Healthy multiplicity: a look at a different way of being (Part 1 of 2)

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This entry was posted on 6/2/2007 8:43 PM and is filed under Special Features.

USA, CANADA, & UK -- When the average person thinks of so-called "multiple personalities," chances are she's thinking of Sally Field's portrayal of a multiple in Sybil or Joanne Woodward's in The Three Faces of Eve.   Worse, perhaps, he may be thinking of such fictional, "insane," homicidal multiples as Norman Bates in the Psycho novels and films, Michael Caine's character in Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill, or even Billy in the original Black Christmas.   (He is not a multiple in the remake.)   If the eleven multiples, significant other of a multiple, and research psychologist I interviewed for this article, or the dozens, if not hundreds, of multiples who speak out online and in books are to be believed, none of these portrayals come close to capturing the reality that actual multiples, or plurals, live every day.   What if multiplicity is not necessarily a disorder, not necessarily the result of childhood abuse or other trauma?  Is there such a thing as healthy multiplicity?   According to a number of multiples and the significant other of a plural I interviewed, the answer is a resounding yes.

            According to the Sybil/Eve model and in countless psychological texts, multiple personality is a mental illness, catalogued as multiple personality disorder (MPD) in the American Psychiatric Association's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd edition (DSM-III) in 1980 and changed to dissociative identity disorder (DID) in the DSM-IV in 1994.  (The DID listing remains in the current "text revision," the DSM-IV-TR.  The World Health Organization's manual, the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD-10) continues to list this condition as MPD.)   An "original" self controls the body most of the time, is a depleted person, and has blackouts and amnesia for the times when others are operating the body.  (A few of my interviewees reported this experience, but most said they did not have significant amnesia.  They vary widely in terms of how shared "fronting" is among their members.)  According to these narratives, the way for a multiple to heal to confront his or her (often repressed) memories of horrific physical, emotional, sexual, or even ritual abuse and work toward "integration" (the merging of all his or her selves into a single person).    

         Yet many of the multiples who spoke or wrote to me do not report being abused, and neither they nor those who do say that they were abused do not desire integration.  (Some of those interviewed for this feature did report experiencing abuse or other trauma, amnesia between switching ("lost time"), or both.) This two-part feature will explore the perspectives and experiences of these plurals, the partner of a plural, the varieties of multiplicity and persons (the preferred term among many plurals, rather than such terms as "personalities," "alters," or "selves") with multiple systems (also referred to as "households," "houses," "collectives," "families," etc.), and related issues.  Part 1 will focus on an extensive examination of the possibilities of healthy and "empowered" multiplicity and the lives of real-life multiples.   Part 2 will focus on different theories regarding multiplicity, related phenomena, famous cases, mass media portrayals, and controversies surrounding the subject of multiplicity.   Part 2 will also include online links to online resources, including the Website of one of the interviewees.

               Persons within multiple systems may differ in age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, political views, vocational and avocational interests, intelligence, medical issues, and even species (animals, extraterrestrials, angels, demons, creatures conventionally considered mythological, etc., as well as human beings); these concerns will be discussed in further detail below.   Based on my review of some literature, as well as my interviews, age and gender appear to be the most common areas of divergence between members of multiple systems, while species is apparently the least common, with all-human systems seeming to be in the majority.

                  Numbers and subsystems 

      Persons within systems may also have systems, or "subsystems," of their own.    Many therapists and researchers, as well as some multiples themselves, and two of my (non-multiple) interviewees, use the term "polyfragmented" to refer to this situation.  Astraea's FAQ (, an advocacy and information site for healthy and empowered multiplicity) notes that a few multiples have reported therapists using the term "polyfragmented" simply to refer to plural systems consisting of a very large number of persons (e.g., more than one hundred).   However, many multiples dislike the term.    Temperance Blackthorne, a "singlet," or non-multiple, characterized her significant other, who is plural, as "polyfragmented" during a telephonic interview in April.  However, only a few of the multiples whom I interviewed reported that one or more of their household members had systems of their own.    

         One member of a system requesting anonymity reported in a May 21 e-mail, "There is one small subsystem within the larger system, a median system [see Part 2].  Our original (person) split at a very early age (we believe) and has recently split further, and so there's four that are system unto themselves."  Some members of very large households indicated that they lacked previous head counts for their systems; it is possible, them, that one or more subsystems may exist within their collectives.
            "While no one has a system per se," wrote a member of a 10-person system called the Pack Collective in a May 15 e-mail, "there are a couple of 'packmates' [the Pack Collective's term for system members] that have some dissociation issues, and have developed a sub-set of 'personas' [sic] to cope."

            In contrast, researcher, author, and victim's advocate Pamela Sue Perskin wrote in an e-mail interview on May 12, "I've never known a multiple who wasn't polyfragmented..."    Perskin told me that she and her husband, psychologist James Randall "Randy" Noblitt, Ph.D., based formerly in Texas and now in California, have worked with more than 300 multiples.   Noblitt is currently the Director of the Clinical Doctoral Program at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in Los Angeles.
        The number of persons within a household can range from two to thousands, in the case of so-called "gateway systems" (such large figures are calculated by counting the entire population of a highly developed internal world; most of these persons do not "front" -- that is, operate the body or interact directly with the outside, or "earth," world.)   Among the plurals whom I interviewed, the numbers ranged from four to numbers too large for the multiples themselves to keep track of (most likely in the thousands); most of the interviewees, however, reported that their systems numbered in the dozens, if not lower.

               "The number of group members fluctuates, and we're very much sure that we're not aware of every one in much the way a one-mind (our term for singlets) can't be aware of everyone in America," wrote Rayvin of Rhymershouse, adding, "Yes, the Jays are a system within our household." 

              Most of the multiples whom I interviewed agreed that the number of persons within a system has no relationship to that system's health or lack thereof.   (A couple of the interviewees said that they did not know whether there was such a correlation.)

         "We do not believe there is any correlation between the number of persons within a system and the 'healthiness' of a multiple system," the Pack Collective member wrote.   "We have known fully functioning healthy systems of over 100, and unhealthy messes of systems with as little as two.  It is the system itself, and not their number."
         "I don't think there is a relationship," a member of a different system requesting anonymity agreed in a May 21 e-mail.   "It's not the number of people involved; it's how those people work together to get things done, and how those people act.  You could have a system of two be disordered if both constantly fight and [do] not take responsibility."

            Perskin wrote that "polyfragmented" multiples are capable of functioning reasonably well and of integrating, should they choose to do so.   Blackthorne indicated that her partner, who, as aforementioned, has a large number of persons within her system, is highly functioning.

