Unveiling Plurality: A Comprehensive Look at Multiple Identities within the Self
Welcome to a journey of understanding plurality, which intrigues and challenges psychotherapy’s conventional understanding of selfhood. In this blog post, we will illuminate the complexities and nuances of plurality – its origins, causes, symbolic representation, and related terminology. This understanding is made accessible and tangible through an easy-to-navigate alphabetical glossary of plural terminology.
As a therapist specializing in structural dissociation theory, I have worked closely with individuals who experience dissociation. This work has offered me a unique lens into the world of plurality, a lens I intend to share with you in this post. My goal? To ignite a conversation, encourage empathy, and foster understanding of plurality in psychotherapy and beyond.
The world of psychotherapy has largely overlooked plurality, yet it holds enormous potential for informing and improving therapeutic practices. A deeper awareness of plurality can enhance our empathy, enable more effective therapeutic approaches, and ultimately lead to better client outcomes. It’s time we step into this largely uncharted territory and bring plurality into the light of our collective understanding. The benefits? They extend far beyond the therapist’s office, inviting us all to consider the many forms of selfhood.
What is Plurality?
In its simplest form, plurality refers to having multiple ‘headmates’ or individual identities co-existing within one body. Imagine each headmate as a distinct personality, a unique consciousness, possessing their names, pronouns, goals, and preferences. Collectively, these headmates form a group known as a ‘system’.
Yet, just as no two individuals are the same, no two systems are alike. The spectrum of plurality is breathtaking in its diversity. Systems can range in characteristics, with some embracing a spiritual nature and others secular. They can be median, where identities overlap, or partition, where identities are distinct. The size of systems also varies, with some featuring a handful of headmates and others a cast of thousands.
The journey into plurality takes us to a crossroads of selfhood. In a plural system, each identity might desire to be recognized in different ways – as an individual, a piece of a larger whole, an accompaniment to the core or host identity, or any other state of selfhood. This plurality of identities unveils myriad ways in which selfhood can be experienced and expressed.
While the term ‘plurality’ debuted in 2001, its understanding and application have evolved significantly. It now serves as a crucial lens through which we can explore and discuss the diversity of consciousness within a single body. As we delve further into this topic, let’s remember: plurality is not a monolith. It is a vast mosaic of individual experiences, a testament to the diverse and profound ways consciousness can manifest. So, as we embark on this journey of understanding plurality, let’s celebrate its rich diversity and respect its individuality. Each system, each headmate, contributes to the symphony of selfhood within one body, adding depth to our understanding of consciousness and the human experience.
Causes of Plurality
The intricate fabric of plurality is woven from various threads, each representing different origins and causes. Understanding these roots is instrumental in attaining a comprehensive perspective on the diverse landscape of plural experiences. It’s essential to remember that the genesis of plurality is as diverse as the individuals or systems experiencing it. Let’s delve into some of the predominant sources:
Traumagenic Systems: The Wounds That Shape Us
Traumagenic systems are born out of trauma or intense stress. This form of the system can arise as a coping mechanism, a psychological response to severe distress that helps the individual navigate their traumatic experience. In these systems, each headmate might bear different facets or memories of the trauma, thereby enabling the system as a whole to handle the emotional and psychological fallout.
Conscious Creations: Tulpamancy and Other Deliberate Acts
The practice of tulpamancy involves the intentional creation of a headmate or an entire system, often cultivated through deep meditation and concentrated thought. Here, individuals actively mould a distinct consciousness within their minds, adding a new dimension to the plurality of identities.
Spiritual Systems: Beyond the Physical Realm
Spiritual systems stem from individuals attributing their plurality to spiritual or metaphysical reasons. In these cases, headmates are perceived as spirits, soul fragments, or entities from different planes sharing their physical vessel. These individuals’ personal beliefs and spiritual inclinations greatly shape the formation and understanding of such systems.
Endogenic Systems: Spontaneously Sprouting Identities
Endogenic systems denote those where plurality emerges naturally, independent of trauma or intentional creation. Headmates spontaneously surface over time in these scenarios, without a defined cause or trigger event.
Mixed-Origin Systems: A Blend of Many Paths
As the term suggests, mixed-origin systems embody a blend of origins. These systems can feature headmates whose roots extend into traumatic experiences, tulpamancy, spiritual phenomena, and spontaneous emergence.
Considering the wide range of origins, it’s crucial to appreciate that each system’s journey into plurality is unique. There is no uniform route to becoming a plural system. Recognizing and embracing this diversity is vital to fostering a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of plurality. As we continue exploring this landscape, we should keep in mind the beautiful mosaic of experiences that shape the realm of plurality.
