what is multiplicity? terminology controversy  
where is it from? group structures other / inner worlds
what is it like? multiple preferences resources
is there a good glossary of terms out there?
what are triggers?
what is integration?
what is median/midcontinuum?
what are walk-ins?
what is the difference between fragments and people?

is there a good glossary of terms out there? top

As of 2004, Astraea's Web has an expanded version of the old Anachronic Army's glossary: http://www.astraeasweb.net/plural/glossary.html

Terminology is not carved in stone. Definitions and concepts have been changed, added and deleted since the beginning of the multiplicity self-awareness movement in the early 1990s. If you see a term you don't like, question it, invent your own, come up with something that better describes your experience or that of your friends.

what are triggers? top

A trigger is any sensory input which evokes a memory. Method actors use triggers -- they call them sense memories -- to make the characters they portray more living and immediate. The most powerful triggers are related to taste and smell.

If your beloved grandmother wore Fabergé's Straw Hat perfume, you're going to think of her every time you smell it, long after she's gone. Probably the most famous example of a memory trigger is the story Marcel Proust told, where he ate a madeleine cake with limeflower tea and experienced a flood of wonderful, almost magical childhood memories associated with that taste.

Recovered memory therapy, which was used (and inflicted) on multiples for about forty years beginning in the 1950s, used triggers in a more specific sense, that of recalling or evoking trauma. In the theory of multiple personality put forth by Dr. Cornelia Wilbur (the psychiatrist who worked with Sybil) and others, the persons in a multiple system are not independent individuals, but represent the main or presenting self at various ages. They can be brought forth to reveal their hidden truths via memory triggers -- playing appropriate music, for instance. This is called "being triggered out". Supposedly, no person in a multiple system comes forward unless he or she is triggered out -- under this theory, they don't come up by their own volition.

Returning memories are often accompanied by intense emotions, as M. Proust describes. In recovered memory therapy, you're encouraged to explore and relive traumatic memories. Based on methods that sometimes work with soldiers with severe PTSD, doctors felt that by exposing clients to memory triggers and encouraging them to re-enact what had happened, they could help the client get it out of their system, thus speeding therapy progress. It didn't always work out, and may have done more harm than good.

Some multiples who have gone the trauma-therapy route will talk about their "triggers" in a more general, colloquial sense. To them, a trigger is not only sensory input which evokes an unpleasant memory, but any present-day occurrence causing any negative emotion. It often seems, in reading their online posts and statements in chat, that they say "I was triggered" when they mean "I was angry" or "I was sad". They've been trained in therapy to assume that any present-day emotion they have is a conditioned reflex from the past. They often have to remember that just because some bozo cut them off in traffic, it need not be that their anger over the event was due to something from childhood evoked by the incident.

In some extreme cases, they've been led to believe that if they are "still experiencing negative emotions", they have more work to do in therapy. In this case, the doctor has business to remind them that negative emotions are a healthy part of daily life, and that the purpose of therapy is not to eradicate anger or grief, but to assist in learning how to manage them appropriately.

what is integration? top

In Dr. Cornelia Wilbur's theory, children become multiple when a series of traumatic events causes them to splinter their single personality into many. Each holds a piece of the puzzle -- a part of the intolerable childhood memories -- leaving a presenting self to deal with present-day reality without any knowledge of her past or awareness of the others. Over time, the presenting self becomes aware of the gaps in her consciousness where the others have been active at the forefront, leaving her amnesiac for those periods. The therapeutic process involves asking the different selves to come forward and tell their story, sharing with the presenting self the terrible secrets of the past. As each memory is uncovered, the self who held it no longer has any reason to exist, and should -- according to Dr. Wilbur --gradually fade away, or merge into the consciousness of the presenting self. Sometimes, the selves have lived as individuals for so long that it takes much persuasion on the doctor's part to convince them to agree to their own demise. At the end, ideally, is one whole, unified self without any trace of the others.

From anecdotal evidence we've received through email and web pages such as Tesserae's, we know that some multiples really do fit this description. However, many others do not. Some report no abuse at all, or were aware of their own existences prior to abuse. A good many say that they did come about as a response to abuse, but that integration is not the answer for them. They want a functional operating system, not to be forced to behave as if there were only one person, denying the truth of their individuality. The Shire are an example of such a group.

Dr. David Caul, who worked with Billy Milligan, believed that multiples should be given a choice when it came to integration: that functionality was what counted, whether it was as "a corporation, a partnership, or a one-owner business".

what is midcontinuum? top

That the midcontinuum concept has spread so far that many are not aware of its origins is a tribute to the ingenuity of the Vicki(s), who first described and named the dissociative continuum sometime in early 1996.

Using the "everyone dissociates" explanation and the old abuse-dissociation-splitting concept employed by mental health professionals who find themselves trying to describe multiplicity on talk shows, the Vicki(s) reasoned that if this is true, then everyone is, to some degree or another, multiple. Those who didn't fit the Sybil profile but didn't regard themselves as a single person were therefore midcontinuum. Many embraced the concept because they felt they were multiple "to some degree", but didn't experience it as per DSM-IV standards or media portrayals.

It's probably much more realistic, given social and personal diversity, to think of plurality as a sphere, with a potentially infinite number of points; and, to remember that at different times in one's life, one may reside at any of those points, or at no fixed abode. Postmodernist notions of identity as fluid and nonlinear may be helpful in understanding this. If you experience yourself as selves, but feel that your others are not independent of yourself, you are probably median.

It's important to allow the concept to be inclusive of everyone who fits, regardless of past abuse history or origins, much as is currently being done for 'multiplicity.' With its roots in the abuse-dissociation model, midcontinuum is too limiting; it is no longer useful to us. Median creates a certain measure of psychological distance and gives the concept a fresh start, without the "dissociative" baggage of the past, and embraces all who feel they are more than one.

People who are median, or think they might be, describe it in many different ways. If you have a good description of how you are median, you can submit it to Pavilion.


what are walk-ins? top

Walk-ins are people who have characteristics of or feel strongly related to people or creations outside the body --perhaps even stating that they are a person from a story or another world, for example. Some people refer to this as soulbonding, which is a term coined by Amanda Flowers to reference the adoption into one's mental space of characters from films, books, tv, anime, daily life, history, or a person you were in a past life.

For some people, it never gets beyond "characters in my story" -- their soulbonds are presences to them, maybe even real people, but they never assume control. For others, it becomes a question of "sitting in the image of" another. That is, you remain aware of your own identity, but at the same time the identity of that second person is present. You may feel that he's using your body -- looking around, sampling your cooking, checking out your physics class.

The important thing is not how many people there are, where they are from, or even what shape their self-identities take. What matters is responsibility in living and in interactions with others.

what is the difference between fragments and people? top

Psychiatrists faced with clients whose groups seemed to contain hundreds or thousands of persons did not know how to explain these high numbers to themselves. One of the theories they came up with was fragmentation. The idea was that some persons in multiple systems actually were not full-fledged people: they were a function, such as opening a door, and only that. Even professionals who were aware of the other worlds or subjective, interior spaces of their clients seem never to have stopped to think that some of these so-called 'fragments' might actually be complex persons in their own right, who simply spent most of their time in interior or other space, and only did that one earth world task as an occasional errand. If you go to the dry cleaner's for ten minutes once a week, does that mean they think you don't exist during the time you're not there? Same thing.

Still, fragments in the classic sense do exist. They're useful little programlets or shells for things nobody else wants to deal with, Many times they are deliberately created. Just be careful if you meet someone who seems to do only one thing: that person may or may not be a fragment.