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FAQ-CommonExperiences

On email lists, in groups, forums, etc. there are many common questions asked by new members. These clog up the forums, pushing posts where people are asking for support down, are burdensome for experienced members, and since many newer members answer it these get bumped to the top of the stack in terms of group priorities due to many answers that are nonetheless not terribly informative, and probably aren't answering the real question behind the question. So here's a list of these common questions and the real meat behind them in the hopes that less people will ask them and more time can be spent on unique problems and getting to know each other rather than trying to figure out whether we fit in.

How many (known) alters or people are there in your system?

The number of folk known in a multiple's system at any particular time starts with 2 and can sometimes go up to thousands, and it is a changing number due to many factors: for example even those who have been aware of their system members for decades may not know whether they have found everyone. When one is relatively new to it, as insiders become more comfortable they make themselves known.

There's no contest or status dependent on how many folk there are in one's system, it's not a question that makes one or another system more valid or legitimate, and it's not even always a measure of degree of how much trauma has been endured it's just one of the many unique factors that makes us all plural or multiple.

I'm afraid I have too many "alters" how many is "too many"? I'm comparing because I'm scared to find out how badly I was abused or how much trauma I have to overcome.

How many helpers it took to help you get through whatever happened is rarely correlated to how much work you have to do or what you'll find out if and when y'all start sharing memories. You can have 2 who withstood devastating adversity, and you can have 100 who helped you adapt to myriad pleasant situations with nothing drastic to report.

Don't get hung up on or fixated on the numbers. It is far better to have everyone come forward who can and is able to than to push them away out of fear of having "too many".

You may hear that "over 100 is polyfragmented" and that "polyfragmented people went through the worst abuse and trauma" and that can be very intimidating. Let's correct these misconceptions: polyfragmented plural systems are systems where people within the system are also plural where there are sub-groups of people inside of people or behind walls or masks. You can have 30 system members and be polyfragmented in this way. And what that usually means is that you endured several different types of trauma, in a more complicated environment. It's not about the severity of the abuse, but about the lengths that y'all had to go to in order to hide and mask, to pass as normal, and sequester away conflicting information that might challenge your safety and stability.

You don't have to have many total in your plural system to have many trauma holders, and you don't have to have many trauma holders even if you have many people in your plural system. Look at it as a mystery and be curious and do your best to look forward to meeting your helpers. Embracing them as long lost friends is better than frightening them away with your fears.

Internal demographic issues: Are we represented?

Do you have any opposite-gendered internals? Do you have any non-human internals? Do you have fictives? Introjects/internalized abusers/factives? Littles/children/infants?

You belong here. Even having these questions, you so fit in. It's more uncommon to not have these issues than to have them. It's very rare to find a plural system that's all one gender or a small range on the gender spectrum than to find system that has a widely diverse gender spectrum. It is probably about 50/50 to find a plural system that has no non-humans than one or more non-humans in a plural system. Nearly all plurals have introjects, whether from fact or fiction although there are occasionally systems that do not.

Nearly everyone has a range of ages as well. Littles children generally under age 8 or so are quite common, as are infants, pre-teens, and teenagers. Some systems are full of teens and littles and have a hard time finding any adults, where others are full of adults with a few children inside. It's very unusual finding a system that has no littles, unless they've done a lot of work on their issues and all the littles have "aged up" or their littles don't feel safe enough to come out of hiding.

Some systems have folk who are older than their body. This happens more with non-human alters as well. Dragons, mystical critters, elves, etc. can be of various subjective ages.

Q: External demographic issues: Is our body represented?

I don't feel represented. Why are there so many white cis women or trans men in this community? Why am I the only person-of-color, cis man or trans woman here? Where are people of my ethnic or racial background? Why are there so few people from my country? Is this a US-only phenomenon?

This is an unfortunate issue of a (generally) patriarchal world where in the countries with the most Internet access, generally in the English-speaking world, people of color have less privilege and where cis boys and trans girls also have less access. This is not an indication at all that foreigners, people of color, young boys or trans girls are not traumatized or abused and hence do not end up with dissociative disorders nor is this a sign that they are being screened out of the online support communities and/or erased or limited in any way other than perhaps feeling underrepresented and leaving the communities on their own or to seek out smaller less diverse support groups where they feel more represented.

Not all trauma stems from sexual abuse, at all! Not all perps are in the US, white, choose white victims, or are cishet men, and by far not all victims are apparently white cis-seeming female children. No culture, no race, no country, is immune from trauma. There are women and trans male perps, they may be straight, pan or gay, emotional abuse doesn't care about gender attraction or sexuality, power and control issues do not discriminate (if anything they may be felt more by people with less access and privilege).

What we are seeing when we gather is the results of access, privilege, cultural norms, peer pressure, family pressure, etc. at play. Not everyone has equal privilege or access. Not everyone has the same health coverage or ability to find help. There's cultures where reaching out for mental health issues is nearly unheard of, there are gender dynamics that limit or eliminate a child or adult's ability to request help, there's a lack of belief, differences in the amount of misdiagnosis, in the lag to find suitable assistance, or to be believed, and differences in building trust with professionals so that an accurate diagnosis can even be considered.

When people flee due to feeling under- or un-represented it just exacerbates the issue. Please come into the community, and stay. This underrepresentation won't change if you run away, and you'll find that even if there's overrepresentation of white cis-appearing women and trans men that there are still plenty of people who do not fit that description when you get past the surface appearance of any of the community's support groups.


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