Symbols of Plurality
Symbols carry profound significance in our daily interactions and experiences. They are powerful tools for communication and expression, allowing us to convey complex ideas and identities succinctly. In the context of plurality, symbols serve as identifiers and affirmations of plural experiences, providing a visual language through which plurality can be expressed and recognized.
The Plural Rings
The plural rings are a symbol created by Tracee of Ouregaiya and/or Iris of Astraea in October 2011. Spread through Email and Livejournal, these rings represent the unity and interconnectedness within a plural system. Their circular design is often viewed as a metaphor for the continuity and equality among headmates within a system, with no single headmate being considered more significant or dominant than the others.
The Ampersand Symbol
The plural community has adopted the ampersand (&) as a symbol of their identity. Some systems prefer to be referred to with the ampersand, like ‘you&,’ or incorporate the symbol in reference to themselves in other ways. This symbol serves as a visual representation of the concept of “and,” indicating the presence of multiple entities within a single system.
The treblesand is a symbol created anonymously for anyone under the plural umbrella. It’s an inclusive emblem, emphasizing the broad diversity of plural experiences and the wide-ranging identities encompassing the term plurality. By adopting the treblesand, systems can express their identification with the plural community without specifying their plurality’s precise nature or origin.
Each symbol provides a means for plural systems to affirm and communicate their identity, fostering a sense of belonging and acceptance within the broader plural community. They underscore the richness and diversity of plural experiences, visualizing the many forms that plurality can take.
Core Concepts in Plurality
As we delve into the expansive and complex realm of plurality, we encounter various related terms, each bearing distinct meanings and nuances. Grasping these concepts is fundamental to developing a comprehensive understanding of plurality. Let’s shine a spotlight on some of these key terms:
Multiplicity: A Synonym for Plurality
Multiplicity, often used interchangeably with plurality, signifies the presence of multiple consciousnesses or identities within a single individual or system. Much like plurality, this term acknowledges the plethora of forms and experiences that multi-consciousness can embody within one body, underscoring the distinctiveness and individuality of each consciousness or ‘headmate.’
Singlet: The Singular Consciousness
The term ‘singlet’ depicts individuals who are not plural – essentially, those experiencing a singular consciousness. It is diametrically opposed to the concept of being plural or multiple.
Singletsona: A Singular Persona in a Plural System
A ‘singletsona’ is an intriguing concept within the realm of plurality. It denotes a persona that a plural system may adopt when interacting with the world as a single entity. However, it’s critical to understand that a singletsona is a façade or role undertaken by a plural system and doesn’t diminish or erase their plural identity.
Plurality: An Umbrella Term
Plurality operates as an umbrella term, encapsulating a broad spectrum of experiences involving multiple consciousnesses cohabiting a single body. It embraces traumagenic systems, tulpamantic systems, spiritual systems, endogenic systems, and mixed-origin systems.
System: A Collective of Consciousnesses
A ‘system’ refers to a group or collective of multiple consciousnesses or headmates residing within a single body. It emphasizes the shared experiences and cooperative existence of multiple identities in one individual.
Headmates: Individuals Within a System
‘Headmates’ is a term that plural individuals use to refer to the separate identities or consciousnesses within their system. Each headmate has unique personality traits, preferences, and experiences, contributing to the diversity within a plural system.
Fronting: Who’s in Control?
‘Fronting’ is when a particular headmate takes control of the body’s actions. This headmate interacts directly with the world, while others might observe, co-front, or be unaware of the events occurring.
As we navigate deeper into the multifaceted world of plurality, it’s paramount to acknowledge the wide-reaching and inclusive nature of ‘plurality.’ Each system’s journey is deeply personal and distinct, and the concept of plurality caters to this diversity, providing an inclusive framework to comprehend these varied experiences.
Alphabetical Glossary of Plural Terminology
In order to better understand the wide range of terms used in discussions around plurality, I’ve created an alphabetical glossary. It covers a broad scope and serves as a handy reference tool. Although not exhaustive, this glossary offers a foundation for those interested in gaining a deeper understanding of plurality.
- Affixes: Linguistic elements added to base words to modify their meaning or function in plurality. Some of these include:
- -an: Used to form adjectives indicating a relation or connection.
- -based: Denotes that something is grounded or based in a particular context or foundation.
- -conscious: Indicates a state or quality of awareness or consciousness.
- -corptive: May denote a process or state of assimilation or integration.
- -dawn: Can indicate the emergence or beginning of something.
- -dian: Likely used to form adjectives from nouns, suggesting the nature of or about the noun.
- -genic: A suffix indicating origin or production.
