As a cultural group, we use terms to define our common experiences.
That's a common thing amongst all cultural groups, a way to build that
sense of belonging and develop a framework that express the experiences
and ideas of the group simply. I understand the need for terms, and
do understand their benefit and necessity within any cultural group.
However, in saying that, we also have a major issue with a lot of the ones
used to describe the multiple experience. At this time I am unsure
whether it is the terms itself, or a backlash against others imposing their
words upon our reality. For a long time we used to allow others to
define and control our experiences, we gave our power to them. We
thought this was acceptable, that that was the way of things. Finding
our own strength and voice we are now angry that that was done to us, and
we are rebelling against it. So this is probably clouding some of
the issue, we have swung to the opposite end of the pendulum (which usually
happens) where we refuse to accept anyone else's term, merely because it
does not come from us. But amongst that there are, we believe, some
valid points on terminology. About those that are used, by individuals,
and those that have been forced upon this culture by outsiders to describe
The word system, from the beginning of our journey into accepting our
multiplicity, has always been irritating. To us, it describes some
organised group of objects, all having a role or job to play to keep the
system working. Each part of a system has a purpose, not of their
own but rather of the system as a whole. For us the word system negates
the individuality of the people involved, reducing them to aspects or roles.
System to me seemed a clinical description, a way to break us down to a
disorder, or a psychological way of being. We were more than that,
we were ... and that was the problem for a long time, we didn't know what
we were, how to talk about ourselves, what term to use. We had rejected
system as our term, but now looked for another one, but all those we found
either irritated us or just didn't fit. For a long time we believed
system was a word place upon multiples by the professional, medical community.
It was, we believed a word to make us less real, to reduce us to a disorder.
But recently I have spoken to two multiples that use the word system, it
fits them, they are highly structured and regimented. We realise
now, that our annoyance at the term system, was about us. It came
from the feeling we should be something we weren't. When we use it,
we felt wrong, like we weren't good enough, which quickly lead into denial.
The Shire is far from organised, at best we are disheveled, at worse chaotic.
It's the way we are, no organised lines of functioning, we are a community
of people with complex relationships. So we have thrown out the word
system in relation to us, it just didn't belong, instead we now call ourselves
It surprises me how quickly some terms can get us irritated, We
feel threatened by them. It reminds of of a club we don't belong
to, looking in at everyone, with their common bonds, and knowing I will
never be a part of it. We used to feel instant annoyance at some
of the terms other people used to describe their existence. But there
is a growing acceptance, that others may call themselves, define things
anyway they wish. It is their reality they are talking about .
And if alters, parts, host or household works for them then who are we
to complain. It only becomes an issue now when those terms are used
to describe us. There is a realisation that we may never truly fit
in but that that's ok for us. We have our own reality, we have personalised
way of looking at the world. We will forever be irritated by others
using their reality to describe ours. But that's an irritation we
can live with. It's the way of people to frame someone else with
their own views and understandings.
We struggle to find our own terms, to think of ourselves and our reality
within our own definitions. It is part of our issue to find our own
voice, finding what is right for us. Years of wanting to fit in still
play a part in our lives. But we are learning to see this as our
truth, as our reality, and we will define it as we wish. Language,
words, hold power. When we blindly accept others definitions of our
reality, take their words as gospel, we are allowing them to define us,
we are giving away our power. This does not mean we can not use the
terms others have developed, but we can, and in our opinion, should think
about which terms we take on board, what they mean to us and how they effect
our reality. Pick and choose amongst those terms already being used
to express the multiple culture, and when needs be define your experiences
with your own words. We have learnt that being multiple, being accepted
as multiple does not rely on speaking the code, having the language down
pat. In The multiple community is a diverse one, we all come from
different backgrounds, encompass the world, some trauma based, others without
a trauma genesis, we will never have the exact same experience, the language
we use to describe ourselves will be effected by that, celebrate the differences
rather than forcing compliance and conformity.
