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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.

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.

One thing that stands out for us about healthy multiplicity is that we came out of the gate (in 1986) saying "We want to get along better!" and we fought for that. We were able to have relationships, raise children, and work for many years. We didn't do our trauma work on the "front end" — we put other goals first. But we did continually work on onboarding headmates, getting along, handling disagreements, changing our internal culture and community as we learned better ways to govern and run our system, and as it changed and grew — and so on. There were years of self-help work in there, taking a variety of courses and workshops, and reading & working through recovery and addiction recovery books, etc. We finally decided to seek out a skilled trauma therapist in 2017 to help with stuck traumaholders and somatic triggers — once our kids were adults. We're pretty sure we won't ever be done tweaking, improving, and working on our system — thankfully we enjoy it. — Crisses

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.

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