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Analogies for Plural, Multiple & DID Systems

There's various terminology & metaphors for different experiences of plural & multiple systems.

This article is a .

United Front System as a Spaceship analogy

by The Crisses

This is a very formal rather than casual analogy, that goes many layers deep and ties into United Front self-help materials by the Crisses.

We have we modeled our internal world after a spaceship to follow this model/analogy. In this analogy, your body is a human mecha (an organic robot vehicle) spaceship interacting with Human Space (the external world). Your inner world is regarded much like a spaceship (picture Star Trek or similar), your system are the residents of the spaceship.

This analogy counts the importance of the shared body in terms of it being a life support vessel for the residents, and how the body is experienced externally and internally. Residents can't just up and leave the spaceship or they'll be without life support — though this analogy does account for brief forays out of body for those who experience such things (an "away team" or someone in a space suit with a pressurized suit and a tether so they don't detach from the ship being somewhat analogous to the "Silver Cord" of some astral travel philosophies).

Other language from oceanic vessels and spaceships are used in this analogy, such as "onboarding" being the process of bringing on new passengers whether stowaways to passengers, or new passengers from wherever one gets these things (creating them, introjecting them, etc.). "Recruiting" is the process of taking passengers and training them to be crew. And crew can be promoted to be officers.

Ship's residents are roughly described in 5 categories:

  • Officers are main fronts for the system, trusted to run the show, do the important stuff, get things done, set a good example for the rest of the system, etc. Organizers, leaders, elders, basically the co-conscious fronting group who actively run things internal & external.
  • Crew are folk who are trusted and help run the shared life, but may not front as often, or are still learning how to be co-conscious, co-aware, or who aren't interested in running anything in the external life but help out in the inner world with various tasks. They help support the officers and carry out various duties and plans internally, vote, participate on committees etc.
  • Passengers are folks who may be unable to take on responsibility, or whose responsibility is adjusting to being a passenger, recovery from various issues, or taking a break from whatever stressors they've had going on. Passengers can be folk partly in the there & then/traumatime, but they're not lost/stuck fully in traumatime, and they're coasting along — some of them are still in the onboarding process. So basically Passengers are liminal and may choose to continue healing & developing — which takes time — before deciding whether to be crew or try to become an officer.
  • Stowaways — the system members still stuck in PTSD New. They're stuck in their own little world of having to hide and being afraid: crawling through the air duct tunnels, sleeping somewhere in the cargo bay, hiding in the bulkhead, deep in the recesses of the ventilation system, avoiding the other ship's residents in the far recesses of our spaceship. They're not always accounted for on the passenger rolls. They're the lost/stuck folk in the system, living in the there & then not the here & now, afraid, perhaps socially malnourished. We choose not to judge stowaways in a capitalistic manner: they are refugees, afraid they could not officially book passage on the vessel. They have legitimate reasons to hide and be afraid, and as if we're more Star Trek universe-ish, we are supposedly on a mission of peace and would want to be compassionate with and assist these folk. They don't even realize that we would be welcoming. They don't realize we have open door meetings because they don't even realize that there's an option to become passengers or give them a room. It's like they speak another language or they're so stuck in their own little world that they can't get the message that we're inviting them to participate. It's not meant to be negative or judgmental, it's just the way they're behaving, hiding out in the corners and under the decking trying to escape notice.
  • Rebels are a standalone category and can overlap with any of the other categories. These are folk who refuse to fit the rules, may chafe at internal agreements, challenge authority within the system or challenge the system as a whole. So a rebel stowaway may be antagonistic rather than simply suffering in their PTSD loops. A rebel officer may call out other officers on bad behavior, heavily critique the system, do penetration testing of system defenses, and otherwise go counter to how the rest of the system operates, even though they're trusted, privileged, and fully onboarded. they're generally a good fit for security & prevention — testing defenses, questioning data & inputs, patrolling borders/boundaries, monitoring gaslighting sensors, etc. Since they want to be hypercritical & focused on threat assessment, rebel officers may monitor external threats — and they may debate & criticize internal decisions and call other officers to the carpet for various concerns as well. Even though they may run counter to the overall culture, they fill an important role in system-monitoring.

