If they introduce themselves, if they want to converse and form friendships with you, they are showing their trust in you.
"Is it possible for someone with this condition to switch at will?"
"Can two or more persons be present at once?"
"Is it possible to have several people who use the same name -- either a birth name or other name?"
Nonhumans - Mythic Creatures - Otherkin"Is it possible for some of the people in a multiple group to be members of races usually considered mythological -- elves, faeries, mythic animals, extraterrestrials?"
Yes, many multiples have reported this experience. The Chimera group consists of mythic animals and they have a good page describing their experiences and their personal world. Nsashaell is another system with some people who are animals and/or shapeshifters.
You might have a look at Crisses' Otherkin FAQ and Otherkin.Net Resources.
"Is it possible for some of the people in a multiple group to be vampires, werewolves, demons, and other creatures of Gothic horror?"
Walk-Ins"Is it possible for some of the people in a multiple group to be "walk-ins", that is, to come from outside the system?"
Yes, in fact this is an often-reported experience.
"Is it possible for some of the people in a multiple group to be spirits of persons who have died and subsequently taken up residence in the present body?"
Absolutely. It is not at all unusual for multiples to have this experience. There has always been a certain amount of crossover between mediumship -- the perceived ability to communicate with spirits of the departed -- and multiplicity. In fact, at one time the term "multiple personalities" actually referred to mediums who were used to letting spirits visit for a time.
If you're interested, look up F.W.H. Myers -- a Victorian-era scholar who studied the "subliminal consciousness". There's a website where these old-time records are studied, at Survival After Death.
Whether you (or we) believe in spirits, walk-ins, otherkin, etc. is of no account. What matters is that the experience should be respected. If someone says they have residents in their system who are spirits or otherwise come from outside this world, why not take their word for it until you have proof that it is not so?
Yes. It is not uncommon to have fictive persons in a multiple system. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a recent development or a fad dreamed up by teenagers. Multiples have been reporting this experience for a good many years. Henry Hawksworth of The Five Of Me began as a multiple by, among other things, 'adopting' Peter Pan into his mental space, as a three-year-old child. That was in 1946.
Some detractors use it as a rationale or proof that multiplicity does not exist or that people who report this experience are not multiple but merely play-acting. Dr. George Ganaway believes that multiples who start out as dissociative victims of abuse or neglect internalize such characters in the process of creating "defensive and restitutional fantasies" to fulfill psychodynamic needs like having a loving family or having friends who respect you. Not being multiple himself, of course, this is Ganaway's attempt to explain something he can't really understand. Some abuse victims do this, but that doesn't mean that all fictives in multiple systems came about the same way, even if their group began as trauma-split.
More recently, some doctors are beginning to classify people with this experience as schizophrenic. If you have this experience, it might not be wise to disclose it to a therapist.
Other Worlds/ Gateway Systems"Some multiples on the internet have written about living in different dimensions or on different planets. I also hear the expression 'gateway multiple' or 'gateway system'. What do they mean?"
Some multiples experience living in another physical space when they are not up front (using the body). It's often called inner worlds, although we resist calling it that and prefer other or personal worlds. You might have a look at:
The Shire: Those That Walk
It is important to understand that many people who experience personal worlds -- both multiple and singlet -- view these environments as subjectively real, not as therapeutic constructs such as analogising toward a "dialogue of parts", "visualising a safe place where your alters can talk to each other." That can be valid and helpful too, but are not true for everyone.
Multiples who experience living in other worlds when not up front may think of their earth body as a portal or gateway from their own world to the earth world or world-at-large -- that is, present-day physical consensus reality. That is where the expression "gateway system" came from. It was originally coined by Stardance : Shaytar and Bekaio systems to describe their personal experiences. We ourselves are a gateway system who experience a homeworld in a parallel dimension.
"Do only multiples have such worlds?"
No. Personal or subjective worlds and languages are often overlooked or dismissed as fantasy because Western society has a low opinion of subjective experience, but many people have felt that they perceived another world, or even that they belonged somewhere else, to a different place or time. Some have written about it.
Islandia by Austin Tappan Wright
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath -- H.P. Lovecraft (entire text on line here -- This is one of Lovecraft's few non-horror adventure novels.
Glasstown, Angria and Gondal: Brontë Juvenilia. Michael J. A. Howe describes the imaginary world chronicled by the Brontë children, revealing their sources of inspiration in the experiences of real people and the places they read about:
Here's the chapter from the official Brontë biography, where Charlotte describes how the plays got started. In their teenage years, they wrote a lot of what is now called "real person fanfiction", mostly about the Duke of Wellington and his two sons.
