what is multiplicity? terminology controversy  
where is it from? group structures other / inner worlds
what is it like? multiple preferences resources
what is multiplicity?
why don't you call it mpd, did, or schizophrenia?
does medication work on multiples?
is it possible to know you are multiple without ever having been diagnosed by a professional?

myths / statements

contributed all multiplicity is merely denial of memories.
contributed everybody has different sides to their personality, and you are merely mistaking them for people.
isn't multiplicity just self-trancing or self-hypnosis?
aren't all the people in a system only parts of a whole person?
contributed each person in a multiple system expresses one single emotion -- they are cardboard characters, not complex people
contributed you have to have a gifted imagination and a high intelligence level to be multiple.
contributed the "personalities" are really demons (Christian view) or earthbound spirits (Spiritualist/New Age view) which need to be exorcised
contributed don't doctors just convince lonely, depressed women that they have this condition so their life will seem to have value?
contributed why are you telling me about this?


what is multiplicity? top

Multiplicity is a state in which many people share one physical body. Being multiple means that one exists as part of a group of people, with all the benefits and drawbacks and chances for talents or interesting natures that any other group of people would have.

It is not automatically a disorder, and it is not automatically something which must be changed in order to promote mental or physical health. It is not automatic godhood, proof of genius status, or even proof of severe sexual trauma.

why don't you call it mpd, did, or schizophrenia? top

MPD is short for "multiple personality disorder". DID is short for "dissociative identity disorder". Both of these not only rely on the word disorder, but DID also implies that 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 (actually several similar conditions) which causes thought disorders. It can be treated by medication, and in some cases by psychotherapy and changes in diet. Although the name comes from the Greek words for "split personality", it is not the same as being multiple.

does medication work on multiples? top

No, in that medication cannot be used to cure (eliminate) multiplicity. Currently (2002) many doctors give antipsychotic medication to people who report being multiple, or have experiences (e.g., hearing subjective voices) that might indicate they are multiple. Medication is supposed to suppress the experiences, so that the patient can work on what the clinician considers real life issues.

Many drugs prescribed to treat mental conditions not only do not work, but make things worse for a multiple group either by making the body - - or one person -- sick, or (most often) hindering communication. Dr. David Caul, the psychiatrist who worked with Billy Milligan, reported that neuroleptics such as Thorazine should not be given to multiples because they can destroy the communication system and cause uncontrolled switching (changes between frontrunners).

You will often hear a popular concept that "medication doesn't work on multiples." This refers to the fact that different persons in a multiple group may react very differently to the same medication. It's not uncommon for even simple painkillers or antibiotics to work fine for one person in the system, but not for another. This can make diagnosis and treatment difficult, because the person who is ill must be found, and made to occupy the body enough for the medication to work on them.

Not all plurals experience this sort of division of physical symptoms, though. A lot of times, the body has an illness or condition such as an allergy, and whoever is out front -- occupying the body -- has to deal with it. Some people may come up front when the body has certain illnesses because they're more adept at handling said illness. In this case, medication usually works fine no matter who takes it.

is it possible to know or discover that you are multiple without ever having been diagnosed by a professional? top

Yes. Many people report that they knew of each other all along, or became aware at some point in their lives that there were others sharing their body with them. These self-recognized multiples are often shy of disclosing, because of popular preconceived notions about multiplicity.

A professional diagnosis is not a stamp of approval. It does not guarantee anything, and the lack of it doesn't mean anything either.

MYTH: all multiplicity is merely denial of memories. top

Based on Cornelia Wilbur's theory that multiplicity originates when a single person, most often a child, suffers grievous harm and is forced to split his or her mind into many parts to hold traumatic memory, this idea holds about as much water as an old sock.

Wilbur invented the myth that just passing a memory around will heal everything and allow the shattered pieces to reform into a single whole person. While there are a very few multiples who report this as being true for them, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate it doesn't work in general. People in multiple systems can experience memories, accept that something happened to them, and still feel in clear possession of self-identity, just as a single person can.

When you remember something you haven't thought of for a long time, do you stop being who you are? No, and it's the same for multiples. Forget what you've seen on television: retrieving a memory doesn't always overturn a person's sense of self.

MYTH: everybody has different sides to their personality and you are merely mistaking them for people. top

People in multiple systems also have different aspects to their personalities. They're as complex as anyone else. That doesn't mean that each person in the system is merely an aspect of a "main," "whole" or "real" person. This is not just about behaving differently when you're with your kids than when you're at work -- even if your different facets have names.

MYTH: isn't multiplicity just self-trancing or self-hypnosis? top

No. Plurality is not a result of putting yourself into light or heavy hypnosis to convince yourself you're someone else. This idea got a lot of press in the 80s, most of it from doctors who followed the precepts of Milton H. Erickson, who used hypnosis and mild mind control techniques as a therapeutic tool. The hypnosis theory does not explain things such as co- running, co-presence, and very rapid "ins and outs" of people who just stop by for a few seconds to check up on the outside world.

Some multiple groups have no one who can trance at all. Some groups have lots of people who find trancing very easy, and some have only one or two people who can do it at all. Additionally, non-plurals can also trance themselves. Does this mean that they're actually multiple too?