            Internal worlds

            Many multiples have internal worlds, realms outside the external, or "earth," world where they spend time when they are not out front (some persons within multiple systems rarely or never front).  Some are highly developed; others are small.   Some multiples I interviewed reported full-fledged, functioning worlds, while others gave different descriptions.  The Pack Collective wrote that it has an internal world called the "honeycomb," which is similar in appearance to just that.   A Canadian multiple, Shandra Lemarath (a pseudonym), said in a late April telephonic interview that her system's internal world is essentially a utopian fantasy realm where no one has to work; occasionally, she said, she goes there when she is not fronting.  However, most of the time, she is simply unconscious while someone else is fronting.   A person who requesting to be identified both individually and collectively only as M wrote in a May 15 e-mail interview that the M system has an internal world, "but I do not have access to it."

            It should be noted that not only multiples, but also many singlets and medians, have internal worlds.  Some these are shared by fictional or imaginal presences, in the case of soulbonding (see Part 2 of this series).   Lemarath mentioned fictional character Hannibal Lecter's "memory place," described in Thomas Harris's novel Hannibal, as an example of an internal world.  A full analysis of internal worlds is beyond the scope of this series.

             Discovering and confronting one's multiplicity

"When did we recognize that we were many souls?" two members of a multiple system who refer to themselves collectively as the Gryphons responded in an e-mail interview on May 11.   "Some of us have always known, it seems like.  We started calling ourselves all of us using the term...about 16 years ago...Some souls were here from at/before the time of the shell's [body's] birth.  Others arrived later."

          Other multiples I interviewed described a similar sense of the beginnings of their multiplicity, in contradiction to the widespread assumption that every multiple system begins as a single, "original" self that subsequently "splits" into other selves.

         "We were always multiple," wrote the Pack Collective.  "The body was born, housing a girl we now call Liz, and two weeks later, Rachel arrived.   They lived together in harmony for two years, when Wolf arrived.  It was always something considered normal by Rachel, the THEN main frontrunner.   We first understood multiplicity as  a concept in the late 90's, early 00's.  We'd met some people who had known other multiples, seeking to learn."

         A member, who requested that individual names be used if only they are included in interview responses, of a system tentatively called the Union wrote in a May 16 e-mail, "We experienced some inner voices in high school, but tried to push them aside because 1) we thought it was dangerously close to being insane and 2) one of them was very negative and kept saying that we would never amount to anything.  We suspect that one was an attempt to reject the most negative thoughts we'd had during a bout of depression, and turn them into something outside of 'us.'   The other voices we don't remember too well, so we're not sure how they line up with who's in here now."

         "We were already that some part of our spirit was other than human when we finally realized what we were; reading because of its Otherkin (nonhuman souls in human bodies) component made us think more about the idea of being more than one in a body," the Union member continued, "and we actually set out on a project to try and create a sort of bot to run the body in situations where we couldn't act naturally, like work.  As mask or veil, if we remember correctly.  This didn't work...but it did bring Beaker to the surface.  Once she was out and about and clearly a separate person, we grudgingly started identifying as median [a state between singlet and plural; see Part 2 of this feature] because we realized some of our old roleplaying characters were just as real and intense...but of course our main frontrunner [persons who operates the body most often or very frequently] of the time was still was the only full person, right?  That illusion later broke down as the others proved to be just as capable, and we realized they were fronting more than we thought.  We just don't always notice who is front.    And so we finally admitted to being multiple."

         The member added, "Looking back, many of us were clearly defined as 'characters' beforehand and spoke to our frontrunner while he or she was playing the character.  They also match up to distinct facets of the 'I' that we believed to be our true self -- faces we showed in particular settings.  So we believe we were always divided like this, just unaware of the fact because we wanted so much to believe that we were only one person."

         "The realization that we were multiple came gradually during adolescence," wrote a plural requesting both individual and group anonymity, in a late May Web posting.   "Our previous frontrunner was pretty much the last person in our system to find out/acknowledge it.   She had been reading up on psychology in general and finally got to around reading Sybil, and a few things clicked for her, but there was always lingering denial.  When I took over as frontrunner a few years later, I too struggled with denial, but finally accepted that we were multiple about four and a half years ago, partially thanks to discovering the multiplicity community on LiveJournal.  For the first time I realized that I didn't have to be exactly like Sybil in order to be multiple.  For a long time after that I thought our system was natural [not trauma-based], but over the past year and a half we've been coming to terms with trauma in our past that we're pretty sure caused our multiplicity."

         A member of the Zyfron System requesting individual anonymity wrote in an e-mail interview in May, "We first began to identify ourselves as multiple when the body was 16 years old.  Jane [name altered for publication] was the first 'other' person in this body.   I had known of her as an imaginary friend for some time, and for about a year and a half she seemed to take more and more control of her own life.  I found myself saying things like, 'Oh, I didn't do it, it was her.'   Not dodging responsibility or anything, but about things like drawing a picture or writing something or doing homework.   'Thanks for the compliment, but it wasn't me, actually.'   I would only say this to a very close friend who knew about Jane, but it was already my mindset by then."

         He continued, "One night, unable to carry on having her very existence denied, she very suddenly took complete control of the body.  I was pushed completely to the back of our mind; it was only her in front.   It was very jarring when she first took complete control of the body.   She was terrified of being kicked out because we were now 'crazy' (now that she had clearly exceeded the limits an imaginary friend ought to adhere to).   In the course of a single night, things changed completely; it was no longer possible to think of her as an imaginary friend.  She had exerted herself as a person and taken control of the body, pushing me aside to do so.  From then on, we were multiple."

        The Zyfron System member wrote, "Almost immediately, we went to the Internet trying to learn as much as possible.  We weren't crazy.  Or at least, we didn't feel crazy.  Jane was upset, but other than that, perfectly normal, and I saw no reason to get rid of her, besides which I had already to protect her and let her stay.  Also, we had no memories of abuse, nor any gaping holes in our memory in which it might have happened.  But site after site said 'DID' and 'Horrendous abuse' and 'Integration' as the only possibilities.  Eventually, and I'm sure many others will tell you the same story, we found Astraea's Web... and everything just seemed to fall into place.  We've identified more or less with the view of healthy multiplicity Astraea promotes ever since."

         "For as long as we know, we have been multiple," wrote Rayvin of Rhymershouse.  "We've always felt the presences of others.   We just weren't aware of what to call it.  We stumbled onto [the word] multiplicity through a chance Google search for something, but it was a Web page presenting the stereotypical 'alters are coping mechanisms for abuse' message that we stumbled upon first.  We instantly classified ourselves as not multiple after that.   But the concept was interesting.    So we picked up a copy of Sybil, which was a big mistake.   And did another Google search and found the online multiplicity community on LiveJournal.   And since we had a LiveJournal (account) we joined and starting reading the links in the profile page.    And that's when it clicked."

         A member of a system requesting anonymity reported in a May 21 e-mail, "There have been people here for a while now, about 12 years, as far as we can remember.  Back then (we're almost 24 now) we never classified ourselves as multiple in any way, because we didn't know about it, and thought it was something crazy that only we did.  About six years ago we found the plural communities online, and that's when we figured out that there were other people out there like us, and that maybe we weren't crazy after all.  We think there were at least three people here since birth, since they all have separate memories, but it's nothing we can be sure about or prove."