J.R.R. Tolkien meant his writing as a different kind of fantasy -- a mythology, or legends based on bits of English and German folklore and history. Middle-earth is not another world: it is supposed to be our own earth in very ancient times. However, his descriptions of Valinor and the special, separate places in which the Elves existed are definitely "Otherworld" as he would say.
Since we can't all be as lucky as the heroines of Moonwise, singlets would visit such places while asleep or in altered states of consciousness, while persons in multiple systems can travel or return to their home dimension while the body remains awake, being run by somebody else in the group (this is called a gateway or portal system). That would be the only difference.
"I hear of people reporting they can travel from their own world to someone else's. Is this actually possible? Is it some form of astral projection?"
The only source of information on traveling comes from the stories of people who experience it. One way to determine whether or not a person from X system has indeed visited Y's otherworld is to focus on a certain object or event, remember it upon returning, and confirm it with Y.
This is very difficult to do and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't necessarily mean that you haven't actually made the trip. Memory is slippery even in the earth world -- can you remember what you had for breakfast six months ago? -- and people often report that they remember little or nothing of their experiences journeying, or even in their own personal worlds once they come up front. (Statebound abilities and skills are also reportedly common.)
The wisest thing to do is to be certain you trust the other person or group enough to be able to be completely honest with them, and know they are completely honest with you. It's too easy to take advantage of the situation.
"Do two people in the same group ever fall in love or have a sexual or romantic relationship?"
In some multiple systems, one or two front runners are deliberately excluded from communication with the others. Such a frontrunner is supposed to run things in daily life, believing that he is the one and only person occupying the body. This kind of setup can occur for any number of reasons. If the frontrunner becomes aware of the others, either by accident or by design, a situation can occur similar to what you may have read about in Sybil or When Rabbit Howls. In the past, people studying multiplicity have made the mistake of believing that ALL multiples run on this setup (perhaps because of the influential writings of Cornelia Wilbur, Richard Kluft and others, who were basically making it up as they went along).
In this sense, use of terms like "host" indicate their belief that a single real person is harbouring a number of parasitic alters. This is what you see in magazine articles that talk about "women with MPD" or "living with multiple personalities".
We are aware that some collectives use the word "host" in a different sense, more like "the owner or manager of an inn", or something like the way Victorian Spiritualists thought of multiple personality: a single human being who allows spirits to visit, or to move in for good. We have known one system who referred to themselves as "the host" as in "the heavenly host", meaning just a group.
For Multiples"I was just diagnosed ..."
The Idian Shire have these words for the newly diagnosed:
"Although being told you are multiple can be a shock, it is important to remember you didn't just become multiple when you were diagnosed. You have all been living together for many years now, and probably have a personal style set up already that works reasonably well. Trust yourselves that you know what you are doing. This isn't to say there can't be improvements or you have all the answers. but the truth is usually you all (the whole system) knows what works best for you. Don't rush to believe what others say about multiple experience. It might be true for them, but there are no blanket statements, there is no "one way" to do things. Discuss, test, evaluate every bit of information you receive and decide whether it fits you, don't force anything to fit just because someone says it should.
"Try not to buy into what I call the "drama requirement" I often see on other multiple websites and email lists. You don't have to cut, have internal wars, fall apart in public, and countless other dramas to be multiple. If some of those things are aspects of your life then find a way to deal with them, to work through them, whatever. They can be challenging but they aren't insurmountable. They aren't just part of being multiple that you have to put up with.
(More about the 'drama requirement' here...)
"I don't know how your system works, because well... I'm not a part of it. My last piece of advice, don't trust anyone that says they do, no one outside of your system can know that sort of thing."
Thanks to the Idian Shire for stating it more plainly than we ever could. You can visit the people of Idia at thosethatwalk.com.
And from Amorpha^Anthea:
"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 have looked up info on the internet and dont really understand most of it. Im not sure what is going to happen to me now and Im really kinda scared."
Again from Amorpha^Anthea:
"The reason I do not recommend searching pages on the clinical model first off is because whether or not you split from abuse, many of them can give you the impression that you immediately have to become dysfunctional after becoming selves-aware. This is not something that anyone should be seeing when they are unsure, confused and frightened. It does not have to be like what you see on those pages.
"Take care of yourself, and remember that there are many systems who are living happily and healthily as groups, regardless of how they originated."
You can visit Amorpha at Collective Phenomenon.
A word about self-harm: We shouldn't have to spend too much time/space here talking about self-injury, since it is a separate issue from multiplicity. However, unfortunately multiplicity has become associated with self-injury online and off.
