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Terminology


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 our experiences.
 

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 a community.

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.