         "I found the term for it about eight years ago," a member of The Shadowstar Collective who requested anonymity for the individual members wrote in an e-mail on May 21.  "Until that time I didn't know what it was called and just assumed everyone was like that.  I took a psychology course and discovered that not everyone had the conservations in their head and not everyone did things that they didn't remember doing or were registered for courses they didn't remember taking, etc.   We are not sure when we became multiple; we remember being a group forever.   Either at birth or right after we became three, and are unsure as to whether it was (caused by) trauma or (was) a natural split.  Some (system members) have come as a result of trauma and some (were) created by necessity (but not trauma)."

         "It was in late 2001 at the age of 32 when I began to have an idea that I was really a we," a multiple asking to remain anonymous wrote in a May e-mail interview.  "I'd been aware of multiplicity since perhaps the age of 11 or 12 or so.  I can't remember exactly when I was first exposed to the concept.   I know that it wasn't until I was much older and finally in a safe place physically and financially that I was able to pay attention to the things that simply weren't right about my life and realize that something odd was going on.   I believe that we have been multiple since the age of 1 or so.  We have medical trauma in our past due to a birth defect as well as physical, sexual and emotional trauma from a family member that started when we were infants and continued in various forms from various people until we divorced our husband in 1996.  We were born in 1969."

      Shandra Lemarath e-mailed me in late April, prior to our telephonic interview, writing, "We'd heard about MPD in our teens (I'm 36, body-age, so this was the 80s) as a phenomenon I guess basicallly just via cultural influences -- sort of the Sybil image.  It never really occurred to me, despite actually losing time (although I wouldn't have called it that), that it had anything to do with me -- after all, we were not 'crazy' or anything.   Then, over time, especially after we moved into an apartment during university, it started to gradually sink in that most people, when they say things like 'time flew by,' don't mean that they don't remember the time, etc.   In university we had some issues missing classes and things, and also with running into people that, for example, I didn't know but who knew us.  Around this time some more classic things started to happen, like flashbacks and that kind of thing (we were abused as kids). "

            Lemarath continued, "Then in our late 20s, about four years after getting married, some of the inconsistencies in our various viewpoints on our life were causing problems, primarily in our marriage.   At that point of us (Teresa, also a pseudonym) sought counseling, but that therapist just laughed when she said she wondered about being multiple.   He did a lot of therapy around dragging up traumatic memories, which re-traumatized people in the system (kids) who didn't understand that it wasn't happening now.  At that point we got out of therapy and 'tried on' being multiple and getting to know each other and that kind of thing."

      "It was like a switch going on in a room, so that what had been shadowy and unclear suddenly was clear and made sense," she added.  "This is the best working definition for how we experience our life, and it made a huge and immediate difference in our life -- rather than feeling our way around things we could start enjoying it.  Eventually we went back to therapy with a different therapist and were formally diagnosed, mostly to have 'street cred,' I guess."

         Blackthorne indicated that her partner's multiplicity stems from childhood abuse.    

         Perskin said that she and her husband believe that cults and cult-like organizations, ranging from Satanic groups and groups that practice Santeria, brujeria, or shamanic traditions, to non- or only quasi-religious organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, deliberately induce dissociative disorder not otherwise specified (DDNOS) in their members in order to make them more pliable.  This DDNOS may subsequently develop into DID.   Their theories appear in their book Cult and Ritual Abuse: Its History, Anthropology, and Recent Discovery in Contemporary America (revised edition, Praeger, 2000). 

         Diversity within multiple systems

"There are 10 persons in our system," wrote the Pack Collective.   "There are many, many differences.  There are three definite males, one genderqueer, and six definite females.  There is one half-panther/half-tantric vampire, two elves, of different races, several psychic vampires, one sanguine vampire, a handful of wolves/werewolves, and many humans.   We are for the most part all polyamorous in nature, though our sexual orientations differs.  We have a gay male, three asexuals, two lesbians, three bisexuals, and a straight girl.  We all have wide and varied interests, though many of us have one or two major interests what we focus on that others have no desire for.   Faith is an artist and mody modification fangirl, Tara enjoys cooking and sewing and reading.   Liz works with electronics of all types, just to name a few.   We have varied religious affiliations as well.  Liz is Jewish, Rick is Druidistic Pagan, Tara's Wiccan, Griaan are Shamanistic medicine workers, Kali practices an Elven religion, Wolf is Anglican, and Faith is agnostic/atheistic."

         They added that they have not faced “many challenges" due to this diversity.

         "There are 14 of us," the Union member wrote.   "Our elves tend to be more in tune with each other, but we're not sure whether to label that as a subsystem or not.   We only realized we were multiple last year, and we're still sorting out how we all relate."

           "Age is fairly indistinct for most of us, especially since some have past-life memories," the member added. "We have males, females, and some who can be either as they choose.   Those who are interested in sex prefer women, so orientation is not an issue.  (We are polyamorous, so it wouldn't necessarily be a characteristic issue if we didn't agree on that, though.  We only date people who are generally liked by all of us to prevent personality clashes and discomfort in dealing with each other's mates, but we don't have to all find the same person appealing.)"

         The Union member continued, "We're all fairly libertarian when it comes to dealing with people outside the body, and the four species represented (human, elf, two unknowns) get along pretty well.  In terms of religion, relationship(s), and career, there's been some friction because of our alleged main personality's expectation that everything would stay the same in our dealings with the outside world even though she was no longer assumed to be dominant.   When we broke up with our fiancé for unrelated reasons, she had to be restrained from taking front so that others could keep going about our daily life -- no one was going to pay us to sit around and burst into tears at random intervals -- and we started to feel a more general sense of ownership of the career and of our academic plans.  But even after that, some of us are just going along with it because we're not sure what else we'd want to do.  We're still trying to figure it."

      The member added, "Likewise, the emergence of other strong religious views was perceived as a threat by D, even though most of us revere the same pantheons and/or have the same beliefs about what the universe is like.  It's hard to suddenly explaining being Wiccan at one point and Buddhist a half-hour later, so we had to adopt an official line for our friends who don't know we're multiple.  It does heavily draw from D's beliefs, but it also plays the shared beliefs and the fact that we incorporate tenets of other religions if they are compatible and if they seem right."

     A person requesting anonymity wrote that there are "definitely" challenges for diverse systems; her system differs in age, gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, religion, political views, and professional and avocational interests, but not in species (she and all her household members are human). 

            "Ideally all members in-system could compromise over what religion to practice, what gender to be involved with, etc.," she wrote.  "But that is often not what ends up happening.  Age in particular is a difficult thing to deal with for us; most of us aren't even sure what age we are, and it always makes things interesting when someone asks for our age ('Do you want MY age or the body's age?').   For some it is also hard to come to terms with the fact that the body will never look like how they look on the inside.  We tend to avoid looking in mirrors because of that."

