Functional or Healthy Multiplicity
This is a recovery process (as in a process of continual improvements) where the multiple, plural or DID system works towards working together more and more harmoniously over time, reducing arguments and fights, collaboration, trust, community and internal culture.
Avoid "High Functioning"
Many people want to know whether people with DID can still operate in society and be productive.
This term has become disgustingly ableist. It means "Can you be squeezed for work/manhours and help churn for corporate profits?" "High Functioning" requires that you are productive in terms of economic factors: are you leaning on the social welfare system "too much"? Are you contributing financially to your government's taxation coffers?
The term for getting to the better side of DID recovery is "healthy multiplicity" or sometimes "functional multiplicity." This can be a stepping stone on the way to unification New or it can be an end goal in itself.
We really need to own our own recovery and define what healthy & functional are for ourselves. Otherwise we end up with external world judgement calls on what we should do with our life. And it's ours, we deserve to fully own and control our life and determine for ourselves as a group where we want our shared life to go and what it should look like.
Can people with DID live a "fulfilling life"?
You may be wondering whether your life still has purpose and meaning when you have DID. Certainly DID can cause some people to need to take a time out from the workforce. However many people with DID work while on the road to recovery, and if we have better supports and failsafes in society, accommodations, etc. then this becomes more possible but really there's an important question here of what is you "job" while in recovery? PTSD recovery itself is a full-time job. Often folk think it's the plurality preventing them from working, while it's the PTSD and the fact that the PTSD is distributed between headmates that is likely interfering with their ability to work for a time.
But there's a basic flaw in this equating work with living a fulfilling life that being dependent, that needing welfare or assistance, needing accommodations, etc. somehow makes you less than a person. That you have to earn your way to be valid and worthy of being called "human".
These are society's ableist standards, encouraged by capitalism & corporatoracies. The answer is yes, you can work if you want to. There's all kinds of jobs already being filled by people with DID, in recovery, and fully aware of their system issues and working on getting better.
And there are those who don't work full-time. And they may do some side jobs, gig work, freelance, work part-time, sell art or write, run their own business, etc.
And there are those who dedicate themselves to recovery, and treat it like a full-time job, and those who fall prey to the shame of the capitalist grind and crumble under their self-shaming over being dysfunctional, etc.
There's all types of work/volunteer/career/homemaker etc. situations in the DID community, much like other communities for people with disabilities and disorders.
People with DID can still operate in society and be productive. Living a fulfilling life doesn't have to mean having work, but being content, safe, stable (ie out of crisis, low panic/anxiety attacks), able to keep appointments, fulfill goals and plans, have healthy relationships, volunteer/work/raise securely attached and relatively OK kids (because really what is perfect parenting or perfect kids? Often we have no frame of reference lol…and pass on genetic issues we were handed, too), and so on.
Everyone has to define their own goals, and realize that self(selves) improvement is a continual process and we are never done. That's whether singular or plural. It's messy because we are organic and things change.
Even if we are "functional" we can always use to improve and do more and set our next goal or plan our next self-improvement project. It's also important to look back and pat ourselves on the back for what we have accomplished too. Celebrate victories, but not to get complacent either. Onwards and upwards.
What functional multiplicity looks like for me isn't what it looks like for you. My contributions to society and friends/family etc. aren't yours. Like pick your own volunteer missions, work or career or homemaking or art or whatever helps give your life meaning. And take up space, because you're valid and worthy and have a place in the world. And try to avoid stepping on toes, but defend your boundaries so people don't exploit you.
What is Healthy Multiplicity?
Many systems see this as an end goal where they are done with their journey of recovery. But what most systems mean is their own personal definition that includes living their life as a non-disordered system, whether that requires trauma recovery or not.
So the goals will vary from system to system but may include healthier external relationships, a job or career, raising a family, the ability to complete specific projects (like earning a degree), or living with less distress and crisis.
Many systems actually already have those things in spite of not having gone through trauma work, or found out they're plural or multiple after having already had those things — and so everyone's definitions are different and are likely to be influenced by what the external (to the plural community) culture expects of "functional people". So there may be many personal definitions that include internalized singular centrism, capitalistic expectations, cultural pressures or expectations, etc.
If we frame functional or healthy multiplicity as a process rather than a destination, we can see that many more systems are already in this state than would have self-described it. The process of continual improvement leaves many wishing to get better and working towards better and better outcomes for their system. It's good to occasionally pat ourselves on the back for improvements and increasing our tolerance of adversity or stressors, accomplishments in emotional regulation, completing projects, getting along, etc. — even if we might still have trauma, traumaholders, etc. that are in need of work.
Also, looking at it as a process can help those of us doing tough therapeutic work with the feeling of putting our lives on hold while we "do the work" of trauma recovery. Making significant gains in building internal trust & community, we can be achieving healthy multiplicity alongside trauma work — and raise our family, have better relationships, and support our system better even while still doing some really hard therapeutic work.
