This is an actively updated document. Last updated 24Aug22.
This uses the terms we use. Others may prefer or use other terms. These descriptions are intentionally loose and should be taken as such as systems are highly diverse and strict categorization can be harmful. Use with discretion. We are not a medical professional. The information collected in this FAQ was done by communication with and research into the plural community since we learned we were plural in 2016. This document has been circulated at hospitals and serves a powerful resource to self advocate. If you have any further questions or topics you want added to the list, feel free to contact us at email@example.com
What Is Plurality?
Imagine the body like a kayak. Somehow, we have a full crew on board.
Being plural means having multiple personalities, commonly referred to as alters or headmates, in one body. A grouping of alters is called a system. A person without alters is a singlet. We are the Hourglass system. (hello!!) We are 36 (and counting) owls in a trenchcoat. In the medical world, this gets tagged as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Other-Specified Dissociative Disorder Type 1B (OSDD-1B).
What is an alter?
Taz: Hi! I'm an alter. An alter is a personality. I am me. I am not Xaler. Xaler's over there
Taz: Our memories, thoughts, behavior, responses, abilities, preferences, ages, genders, even brain chemistry can be different. Some have more autism symptoms. Some have different voices. Some aren't human. Some are twelve. We’re all different and weird and unique. Something to note is every system is responsible for all their alters. One alter does something bad, we all take fall. That is the inherent responsibility to onesel-...ourse...sharing a flesh puppet.
Why do alters form?
There's a lot of ways alters can form. Most common is trauma, especially in childhood. whee. That origin is called traumagenic. But they can also be more naturally forming, unintentionally forming, intentionally forming, and all kinda stuff. That group of origins is called endogenic. Some systems use different terminology so please ask their preferences. Even if there were set words, every system is extremely different and has their own story.
We're all weird in our own weird way.
Are Endogenics Valid?
There is a lot of dispute over if endogenic systems are valid, given it being not medically recognized. People who argue this are referred to as sysmed, coming from the term transmed. TLDR, endogenic systems are valid. The brain does really really weird stuff sometimes and can have a trauma reaction even without trauma. People can have PTSD symptoms without having gone through trauma. If people can have trauma symptoms without trauma, and splitting being a trauma reaction, it isn't a far leap to say systems can form without trauma.
The issue is there is very little research about plurality in medicine overall so there's not a solid set definition for any of this. 80% of this document is written from community interaction and speaking directly with systems along with our own experiences. There isn't any public interest or funding into research. So we did it instead, talking to hundreds of plural people, joining plural communities and organizations, and hundreds of hours of research. We continue to do so for this document to be accurate. This document has circulated at hospitals as reference material. We have educated doctors one on one. We're an art student. Please, anyone in the medical field reading this, try and kick off some research into plurality. We beg of you.
What is fronting and switching?
Fronting is when an alter is connected to the body in sensory or control. Right now typing is Taz, but Derex is helping with edits. Sometimes multiple alters can front at once. It's called co-fronting. It can be harmonious or staring at the floor fighting over an oreo. Sometimes we don't know who's fronting, it's hard to keep track of 36 chaotic owls. To make it harder several alters can also blend into each other. The change in who's fronting is called a switch. This can happen in a few ways.
Slow switch - Slow passing off front. Often not apparent to the alters.
Blind switch - Very quick switch, so fast that memory isn’t shared. This can cause fear, disorientation, and confusion about location and circumstance
Rapid switching - Alters quickly switching in succession. Usually happens before/after a breakdown.
Dissociative Break - Worse than rapid switching, no one connected to body and all skimming it. More likely when sick or after severe flashback
Switching can be peaceful, sometimes it isn't, sometimes we can feel it coming, sometimes it hits us like a bus, sometimes we can try to fight it, sometimes we can ask for another alter to front, sometimes something triggering will throw us into front. Triggering does not mean bad, some alters have triggers that make them happy or calm, it just means something that causes a reaction.
Do you have a main personality?
Having a main personality, referred to as a host, is common. However, some don't. We are part of the group that doesn't. For us, a host is someone who leads the pack in the background or in front. They make sure memories are shared, we don't fight, we're staying healthy, etc. Instead, our host is whoever wants to and can take the wheel. It's sometimes decided as a group, sometimes someone just takes the wheel. We don't care as long as we're on the road.
What is dissociation?
Dissociation has three main types, all of them a form of separation.
Derealization - Separation from reality,
Depersonalization - Separation from self
Dissociative Amnesia - Separation from memory.