            "The body is a male college student," wrote the Zyfron System member.  "One of the main front-runners (Jane, mentioned above) is a girl.  Everyone else is male.   Jane is in her late teens, I match the body, and the other two are in the 35-45 range.  Other than me, nobody has a definite age or birthday.  We are all white, not because we are pro-white or anything; it just happened to work out that way.  We are all human beings.   We tend to agree on most things politically, though the older members tend to support tougher laws, and Jane tends to be much more in favor of small-government type policies.  Nobody practices a religion; we were born Jewish, and everyone identifies with that as a cultural heritage.   Jane is a hardcore atheist but has random bouts of spiritualism [spirituality] now and then.   Jane and I work as a team when it comes to school/work, we compromise on what to do.  Jane would have preferred we study computer science, but is happy with engineering.  The other two have no interest in taking up a job, since they front so infrequently, but one of them would prefer to be a math major, and the other would prefer history or philosophy."

         He added, "To be honest, I'm not sure if we've ever encountered a system that did not have members who differed in at least one of these ways, but it does create some challenges.   For us, primarily, the issue is gender.  As we said, one of our members is a girl, and (she) frequently feels quite uncomfortable in our male body.  Also, as a straight girl, she wants to have relationships with men.   Having a relationship with a gay man would be lying and therefore unsatisfactory.   Fortunately, she was able to form a relationship with a member of another multiple system, so things are working out better than they might have.   It does occasionally put her in awkward situations (men's public bathrooms...other college guys joking about being gay and pretending to hit on us suddenly becomes very awkward....etc., etc.).   Only getting one vote doesn't bother us so much; those of us who care enough to pay attention can usually agree on things, and if not...oh, well.   It hasn't become an issue so far."

         "Yes, our ages vary widely, from infant to adult," wrote Rayvin.   "We have differing species; that we know of, we have humans, elves, and a dragon but, as I have said, we're not aware of every one in our world."

         She added that the diversity poses challenges, noting, "We have a dragon in the group who is a secondary fronter.  She's had to mask her accent because she doesn't want to be detected by people in the world at large.   Men in female-bodied systems have to pretend to be women, hide their normal voices and most of the time, at least here have to act like the person everyone expects to see.  The image has to be consistent if possible.  We have a pagan in the group, and our going to church can be hard for her."

         "We've got a lot of differences here, across the board," wrote an anonymous person.  "We've got one kinder, we've got older people, we've got humans and non-humans, sexuality is different, religion and political views are all different (which can call for some pretty tough arguments."

         He added that there "possibly" can be challenges related to these differences. "They (the household members) have come to one conclusion about certain things, like lifestyle, voting, what foods to eat.  But if everyone in the group is willing to work together and compromise, it can be done.  We did it, so I'm sure others can."

     The Shadowstar Collective member, who said that her body is female and 29 years old, listed her group's 16 members, with their different characteristics (names omitted): 1) Age "29, female, lesbian, artist, empathic, healer, Otherkin.   If we had a first born it would most likely be [this person].  She has a 'translator which now allows her to talk,' but all the thoughts are in pictures and emotions, not words.  She is also the only member who is lactose intolerant, a condition that we had during infancy and almost died from (due to dehydration).  All other members can consume milk products in varying quantities; however, if she eats it, the result is diarrhea and stomach cramps.  2) (Age) 19, female, bisexual, athletic, the driver, Otherkin; she is responsible for the minor in BSc.  At one point she was mentally unstable and did have issues with anger, sexual addiction and self-injury.  She is the one who had the most counseling.  She is also the one who conceived.   Liked partying, dancing, pool and cars.   3) 21, female, straight, Otherkin, healer, science geek; she is responsible for the major in BSc.  For most of our life she was the 'host.'   And was the one who fought the most with what we were.  She is also the one with the eating disorder."

      She continued, "4) Six or 16 (age slider), female, maybe bi -- however, not quite sure, as she has no romantic interests.   Otherkin, protector.   She was born through a merging of two others who merged to deal with the pain of a certain event.  Alone they couldn't deal but once joined they became stronger.  Has had bad reactions to Valerian and a few other herbal medicines.  Electrical equipment tends to break or malfunction around her.  Car alarms go off, computers freeze, clocks stop or reset (these reactions occur more frequently when she is mad); it may be coincidental, but it happens a little too often.   5) 29, female, Otherkin, unknown sexual preference.  Another driver.  Is the system helper/organizer.  Was created by the system.  6) 10, female, Otherkin (gets called the 'house elf' a lot).  She is the sleeper in the system, the only one who can sleep most of the time.  7) 13, male, straight, human, he can/loves to cook.  He likes soccer and his mountain bike.  8) Four, male, Otherkin, has the highest pain tolerance.  Is a trauma split (from [from the 21-year-old female member mentioned above] and twin to [the other four-year-old member]) and has problems with the texture of foods.  Learned to speak about four years ago.  9) Four, female, Otherkin, left-handed (all others are right-handed), doesn't sleep and is scared of almost everything (trauma split)...10) 35, female, Otherkin, unemotional, is the controller of the finances; 11) 29, female, human, unknown sexual performance.  Takes good care of our child when "[a certain other member] can't do it (i.e., sick, sleep-deprived or stressed to the extreme).  11) 17, female, straight, Otherkin.  Aside from [one other member] is the only one who can swim.  Loves textures and water.  12) Unknown age, male, straight, human, internal persecutor, creates chaos (his warped way of protecting the system). 13) 7, female, Otherkin, extremely empathic, is 'innocence and purity in physical form.' 14) 6, female, Otherkin, [child version of another member]. 15) Under 2, female."

         As for the challenges, the Shadowstar Collective wrote, "Most definitely.  You get these challenges if you are living with a group of people in the same house but it is even more challenging if you are all living in the same body and sharing a life.   It takes a whole new level of cooperation.   For us the challenge of balancing different political views is mild.  None of us are particularly political.  So when we have to vote is discussed and then agreed upon who to vote for.  Basically the important decisions in life have to be agreed upon by the whole system.  Where to live, employment, views on child rearing, basic house rules to prevent any one individual from making choices that would be detrimental to the system.  Small things like what to eat, what to wear, what to do in (our) spare time (are) open to whoever wants it.   So for small things different races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, religions, species, political views, etc. don't really matter."

      She added, "The biggest challenge so far is the different sexual orientations and who to date.   In the past the system has found that maintaining a polyamorous lifestyle was the easiest solution.   It is hard for the whole system to agree on what gender to date, never mind a specific person within that gender.  We have also found that ending a relationship is more difficult.  Some may want to break up with a significant other, and another member of the system is against it.   In this matter the good of the system is usually the deciding factor.  It is easier said than done, however, and our current relationship is an example of that.  It has taken three years to make a decision, and now there is an 18-month-old child involved which, in some ways, made the decision easier.   The species/race differences are occasionally a change for the system, but it is all internal and rarely flows over to the external world."

