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Jump Start Your System!: A Guide For Newbies
So you've just realized you're multiple! And no doubt you've also heard all about the wonders of a stable operating system and how it can save you a lot of time and trouble. What's that you say? You haven't? Well then, allow me to list some.
So what's an operating system?
An operating system is the way that you organize your system internally. It's no different from the structure of any other group out there, from the US Congress to the Boy Scouts. An operating system will let people know what is expected of them and also gives methods of settling disagreements or voting on proposals. However, don't read the word "organization" and immediately think that you need to come up with something as structured and formal as the European Union. Every system's organizational structure will be different. Some are very rigid, while some others are only held together by mutual agreements and an informal code of conduct. What matters is whether or not it works.
What you should expect out of a good operating system is that it enables the group to function at the level of an "average" member of society, and that the group can take care of itself.
Ok, how do we get one?
It was once believed that all people in multiple systems knew nothing about each other, that communication was nonexistent, and that once they found out about each other their lives would go to hell in a handbasket. STOP THE INSANITY! Lately it has become known that there are many systems that do have a working operating system in place, even before all of the frontrunners realize that they're multiple. You know what? If that's the case for you, that's really something to be proud of, so stand up and give yourselves a pat on the back. If the current system structure is working, and people seem to be comfortable with it, don't automatically feel that you need to change it. Instead, try to learn more about how it works. If you aren't comfortable with it, or people would like to make changes, that's another story.
There are also people who don't have a stable structure down when they learn they are multiple, and that's okay. Sometimes the absence of a stable system is how people find out about their multiplicity in the first place. It really can seem scary, or like a huge task to get people to cooperate, but the journey of a thousand miles... Yeah, you know how that phrase ends.
Your first step toward an operating system is communication. That means that you're able to talk with other system members in some way. There are about as many different ways to communicate inside a system as there are leaves on a tree, so try to figure out what works for you. If you're having a hard time, try getting a notebook and writing in it. Leave notes for each other, ask each other questions, or just write about what the weather is like today. Try to get to know the various people in your system, and find out each others' likes, dislikes, and goals. It's just like any other group-introduction exercise, really. Remember those "team building" meetings you had at work? Hopefully at those, the donuts were free.
One of the easy ways to get tripped up here is to immediately think that you need to chase down every single person inside and shake a statement out of them. This isn't always a good idea for a number of reasons. While it's important to have some sort of idea of who is around, to anticipate possible problems, there are some people who have a good reason for hiding. Some people also might be suspicious of you and your motives, and sending a search party after someone like that could just drive them deeper into seclusion, where you can't keep an eye on them at all. Do you really want a potential troublemaker hiding below the radar, where you can't get an idea of what they're planning?
Now this isn't to say that you shouldn't make an effort to figure out who your coworkers are, just that you shouldn't drive them into foxholes. By all means, try to keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes when others see that you at least make an attempt to accept or understand people who introduce themselves, it can make them more open to coming forth themselves. Also, some people might know other system members already, and they can tell you about others that you might not know yet, and identify potential trouble sources.
Now, after you've got a good chunk of people introduced to each other and at least communicating civilly, its time to discuss things in terms of the group. Talk about what is important to you as a group and how you think you can go about getting or keeping those things. Things you might want to talk about include financial security, home stability, your career, your relationships, and other "real world" pursuits. You also should discuss what you think is important to get out of living as a multiple. People might be concerned about getting enough time out to pursue things they are interested in, whether they are expected to keep up friendships if they don't know the person, and things like that. You don't need to come up with definitive answers to these right now, because they're tough questions. But talking about them may help you understand what people want.
Also talk about how each individual can contribute to the group. What are you good at? How can you use your talents to help the others? Do you think you are capable of holding a leadership position? Can you act in a supportive role? Think hard about your own strengths and weaknesses and try to be honest.
Sometimes, your "leaders" will emerge automatically. These might be people who are good at driving others, who are good organizers, or who are very strong. This makes things a little easier on you, but you may want to make sure that a majority agrees that they should take a leadership role. Speaking of which, you'll definitely want to make sure you come up with some sort of way of making group decisions. You also want a way to resolve disagreements. This is like everything else mentioned in that it varies dramatically from group to group. Some groups make decisions by duking it out and squashing the opposition. Some groups have democratic voting procedures where everyone's opinion is counted. Just make sure that it works, and that someone has the authority to follow through with the decisions. I also suggest coming up with some sort of code of conduct. For example, outline the responsibilities people have when they're using the body, and list things that they are absolutely forbidden to do, under threat of having the privilege revoked.
With an understanding of what roles people are able to perform and what skills they have, organizing your system will become a lot easier. Here is where the ball falls squarely into your court. Try something and see if it works. If it doesn't, scrap it and try to put a new structure together. Don't try to force yourselves into something that clearly doesn't fit, because the end result will be a lot of unhappy people and it may just fall apart anyway. Don't expect that you have to figure this out quickly, either. Rome wasn't built in a day and chances are, your operating system won't be either! Be patient and do your best to work together. If nothing else, trying to form an operating system is a good exercise in teamwork.
Well, I hope this essay helps you see that organizing your system isn't impossible, and helps give you some ideas for how to do it. Since every system is different, this isn't meant to be the be-all and end-all of operational structuring, so good luck in whatever you choose. And finally, once you have a system in place that seems to work well for you, go have a few more martinis. You've earned them.