Multiplicity can have several contexts, as it turns out. It’s not all Dissociative Identity Disorder, after all. Like any system ever in existence, there are many aspects, roles, and varying levels of comprehension. We are grossly limited when we accept only one form, bound by the rules of…some caged understanding. Let’s take a look at multiplicity in various contexts because there’s more than what meets the… uh… DSM(Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
“Mainstream” Clinical Forms of Multiplicity
As far as society has been told, a person who experiences multiplicity is probably dangerous. There must be demons. It’s weird and “fake,” right? There must be a killer-beast, or some stupid shit like that.
Multiplicity isn’t’ exactly “mainstream.” We know.
But the clinical forms of multiplicity are probably the closest to the public eye, even if the general understanding leaves a lot to be… erm corrected. I imagine it’s accepted at least a little more than some of the other categorizations. It’s “proper.” That’s a terrible word for it. Let’s just say it’s likely the least fringe-type level of multiplicity.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)
DID is the most severe clinical context of multiplicity. Basically, one’s consciousness either fails to integrate into one identity at all, or it breaks out of necessity. All this is speculative, and I’ve heard both versions claim to be the only correct theory. Who knows? I live it, and I can’t tell you, exactly, which is more correct, either.
It’s a response to entering, and ultimately surviving, levels of hell that cannot be processed. You know, being a child and all. Actually, grown ups aren’t prepared to process severe, ongoing trauma, either. (What do people expect, exactly?)
The experience of multiplicity itself can be very beautiful. However, there are elements in this specific context of multiplicity that are incredibly challenging. Many DID systems struggle deeply because the core self is all over the place.
I’m crying just remembering the profound separation of “us,” of me. The anxiety, the constant pains, and the goddamn flashbacks that just won’t stop! The loudness in my mind, identity confusion, and so much more. It’s far from easy. Frankly, this level of separation can be a dizzying maze of tribulation and miscommunication. Or hell, on some days.
The profound distance (between selves? Of self? In self? I don’t know.) usually proves to be problematic. Every side (known as an “alter,” clinically, but we hate that word) has their own shit to focus on. Severe dissociation is excruciating, ironically enough. But it’s how we stayed alive without turning into the monsters who attacked us.
Let me tell you something. My parts have been the greatest blessing in this life of ours. (Not every DID system sees it that way, though, which we can totally understand given the unique challenges we face.)
Even though the DSM has changed the name to Dissociative Identity Disorder, many people still think of it as having “multiple personalities.”
My parts and I prefer saying “multiple personalities” rather than DID. To us, it’s easier to convey, for one thing. Plus, we don’t have to add “disorder” every single time we address our shared experience, which is quite helpful.
Let’s be real. No explanation is going to suddenly open someone’s eyes to something they don’t want to see; people demonize what they don’t understand. Let’s just say we know how “we” are viewed by most of the world- regardless of what name is used.
Yea, the term “multiple personalities” might be semi-flawed. But it’s also not utterly wrong.
OSDD- Other Specified Dissociative Disorder
This level is also a clinical diagnosis.
Years ago, when I was doing my own research after being diagnosed with DID, I read that OSDD is a “gentler” form of Dissociative Identity. “Identities” were not full-on different personalities, but aspects of the single self.
The issue is that this diagnosis is kinda like a “catch all,” umbrella term for those who experience trauma-based multiplicity (and/or pathological dissociation) when patients do not fully meet the criteria for DID, according to the DSM.
Psychology- Super Ego, Ego, ID
Sigmund Freud developed a concept of three parts of the human psyche: ID, ego, and superego.
Yes, we’re aware that much of psychology now despises and discredits Freud. The point here though is that identifying “parts’’ with different functions isn’t exactly new. Nor is it something “psychotic” or “crazy.” It’s an attempt to understand the human condition, and life itself.
Even without Freud, many other philosophers and psychologists investigate and agree on some level of “parts” in a person. They believe in multiplicity in some form or another. (Of course, others think multiplicity is utter bullshit.)
Besides, it seems that particular theory is still respected, at the very least. So, maybe there’s some validity to the concept after all.
Internal Family System
Internal family system (IFS) is conceptual, and it’s also much deeper than that. IFS theorizes that all people are, in fact, multiples. In this understanding, every person has countless parts.
So an IFS therapist is not looking at you as “bad,” or “gravely sick.” They are looking at you as normal, because they have parts, too. “Treatment” isn’t the same as a mainstream clinical therapist. There’s nothing to “treat” in the first place.
The goal is to be aware of, and learn to lovingly interact with, any and all parts that might need you, for whatever reason. (As opposed to forced integration, or focus on trauma, necessarily. Although, exploring trauma can certainly happen, if necessary.)
According to this context of multiplicity, every part is vital, and plays its role masterfully. Every part (as it’s called in IFS) is trying to tell you something. It’s probably best, if we listen. It’s important, though, to note that IFS “parts” is different from “alters.”