      A person who asked to be identified both individually and collectively only as M wrote that the 28-member M system, which includes subsystems, has differences among its household members in "almost everything" and that these differences present challenges "like (in) any mixed group."

        Lemarath said in a follow-up telephonic interview, also conducted in late April, that her system, which consists of 60 persons (with 20 "functioning" in the external world, as she put it, since one household member has a system of her own), is actually below average in diversity.   Not only are all the members of Lemarath's household human, but all but one are women.   Lemarath said, "I feel sorry for him," referring to the lone man.   She said that he does not fronts the least often of all the members, perhaps because he feels uncomfortable fronting in a female body.   She added that they were both children and adults in the system, and that some of the children did not front.

          Asked about diversity-related challenges in general, Lemarath wrote in the e-mail interview, "I think so (that there are challenges) because the more diverse a group is, the harder is to find ways to balance everyone being able to express themselves, and still participat[e] in the reality of normal life as a coherent enough group to be a part of the social compact.  I mean, people tend to expect that if you make friends with someone through a pro-choice rally that you will not then have someone in your body try to recruit them for a fundamentalist anti-abortion protest."

        Lemarath said subsequently that the marriage of one of her household's members, Teresa, to a man has posed particular challenges for lesbians within the system.    She said that these persons are free to express their sexuality artistically, but not through actual relationships with women outside the body; this is obviously difficult for them, she said.  (Though some of the multiples interviewed indicated that they had embraced polyamory to avoid this woman, others have decided to maintain monogamous relationships -- in many cases, the partner insists on such.)   She also said that religion has been an issue; Teresa wanted to convert to Catholicism, but has postponed this because other members were OK with accepting various Catholic beliefs, but uncomfortable with the rejection of other religious beliefs entailed in Church membership.

        Blackthorne said that her partner has been faithful to her, though other members of the multiple system have had romantic/sexual relationships with each other.   Blackthorne implied that she is accepting of such internal relationships and said that she was generally accepting of household members' attraction to other people, as long as "they're all coming home to me."   She added that she will be intimate only with her partner and not with any of the other system members.   Blackthorne's partner, who is a lesbian woman, has both female and male personalities, of different sexual orientations, as well as some non-human "alters" (Blackthorne used this term repeatedly in our interview).   She said that she finds the non-human alters to be endearing, though her partner tends to be embarrassed by their animal behavior.   Since her partner is "polyfragmented" (Blackthorne herself employed this term), there are many persons within her system.   She did not indicate significant conflict stemming from the system's diversity.

                        Defining healthy multiplicity

      I asked the plurals whom I interviewed to define healthy multiplicity and their experiences of it.  I also asked most of them whether they believe that MPD/DID exists.  Their responses follow.

      Muse of the Anachronic Army, a gateway system with a history of online multiple activism, wrote in an e-mail on March 10 that healthy multiplicity is the "state that exists when there is more than one person in a body and yet the collective is working together as a team rather than in a dysfunctional, disorderly fashion.   I think most people believe that more than one person sharing a body would automatically indicate that something was 'wrong.'   I do not agree with this assumption."

     Muse added, "To be good to ourselves and work together as a team means that we will be living well and happily.  Much like a family that is happy and works together.  Or a city that works together and has little crime.  It's about people working together to make life good, even it's a life shared.   A house divided against itself cannot stand.  United we stand, divided we fall."

          The Shadowstar Collective member wrote, "Healthy multiplicity is not disordered.  A healthy multiple can function so well as a collective that the outside world need not ever know.   There are no severe problems caused by the multiplicity that create problems with life.   For example, there are no blanks or missing time; the collective can work, go to school, or do both if it wishes without causing major upheaval.   My experience is that it is a much better state than the chaos we lived in.  I do get frustrated because people just assume we are disordered because we are multiple."

         The member distinguished healthy multiplicity from its unhealthy counterpart by the "amount of distress in people's lives.   If it causes problems, then it is unhealthy.  If it hurts yourselves or others outside the body needlessly, then it is unhealthy.  I believe it (MPD/DID) is just the term for unhealthy multiplicity that the professional community decided on.  I believe it could also stem from psychologist-induced multiplicity, which I do believe exists [see Part 2 for further information].  It doesn't make them liars, but it does make them disordered because it causes distresses in their lives."

         M wrote that healthy multiplicity is the "same as any healthy, functional community or household.  Does it work and are the needs of all addressed?," adding that the system's experiences of it are "us working together to have a healthy life."

        The Zyfron System member wrote, "We identify more or less with the view of healthy multiplicity proposed by Astraea.  We would define it as multiple people living together in the same body in any fashion that allows them to cooperate and live in such a way that the needs of the body can be met, as can all the psychological needs of the members, without outside assistance from medication or intensive therapy being necessary.   Our experience is of having several people live together in the same body and includes many experiences which a singlet would never experience and many others which all singlets do."

       "What distinguishes 'healthy' from 'unhealthy' multiplicity is whether or not the system is able to function and be happy at at least the level one might expect from an average person in our society," he added.  "If a system is unable to see the needs of the body, or if any member is too psychologically unstable (i.e., violent, suicidal, schizophrenic, etc.), and the system is unable to control that member, to the extent that the system is unable to function and take responsibility for its actions, that system is disordered.   In other words, if a system is likely to commit a crime without knowing it, or is unable to take care of themselves and therefore needs to be kept under the care of someone else or kept on some kind of abnormal medication (something more serious than sleeping pills or antidepressants or things you might expect the average person to need), then that system is disordered, 'unhealthy.'   Otherwise, it is a 'healthy' system."

       The Zyfron System member wrote further, "I am not a psychiatrist, I have never met anyone who identified (his or herself) as having 'dissociative identity disorder:' I am not qualified to answer this question.  We've heard of disordered systems, which you could call MPD...we suspect that at least some people fall into the MPD/DID model, but, again, we do not feel qualified to answer this question."

      "We're still pretty new to this, but in general our idea of mentally 'healthy' is being able to understand what's going on around oneself, meet one's needs in life, and to be content with life in general," the Union member wrote.  "There are a lot of different ways to do that.  Unhealthy is when being multiple interferes with one or more of the three, whether it's an unhealthy attitude, unhealthy relationships within the system, or the system itself just plain being an unhealthy development -- like the poisonous shell of a personality we dealt with in high school.  We don't know if DID really exists, so we give the benefit of the doubt...but we don't fit the diagnostic criteria, so we don't assume it's the explanation for all multiplicity."

      "Healthy multiplicity is when a multiple system is aware of itself and does its best to work together, in what way possible," members of the Pack Collective wrote.  "Even in failure, if the desire for 'workable functionality' is there, in our opinion, it's healthy.  Trauma-based or not, it's about knowledge and teamwork."

