A Taste of Multiplicity
by The Crisses
What is multiplicity or plurality?
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), once known as multiple personality disorder, is thought to affect between 1-3% of the population. There's also Other Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD) which shares features with DID. These are under the broader spectrum of "plurality" and people who identify with plurality may use the Plural (as in Pride) identity marker, or the people in the wider umbrella of experiences of "being many" may say they are "plurals" (uncapitalized, not necessarily an identity marker but a simple descriptor). Another alternate term for folk who do not identify as Plurals is Systems which also can be used either descriptively (uncapitalized) or as an identity marker (capitalized).
How common is it?
There are some who theorize that most people have "people in their head" (e.g. Family Systems Theory), but that they are not necessarily experiencing distress or problems from the phenomenon. Being plural may just be a range of potential human experiences that is much more common than people would like to think. We're told DID is rare — but the generally agreed upon 1-3% of the population-at-large is not really all that rare, is it?
The Plurality Experiment
So this is a little "thought experiment" to help you see whether you share even a hint of some experiences that people who are multiple have gone through. We're not here to say if you have these experiences that you have DID or are plural, a system, multiple, etc. That's not the point nor our place. Mainly it shows that the majority of people have already shared some hints of the experiences that plurals have because it often mystifies "singular folk" (people with one person or identity in their head) how it is that there even can be plurals.
So, all you singular folk out there: Do you want a little taste of what it's like to be plural?
Part I: The Earworm
Have you ever had an "earworm" — you just "can't get a song out of your head"?
Uh, so are you alone in there? or not? Do you have a radio in your brain?
If you have 100% control of your mind, then you shouldn't have a song playing in your head without your express permission. Stop that!
What? You can't?
Welcome to my world.
Did you pretend to have a song playing in your head? Were you making it up? Doing it just for attention? No? Neither were we.
That's a little taste of my world. We've had that "song layer" in our head since we were a kid. Constantly. But along with it, about 8-10 other voices at the same time. Imagine having 10 "earworms": some dialed in on talk radio; some playing music; some giving running commentary of your life like sports announcers; some doing interviews or having on-air conversations. That's what it was like in our head at 10 years old.
Part II: Physically Acting Out of Your Own Volition
Ever have an earworm and find that suddenly you're huming or singing the song in your head without thinking about it?
Ever speak without thinking about what you're about to say?
Are you always in full conscious control of everything you do or say? This is similar to how some multiples have people "take over"....
"Oops, I didn't mean to say that."
"I didn't think about doing X, but I did X anyway...."
Of course for people who are multiples, this can last longer and have broader effects. Holding full conversations, driving places, etc. without it being of your own conscious volition. But that's your taste of what it's like.
Part III: Highway Hypnosis
You drive that same path every day, and one day you're so lost in thought or reverie or daydreaming that suddenly you "come to" full awareness and you're already at your exit. This is a widely recognized issue well within the "normal" range of dissociation. But that's not the point.
The question is — if you were so lost in thought that you don't remember driving, then who was driving?
For those who don't drive, the same phenomenon can happen when you walk a path you've walked many times before, etc. — when you don't remember the journey, you were so lost in thought that you suddenly find yourself at your destination and don't remember the whole journey — that's still "highway hypnosis" type dissociation.
Part IV: State-Dependent Memory - memory encryption
Some medications and drugs have dissociative qualities. Let's take alcohol as an socially familiar example and because when sufficiently drunk some people do have dissociative experiences.
The effect of alcohol on the brain changes the brain’s “thumbprint” temporarily. Inhibitions lower. You're "not acting like yourself" so much — and if drinking continues it can change the brain's functioning enough to compartmentalize the experiences into their own sort of a memory box — such as a “blackout” from drinking a large enough amount of alcohol. What happened ends up compartmentalized, accidentally encrypted storage that memory box can only be decoded when the brain is back in that "key" state again. It’s called “state-dependent memory”.
And society has a good laugh at this, generally speaking. It's accepted that someone might get so drunk they black out, and we think it's funny that they can remember what happened when they get that drunk again.
Similar memory "encryptions" can happen with other mind-altering chemicals and medications, or even throughout the course of a normal day in a normal life. Even just walking from one room to another can be enough of a state change for folk to lose their train of thought and forget why they walked into the next room. We will often retrace our steps, get back into the room where we had the thought of needing to go into another room, and recover the thoughts & why, then be more conscious of what we were trying to do. Has this ever happened to you?
So now, take this idea to trauma and adrenaline states. Adrenaline has a profound effect on the brain and body, and can definitely create memory issues, shutting off a lot of knowledge in favor of what's right in front of you ("tunnel vision" etc.), it's definitely it's own mental "state". State-dependent memory "encryption" can also depend on innocuous "encryption keys" like location, age, other things going on around one, etc.
So if singular folk can experience state-dependent memory around imbibed substances, or minor instances around the house, etc. — so to plurals and multiples can experience state-dependent memory encryption around traumatic memories or different headmates fronting — which creates amnesiac compartments in the brain for many, or at least difficulty recalling memories of other headmates.
This is a hint of various aspects of plural & DID experiences. If you didn't say it or do it, intend it or initiate it — then who did? When you don't have 100% present conscious control of yourself, what else does? If you're on "autopilot" — what's in control? Why can't you remember — sometimes not even remember that you forgot something?
Please comment below if you've had (or never had) experiences like these. How does this make you feel? Does it help you understand more of what it's like to be multiple?