what is multiplicity? terminology controversy  
where is it from? group structures other / inner worlds
what is it like? multiple preferences resources
  are there preferred terms for plurality? what are they?
  are there terms I shouldn't use?
  why do people specifically object to the term "alter" and "host"?
  why do people object when I say "MPD/DID"?
okay, so does this mean all the people i know online who are your in-system 'friends' are just you?
if i want to talk about this to someone, how can i do that without offending them?
should i call people by their names?
i'm curious but i don't want to bother you with questions.

  you have a very fascinating disease.
  you have a very interesting idea of your sickness, you're obviously parading it to get attention.
  I'd like to hear about some interesting cases.
i don't care so much so i'm going to treat you all the same
i'm a multiple and i don't like how you're portraying us/me.


are there preferred terms for plurality? what are they? top


Many plurals think of their group members as people, and prefer for you to speak of them as you would any other persons rather than using 'alter' or 'personality.'

Generally you can say group or system to speak of people sharing a body. Plurals use a variety of words to refer to themselves, such as clan, collection, family, household, or troops.

Some refer to others in-system as selves, while others just say people.

A very good place to check out current terms is the glossary currently being hosted by astraeasweb.

are there terms I shouldn't use? top

Yes. Avoid referring to in-system people as 'personalities'. People are people, their personalities are their natures, not their existences).

Two more words to avoid are alter and host.

Important: Please do not call multiples 'schizophrenic.' That is an entirely different condition altogether.

Some people don't like 'switching' (because it implies that people are completely there and gone in a second, or that one person is just changing masks).

why should I specifically avoid the terms "alter" and "host"? top

The concept that plural systems consist of one host with several alters dates back a hundred years. It's unclear who first used the terms although it may have been Dr. Ralph Allison.

The host/alters theory is familiar to everyone who's read the mainstream or pop literature: the host is the true self, and the alters are splinters from her single personality.

Host at best suggests a single person who has invited other persons -- minds or spirits -- to visit or to share her body. Spiritualist mediums once did this quite routinely. It is the original meaning of "multiple personality" (no "disorder") and is still used in this context by the Kinhosts.

Not all plurals originated in this way, so it's best not to use the term "host" or "hosting" unless the group you're talking to indicate to you that this is true for them. Many systems do have a consistent main frontrunner, but that person is not necessarily hosting the others. In addition, mental health professionals have misused the term for decades.

Alter, again, implies that people in a system are nonpersons. The word implies alternate. You can see that this leads right into all the old stereotypes: one person with many masks, or one real person with many imaginary characters, and so on. It doesn't take into account the individuality of persons in even the simplest group; it denies their validity.

why do people get offended when I refer to plurality as MPD/DID? top

Examine the full meanings of both. MPD is multiple personality disorder. DID is dissociative identity disorder. Both definitions hinge upon the word disorder, which means that many groups may feel offended if they are continually labeled with either term. 'Split Personality' is similarly stereotyping and also wildly inaccurate. Many plurals do not experience their severalness as a splitting of a single personality. Also, it is much more rare to find a group of simply two than twenty.

DID was a designation created by mental health academics who believe that no one has multiple personalities: there is only one person who has a delusion that there are others. Interestingly enough, DID is a diagnosis used only in the United States.

Schizophrenia is a biochemical condition which causes thought disorders. It can be treated by medication, and occasionally by psychotherapy and changes in diet. While the term comes from the Greek word for "split personality", this is not multiplicity.

If you are at all attempting to interact with a multiple group in a positive manner, please do not refer to them as MPD/DID unless they themselves use and prefer that term. By using an alternate term, you will send the message that you believe multiples are capable of being functional, independent, healthy and productive. Simply by dropping "disorder" from what you say, you may find groups more willing to interact with you.

The writers of the Layman's Guide consider MPD and plurality to be separate states.