- -naut: Refers to a traveler or explorer, commonly used in the context of space (“astronaut”) but can be adapted to other contexts.
- -orma: This suffix’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- -plex: Indicates complexity or interconnectedness.
- -strata: Refers to layers or levels within a structure or system.
- -tama: The meaning of this suffix may vary depending on context.
- -temporal: Pertains to time or duration.
- -tien: This suffix’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- -tive: Used to form adjectives indicating a tendency, a disposition, a function, or a connection.
- Astra-: A prefix often used to indicate a connection to the stars or celestial bodies, but in the context of plurality, it might have a different specific implication.
- Demi-: A prefix meaning “half” or “lesser.”
- Kilio-: This prefix’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Magni-: A prefix that suggests greatness in size or extent.
- Multi-: A prefix indicating many or much.
- Poly-: A prefix meaning “many.”
- Pre-: A prefix indicating prior to or before.
- Age-Related Terms: These terms refer to the perceived age of headmates or the age-related experiences within a plural system:
- Age Advancing: A process where the perceived age of a headmate increases over time.
- Age Constant: Refers to a headmate whose perceived age remains consistent and does not change.
- Age Dissociated: A term that may describe a headmate whose age is not consistently perceived or understood.
- Age Dreaming: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Age Forge: Possibly related to a deliberate change or creation of a headmate’s perceived age.
- Agehazy: Might refer to a headmate whose age is undefined or unclear.
- Age Hop: Could describe a headmate who’s perceived age jumps or varies abruptly.
- Ageling: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Age Progression: A process where a headmate ages in real-time along with the body or at a similar pace.
- Age Regression: A process where a headmate temporarily or permanently reverts to a younger perceived age.
- Age Sliding: A process where a headmate’s perceived age varies along a spectrum over time.
- Age Solace: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Age Sticky: Might describe a headmate whose age perception is resistant to change.
- Ageswinging: Could refer to a headmate with rapidly fluctuating perceived age.
- Age Varying: Describes a headmate whose perceived age changes over time.
- Alder: May be a term used to describe older headmates in a system.
- Ähmane System: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Big: A term that might be used to denote older headmates within a system.
- Claudia: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Crescian: A possible term for headmates who grow or develop over time.
- Development-based Internal Age: A concept referring to a headmate’s age as tied to their personal development or maturity.
- Disadult: Could refer to a headmate who does not identify as an adult despite being of adult age.
- Internal Age: The age a headmate identifies as, which may differ from the body’s physical age.
- Iterive: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Little: Often used to describe headmates who are children or perceive themselves as young.
- Little Space: A term that may refer to a space within the system where “little” headmates reside.
- Lost Adult: Might refer to a headmate who once identified as an adult but no longer does.
- Metaphor-based Internal Age: A headmate’s age that is derived from a metaphorical or non-literal concept.
- Middle: This term may refer to headmates who are adolescents or teenagers.
- Oaksoul: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Plurage: A term that might refer to the combined or overall age experience within a plural system.
- Polyage: Could denote a system where headmates have multiple age identities.
- Seedsoul: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Syskid: A term that may be used to refer to child headmates within a system.
- Systeen: Likely used to describe adolescent or teenage headmates in a system.
- Undefined (Age): Refers to headmates who do not have a clearly defined age identity.
- Växer System: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Demonism: A practice in the plurality community related to creating and interacting with a daemon, an imagined entity, often inspired by the concept of daemons in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series. These terms are often associated with demonism:
- Analytic Form: Possibly related to the way a daemon’s form is analyzed or understood.
- Aspirational Form: May describe a daemon’s form that represents goals or aspirations.
- Changeling: Could refer to a daemon that changes forms frequently or irregularly.
- CIEday: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Comfort Form: Likely refers to a daemon’s form that provides comfort to the system.
- Daemian: A term that might be used to describe individuals practicing daemonism.
- Daemon: An imagined entity created and interacted with in daemonism.
- Daemonling: Might refer to a newly created daemon or a daemon in a young form.
- Daethiest: Could describe an individual who doesn’t believe in the independent existence of daemons.
- Form: The physical appearance or representation of a daemon.
- Form Possessiveness: This term may refer to a daemon’s attachment to a particular form.
- Hei/Shei: These terms’ meanings may vary depending on context.
- Nameling: Might refer to a daemon who shares a name with its creator or another headmate.
- Orthodox Daemonism: Likely refers to conventional practices in daemonism.
- OTF: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- OTOF: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Personal Form: Likely describes a daemon’s form that is deeply personal and reflective of the individual or system.
- Projection: May relate to the process of manifesting or visualizing a daemon.