It is NOT TRUE that all multiples harm themselves or try to hurt the body. In some systems that lack communication, one or more people may get desperate and cut or inflict self-harm in order to get the frontrunner's attention... "hey, we're in here too, pay attention to us." Once communication is established, the self-injury should stop. This, anyway, is what some groups have reported.
If you self-injure and you don't want to, and want help stopping, a really good self-harm resources website is Ellama Highly recommended. Another is found at focusas.
"We live in the ____ area. Can you direct us to a therapist who specializes in MPD/DID?" "we are hopeing that you would help us find a therapist near us that will work with us i feel that we need an evaluation with a proffessional that beleaves in the disorder and who will treat us with respect."
Try the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation which has a database of therapists who serve MPD/dissociative disorder/PTSD/trauma recovery clients, and are sensitive to the special needs of multiples.
Many Voices: Many Voices Press published a guide called Many Voices/Multiple Choices listing DID/MPD/trauma recovery therapists nationwide. With the death of Lynn Wasnak&, Many Voices shut down. However, plans are underway to build a new site for Many Voices under the guidance of Lizabeth Casada. All back issues will be digitized, there will be new issues and a new online support community. If you contact Lizabeth or Diane Wasnak, please remind them of the importance of Many Voices/Multiple Choices and encourage them to continue it also.
Am I Multiple?"How can I tell if I am multiple?"
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell. Some people have only a vague idea that they are not alone.
"What about these lists I see on other websites? What about the Dissociative Experiences Scale?"
Sometimes all you have is a vague feeling that you're not alone. Direct your attention toward those feelings when they arise. Think of things you can do to make others (if any) feel welcome, as you would guests or family. Take some quiet time (turn off TV, computer, etc.) to relax and think inviting thoughts. When you are doing something you enjoy you can mentally invite them to share it.
"I become different people when my emotions get to be too much, but I'm not sure I'm multiple."
This diagram by Lucas and Malik of the Blackbirds may help to illustrate the relationships between the multiple / median / singlet experiences. Note that it's fluid, not static -- you might move between various states at different times of your life -- and accounts for groups who feel they are both median and multiple, or median and singlet, etc.
If you're not familiar with the terminology used in this paragraph, look it up in the glossary.
My Friend Is ..."I just found out my roommate / stepson / co-worker is a multiple - how can I help?"
Why assume they need help? Just get to know them as people. If they are in distress or having trouble organizing their system, your respecting them as individuals -- showing that you feel they're capable of rational thought and behaviour -- is probably the most helpful thing you can do.
Here is a Singlet SO's Guide to Living with a Multiple which might be helpful.
Here's an alternative SO's guide from Lemarath^Shandra.
There is a support board for friends and family of people with multiple personalities at Multorum Animos.
"If somone is in a system, does one normally date/mate all of them, or just the one... or is she the girlfriend to X amount of people?)"
"If someone tells you that they are something, laughing at them or ignoring them or being rude enough to tell them that they aren't is also very invalidating. If someone says they are eight years old, treat them as a child. If someone tells you they are a vampire, or an elf, or a dragon or a demon, they are telling you that because that is what they are inside their Paradigm. They're trusting you with the information." Much more here)
"Everybody has different sides to their personality."
SybilPlease don't base your judgement of multiplicity, or these pages, on Sybil 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.
"Where can I buy the Sybil DVD?" (Sally Field, Joanne Woodward)
"Where can I buy the Sybil DVD remake?" (Tammy Blanchard, Jessica Lange)
Buy Sybil DVD, Sybil the movie, Sybil book right here. All information about Sybil, Shirley Ardell Mason, and Dr. Cornelia Wilbur is here and at our section on Sybil. Please visit them often as they will be updated.
http://www.sybilsfriend.com Sybil's friend and student Nancy L. Preston created this nice tribute site and wrote the book After Sybil. You will find that the truth about Shirley Ardell Mason is a lot more beautiful and interesting than the novel or films.
"What is the controversy about Shirley Ardell Mason, the real person on whom Sybil was based?"
After her death, some people came forth claiming that Shirley Mason had not really been multiple and presenting some dubious evidence that supposedly proved her therapist, Dr. Cornelia Wilbur, had talked her into it. From all we can ascertain, these men have heard some badly recorded audio tapes, and have decided that Wilbur was guiding or directing Shirley to be multiple. Actually, Wilbur was informing Shirley about evidence of phenomena and selves she had already witnessed in her counseling sessions with Shirley. She had already made tapes of Shirley's spontaneously dissociating during therapy sessions without hypnosis, and the voices of her other selves. Shirley was amnesiac for the others, but they had been coming front in the sessions and talking to Dr. Wilbur for a long time before the session which resulted in the so-called "smoking gun" tape.
