soul whispers v3.0 // version:reflective
.soulbonding_and//multiplicity: /what's the deal?

For newbies to the online SoulBonding community, the conflicting information surrounding that hairiest of chestnuts SBers face - the idea of "multiple personalities" - can be confusing to no end. On the one hand you have "straight-up" SBing pages proclaiming "We're not disordered! We're not MPD/DID! We're not insane!", and on the other, you have sites like this one, who appear to argue that the two theories are not so very far apart. So what's the truth?

Firstly, SoulBonders are not "insane", "disordered" or "MPD", because plurality in general is not insanity, disorder, or a case of "those multiple split alter personalities that make people stab their mothers on made-for-TV movies". I'm not aware of the definition that the DSM-IV (the diagnostic manual for psychological abnormality) gives for "multiple personality disorder" - or dissociative identity disorder, as it's now called - but I'd place a moderate amount of money on the bet that it includes the words "unnecessary suffering" and "maladaption to society". These two criteria - harm to the individual, and harm to society - are they keystones of all true "disorders". DID/MPD sufferers, those who require true therapy and help, require it because they are - as the name implies - disordered, and suffering. They may have undergone childhood abuse. Their "personalities" are harmful, fractured, bitter, self-destructive and ill-adapted to cope with society. They don't co-operate, and lose vast amounts of time in "blackout periods" because of it, sometimes even waking up in different parts of the country or even the world.

Unless this sounds like you, you are not disordered. Therefore, you do not suffer from a "multiple personality disorder".

These things are not the case for SoulBonders (although it's entirely possible for a SoulBonder, like any person, to have suffered abuse, the proportion of SBers who haven't strongly suggests that this is not the cause), and they are not the case for many multiple systems. There are myriad sites (Astraea's Web being among the most comprehensive, and the group frequently seen as the "patron saints of non-disordered multiplicity") belonging to people who identify as many spirits, souls, entities, energies, or just plain ol' people in one body, yet who live normal, healthy, comfortable, job-holding, educated lives as a group. They are not in therapy. They are not disordered. They do not have abused six-year-olds in their head who post to Usenet with things like "i luv teddie beares and big huggs i live in a magickal land with uny corns and raynbows" (and admittedly the spelling and grammar of this stuff is usually ten times worse than that, but I don't have the inclination to even attempt to reproduce it). And most importantly, they do not have "personalities", or fragments, or "alters" that permanently embody a single emotion and can't be anything else ("oh, that was my angry personality, please ignore him!"). They have people. Full stop. Period. Their lives may not be wonderful and special and (dear Goddess, take me now) Magyckal, but guess what, they're living normal Earthly lives in the normal Earthly world (and possibly, their own worlds as well) and doing a damn fine job of it, thank you very much.

I don't mean to be egotistical by using ourselves as a case study, but: I'm the "main frontrunner" in a system of 14. I'm not always the person in charge of the body. There are people in this system as young as nine years old. Yet none of them type like pseudo-pop-Wiccan EverQuest players with an always-on ADSL connection, abuse does not in any way feature into my background (hell, most of my family don't often use swearwords stronger than "hell"), and we're heading off to university in a few months' time to study Japanese (can't wait... ::bounce:: XD). Despite a few "teething troubles" with people when they first fronted (which is to be expected), and despite some bouts of unwarranted angst (which was largely first-love-based), I'm/we're currently on a straight run of As, and hoping to pass this year's finals with similar grades. A bit geeky and studious, maybe, and we don't bake apple pies or own a dog, but while we're maybe not the "normal" occurrence in society, we're hardly unfit to cope within it.

However, being reassured that "having more than one person in your body is normal" often isn't that reassuring, with fairly good reason. The majority of people don't want more than one person in their body. (As one of our non-SBer friends says, "There's only enough room for me in here!".) They don't want to lose that control. They don't want to have to deal with people, real, fully-fleshed-out people who they can't get away from. And arguably the reason so many people put "I'm not MPD!" disclaimers on their sites is that the notion scares them.