         They continued, "Our experiences of healthy multiplicity are varied.  We've had bouts of non-communication, but in all, we've striven to work together for the good of the body, while living our individual lives, but not stopping others from living theirs.  One may have a boyfriend/girlfriend, but that shouldn't stop someone else from having one as well."

         The Pack Collective interviewees added, "In our opinion, unhealthy multiplicity is when someone either creates 'alters' for no good or healthy reason, i.e., for attention, or when they 'lock inners away,' or when they cannot cope with being multiple, and suppress or extinguish the others by some external methods.  (Note: We do not say integration, as some people who integrate do it with everyone's best interests in mind; we say suppress or extinguish.)  MPD/DID does exist, but it's not the same thing as multiplicity.  In our opinion and experience, not all multiples have these disorders, and not all people with these disorders are multiple.  Dissociative identity disorder is a neurosis which makes one dissociate from their body and their surroundings, either uncontrollably or by a coping mechanism.  It makes one 'go away' for a little while.   Some DID patients are part of a multiple system and therefore are able to still function within a dissociative episode, by letting someone else front.   However, not all DID patients are so lucky."

         "Healthy multiplicity -- living a life where the souls you share (your body) with are honored and respected, their opinions and wishes taken into consideration," the Gryphons wrote.   "Where there is no harm done to the shell or the individuals within other souls.   Basically the same description for any healthy community.  That's essentially what households are...they are communities that just happen to share one external  body."

         They added, "Does MPD/DID really exist?  Yeah, we believe it can.   We were pretty much poster children for it when we first started working on stuff...losing time, waking up in strange places, people knowing stuff about us and us not having a clue who they were...wak(ing) up to the body hurt, bruises, broken bones with no idea how they happened...but with work it can be worked through."

        "Healthy multiplicity, at least to us, is multiplicity without dysfunction," Rayvin of Rhymershouse wrote.  "For example, a healthy household is one in which work gets done, bills get paid, the body is taken car of, laws are followed, etc., etc.  For us multiplicity is a way of life, and we meet all of life's demands."
        "Oh, yes, MPD/DID does exist," Rayvin added.

        "I define healthy multiplicity as any group as a whole that chooses to try to improve the way they function, in terms of dealing with the outside world as well as the functioning in-system," wrote a plural who asked to remain anonymous, in a late May Web response.   "This definition allows 'healthy' to be applied to trauma-based systems and natural systems, as well as systems who identify as having MPD/DID.  Everyone has a different definition of what it means to be functional and what getting to that point entails.   As long as a system is making an effort to be what they consider functional,  I consider that healthy."

         "The general consensus in our system is that MPD/DID is a misnomer," she added.  "We don't feel that being multiple in itself is a disorder or anything that necessarily needs to be 'fixed.'   Lack of communication and cooperation, blackouts, flashbacks and other common symptoms seen in classic MPD/DID are what see as the real problem."

         In a May 21 e-mail interview, an individual requesting anonymity wrote, "Healthy multiplicity, to us, means that they system can function well.  Things outside get taken care of (bills, cleaning, job, food, things like that) and, in general, people inside can tolerate each other.   To us, unhealthy multiplicity happens when the system is so disorganized and unwilling to work together that nothing gets done, that it's a detriment to the body's health.   I do think that MPD/DID does exist, and that is separate from multiplicity.  Dissociation is very real, but that doesn't mean it's connected with multiplicity/plurality."

        Also via e-mail in May, another person asking to remain anonymous wrote, "Healthy multiplicity, to me, is being able to have solid relationships, set goals and reach them, keep up with responsibilities and duties, have more interests and interactions than those focused solely on survival, and being capable of independence.   After a lot of struggle, I consider us to bbe functional empowered multiples.  Our depression is under control.  We have a career in UNIX systems administration with a steady employment history.  We're finishing our first master's degree in June and beginning a second one in July.  We have good relationships with our family and our significant other.   We have friends and a social life, and we complete what we start (for the most part).  We've gotten out of any tendency to consider ourselves victims or to wallow in despair at the bad things that have happened to us.  We've managed to move on.  Our abuse history and multiplicity are part of our definition, but they don't define us."

         The person added, "Unhealthy multiplicity, to me, is being a professional victim, refusing to take responsibility for your life, refusing to do the hard things such as therapy that would help improve your ability to take care of yourself(ves)."

         "I believe health is present, " Lemarath wrote, "when everyone in a system pretty much feels that they count -- that their concerns will be listened to, that their needs will be met, or at least people will try to help meet them; when the individuals in the group can set their individual desires aside to help other people in the system meet their goals, like going to school or going to work or getting to the gym; when 'everyday life things' are able to be taken care of like taking care of one's body, keeping one's space livable, and having some kind of grasp on resources (usually having a job, but owning a farm and growing one's own food or being part of a communal living agreement would count, too); when people in the system have found a way to be respectful of others outside the system -- interacting with friends, partners, and children appropriately.   My experience of it...hmm, I mean, that's generally life, right?  As an over-arching statement, I guess I would say (that), for us, health always come down to replacing fear and distrust with respect.  (Or healthy boundaries, in the case of outside people who really don't deserve our respect.)"

      She added, "I think unhealthy multiplicity looks at people within a system as being problems, or the problem.   I think it focuses on being normal at the cost of asking how, given that multiples are not normal, how to go from there.   I also think unhealthy multiples have a tendency to try to shift blame or not to take responsibility for the amount of control they do have."

      Perskin, however, dissents from these and similar views.

      "Personally, of the more than 300 multiples I have known," she wrote on May 12, "I would not describe any of them as healthy.   Some are more highly functioning than others, but healthy -- no...Please remember that the multiples I've encountered have been in the mental health system.  Most of them have been identified as disabled under the Social Security Administration's definition.   Most of them live in poverty, unable to successfully complete school or work or access adequate treatment.  When employed, they are generally underemployed, not working within their areas of expertise or up to their potential.  They tend to engage in unhealthy interpersonal relationships, continually repeating the pattern of abuse in which they lived their childhoods.   Female multiples are frequently revictimized, caught up in abusive relationships, taken advantage of by predators.   Male multiples are often abusers themselves, repeating predatory patterns learned from childhood.   In our experience, some multiples appear to function quite well, taking on responsible jobs, having families, and engaging in productive lives, until some event or circumstance 'triggers' their DID."

      Perskin added, however, "If the definition of functional is to be able to hold a job, have a healthy relationship, be a good parent, and a productive citizen, that may be as good as it gets.  Some non-multiples never achieve this level of stability."

                             Empowered multiplicity

              "Empowered multiplicity involves no longer seeing your state (plural) as disordered," Muse wrote.  "This shift in perspective facilitates positive growth."