"Do you have any further information on the proposed film about the real Sybil, Shirley Ardell Mason?"
All articles about Shirley Mason on our website, including information about her life, the controversy surrounding her multiplicity and therapy, the documentary film, and sales of Shirley's art are at our section on Sybil. When new information comes to us, we post it there immediately.
Please note that Shirley Mason was not a typical multiple personality and that her case remains controversial. We provide this information only because we have been flooded with email requests for it.
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.
"Do you have any photographs of Shirley Mason showing her different selves?"
Interview with Truddi& -- Partial transcript of one of their interviews with Oprah Winfrey, including a summary of their lives at the time of interview: The Troops Today.
"Do Truddi Chase & the Troops have another book?"
Yes. The book is called The Creature of Habit and it is out now. Their daughter Kari (Page in the book) worked for two years to prepare her mother&'s manuscript in a format for publication. "I joined the Rehoboth Beach Writer's Guild to build insight on how one even goes about these things. I contacted Penguin, who published When Rabbit Howls, and found myself chasing my own tail trying to get this beautiful book into the hands of someone who could help me fulfill my mother's dream."
"Is it true that Truddi Chase died?"
The news of Truddi Chase&'s death on March 10 was in the Washington Post for March 16, 2010. Please visit that link to sign their memorial guestbook. A note on their Wikipedia entry says they had COPD and struggled with this illness for a long time.
"Is there any way I can locate and view the video of therapy sessions with Truddi Chase& and Dr. Phillips? If not, is there any video out there I can view on MPD? I know enough about the disorder, I would prefer to see a patient or the changes that take place when switching to different personalities." (Yes, we really did get this inquiry in an email.)
We knew Milligan & group slightly, mostly through email, and they were/he was always kind and courteous to us.
For many years, Milligan& were working on a film called "The Crowded Room", based on their life story. They worked with Danny DeVito, and at one time hoped to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Billy.
Minds of Billy Milligan Facebook page
"What's the status of the movie about Billy Milligan?"
Even those of us who knew Billy Milligan & group, and knew that their multiplicity was real, recognized that they could be aggressive, sometimes violent. Members of that system were gifted painters and musicians, but also had a reputation as con artists. If this film is made, it will reflect on every multiple in society. If you want to speak your mind about whether or not this film should even be made, please answer Aynetal's "A Crowded Room" Questionnaire sponsored by Plural Activism.
Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WJJ589B
Read responses at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-PQN8CCG7/
Discuss the project here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Plural_Activism/info
(Read why James Cameron won't be doing the film: Billy Milligan and 'A Crowded Room': The Abandoned Project This is not the whole story, but you can get a general idea.)
"Where can I get a copy of 'The Minds of Billy Milligan?'"
"Where can I buy multiple personality, dissociative identity disorder books and films? ....."
About Us"Are you a health care professional?/ Are you a mental health professional?"
No. Our education mostly consists of English and American literature, folklore, anthropology and American history. We have a bachelor's degree in English. We have an extensive background in volunteer radio, audio production, and amateur journalism. Andy has some paralegal training. Our work experience is about evenly divided between clerical positions and self-employment. See our note on occupations below.
"When were you diagnosed?"
"If you have never been diagnosed as a multiple, how do you know you are?"
Because we've been aware of each other -- even if only as vague presences -- for our entire lives.
"I find it very strange that someone who has never been in therapy and never been diagnosed as a multiple is claiming to be so knowledgeable about it and has so many STRONG opinions about the subject."
Why is it so strange? Do you really think the mental health system has the patent on multiplicity? Or on strong opinions for that matter? Do you place so little value on personal experience?
We find it very strange that mental health professionals who may never have been in therapy themselves and have certainly never been diagnosed as multiple are claiming to be so knowledgeable and have so many strong opinions on a subject of which they have had no personal experience.
Take our word for it. We're here, we're multiple, get used to it.
"Are you saying you've never had any psychological problems or hangups? That you've never needed help from anyone?"
Absolutely not. Everyone in this world has psychological problems and hangups, and we are no exception. These problems did not have to do with our being multiple. We didn't enter psychotherapy because we couldn't afford it and because we had friends and family and each other, all better listeners than any mental health professional for the issues we were experiencing. As stated above, we are still in talk therapy. We said nothing about being multiple to our first counselor but came out to the second one.
"What gives you the right to speak on these issues?"
We are multiple. We are a group of people sharing a body. We have our own experience to draw on plus that of friends and others who have corresponded with us. The information in this FAQ is taken from those sources.
