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A brief history of midcontinuum

Anthony Temple

Note: The concept of median or midcontinuum is extremely debatable and its definitions have changed considerably over the years. This article has been and will be changed or updated to reflect my personal understanding. See also the glossary entry on median/midcontinuum. This, too, is subject to change and suggestions are always welcome.

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.

You may see their original writings at their website, which is no longer on line but has been archived at The Wonderful World Of The Midcontinuum.

We are not currently in close touch with the Vicki(s), but had several discussions with them on this subject in the late 90s. At that time they believed, partly from their own experience, that multiplicity had to originate in some form of trauma or abuse. They did know that some multiples (ourselves included) reported being unable to dissociate, so they knew there were other factors involved, but since the dissociation model is the one used on their website, I'll use it here.

Using the "everyone dissociates" explanation we've all heard from mental health professionals trying to give a brief explanation of how the trauma- dissociation model works, 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 might therefore think of themselves as somewhere along a continuum of dissociation -- something like the "autistic spectrum" idea -- again, like the therapeutic model with "normal daydreaming" or "highway hypnosis" at one end, and Sybil at the other.

The midcontinuum concept took off like wildfire in the online abuse survivors' and victims' communities (see many written examples here), and has spread to the roleplaying and soulbonding communities both on- and offline. 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.

People who sensed some sort of plurality in themselves might experience a certain amount of apprehension if all they knew of multiplicity was what they saw in film or on websites such as Mosaic Minds. Midcontinuum provided cultural permission for plurals who didn't fit the MPD/DID profile. Had we run across the midcontinuum idea in 1987 when we were acknowledging ourselves to ourselves, we'd doubtless have embraced it with deep gratitude.

It was somewhat misunderstood, to the point where it became a meme, probably spread initially through the Dark Personalities website and forum, which had links in the goth/vampiric, eating disorder, and fantasy/gaming communities online. Many soulbonders and others who likely knew little of multiplicity beyond media portrayals and the occasional horror stories told by family members working in the psychiatric industry might have latched onto midcontinuum via the webdiary of someone linked to one of these pages.

Many of these people, trying to find words to explain their personal experiences, misinterpreted the original idea and began to define themselves as midcontinuum based on having any kind of multiple experience which deviated from the standard, DSM definition or popularized media depictions. Thus, people call themselves midcontinuum because they don't fit media cliches, as well as not fitting the basic criteria.

But this seemed to me to lose the sense of what the Vicki(s) had originally intended. Their website spoke of the gray area between the two extremes. While (like the MPD/DID doctors) they could not describe much detail concerning the process by which "spacing out" becomes different ego states, parts, fragments or persons (something members of my own group have never understood), they made it clear that midcontinuum referred to things like "having an 'inner child' or 'inner children' with varying degrees of separateness, to having 'ego states', 'parts' or 'fragments' that don't seem to be whole people, to having some but not all of the diagnostic criteria" for MPD or DID.

The Vicki(s) also made it clear that people might wish, or not wish, to adopt the midcontinuum label for different reasons. If one feels plural, but doesn't match the stereotypes by which most people culturally recognize multiplicity, a label might help in explanation to selves and to others. However, using a term like midcontinuum in, say, a multiple online forum might imply "I'm not really multiple," or "not multiple enough", "not as multiple as you are," etc. It was and remains a matter of individual(s) choices.

The reason we chose median, a word suggested by the Blackbirds, was that it seemed to encompass multiples who did not dissociate in addition to those who did.

Given social and personal diversity, it might be more helpful 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 (or lives), you might 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 might find that median is descriptive of your experience.

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 the word multiplicity. People who genuinely do dissociate might still find midcontinuum useful and accurate in describing their personal experiences. Those whose multiplicity originates elsewhere might find that median creates a certain measure of psychological distance from the therapy culture and recovery movement of the MPD/DIDs. We prefer to use median to describe anyone who feels they are more than one but not a group of completely independent persons, particularly if the group feels that they all originate and rely upon a central or original person.

If you found this article useful you might also want to read Kiya's Story.

Anthony Temple
Thursday, August 15, 2002 7:39 PM
Revised Sunday, May 11, 2008 4:40:02 PM


You can write to Pavilion at pavilion@ karitas . net. Back to the library
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