Please wipe your feet before you come in
June 04, 2011
I’d like to welcome you as guests in my head, briefly. However, before you come in please be polite and wipe your feet so you don’t track ice and mud into my house.
I’m really glad to meet you all. Every single one of you. Here, let me shake your hand. Let me take your coat. The bathroom is the first left down the hall. Does anyone need something to eat or drink? I’m so happy you took the time to come to visit me. It can get lonely in here, with only about 70 of us, so it’s refreshing to have you all come by. Won’t you please have a seat? I’ve been so excited to have this precious time for some conversation with you.
You know how everyone’s on their best behavior when they have guests? Well, it’s not really any different when you come to visit. Guests are well-behaved, you show them hospitality, offer them a snack or something to drink. Even if you got a new housemate or roommate, you’d be on your best behavior for quite some time after they move in. You don’t start misbehaving as soon as they moved in, sitting around in just your underwear, farting and burping, unshaved and unshowered, right?
But of course, my headmates are not new roommates. I mean, they started “moving in” when I was a very young child, between ages 3 and 7 years old. However, back then they kinda snuck in. They played various roles in my life, hiding in my mental closets, wearing masks to look like me when someone rang the doorbell, saving my ass several times without me even being aware of it. Perhaps like the elves and the shoemaker, they sometimes mended my shoes or gave me nice clothes to wear — perhaps the house was suddenly cleaned when I wasn’t looking. Sometimes they were so good at pulling off “being me” that they even had me fooled. There were plenty of hints, some overt, some covert, but it was easier to overlook the hints than to question myself and my comfortable take on reality.
But when I turned 15 everything changed! I started to notice these sneaky denizens, asking for their names, seeing their faces, and listening to their voices. I thought I was channeling them from somewhere else. LIke their voices in my head were the results of a spiritual antenna picking up on distant radio voices. It took about a year for it to sink in that these people, these internal voices and faces, were entrenched — they were housemates (or “headmates”) in my mental home — and they weren’t going anywhere. I, some value of “I” anyway, made a decision to get along with them. It’s like we decided to start all over again, starting at the “Hi, my name is ___. Won’t you please wipe your feet on the way in.” What started with just 2 or 3 people in my head who were in agreement turned into a full-fledged welcome wagon that invited more and more internal entities to show themselves and get welcomed into the fold. By age 17 we had identified 16 entities, nearly all of these early-emergers agreed to take part in the welcome wagon. Then the number became 24. And it kept growing over time. Our mental apartment became a commune. Some of our rules were explicit, and we carried out a variety of disciplinary measures, round-table meetings, elections and votes, etc. and created a modified democracy in our own head. We invited everyone who could to participate in our governance, to become part of our volunteer-run welcome committee, and those in the shadows saw that we were safe, and when they felt ready they came to join us.
After all of that, we did eventually decide to dig around in the mud in our head, and came up with subsystems and more entities until our headcount reached about 73, fragments included. We did all this work with very little help from a psychologist. Most of our work was with self-help and abuse recovery books, and coming up with our own tools, maps, paradigms, rules, systems, and governance, without any external aid whatsoever. There’s still a few holdouts, those so buried and so hurt and damaged that we decided it would do more harm than good to challenge them to become co-aware. They don’t insert their opinions and actions on us, so we simply nurture them where they are and are ready in case they ever change their mind and decide to participate in life. We know they hold the worst of the things we’ve experienced and “forgotten.” And it’s our deliberate decision to live as a functional entity and go on without requiring them to participate and without 100% recall of our early childhood. [Edit: note this has changed in the last 10 years — more about that in Rescue Missions New.]
The journey to becoming functional wasn’t all roses and happiness; we made plenty mistakes along the way, took many paths that wasted time and resources, and discovered many challenging things while "working on our head." In the United Front paradigm, we want to bring you the cream of the crop of our experience, so that you can put it into use as quickly as possible.
Many of us multiples have allowed ourselves the self-image of being broken, of being abused, of being trigger-happy, of being helpless, of being childish, of being in desperate need of being saved.
I am not saying that all of these are untrue. However, our picture of ourselves contributes a great deal to how true these things are. We put ourselves in harms way. We allow ourselves to remain broken. We do have every right to claim the title of abused, or of being victims, or being broken, but how much does that claim really serve us? You are probably a physical adult. You will never be able to do anything to wipe away what happened to you in the past. Your choice is whether you want to live with those experiences as a huge and overwhelming burden or if you want to dump the burden and get on with life.
I asked you to wipe your feet upon entering. I don’t need you to bring your outside mud of the dirty and nasty things you’ve been through when you enter my home. And you don’t need it in your home either. Did you walk through the mud and ice? Yes. Do you need to bring it into the present, into your mind, into your mental home, to muck things up and make a bigger job of cleaning house? No. Absolutely not. Do yourself a favor, and request everyone to wipe their feet before they come into your home too. Our past experiences should not be an excuse to be abusive to others, including the others in our own head.