"You act like you have all the answers."
If we thought we did, we wouldn't link to other pages or sell all those books (most of which we don't agree with).
Seriously, we are still learning too. This faq and the whole Astraea site have evolved over the 20 years (OMG!) we have been doing it, both to reflect our own experiences and those of the people who contribute to our knowledge by writing emails to us. Even the site design has changed as we try to reach different audiences with different approaches. (For people who remember the old design with the dark background and capital letters, CONTROVERSY and so on -- that was the suggestion of a singlet friend! He thought it'd remind readers coming in from, say, Mosaic Minds or WeRMany, that multiplicity wasn't something that could be boxed, labeled, packaged and pigeonholed, but had many unknown factors.)
"You seem obsessed with multiplicity."
Many multiples report that they were multiple before any abuse took place, and some were abused more because they were multiple-- being punished/sent to mental wards/drugged for 'inconsistent behaviour,' 'lying,' 'inability to tell fantasy from reality,' etc. Chris Costner-Sizemore was never abused as a child until she began trying to explain to her parents that another person was responsible for bad acts seemingly committed by herself.
All PEOPLE have experienced some form of abuse or trauma in childhood. American society is inherently brutal, particularly towards women. Much of Western culture is based on violence and violation. If trauma caused multiplicity everyone would be multiple. Read about our truth before deciding we are in some kind of denial.
Another source of childhood difficulty was undiagnosed autism. We were finally recognized as having mild autism (not "Asperger syndrome") in the 1980s. (Our diagnosis was unofficial and came from Dr. Bernard Rimland.) Our shared brain is autistic, and anyone who comes front has to work with that. Some of us are more affected by the autism than others, and some are more successful at coping with it than others.
Recently we've taken to calling it a group instead. Other people use words like system, clan, collective, group, colony, formation, collection, family. Whatever works.
"Can you remember things that other people in the system do?"
"Do you have a diverse group of friends, interests, or occupations?"
When things are working properly, we don't necessarily depend on having other physical persons around all the time. We do, after all, have one another... we are real presences to each other, so you might say we have never been alone in our lives. So it becomes rather restful to be physically alone. Physical privacy is valued by us. On the other hand, we cherish our friends deeply, and we are in a committed relationship. It means a great deal to us to know that our significant other (who is also plural) is there.
"From the sites I've been reading, it seems many of you are upset that you are mislabled and misunderstood.. besides doing websites, why don't you try to do something about it? I can't imagine how it feels to not be accepted by todays society... oh wait, what am I saying... it seems none of us are accepted, but you all especially so."
It is an Astraea undosa sea shell.
"How did you guys manifest this project and why?"
"Where do your articles come from?"
How Can I Help?"Oh, I get it...You're real people just like me, who just happen to be in the same body."
"How can I help explain this to other people?"
Oh, we love it when people ask that! Have some chocolate!
There are several things you can do:
You can speak to people, when appropriate, clarifying what multiplicity is and isn't.
You can direct people to The Layman's Guide to Multiplicity as well as to this FAQ.
The Layman's Guide
The Blackbirds have provided a simple brochure giving brief facts in clear fashion. Download this, print as many copies as you like, and leave it where people will find it. You can also give or send it to mental health professionals.
The Layman's Guide Brochure (PDF)
You can join Plural Activism, a discussion group for multiple personality activism in the real world. Open to singlets, multiples, median /midcontinuum people, and the unsure and in between of every variety, the only requirement is the willingness to act in support of respect and equality for multiples. Plural Voices (PDF) is the official newsletter.
You can give people the http address for this FAQ.
You can link to it from your web page (we'll give you a cute little sticker for it). Copy the text in the textarea and paste it to your web page.
link to: http://www.astraeasweb.net/plural/faq.html
Right-click on this image
Use the code in this box.
And Firewheel group have a squidoo lens about healthy multiplicity which is a good, short explanation to show people as an introduction to the idea.
If you find this doesn't answer your questions, please feel free to send us mail at use our mail form . Thanks!
Information by, for and about healthy plurals.
Changing minds since 1995.
All writings by members of House Astraea are COPYRIGHT FREE. Permission to link to, manipulate, publish and/or mention in print (paper, electronic, etc.) any material written by members of House Astraea is granted. Any re-broadcast, reproduction or retransmission of the pictures, descriptions, and accounts of this game without express written consent of Major League Baseball is encouraged. Please credit Astraeasweb.net as the source.
natural multiple personality, MPD/DID, multiple personality disorder, dissociative identity disorder, multiple personality, sybil, milligan, united states of tara