Even if putting such a generalised slur on multiple systems isn't exactly thoughtful, they've got good reason to feel that way. It is scary. When suddenly other people in the body want to use the body, when you realise you have to relate to these people as people instead of as character-entities or abstract creations, it's disconcerting at first. Suddenly there are other feelings you have to take into account, other lives you have to exist alongside. It's hard, because it's life, but it's not an idea most people want to entertain.

The point is, though, that most people don't have to. SoulBonding, if placed on a continuum scale between "single person" and "multiple system", starts off somewhere in the middle. It's not the same thing. That doesn't mean that SoulBonding isn't similar in many ways to other forms of plurality, or that some SoulBonders are not multiple, or that some multiples are not SoulBonders. However, it does mean that not all SoulBonders are multiples. The majority probably aren't. Many people's SoulBonds can't, won't, or just don't have the inclination to interact with the physical world in any way; depending on your theory of SBing, they either aren't strong enough or they aren't close enough. They stay "back". They stay SoulBonds. Not everyone who SoulBonds is going to start having Kenshin taking over their head in the middle of a conversation and spouting Meiji-era Japanese, nor having Haruka suddenly decide that she wants to buy a Ducatti and take up Earth-world racing, oh, and get herself a cute green-haired chick to hang off her arm while she's doing it.

The best way to look at it would be a Venn diagram - click here to see a painfully basic example. While SoulBonding and multiplicity may overlap, in the majority of cases, the groups are fairly separate.

And ultimately, even if SoulBonds can become very close to you (well, that's the definition of SBing, after all ^^;), and can become very real to the point of being real, and all this can be frightening and confusing and can make you feel like you're going insane - like any other relationship, isn't it also so very beautiful? I've known many people who wanted to destroy their worlds and their SoulBonds because they felt they were becoming "too" real, that this was all wrong, that this was all insanity. I was one of them. In the end, those people kept their worlds, and were happier people for it. Whatever the myriad causes of plurality in general, SoulBonding is about reaching out. It starts with an emotional connection between two people. A bond, hence the name. It's a joining of minds, of hearts, of souls. Whatever problems it may bring, whatever trials it may involve, the relationship between 'Bonder and 'Bonded is - in the majority of cases - one of deep understanding and caring. Like any such relationship on the physical planes, it's hard work, but worth it on so many levels.

The final issue is as to whether SoulBonding is ever "true" multiplicity. Typically, multiple systems consist of several people, at least two of which are capable of "fronting" - taking the physical body, basically. While "co-running" or "co-fronting", where two or more people "run" the body simultaneously, is known of, it's usually the case that people in multiple systems have total control of the body, with the others stepping "back" and away from the Earth world for the duration of that person's fronting. From the (admittedly small) survey of SoulBonders I've sampled, it appears that the majority of them, when their SoulBonds front, actually "co-run"; the SoulBonder themselves retains partial control of the body and remains capable of looking out on the world through the "mask" of their SB. One possible suggestion for this is that while SoulBonds are people in their own right, the SoulBonder is the "strongest" person in the system and the source of the system's energy, being that they were the first person to exist in the body; and/or that to exist in the Earth world, they need an Earth-based person, stabilising force or energy source (the SoulBonder). This is consistent with the theory of the "midcontinuum" or "median", a theory generated by the multiple community to describe systems that have many people but one central "fire" around which the others gather. (For an older essay by us on the midcontinuum and how we perceived it at the time, go here.)

But in actuality...... between SoulBonding, multiplicity, median, "imaginary friends"...... where can you draw the line? I've read stories of imaginary friends who sounded more like multiples than anything else. The experience of having others share our lives with us, others who may not be entirely physical, not entirely from the Earthly plane, others whose origins are unclear but whose existence is irrefutable.... whether you choose to call it SoulBonding, imagination, "people-in-head-space" or Kentucky Fried Chicken, it's a lot more common than open society would have us believe. Whatever kind of relationship you have with "the others in there", treasure it and respect it, and respect them as people.

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