              "I tend to think of healthy multiplicity and empowered multiplicity as the same thing," wrote a person requesting anonymity.  "No matter what a system's background is, they can reach a state of empowerment.  All they have to do is take charge of their lives and work together.  I do think that we are healthy/empowered because we( have managed) to get through life pretty (well) so far.  We have a few problems here and there, a few disagreements, but nothing a singleton wouldn't have to handle, either.  As long as we're healthy and happy and working toward the goal list we (as a collective) came up with, I think we're good."

      The Gryphons wrote, "Healthy multiplicity, to us, is pretty much something that someone who consider themselves [sic] empowered has to be working toward achieving...Empowered, to us, basically means that we recognize that we have choices and that we have a right to express those choices and have them honored.   Meaning, we have a right to say that we do not want to integrate...and have that decision honored by our counselors and family of choice.  We have right to state that we are here, openly, if we choose to do so, without fear of reprisal, either financially, physically, mentally or emotionally, or legally."

      "To me, healthy multiplicity and empowered multiplicity go hand-in-hand," wrote another multiple who wished to remain anonymous.  It's not enough to say, 'I'm proud to be multiple!' (empowered) when you fail out of school, can't keep friendships, are late on rent payments, have abreactions in the grocery store, etc.   Healthy multiplicity is functioning as an adult in your society; empowered multiplicity is not being ashamed of your multiplicity."

      "You embrace and accept who you are," The Shadowstar Collective member wrote.  "It is not walking around telling everyone, waving the 'I'm multiple' flag and forcing others to accept you.  It is accepting yourselves as a group, working together for a common goal and sharing a life as equally as possible."

         "Healthy multiples are, in our opinion, necessary to the cause of 'empowered multiplicity,'" wrote members of the Pack Collective, "as it is important for society as view us as just another possibility of the way life can exit, and society as a whole cannot grasp this if all it sees is unhealthy multiplicity."

       The collective added, "We see ourselves as healthy.  Empowerment will come for the one system when all systems are seen as real beings and not just disorders or figments.   Empowered multiplicity is a vague concept, and we do not have any real ideas yet.   We do not see feasibility in things like separate marriage licenses or separate Social Security numbers, but we think true empowerment will come when the fear of persecution from being open and honest lessens."

         "Empowered multiplicity means that I do not need to hide who/what we are," M wrote.

         "I think (healthy and empowered multiplicity) are largely interchangeable in that empowerment means having the tools to become (or stay) healthy and to grow and to self-actualize -- that is, not just to survive but to live joyfully and abundantly," Lemarath wrote.  "But one is the sort of personal/organic branch -- becoming healthy, or maintaining health, is very personal.   The other is political -- empowered multiplicity suggests that there's a system (the mental health system, in this case; sometimes a religious belief system) that would prefer that multiples behave a certain way, maybe, and the process of empowerment is to break out of that system."

        "I think as most multiples we are empowered," she added, "sometimes, perhaps not so much as a feminist, but that's a whole other issue.  For me, empowerment means that we define for ourselves what health is and how to get there, and have access to any tools/supports we need to get there."

         Not all the plurals whom I interviewed had such a positive view of the concept. 

         "`Empowered' seems to imply that you are taking control where before you were powerless," the Zyfron System member wrote.  "An 'empowered' system would be in control of their own life/lives, as would a healthy system.  In the end, there may not be much difference, but we dislike the word 'empowered' because it seems to place too much emphasis on a 'powerless' past.  I suppose that's the difference.  If you are 'empowered,' you used to be powerless, and now you have taken control, and the powerless part is a defining part of who you (collectively) are.  We do not view ourselves as 'empowered' because we never felt that being multiple made us powerless or weak.  That's probably not true for everyone, though.   'Empowered' isn't worse, but it isn't us."

         "The word 'empowered' tends to make us squirm to begin with," the Union member wrote.  "It always seems to come up when it has to do with being something that really shouldn't have any bearing on our degree of personal power in a just world: female-bodied in a technical field, LGBT, Otherkin, in the religious minority no matter how you slice it...but we're competent, capable of taking care of ourselves, and doing just fine despite having to hide parts of that to get by.  Not that we have to actively hide much; it doesn't matter to the job we're doing and shouldn't.   If we're as self-sufficient as we can be in light of any unrelated limitations we face, and we're mentally healthy, that's good enough."

                              Integration: the answer, a viable choice for some multiples, or murder?

            One of the more controversial issues related to multiplicity is integration, which is the conventional goal of psychiatric and psychotherapeutic treatment of plurals.    Integration is based on the notion that none of a multiple's selves constitutes a full person; Sybil's integration marks the climax of Flora Rheta Schreiber's bestselling book Sybil (1973) and the 1976 made-for-TV film of the same title (scripted by Stewart Stern, directed by the late Daniel Petrie, and starring Sally Field in the title role).   (A remake has reportedly been completed and is scheduled to air on CBS this fall.)   However, apparently, this famous psychiatric patient, Sybil Isabel Dorset, whose real name was Shirley Ardell Mason (1923-1998), voluntarily "un-integrated" or "re-differentiated" some years because she felt lonely without her internal household.  Another famous case, Billy Milligan, attempted integration, but ultimately rejected it because he experienced a loss of skills and talents possessed by the separate selves -- "the whole was less than the sum of its parts," as he often put it.   The Troops for Truddi Chase's When Rabbit Howls (1987), the autobiography of a trauma-based multiple system, is viewed by many multiple advocates as a manual of living functionally as a co-conscious group rather than integrating.

          The plurals whom I interviewed viewed integration as a personal choice that may be desirable or even necessary for some multiples, but something that they would never consider.   Blackthorne said that she believed that "polyfragmented" multiples such as her partner had systems that were too "evolved" to achieve integration, but added that she is content with her polyfragmented significant other remaining multiple.

         "Plurals need not necessarily integrate in order to achieve health and personal empowerment," Muse of the Anachronic Army wrote.

      "While integration will never be a viable option for us, we do understand that for some it is desired, even needed," members of the Pack Collective wrote.  "We feel that integration in cases where it's not needed or wanted, can not only be harmful, but may not stick, in the best of cases, (and cause) horrific consequences in the worst.   Integration, by definition, is coming together to form a whole.   Our system is a whole.  We work together, to ensure the good health and happiness of not only our body, but ourselves, and our significant others.  By experience, forcing integration of selves into one, can simply mean building a wall between the front and the inner, causing not only eventual trauma to the one remaining in front, but immediate trauma for those behind the wall.   It didn't work in Berlin; why should it work in The Honeycomb?"

         "We work together well and are able to do more as a group," the Union member wrote.  "If that's not true for another system, even after negotiating and trying to understand the other parties in the system, integration might be a sensible option.  We don't like the idea because this way of life gives us the ability to reap the benefits of having members with different personalities that work well in different situations, which means we have an easier time with some problems, we enjoy more of life, and we have others to discuss things with internally before making decisions.  But as for others...we don't know what it's like to be them, so we accept that other ways might be better."