Some Terms of Multiple Experience
System: Although we use this word in relation to other
multiples, it is not one we like to use for ourselves. It isn't actually,
the word, rather the connotation of something orderly, rule controlled,
and highly functional. This does not match our community, rather
we are a very unorganised bunch, if anything, we are actually a little
chaotic. It works for us, but the word system never fit well upon
us. Community, with it's implication of varying inter-personal dynamics
holds more true. Many multiples call themselves households.
However, that is one term that always has irritated us. Whereas we
don't mind being called a system we have a problem with being called a
household. It is more than the fact it doesn't fit, there is just
something about the word that is annoying. Perhaps it leads
back to one of the first workbooks we read about multiplicity. It
stated that there was a household of dysfunctional damaged people that
were unable to take care of themselves so it was the host's job to make
all the decisions, to be in charge constantly. I think we have associated
household with the idea we are all pathetically helpless individuals
needing some one to rescue us and take control
Host: Ok now there's a term that is just completely
offensive. I have yet to meet a multiple that doesn't have issues
with the term host. ONe, a host is usually an organism that is infested
by parasites. well surely you can see the issue with that.
The other definition, the person holding some sort of social gathering.
Now I kind of like the analogy of someone trying to keep the happy sociable
face on as a party in chaos falls apart around her, but mostly host implies
control. I also think part of the issue with the host term
is the assumptions others make. There is that belief that the host
is the real person, that he or she is the one in control, the most important
member. All of which becomes highly offensive to the other members,
and more often than not, anyone presenting in the role of host is less
likely to be the original, oldest or most active person. In some
cases this host is nothing more than a puppet controlled and used by others.
The assumption that all multiples have one person presenting as a host
is also a fallacy. Our community, like many others, does not have
a stable entity that acts as host.
Multiple Personality/Dissociative Identity Disorder:
Personally I see nothing disordered about my multiplicity, we have disorders,
conditions that have to be dealt with so we can lead the life we desire,
but our multiplicity isn't one of those. It is the assumptions that
those things different, the things outside of there societal norm are wrong
and therefore a disorder. Being multiple isn't the norm, it is a
different alternative approach to life, it is not better or worse.
There are problems attached with being multiple, special issues that have
to be addressed, but that is part of life, part of everyone's life regardless
of how it is lived. I believe there are multiples for
which it is disordered, however it is my belief the issue there should
be how to make their multiplicity more orderly, rather than how to remove
it. Integration might be an option but I do not believe it can be
achieved if the system is disordered. The DID term, although holding the
same issues, also relates another one. That of outsiders defining
our reality. Psychiatrists, without consulting the people involved
decided to replace multiple personality disorder with dissoiciative identity
disorder. They decided what was right, what multiplicity was about.
Now personally I like the change from personality to identity, since personality
seems so one dimensional, but the new term implies all multiples are dissociative.
Alter: Alter, standing for alternate personality is
another one of those words that many multiples have issues with.
For us it is derogatory, reducing a person to an alternate state, ignoring
their humanity and their individuality. It is a term coming from
that medical model of multiplicity that sees us as aspects of a damaged
mind, without identity or consciousness of our own. The
term alter is, to us degrading, I do not know any one that would like to
be relegated to becoming a job, an emotion, or an aspect, but when it comes
to the people within a multiple system that is often the case. You
are no longer a person, but rather one aspect of yourself becomes your
sole identity. When talking about ourselves we are people, most being
fully developed and complex. However, we have also borrowed another
term from a New Zealand multiple that we have a lot of respect for, from
her we use the term self to distinguish between those people that are part
of this community, and the people that live on the outside world.
Self, for us, does not hold the same one dimensional connotations.
Core: The core, sometimes called the first born child,
is not really a term we have issues with, rather it is the belief that
every multiple has a core, and that person is more valuable than the rest
that annoys us. On one of the email lists we are on, someone wrote
that people's search for the core is akin to the fairy tale Prince off
to rescue the Princess. This search and belief that the core is the
primary person, that finding them and bringing them back into the position
of control is the object of recovery negates everyone else's experience.
The other people in the system are then, relegated to nothing more that
projections of this core. Our first born died when she was 3, since
then she has played no part or had any influence in our lives. To
say she is the true person makes the last 30 years null and void, like
it never existed because it wasn't her.