- Settler: Could refer to a daemon that has chosen a final or permanent form.
- Settling: The process of a daemon choosing a final or permanent form.
- SFday: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Symbolic Form: Describes a daemon’s form that holds symbolic significance for the system.
- -soul: A suffix used in daemonism, though its specific meaning may vary.
- True Form: Likely refers to a daemon’s most accurate or genuine form.
- Uber Wolf: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Unseparated: Might describe a daemon that is not distinct from the creator or another headmate in the system.
- Viable Form: Could refer to a daemon form that is sustainable or suitable in the long term.
- Wei: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Daydreaming-related Terms: These terms relate to the concept of daydreaming, immersive thought, or imagined scenarios in the context of plurality. Here are some relevant terms:
- Dreamway: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Immersive Daydreaming: Likely refers to intensely involved, immersive daydreaming.
- Intropara: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- MaDDbased: Could be related to Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder.
- Maladaptive Daydreaming Disorder (MaDD): A proposed disorder characterized by excessive, intrusive daydreaming that interferes with daily life.
- Neuronarration: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Para: Likely a short form for paracosm, a detailed imaginary world.
- Paracosm: A complex and immersive imaginary world, often created by a child and expanded over the years.
- Paraling: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Paramemory: Might refer to memories associated with or created in a paracosm.
- Parastrata: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Paratien: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Parative: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Paravariable: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Prevera: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Previme: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Shared Daydreams: Likely refers to daydreams or imaginary scenarios shared between headmates or between different systems.
- Veritbond: This term’s meaning may vary depending on context.
- Endogenic Systems: Plural systems where headmates appear spontaneously, without specific causes like trauma or intentional creation. The term is sometimes shortened to “endo”, though this abbreviation originated from system exclusionists, and not every endogenic system is comfortable with its use. Here are some related terms:
- Metaphysical Nature: This may refer to endogenic systems that attribute their plurality to metaphysical or spiritual reasons.
- Tulpamancy or Other Created Systems: These are types of endogenic systems where the headmates are intentionally created through practices like tulpamancy.
- Existing Since The Beginning: This can refer to endogenic systems where the headmates have been a part of the system since the earliest memories or perceptions of the individual.
- Sysmeds: This term often refers to individuals who believe that being a multiple system is inherently pathological, usually based on medical or psychiatric understandings of multiplicity. These individuals may express disapproval or skepticism towards endogenic systems.
- Discourse-related terms: This term refers to the language, phrases, or terms used in conversations, debates, and discussions surrounding a particular topic or subject. In the context of plurality, discourse-related terms are the language and phrases used in discussions about plurality, its forms, causes, and experiences.
- Ableism: Discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities, often manifesting through the belief that individuals with typical abilities are superior and those with disabilities need to be “fixed”.
- Daethiest: A non-dæmian who denies the existence of dæmons. Derived from the term “atheist”.
- Fake-Claiming: The act of claiming a system is fake. This action can be performed by singlets, medians, and other systems, often targeting introject-heavy systems, medians, and not traumagenic systems.
- Faking: When someone claims to have a disorder they do not have. This is often associated with perceptions of Munchausen’s syndrome and other factitious disorders.
- Fluffy: A derogatory term previously used to describe systems that frequently need trigger warnings.
- Intromisia: Discrimination against or hatred towards introjects, occurring for various reasons, such as disbelief in their existence, the treatment of introjects as their source, or discrimination against introjects from controversial sources.
- Labelhound: A derogatory term formerly used to describe “expert” authors showing disdain towards the empowered multiple communities or the online plural community as a whole.
- Orthodox Daemonism is characterized by traditional beliefs about daemonism, including the belief that daemons should not be projected as human and should not change their forms once settled.
- Pluralphobe: Typically a singlet who actively seeks to remove systems and open plurality from their lives.
- Pluritan: A term derived from “plural” and “puritan,” describes plurals who, while not conventional system exclusionists or xenophobes, have narrow-minded or exclusionary beliefs about what constitutes a valid or healthy system.
- Pluscum or Plurscum: A term for system exclusionists. It has fallen out of use in the present.
- Soulpuppet: A derogatory term for soulbonds referring to a non-sentient presence in a person’s mind or body.
- Syscourse: Derived from the words system and discourse, it describes discourse in the plural community, often discussing endogenic plurality, non-traumagenic, tulpamancy and other controversial plurality-related identities.
- System Exclusionist: An individual or system with strict beliefs about plurality and enforces those ideas on others, often related to causation.
- Traumascum: A derogatory term referring to traumagenic systems that exclude endogenic systems. It has largely fallen out of favor in most plural spaces.