This analogy doesn't place system kids in any group in particular: system kids can be any of these cohorts of ship resident. System kids in recovery or who do not have any particular skills and are busy being children would be passengers, where other system kids may be stuck/lost (stowaways), be highly responsible in-system with specific talents or skills they utilize to help out (crew) or they could be extraordinarily responsible, trusted with fronting, and amazing role-models (officers).

United Front self-help materials aim towards increasing internal community and collaboration, with a model of seeking to be hospitable and welcome new residents, be compassionate with stowaways and hopefully help onboard them and get them system services like proper childcare, a buddy system (an in-system friend/mentor/escort) for new system members who can show them the ropes and keep them out of harms way while they get acclimated to life in the system.

The Car Analogy for fronting

Source Unknown

Some people liken being in a car as an analogy for fronting and how folk in the system relate to being "in front". In this case, the body is likened to a car.

  • Driver- This is the person front, and in control.
  • Front passenger(s) - these folk may have the ability to take the wheel or manipulate controls (exert passive influence), or (if co-fronting) may have dual-controls for the vehicle.
  • Rear passengers - these folk are "along for the ride" but can see where the car is going. This is co-awareness.
  • In the boot/trunk - these are folk who are not fully co-aware or co-conscious.

In this scenario, conversations between passengers in the passenger compartment would be co-consciousness or internal communication. The analogy breaks down because the person in the boot, however, has no opportunity to exert passive influence on the driver.

The Orchestra Analogy for System Harmony

A system may be seen as an orchestra, with all the members playing different instruments or seats in the orchestra. "Front" might be likened to a soloist, say the first flautist. And things work much better if the other flautists are softly playing counterpoint than if they're playing their own tunes.

When a system is in chaos, everyone's playing a different song; it's all in disarray, clashing, literally discordant.

A more functional system has a fronter playing melody, cofronters playing counterpoint, while the rest of the orchestra is playing supportively.

In the analogy the background system would likely be the conductor counting the beat. When doing well, a band may not even notice it — and when in disarray it's likely everyone's going against it.

With functional multiplicity, a system can make beautiful music together. Taking turns fronting can be like playing Row, Row, Row Your Boat in a round.

The Treasure Chest Analogy to explain DID to someone new

by the Schrödinger's system

When you meet a new person who isn’t plural, they are opening up like a treasure chest and let you see their gifts. In the beginning you only get to see the top layer, the things they want you to see, but as time goes on and you win their trust, you can dig around in the chest a bit and discover more and more treasures.

When you meet a person with DID and they let you peek in their treasure chest, what you will find is more treasure chests, and only one of them may be open when you look in. There too you will only see the top layer in the beginning, but even when you win their trust and they let you discover all the treasures in that chest, you’ll only know a fraction of the treasures the larger treasure chest holds, while most are still locked away safely.

There may be times one of the smaller treasure chests opens and slams the lid shut on the one you’re looking at. They could look so similar you don’t even notice it isn’t the same one, or so different you don’t even recognize it as a treasure chest that belongs there.

If you’re patient, kind, accepting and appreciative of the treasures you discover, other small treasure chests may open to you, allowing you to see more treasures.

If you are unkind or judgmental, the treasure chest holding the smaller ones may slam the lid shut and keep you away from all the gifts and treasures it holds for good.

Other analogies

  • The United Front Boot Camp does "your head is a house" and runs with an older analogy where everyone is a resident or a guest in the system. The analogy breaks down because of how easy it should be to leave or move out of a house, and because a house is a fixed object.
  • One could use an airplane analogy as well. Vehicles seem to work fairly well as usually 1 person is responsible for where it goes, and others may be assisting or interrupt the process.

Happy to add more analogies please leave some ideas in the comments below.

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