Dissociation is a coping mechanism used by the brain to get through crisis, or just to forget the morning commute to work. Dissociation is natural and healthy. But like anything else in the brain, it can go haywire. Then you get a fun little disorder.
Why are there different ages?
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
Can systems have systems?
Yep! Sometimes you get an alter with alters which is called a subsystem. There's alters who have alters who then also have alters and then we usually give up mapping them out. With that someone can have two separate systems. We have the hourglass system, but then also we have the plus system. We separated as we often had or have situations that required someone completely separate from us to intervene and keep us from dying, but no one helped us. So, we had to form.
What are factives and fictives?
A fictive is an alter who identifies with or is based on a character from fiction. A factive is the same but from reality. I was weirded out with the concept at first but whoops hi its Mae I live here now. We know they aren't actually those characters; we know. That's how they experience the world, interact with others, and define themselves. I'm not gonna hate on them for that.
What are nonhuman alters?
Humans are really boring. Why be one when you can be literally anything else? Most of my nonhuman alters just kinda came into existence as something other than human. Some of them were like hECK YEA LETS BE A HECKIN OWL …and then they were. Nonhuman alters can also be things other than animals. CTRL, one of our fictives, is a massive pitch black downward pointing pyramid. It was definitely an interesting choice, but they are what they are.
What is a headspace?
The headspace is where alters are when they aren't fronting. We all have our own little spaces and made an entire world where we feel safe and ok. It's a place of recovery and recharge. Singlets can also form a headspace, often therapeutically. We don't have much understood about ours outside of headspace. There's a barrier where in the front alters can't remember things about headspace. We’ve had glimpses and it was beautiful. I think the barrier is there to protect it and allow alters to feel fully separated off. I want to see if we can turn that barrier into a gate so I can learn more. I love documenting this kinda stuff.
What is splitting?
To put it generally, splitting is how alters are made. Sometimes things go bad. Actually, a lot of the time. And sometimes you need to compartmentalize your brain to help keep you alive. This is how systems start. Splitting can be like mitosis. We need a new alter and one splits off from whoever is there. This does not mean they are attached to them at all, but sometimes it can. Sometimes alters form from and are attached to several different alters. How alters come into existence can massively vary, it's better to play by ear.
Did you ever not have alters?
Everyone has at least one personality, one alter. That's what a singlet is.
How did you figure out you had alters?
One day in sophomore year of high school I had a massive jolt of energy into immediately writing a comic script. Starting with massive character sheets, it was the most detailed thing I ever wrote and the first comic I wrote. It detailed out Derex, otto, Taz, Xaler, and 43. It was the oddest thing to just see it created and for another alter creating it. it took a week or two of us tying things together. Oh, wait this isn’t, what the-, ok I guess this yeah ok then. And then a while later to learn about DID and plurality.
How is your experience different with --?
A lot of it for how is your experience different with -- is simple. We just communicate healthily and it goes okay. Or we don’t and we can get new fun traumas, internal fights, weird stuff. Fun.
What is PluralKit?
Pluralkit is a bot for discord which is an amazing tool for systems to more easily communicate! It allows alters to build different profiles and then switch between those profiles as they switch alters to allow for more individuality and easier communication. Alternatively, all of the alters can talk at once in a single channel which slowly becomes a confusing hellscape of at least slightly more understandable gibberish. With that, we personally use a private discord server to do inter-system communication, keep journals and logs with the different alters attached, and message friends because it doesn't work in DMs. PluralKit's profiles are so well thought out and thorough we use it to keep track of all 36 owls with ease.
When it comes for adding it to your server, it's just adding it and you're done. No setup required for the server admins! No cost either. And you'll get to see all the systems immediately type pk;ap latch. You can click here to open the page for the bot! Or don't, do what you want, we're not your boss and we aren't gonna fill out a W-4 for you, please get off our ceiling.
One thing though, due to the way it works those profiles have a little [bot] tag at the end of people's names. It is very common that people become confused and think we have reached the singularity. They are wrong. We have reached the plurality. The backbone of this document was written long ago when people wouldn't stop asking us about the bot tag. Beep boop.
Can you make them go away?
Trigger Warning: Integration
Are you a serial killer?
(who just asks people that, seriously?)
Plural people are extremely poorly represented in media most commonly as murderers. Plurality is most commonly caused by trauma. Like every other mental illness out there, people afflicted by it are more likely to be victims than violent. I'm gonna quote ourselves real quick.
plURaL PeopLe are DANGErOus And a tHreAT to socIEtY I just had to teach a new alter what a toaster is do you seriously think we're a threat?