MPD is present when there is a disorder and dysfunction, and often integration can be appropriate to handling it. Plurality itself is simply the state of many people in one body, and is not necessarily a disorder.

okay, so does this mean all the people i know online who are your 'friends' are just you? top

Absolutely not. For one thing, you're likely one of my friends--are you 'just me' too? Upon finding out that someone is plural, many people assume that this is a sort of elaborate scam. They tend to think of the different people in the group as masks, personae that the "real person" puts on because they can't cope with reality, or to mess with other people's heads. They may assume that everyone in the group is aware at all times of what's going on, since they're "all just one person".

Even when two people are in the same multiple system together, if they have been introduced to you as separate people with their own interests, activities and ideas, then you'd do best to think of them as separate persons. It is really not only hurtful but offensive to accuse, assume, or hold responsible one person for another when they've made a lot of effort to let you know that these two people would like to be known as individuals and that they are trusting you with this knowledge.

if i want to talk about this to someone, how can i do that without offending them? top

Try asking them what they prefer. Be open to what they'd like -- standards aren't always the same between groups, or even between people in the same group. Most people are usually happy when people simply express desire to learn more without judging, and they're willing to talk without being offended if you get a name wrong now and then, or get confused sometimes.

Treat people in a multiple group with the same respect that you'd treat any other group of people, don't make quick assumptions, and do be honest when you're confused on a topic.

should i call people by their names? top

Usually, yes, when it's safe to (not in public unless they say it's okay, etc.). It varies from group to group, but usually it's considered very flattering if you can tell a specific person apart from others, and if you can honor them by addressing them by the name that is theirs alone. You may be wary about using names because you don't want to offend by using the wrong one. However, most plurals are already used to going under a different name (legal name, birth name) all their lives, so if you mix up, they're likely just to correct you gently and keep going.

You are likely to run into problems if you assume that anyone who displays a certain emotion or trait is always the same person -- for instance, if John has a bit of a pottymouth, and you start thinking anyone who uses bad language is John. Being mistaken in general conversation is okay, but assuming that different people can't ever have certain emotions or characteristics on their own -- that's offensive. It sends the message that you're not thinking of people seriously, as valid individuals.

i'm curious, but i don't want to bother you with questions. top

Ask away. No really! Ask! Questions are actually encouraging for plurals to hear -- as long as they're not things like "why don't you get help for your delusion". Honest questions, asked with sincere intent, show that you will not ignore the fact that your friend is plural. A lot of plurals report coming out to their friends and then being dismissed, or treated as if they're just play-acting and if no one talks about it then it will go away. If you really want to show that you're okay with them, questions help to let them know you want to make the effort to respect and understand them.

OR : you have a very fascinating disease. top

Thank you. Now I feel like a lab rat.

Half of the reason multiples don't come out to friends and family isn't just the danger of being misunderstood as mentally ill, but also because they're either utterly ignored about it -- "I'm going to just go on treating you like one person because they're all really you anyway" -- or treated like some sort of science experiment.

OR : you have a very interesting idea of your sickness. you're obviously parading it to get attention. top

Thank you for my daily dose of patronization.

OR : I'd like to hear some stories of interesting cases. top

We're not cases, and we're not here for that.

OR : i don't care so much so i'm going to treat you all the same. top

This is one of those 'win-lose' situations for multiples. On the one hand, you don't reject them, but on the other, you just don't care. While you're not required immediately to drop everything and get to know these people intimately, it's at least polite to get to know the different friends you have, right? Chances are if they told you, they really hold you very highly in their esteem. At least, your reaction is important to them. Also, this sort of response can make groups feel as if you don't believe them or take them seriously. They may end up pulling away from you.

OR: i'm a multiple and i don't like how you're portraying us/me. top

Then please, make a site. Talk about your experience. This guide is drawn from the discussions and conclusions of other groups out there, not just ours. Chances are, you'd like to be treated like a human being among other human beings too. That's exactly what we're trying to accomplish. Please don't spend a lot of time flaming us--go out there and say what things are like for -you-without having to resort to knocking us down in order to do it.