The Processes of the System
Many times we have tried to explain to people how it all works, this process of interacting with the world, and the structures within the Shire. This is meant to be a relatively simplified explanation of this process.
To start at the top, Image Protector sits between us and the world. During our life she has been more and less active in her role. This role is simply to keep Shire looking as much like a cohesive identity as possible. When she was the most active, and we relied on presenting a solid fašade to the world she became like a all-encompassing suit that we would put on, a second skin that controlled our actions and filtered out inconsistencies. We do not believe she has any real identity of her own, if there was a time she was a person, years of having to perform this task has dissolved her own sense of self. The thing which I consider rather ironic is that when people talk about the main or real person here it is usually to her they are indicating, she is the constancy that people see, but her constancy is empty of humanity.
As we all became more comfortable with our multiplicity and developed a sense of cooperation our use of Image Protector grew less. We are not so reliant on her to maintain our appearance, and those differences that show now don't terrify us anymore. We are less afraid of people in our life being able to see our differences, and realise a change has taken place. Therefore we aren't so determined to hide behind her. Also being aware that there are times and places where we need to be consistent has allowed for the consistency without interference. We still use Image Protector as a fašade for us, some of this is out of habit, years of needing things to be this way makes it hard to just abandon, and partly because it is a convenient way to interact with a world that doesn't understand, and often doesn't accept multiplicity.
So behind Image Protector stands the person choosing to interact with the world at any given time. This position is available to anyone within the Shire. There are rules about interacting with the world, but they are formed by consensus and only those within the Community are truly bound by them. Generally though, there is an agreement that access to this world is a given right, and no one will be prevented from taking up that opportunity. However if there is a reasonable threat to the safety of ourselves or others then precautions and the prevention of access can occur.
Also the spot behind Image Protector is not limited to just one person. There are times when more than one will be interacting with the world at the same time. This is often not the ideal, because things can become confusing both for us and for the outside. From this point, any person can see the outside world clearly and also be aware of others standing around or behind them. It is seldom that someone interacting in the outside world is alone in the front. There are often people behind them, either because it is their job to be aware of the situation, or because they are simply interested.
Those whose job it is to be aware are what much of the literature call host personalities. We personally detest that term, and generally call ourselves Earthen Dwellers, although for easier understanding will use the term host group. This group usually involved 3 to 5 people who have volunteered for the job. The makeup of the group also usually changes every 5 to 10 years. It is this groups responsibility to maintain the life of the Shire, although others may chose to partake, the Earthen Dwellers are on constant standby and they are required to take the place when no one else chooses to.
Sitting between the front and the Shire is The Filter. This young girl acts as a buffer between what is happening in the outside world, and what can leak back to the rest of us. Like Image Protector the degree of which The Filter works has lessened over time. During our childhood there were many events that were never meant to be known by others, and because of the extremity of those things we all needed a buffer to absorb the blows. There were some events that were too intense that even the space between the outside world, and our other one could not prevent consequences, and shockwaves, so it was her job to absorb such things. She could also work as a barrier, blocking access to the front at times when it wasn't safe for people to come forward. She was extensively a lock on the gate between worlds.
And like Image Protector we developed other skills that meant this responsibility would not solely be carried by one person. We learnt how to handle a lot of our reactions and interactions with the outside world without pushing them away and back. We have also been able to develop communication with her so she works with us not as an autonomous unit. These things have allowed her to rest more, and to not have the need to be so controlling of the information and awareness that passes from the front back to the other world.
We call all those people that make up this system, that have access to the body and the outside world, The Shire. For simplicity sake we have divided them into three groups, although in reality the grouping and relations between these people is far more complicated.
The Community is now probably the largest of these groups. It started very slowly but over the years more people have joined it. This is not so much a physical community, the people that reside within it live in various places throughout our other world. But it is a group of people that have all agreed to live by the rules established, they work together within a grand scheme of what we as a group have decided is the best way to live our life. In general it is the people from this community that spend the majority of the time in the front, and interacting with the world. And as the name implies there is a sense of community and cooperation amongst its members.
The Outlanders isn't really the name we use for this group, they don't really have a name but we needed to identify the group of people that aren't part of the community for personal reasons, but are either supportive of the community or remain neutral towards it.
The Fearedful are a loosely formed group. Most of them are as hostile towards each other as they are towards The Shire in general. But it does appear their common purpose is to destroy or at least wreak havoc on the Community. Although as the bond of the Community strengthens their attacks aren't as frequent or damaging, however there is still a lot of force within this group and they do present a real threat. At this time in our life there are pretty strong precautions in place to prevent anyone from this group causing damage in the outside world.
The final two entities on the diagram are Guardian and Censor These two are not really seen as part of the Shire, but more entities outside of that have been responsible for governing the process of coming to the front and controlling knowledge and information. More is written about them on another page. Due to a lot of work on our part their control over The Shire has decreased significantly, although it is believed that at any time they can still impose their will.
The Process of Being Out
So how does it all work? This is where things get even more complicated. As we said anyone in the Shire potentially has access to the body and therefore to the outside world. If that is a conscious choice then usually the member of the Shire will take themselves to the front, a gathering place behind the person that is out, where they can observe the world outside for a moment and gain an understanding of what is happening. This will prevent them from being thrown into a situation they are not ready for. This can be for a brief second, enough to orientate yourself before coming forward, or it can be a long drawn out process. The area of the front also enables many people to sit and observe, discuss and comment. It can be full of people often with them talking amongst themselves as well as directing comments forward to the person out interacting with the world. These conversations can be distracting, annoying, entertaining, comforting, etc. Although it is the responsibility of the Earthen Dwellers to have at least one member in the front position at all times others are free to come and go at their own will.
For the most part moving from this front position to the in the body position is relatively smooth and uncomplicated. We do it with ease and often quite regularly, One person steps back allowing another person to take their place. There is often no physical outward sign that this has happened, maybe a moment's blankness that looks more like quiet thought than anything else. There are some people whose persona, usually if they are highly emotional or unknown to others that seem to automatically block the awareness of others in the front, also there are times where it has been arranged that the person out has privacy without everyone else being aware of what they are doing.
There are times when someone is triggered out. This means something has happened that makes a connection with someone, some reaction that the Filter has not removed that will bring forth a member of the Shire almost instantly. We are not sure how exactly that works, but we have all experienced it happening. It is believed that it might be something that Guardian and Censor still control. During those times there is no preparation or easing into the outside world, in a blink of the eyelids you can find yourself in the body and faced with the world, with no awareness of what has happened. Most of the time when this happens the emotional distress which is usually the trigger prevents those in the front from being aware and it can at times prevent the person out from removing themselves from the body. There usually needs a period of calming before they can return within and someone else can take their place.
It is hard to write the process out, because it is so automatic to most of us, it is something we have always done, something that is as normal and routine to us as getting up in the morning, having a shower and getting dressed. It is a complicated process but only when you think about each tiny step.