- Uber Wolf: A derogatory term for a dæmian whose dæmon is considered unrealistically unique, often not a viable form. The term is associated with fakeclaiming.
- Fronting: A term used in the plural community to describe the headmate currently controlling the body and interacting with the world.
- Headmates: Distinct entities or consciousness that coexist within a plural system, each typically with their personality, name, pronouns, goals, and preferences.
- Multiplicity: A synonym of plurality, denoting multiple consciousnesses or identities within a single individual or system.
- Plural Rings: Symbols representing the unity and interconnectedness within a plural system, created by Tracee of Ouregaiya and/or Iris of Astraea.
- Singlet: An individual who experiences a singular consciousness, essentially the opposite of being plural or multiple.
- Singletsona: A persona that a plural system may present when engaging with the world as a singular entity.
- Systems: In plurality, this refers to a group of headmates collectively sharing a single body.
- Tulpamancy: The intentional creation of a headmate or an entire system, often through meditation and focused thought.
- Traumagenic Systems: Systems emerging from a traumatic event or post-traumatic stress, formed as a psychological response to severe trauma.
I encourage everyone to take these terms as starting points for deeper exploration. Plurality is a wide and diverse field, and understanding its language is key to understanding its richness and complexity. Whether you’re a therapist, a student, or someone personally connected to the experience of plurality, continued learning is a rewarding journey.
- “Many Minds, One Self: Evidence for a Radical Shift in Paradigm” by Rachael J. Miller
- “Amongst Ourselves: A Self-Help Guide to Living with Dissociative Identity Disorder” by Tracy Alderman
- “Got Parts? An Insider’s Guide to Managing Life Successfully with Dissociative Identity Disorder” by A.T.W.
- “Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Therapists” by Suzette Boon, Kathy Steele, and Onno van der Hart
- “The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization” by Onno van der Hart, Ellert Nijenhuis, and Kathy Steele
- “Life in Pieces: An Unlikely Journey of Dissociative Identity Disorder” by Richard K. Baer
- Astraea’s Web: https://astraeasweb.net/plural/glossary.html
- DID Research: https://did-research.org/home/glossary
- Many Voices Archive: An archive of a newsletter that ran from 1989 to 2012 called Many Voices, which catered to all kinds of plurals. The evolution of terminology is easily shown through these records. Website: http://manyvoicespress.org/newsletter.html
- More Than One: https://morethanone.info/ A small site that explains the very basics of plurality. It explains the concept of plurality, basic terms, and more from a beginner-friendly perspective. It may be a helpful introductory resource for those who are very new to the concept of systems.
- Pluralpedia: https://pluralpedia.org/w/Main_Page
- Plural Terms: https://sites.google.com/view/plural-terms/
- The Plural Dictionary: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vJonGM0Bty8GyoikofIkGPFr4qhmaPk4aRoxrBnyluE/edit
- How Do I Know If I’m Plural?: https://powertotheplurals.com/how-do-i-know-if-im-plural/
As we reach the end of this exploration into plurality, it’s beneficial to revisit the main points we’ve discussed. We’ve delved into the definition of plurality and its diverse forms, understood the various causes that lead to it, and decoded the symbols that serve as identifiers within the plural community. We’ve also discussed related terms and provided an alphabetical glossary to aid your understanding of plural terminology.
I find the world of plurality both fascinating and incredibly significant. It’s a realm that warrants deeper exploration, not just for its scientific and psychological intrigue but also for the human stories and experiences it encompasses. Plurality is a testament to the remarkable flexibility and complexity of the human mind, and understanding it helps us appreciate this diversity of human experiences more fully.
I firmly believe that awareness and understanding of plurality should extend beyond those who experience it. As therapists, friends, families, or simply curious learners, the onus is on all of us to broaden our perspectives and strive to understand experiences beyond our own. Our empathy and comprehension can make a difference, facilitating more inclusive, supportive, and empathetic environments for those who identify as plural.
Hence, my call to action is simple: Learn. Empathize. And then learn some more. Plurality, like any complex topic, requires continual exploration and understanding. Whether that means reading more blog posts, academic papers, or personal narratives or engaging in open conversations with those who experience plurality, every effort matters.
Remember, every step you take to understand plurality better is a step towards fostering a more accepting and inclusive world. So let’s embark on this journey of learning together.
Disclaimer: As a registered clinical counsellor and registered psychotherapist (qualifying), I'm sharing insights on my blog for informational purposes, not professional advice or treatment. My writing aims to inspire you to consult your own healthcare or mental health provider. Remember, your decisions based on the blog content are solely your responsibility. Please explore other resources if this understanding doesn't align with your expectations. Thank you.