      "This is a very difficult question," the Zyfron System member wrote.  "Integration is not our goal, and we would see it as murdering three people, if it was done successfully and without the unanimous consent of all members.  However, it is a documented fact that integration is not always (perhaps not even usually) permanently successful.  Even the now-famous Sybil un-integrated (differentiated?) a few years after the story ends.  Since people can come back if the integration is not permanent, calling it murder would be hasty.  We have no basis to say whether or not permanent integration is possible, or whether everyone else is merely repressed.  We haven't done studies or interviewed 'integrated' people years later or anything, but we've heard that it happens, so let's assume for the moment that it is (possible)."

         He added, "We would say that anyone who says that integration is always the answer needs to come down off their high horse.   However, for us to say that integration is never the answer would be equally self-righteous.  Maybe for some disordered systems, integration is what they need.  We would suggest that, in order for an integration to be helpful and healthy, all members being integrated should agree to it beforehand.  But we won't tell others how to live their lives, not on this issue."

      "I believe it can be a valid choice as long as it is wanted by the entire system," the Shadowstar Collective member wrote.  "If it is agreed upon and is not coerced in any way, then it can be acceptable.  It is not what we want, and I can't see it ever being a thing we would want, but we are not going to dictate what is right for others.  I do think more psychs should respect a client who does not want integration and not force it on them.  In my opinion, a state of co-consciousness should be attained and lived with before deciding whether to integrate or not.  We have a hard time believing that integration can be maintained permanently, especially when one or more members don't want it, or if the system is an inborn one (i.e., not trauma-based)." 

      He added, "I would guess trauma-based would have the best chance of attaining it if that is their wish as long as new coping skills are taught as well.  For many systems the thought of being one is moving away from your family and never seeing or talking to them ever again.  And if all you know is multiplicity and have been like that from birth (a natural state), why would being a singleton suddenly make them healthier?  Isn't it like forcing a disorder on someone?  That is how we think of it.   Either way, professionals need to get a new view on how to deal (with) and treat multiples."

      "For some systems who absolutely cannot work together for the common goal of living a shared life, integration could be a choice," Rayvin wrote.  "But for us and ours, it would be murder.  Imagine shoving your dog, your brother, your sister, your next-door neighbor, your teacher, your boss and your children into one person, and you can see where it is coming from.  But if the whole group agrees without one dissenter, then it could be a good choice for that group.   And sometimes integration happens naturally."

      "Integration as ending with up one creature rather than a bundle is balderdash," M wrote.  "If you understand therapeutic concept of integration better, you see that integration is simply the old warning posted on the gates to the oracle -- 'Know thyself.'"
      M added, "Even (according to) the earliest theories of the human mind, the mind is shown as being multiple -- ego, superego and id.  Many therapists nowadays -- and even Lacan -- viewed the mind more as a bundle of parts and even people."

      "This is something we've thought about long and hard and are still a bit up in arms about," a person requesting anonymity wrote.  "For the most part, we agree that non-natural integration is something that is  detrimental to a system.  Since it usually occurs at a therapist's insistence, we see it as a coercive tactic to reconstruct a whole person that can never be fully reconstructed.  I have never heard of a system that was fully integrated and retained all of their skills, memories, and the full spectrum of the previous system members, and I consider that a great loss."

         "'Natural' integration is another issue entirely," he added.  "Although it is subject to the same losses as I described above, the fact that it occurs between two or more people in-system (ideally) without outside pressure from a third party makes it a more accurate reflection of what a system truly feels is best for themselves."

      He concluded, "For us personally, I would view any integration now as a death of sorts.  I see our system as a family; to lose any one of them would be very sad.   That being said, I would never argue against a system's right to choose integration if that's that they wanted to do.  I don't support the act itself, but I support the right to choose."

         "I think integration is okay for those who agree to it," a person in a different system who also wished to remain anonymous wrote.  "Forcing it on someone is pretty much an unforgivable sin to us.  But if a group as a whole thinks it should be done, then that is their decision, and I can respect that.  If one person forces the others into (it), though, that's a big problem.  For us, integration is never going to happen."

      "As a clinician, my husband has never insisted that multiples in his care have integration as their goal," Perskin wrote.  "That is always a personal choice.  Multiples are typically traumatized individuals who have had no choices or only an array of bad options from which to choose.  However, successful treatment generally results in an automatic integration as amnestic barriers between alternative mental states dissolve."

        Some plural mass media watchers, on Astraea's Web and other sites, have used the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Tuvix," originally aired in 1996, as an illustration of why integration is wrong.    In this episode, two crew members, Neelix and Tuvok, are merged into a single person, Tuvix, as the result of a transporter mishap.  Though Tuvix possesses all the memories of both men, he has a single consciousness and a distinct identity.  Eventually, the ship's hologram doctor discovers a mean of separating him back into Tuvok and Neelix, but Tuvix decides that he does not want to "die."  Accordingly, the doctor refuses to perform the procedure, on the grounds that it would violate his Hippocratic Oath obligation to do no harm.   Some plural critics have written that this story shows that forcing integration on a multiple is just as wrong as forcing separation on a singlet.

         Asked about this, Perskin wrote, "Frankly, I never watched any of the Star Trek series after the original, so I can't comment on the episode you cite.  However, I do recall an episode from the original series that also involved a transporter accident, in which Captain Kirk was separated into two parts: a sensitive, cerebral, compassionate self, and a forceful, lustful, animalistic self.  The resolution was that, however distasteful both parts were to the other, both were necessary to make Kirk human.  This is, I think, a more accurate analogy."
        "The multiple personalities are metaphoric," she added.  "There is only one body, and one person.   All of us have different dimensions and parts of ourselves that make us who were are.  We are all different under different circumstances.  I am different with my husband than I am with a stranger.  I am different with my grandchildren than I am with the plumber.  I am sometimes assertive, sometimes passive.   I respond to my environment and the company I am in.  This is true of practically everyone.  However, in the case of multiples, they have been forcibly compartmentalized without benefit of self-control over their behaviors and actions.  They are, in effect, externally controlled.  When a multiple voluntarily integrates as a consequence of successful therapy or just as a natural phenomenon, the end result is not the death of the parts, but the completion of the whole human being."

         It should be noted, however, that numerous plurals have argued that the differences between persons within a multiple system and different sides of a single person's personality are differences not merely of degree, but of kind.   They also believe that most, though not all, persons within multiple systems are whole human beings (or other entities) within themselves and thus do not require integration in order to achieve wholeness.   
            In addition, Blackthorne, as mentioned earlier, believes that polyfragmented multiples are not capable of integration.   When it comes to her significant other, that is just fine with her.

          "My partner is the best thing that has ever happened to me," Blackthorne wrote.  "I would never want (her to be any different than she is) or not be multiple."

        A number of other issues and controversies will be addressed in Part 2 of this series.



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