MYTH: aren't all the people in a system only parts of a whole person? top

Some multiple systems really do contain "fragments", people who really are nothing more than one function or emotion. But not every multiple system contains fragments, and systems in general seem to consist of full people with a full set of emotions. They have certain temperaments just as single people do.

While every mind may start off fuzzy and unformed, this is the case with little babies as much as it is with people who show up later. And, just like anyone in the world, people in a multiple system grow and become more complex. They become as complete as people who are walking around outside. They have their own preferences and ideas on things. They are people. They're just like you. There is no serious reason to believe that people inside a system are any different than people outside it.

MYTH: each person in a multiple system expresses one single emotion -- they are cardboard characters, not complex people. top

People in multiple systems usually aren't just embodiments of compartmentalized emotions -- the "angry self", the "frightened self", and so on. This concept came from the days when mental health professionals believed that plurality came about when one mind split itself into many compartmentalized segments, to hold records of events too traumatic to be entrusted to the everyday memory. Many doctors wanted to believe that the people they encountered, rather than being complex individuals, were stereotyped aspects of a single self. Some accounts describe the persons in their care as "cardboard characters", without depth. Probably desperate for help with their real problems, the plurals in their care very likely gave the doctors what they wanted to see.

MYTH: you have to have a gifted imagination and a high intelligence level to be multiple. top

No one knows where this jabberwocky about giftedness got started. Possibly as early as the 1850s, when spiritualism was popular. Mediums attempted to consult spirits of the dead to comfort and assist the living. Some mediums had very artistic lifestyles and shared beautiful poetry and music, some of which they said they were relaying from beyond. Some mediums, particularly those who let helpful spirits "move in" and live with them for years, might appear to be plural systems, or at least medians, to a modern observer. In fact, this is the original meaning of the term "multiple personality" (no "disorder"). Some mediums were probably plurals using the language of spiritualism to describe their experiences. Psychiatrists such as Theodore Flournoy (From India to Mars, 1900) assumed that spirit contact was impossible, so the mediums must be creative, imaginative people who were making it all up -- possibly because they were mostly women, prevented by societal factors from realizing their ambitions.

You can find out more about the role of spiritualism in women's rights by reading Radical Spirits by Ann Braude.

Frontrunning people in plural groups often exhibit a wide variety of interests and activities. Believing that all multiples begin as one person who splits their single mind into many parts, professionals who worked with multiples assumed that the original minds of these people must have contained all of these diverse talents -- and obviously, to have so many, they must have been born as immeasurable geniuses. Cornelia Wilbur propagated this myth -- although Dr. David Caul said only that he observed multiples in his care to be very perceptive and aware of changes in their surroundings. After the publication of D. Scott Rogo's popular book Infinite Boundary which introduced the ideas of Dr. Ralph Allison, the myth was carved in stone. A whole race of da Vincis in fortyish female bodies were supposed to be turning up in doctors' offices across the country. All the shrinks imagined they had to do was smush those pesky parts together and their patients would go on to solve the energy crisis, stop war and put an end to global warming. Intoxicating stuff for any Psy.D.!

Never mind the fact that the three most famous multiples reported losing most of their linguistic and artistic gifts when integrated...

MYTH: the "personalities" are really demons (Christian view) or earthbound spirits (Spiritualist/New Age view) which need to be exorcised. top

Many religions hold different ideas about multiplicity. Some traditional societies regard it as a sacred lifepath, enabling communication with spirits in the afterlife. Some Southwestern Indian people believe it's important for leaders and holy people to have many "spirits inside them" and to meditate in order to find and embody such spirits. The Catholic Church has very strict criteria for determining if a person is possessed by demons, and according to their guidelines, multiple personality is not possession.

In other words, multiplicity is controversial, and in western society with its one-soul-per-body model, so unnerving that it's apt to generate extreme reaction. It may be the hardest thing you've ever done, but if you feel that your multiple friend is possessed by demons or inhabited by discarnates, your best action might be to leave them alone about it.

Some people who are hosting many spirits and do not want to may benefit from a soul retrieval or exorcism of some sort, although perhaps not a Christian one. But too many multiples -- especially children -- have been subjected to exorcisms and lengthy prayer sessions in an effort to drive out supposed demons that are doing no harm. (If you think that having many persons in one body is intrinsically harmful, you need to broaden your mind.)

MYTH: don't doctors just convince lonely, depressed women that they have this condition so their life will seem to have value? top

The scandals created by Dr. Bennett Braun, Elizabeth Humenansky and others unfortunately bear this out to some extent. Determined to see plurality everywhere, they also recreated it in their own image. Their behaviour was outrageously unprofessional and has created a huge amount of urban legends. They have damaged the public view of plurality so badly that healthy multiples dare not come out to friends, co-workers or even family. Doubtless some of the women in their care actually were multiple, and very likely most were not.

MYTH: why are you telling me about this? top

Because we want to stop living a lie. Because we want to stop letting our friends believe in a lie when we have the choice to do otherwise. Because we want to be your friends and talk to you as our individual selves, not cram everyone into some single identity through which to interact with you. Because we don't like lying to our friends. Because we trusted you. Because we loved you. Because we thought you might do the same for us.