In IFS, you are made of zillions of parts that you interact with. That might be feelings, thoughts, memories, and so on. But those aspects are not the core self, like in DID. However, like “multiple personalities,” every “part” is a piece of you, in one way or another.
Spiritual Forms of Multiplicity
Multiplicity can take many ‘shapes,’ especially in spirituality. Some believe that full integration is the main goal, and build their understanding of life around that. Others think that our parts are necessary, and navigate their personal journey with their (sometimes even for their) inner posse.
Sometimes multiplicity is simply a concept. It’s a mindset, or merely language to explain phenomena that is difficult to fully capture.
Spiritually speaking, there might be a “future self” or a “12 year old self.” In this way of thinking, those “selves” exist in the mind as a way to connect, explore, and understand. They are mere concepts. They do not, uh, adjacently-physically exist like with more personified versions of multiplicity. But we can create different “selves” in our understanding if need be.
Purely conceptual multiplicity is just that. It’s the idea of these “selves.” But not really the “selves”…you know, themselves. Eh. It’s more of a metaphor or parable, perhaps, than an actual experience.
More “Physical” Concept
There are some spiritual understandings that do see parts or versions of the self as more actual than purely conceptual. There is the inner child that needs our love and a badass in there waiting to be needed in the physical realm. But there is no dissociation in this area of things (Although there is usually some level of objective detachment).
There is no departure from one’s personal experiences, but space is often provided to avoid getting fully caught up in one’s… selves. And one’s emotions. The distance is simply used to see a bigger picture. At any rate, the common awareness is always present.
One might use “core self,” “essence,’’ or “host” to describe the central sense of self. Either way, it’s just a word, I suppose. Right?
The point is there are non pathological understandings of personified multiplicity that helps people through their personal journeys.
Wait… Who are We? Where do We come from?
Sometimes the concept of several selves is used to explore who we are (as usual) and how humanity began. This takes various forms, of course. Sometimes contradictory positions, even.
It might be an exploration of self, or a departure from “self.”
The form of Multiplicity where there is no Self
Other spiritual folks believe that there is no actual self. The “self” is just an illusion. Our bodies are nothing more than a vessel for various energies to come and go. In this understanding, what we think of as the “self” is just the awareness of a bunch of visitors.
In this context, one is likely to experience the most peace when they replace the single “self” in order to experience what comes to them. In other words, in this belief, it isn’t the “parts” that are problematic, it’s the illusion of one’s taught identity.
There is a theory that says that people are actually the Source’s “alters.” Some believe that “God” has “multiple personalities.” We are all the Divine’s parts.
The Devil Made Us Do It
On the other end of this spectrum, there is a rather sinister theory preaching that the devil, himself, designs the soul of (us) multiples. Let me just say, if trauma is the devil, my parts outsmarted him. That’s all we have to say about that (But that’s another surprisingly complex, twisty tale).
Aren’t ALL “Parts/Alters” Conceptual?
That question (and answer) is far more complex than it sounds. It’s impossibly complicated, really. In many ways, yes. An “alter” in DID is considered to be a “made up” identity that was designed to play a role. Every other part, regardless of type of multiplicity, can also be viewed as the mind’s creation.
But, it seems, the experience of these aspects is far more undeniable than a fleeting thought. My parts are the realest thing in my life, regardless of what other people think, I should think about them. Interaction with our own “selves” might just depend on your understanding of the Divine, “God,” or Self. Besides, if you believe everything is just in the mind, then it makes no difference what that “thing” is. Everything is of the mind. You know?
Yet, everything changed for (me and) my system when I realized there were strong spiritual components to it. I viewed my own parts as they ‘are’, rather than a disordered problem in my brain. And that’s proven insightful for us. All of me, actually.
Allowing additional sources of comprehension helped all parts of me understand more of what actually is. That’s especially true when I linked multiplicity with my spirituality (Yes, my parts played vital roles in our shared spiritual journey). You might say they are deeper, and simultaneously higher, than my brain.
Even still, one might argue that there is no difference between “conceptual” or “real.” Nothing is “real.” Or that it’s real only because we think it is.
Some could contend that the mind is the enemy, and therefore, all that comes from it is an attack. It really depends on how you understand the Universe, which is likely to change as your life progresses (Hopefully).
Contexts of Multiplicity
There are many types (and levels) of understanding concerning multiplicity. I’m sure I missed a few. So, if you know of any others, let us know. We’d like to compare notes.
Having several vantage points can happen from all sorts of directions, concepts, and levels of comprehension. It doesn’t have to be so weird. In fact, multiplicity might be normal. At least, on some level. Or, you know, quite a few.
The point is, there’s more than meets the eye. And the DSM, or with the currently accepted narrative, It’s important to see what lies beyond sometimes. Otherwise, we’ll remain imprisoned by someone else’s limiting understanding of what is. And that’s not right.
Multiplicity, in any context, is a chance for self-exploration, when guided by love. It’s a manifestation of our soul’s (or awareness) multifaceted nature, perhaps.
What do you think?
PHOTO CREDIT : SOPHIE
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