CW: dissociation, dormancy, bullying mentions
Essay sort of thing on how we're learning how to do self-expression as a very blurry plural.
To begin with some context: we are a polyfragmented adaptive plural system. How we take the meaning of that for us is that "chronic trauma integrated into our daily life from a very young age caused our sense of self to get ground into dust"… or maybe more like "melted into some weird non-Newtonian fluid" in our case.
Many plural systems prefer to be recognized only as multiple persons and not as one person (and they should be, as that is their truth), but we see ourselves as both. Our sense of self/ves is nebulous, paste-like, spaced-out and dissociated just in a general way, blurry as all get out.
We've had a lifelong interest in role-play. The childhood imaginary play I did with my imaginary friends not only built skills that we now use to communicate with each other for system management as an adult plural mind, but many of our identities are descended from that time as well.
However, we got bullied for role-playing, and then were exposed to far more secondhand shame once we got online as a young teenager. And dissociation in the system was increasing, which just made role-playing feel… wrong. So, by the time I was no longer a minor, I had stopped indulging that passion outside of explicit capital-A Acting.
I've been really wanting us to get our groove back with this, but there's been so much shame and repression, not to mention angst about the validity of my system, in the way. It took a lot of soul-searching to figure out why.
Recently, I've came to the conclusion that my system consists of both finite/concrete (Harmony Friends) and non-finite/uncountable (void) components. It'd be more accurate in a lot of ways to call us "Harmony Friends & The Void", even if "Harmony Friends" is the system name we use for simplicity's sake.
Everything the Harmony Friends are made out of is strewn throughout the void, and there is a bit of the void in every Harmony Friend. It's not a strictly dualistic conception of our aggregate self. But it's a useful tool for understanding the role that intent plays in our mind.
The void is everything in our mind we are not with intent. Intent may be freely given to any part of the void, which creates a Harmony Friend. A Harmony Friend can return to the void (go dormant) at will as well, and their identity will still be documented by/"registered" with the Harmony Friends for if it wishes to return once again.
Previously, negative thoughts from the void terrified us and caused us to work overtime to integrate as many trauma-based Harmony Friends as possible, trying to "get to the bottom of" those thoughts emanating from the void, not realizing that the void, as everything we are not with intent, was infinite.
There's a few occasions where we even pushed ourselves too hard and temporarily integrated too much of the wrong parts of the void, because we thought we had no choice. Everything turned out all right in the end, but we hurt ourselves in our confusion a fair bit.
We saw some awful stuff in there, but despite its awfulness, we didn't want to think it was "not the real us". After all, wonderful friends like (for example) Melody and Rory had also been considered "not the real us" and we had ended up painfully wrong about that! After 18 years of repression of our plurality, we had serious headmate FOMO, lol…
But… what we've learned is that the real us is who we choose to be with intent. We can now speak to the void for what it is: negative space — used in the artist's sense of the term — within our psyche, that could join our Friends… or not. That is up to each little pocket of void.
And speaking of little pockets of void, lots of them like to imagine themselves as characters from video games and cartoons and stuff. This hammers our CPTSD cringe response something fierce and it shouldn't. We want to summon as many of those as we can into our Friends for as long as we need to in order to work with them to effectively fight off that cringe response.
A lot of polyfragmented systems, especially fictive-heavy ones, get a lot of bullying online. So do any persons otherwise containing similar levels of multitudes that like expressing themselves as/with/through characters. They get told they're "making a mockery of plurality" or "ruining kin for people who are serious about it". As we've came into our own as a plural system, this ambient culture of shaming people who supposedly Contain Multitudes Wrong has kept up a wall between us and our desires.
And, like, yeah, on the outside it looks like role-playing, and people get riled up about that. But I think as a general rule, the difference between role-playing and sincerely-held identity is actually a lot blurrier than people like to believe. I think that all sapient entities, singlet or plural, consciously or not, are role-playing the version(s) of themselves they wish to be, both to others and within their own internal self-conception.
But for us, personally, the way we have a dissociative detachment from a concrete sense of self means that we cannot perform the activity of "role-playing" as characters in a traditional singlet way, and the way the role-playing impulse of our plural mind interacts with our system is that the "characters" can't be that readily distinguished from the "developed alters" without repression (which is a nasty form of dissociation for us).
The truth is, we're always role-playing. More or less every hour of every day, except for when completely absorbed in a task outside ourselves. When there is a hole where your innate sense of self is supposed to be, and instead of an inner monologue you happen to inhabit a mind with a natural tendency for inner dialogue… you are simply all of the little impulses that exist in your brain, and no more. In a mental environment like that, a "self" or "selves" can only be inhabited with intent.
So, we role-play in a plural way, and not in a singlet way! And embracing that truth is how we'll embrace it again! And who the hell was I to feel like I had the authority to repress other inhabitants of this mind just because they choose to spend their time, their preciously tiny fractions of our shared, polyfragmented life, inhabiting explicitly fictional characters, anyway?
Anyway, that's about it. I hope by owning this it's going to help us get to writing more fiction, which is something we've been pretty scared to do for a long time. Wish us luck!
Warm thanks to all the friends who have spoken with me about this stuff recently and gave me guidance.