Resistance to Working with Headmates
Note, the following is not talking about general resistance that comes up in the course of coping mechanisms, self-work or treatment. That's normal — moments of doubt, denial, imposter syndrome etc. are things many systems deal with in the course of time. We're talking about active strong conscious (and unconscious) resistance to headmates' input, unwillingness to come to a compromise, and hostile interactions with headmates that forms an ideological and culturally hostile struggle within many systems.
Some systems believe their headmates are "part of the problem" and push them away. This line of thought is sometimes accidentally promoted by a singular-centric fallacy that some cultures, communities, therapists and laypeople push that unification is the only “truly” healthful option.
This often is promoted as a process of headmate suppression rather than actual unification. These folk are appeased any time a plural system presents itself as seeming singular — masking, suppression, etc. This can lead to both internalized suppression or externalized pressure to suppress headmates.
This is harmful however, because plurality means these headmates are (for many systems, not all) people (or parts) with discrete identities and awareness of their own. They aren't going to be happy about being pushed aside or kept away from front. It doesn't matter how a system identifies if their headmates are oppressed and unhappy, it's a disordered system.
Compare "system" in this case with other people-based systems such as a "family system" or "school system". Where there's bullying in a family or school, there's disorder, chaos, oppression — trauma is very likely to happen. Same in a plural system, whether or not there's DID or OSDD inherently present.
Since these are issues we see in other people-based systems, we consider this "people problems". It's not necessarily from childhood trauma — this is a problem derived from intra-systemic power/control issues between headmates. Disagreements, distrust, cruelty, jailing headmates, creating an us-vs-them or better-than culture, etc. All serious problems especially in an already-traumatized system. For DID and OSDD (and other traumatized systems) this can lead to a lot of flooding (uncontrolled flashback chains) and symptoms based on trauma/panic reactions…and much more. Even setting aside when folk attribute their plurality to trauma, bullying and infighting within a system is a problem. Building trust New is necessary with or without DID/OSDD; that's the cure for these ills.
Unfortunately, this issue can become a self-fulfilling catch-22 prophecy: a lot of DID/OSDD systems see the trauma and panic reactions and think these scared, hurt, traumatized people in their system are "the problem" when they're survivors in need of compassion and help. So their headmates' distress is cited as "proof" that their headmates are bad, or that having DID or plurality is inherently a "bad" (eg disorderly) thing. If this sounds like circular logic, it is — they take the results of behaving poorly towards headmates to justify treating them badly again.
There's syscourse in the disagreement that DID/OSDD is C-PTSD plus plurality, and that there's a difference between C-PTSD and people-problems. But if you had a household of singulars with C-PTSD who started pushing each other around, it would be equally chaotic.
Recovery from DID - a fork in the road
DID or OSDD recovery for most of the journey is the same. Through the 3 stages of complex trauma recovery (stabilization, trauma work, resolution), the system becomes more orderly, less disordered, works on coping skills, getting to know each other, working out agreements and settling internal disputes, until it's time to process trauma. Trauma work (stage 2) is, when done right, supposed to cycle between trauma processing and stabilizing the system over and over. Then in the resolution phase the system is faced with the choice of whether to work on unification, or whether to remain plural. That's where the paths diverge. The remainder of the resolution stage is learning to cope with external life after trauma therapy, and potentially as a newly unified singular system.
Thus the only path to unification for #DIDOSDD is through resolving disorderly/dysfunctional issues, becoming more and more functionally plural, then a series of merging headmates through trust and closeness and communication.
You don't get to the point of “alter” merging through being afraid of each other, antagonistic, pushing folk away. You get there through trust, compassion if not love, closeness, and agreement.
Internal fighting, hate, suppressing headmates, distrust are direct barriers to both functional multiplicity and unification because they keep the system stuck in stage 1 therapy — and if trauma work takes place without internal supports it can be retraumatizing instead of help resolve traumas. Some inept therapists push suppression tactics, not unification, but will try to convince the client that suppression will make them singular. Then they may attempt trauma resolution with a suppressed system — so traumaholders aren't allowed to act out, everyone's in hiding, and anxiety escalates rather than being resolved. They're doing grave harm.
Suppression tactics are one of the telltale warning signs that a therapist is in over their head and lacks training in treating DID or OSDD.
You are all in this together, and the only way out is through. Getting along better is part of stage 1 of treatment.
If y’all are still fighting, you shouldn't do trauma work (stage 2). You're still retraumatizing each other. Another warning sign is a therapist pushing to do trauma work before y’all have stabilized (including improved communication & working together)
So in this way, many DID/OSDD systems who cling to the idea that plurality itself is inherently disordered, that they cannot get along, that they cannot have internal trust…are prolonging their problems and are technically treatment resistant. They will not achieve unification or healthy multiplicity while in this state.