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Adaptive Multiplicity

So this was a Tumblr post I made, I think it bears repeating here. First part is a quote from "Blindsight" by Peter Watts, which was the original post:

"We were probably fractured during most of our evolution," James once told me, back when we were all still getting acquainted. She tapped her temple. "There’s a lot of room up here; a modern brain can run dozens of sentient cores without getting too crowded. And parallel multitasking has obvious survival advantages."

I nodded. “Ten heads are better than one.”

"Our integration may have actually occurred quite recently. Some experts think we can still revert to multiples under the right circumstances."

"Well, of course. You’re living proof."

She shook their head. “I’m not talking about physical partitioning. We’re the state of the art, certainly, but theoretically surgery isn’t even necessary. Simple stress could do something like it, if it was strong enough. If it happened early in childhood.”

"No kidding."

"Well, in theory," James admitted, and changed into Sascha who said, "Bullshit in theory. There’s documented cases as recently as fifty years ago.”

"Really." I resisted the temptation to look it up on my inlays; the unfocused eyes can be a giveaway. "I didn’t know."

"Well it’s not like anyone talks about it now. People were fucking barbarians about multicores back then—called it a disorder, treated it like some kind of disease. And their idea of a cure was to keep one of the cores and murder all the others. Not that they called it murder, of course. They called it integration or some shit. That’s what people did back then: created other people to suck up all the abuse and torture, then got rid of them when they weren’t needed any more.”

It hadn’t been the tone most of us were looking for at an ice-breaking party. James had gently eased back into the driver’s seat and the conversation had steered closer to community standards.

But I hadn’t heard any of the Gang use alter to describe each other, then or since. It had seemed innocuous enough when Szpindel had said it. I wondered why they’d taken such offence—and now, floating alone in my tent with a few pre-op minutes to kill, there was no one to see my eyes glaze.

Alter carried baggage over a century old, ConSensus told me. Sascha was right; there’d been a time when MCC was MPD, a Disorder rather than a Complex, and it had never been induced deliberately. According to the experts of that time, multiple personalities arose spontaneously from unimaginable cauldrons of abuse—fragmentary personae offered up to suffer rapes and beatings while the child behind took to some unknowable sanctuary in the folds of the brain. It was both survival strategy and ritual self-sacrifice: powerless souls hacking themselves to pieces, offering up quivering chunks of self in the desperate hope that the vengeful gods called Mom or Dad might not be insatiable.

None of it had been real, as it turned out. Or at least, none of it had been confirmed. The experts of the day had been little more than witch doctors dancing through improvised rituals: meandering free-form interviews full of leading questions and nonverbal cues, scavenger hunts through regurgitated childhoods. Sometimes a shot of lithium or haloperidol when the beads and rattles didn’t work. The technology to map minds was barely off the ground; the technology to edit them was years away. So the therapists and psychiatrists poked at their victims and invented names for things they didn’t understand, and argued over the shrines of Freud and Klein and the old Astrologers. Doing their very best to sound like practitioners of Science.

Inevitably, it was Science that turned them all into road kill; MPD was a half-forgotten fad even before the advent of synaptic rewiring. But alter was a word from that time, and its resonance had persisted. Among those who remembered the tale, alter was codespeak for betrayal and human sacrifice. Alter meant cannon fodder.

Imagining the topology of the Gang’s coexisting souls, I could see why Sascha embraced the mythology. I could see why Susan let her. After all, there was nothing implausible about the concept; the Gang’s very existence proved that much. And when you’ve been peeled off from a pre-existing entity, sculpted from nonexistence straight into adulthood—a mere fragment of personhood, without even a full-time body to call your own—you can be forgiven a certain amount of anger. Sure you’re all equal, all in it together. Sure, no persona is better than any other. Susan’s still the only one with a surname.

Better to direct that resentment at old grudges, real or imagined; less problematic, at least, than taking it out on someone who shares the same flesh.

I realized something else, too. Surrounded by displays documenting the relentless growth of the leviathan beneath us, I could not only see why Sascha had objected to the word; I could also see why Isaac Szpindel, no doubt unconsciously, had spoken it in the first place.

As far as Earth was concerned, everyone on Theseus was an alter.


(It still assumes the bullshit assumption that all forms of multiplicity are created by abuse, but still, a lot better than most depictions.)

Then I added this part:

It has occurred to me since I posted this that there's another problem here, in that the standard model of DID assumes the new personalities form immediately after the stress fracturing. Loathe as we are to admit it, while we're still sure the body was prone to multiplicity, there was an element of stress fracturing to it, in that stress fracturing exacerbated the natural multiplicity. But it didn't happen to us the way the standard model has it.

For one, ours was "caused" by bullying, not abuse at home; we never had abuse at home. Secondly, the fracturing began around age 5, but we never had the clear shifts, the blackouts. What we experienced was our Prime (our "original," Tempest) becoming a sort of personality radio going randomly along the dials as the soul shards floated around in the chaos of our brain. It was just Tempest by herself with all these soul shards flying around for almost 11 years before Shao'Kehn coalesced in the late 90's.

Now, there were some fairly large chunks that did tend to front a lot; pre-sentient Alex ("proto-Alex") can be observed existing as early as the early 90's, like 91 or 92. He wasn't sentient in his own right back then, just a fairly large soul shard with a different personality. A bit like our modern concept of Masks, because Masks are often soul shards we temporarily "wear" for whatever reason. Like modern Masks, the early soul shards could come and go at random. The proto-Alex shard had lots of differences in personality that we noticed even then, but of course back then we thought it was just moodiness; we thought everyone experienced the same thing. Even though a part of us knew better; after all, moodiness doesn't really explain how the stimulus of our bratty sister being a hellion could elicit sighs of resignation from me sometimes, but other times aggravate me to the point where I'd lose my temper, scream at her, and throw things around breaking them. Well, it could, if there was any kind of pattern to it. But sometimes the irritation would seem to have an obvious source in the circumstance of her being on my case and I couldn't get away, but other times I'd be in my room and not the current target of her ire and feel the same irritation. And sometimes situations where I couldn't get away from her ire, where it would be logical for me to respond with a lost temper, I would retain my composure and just be merely quietly exasperated.

There was also the fact that I didn't feel like the same person when proto-Alex would take over, and I would switch back to my prior personality after he left, with the speed of blinking. It never felt like *my* anger, when proto-Alex was in control. And it confused the HELL out of me.

Like I said, Shao'Kehn formed in the late 90's, and kept sending me subtle hints all the time that She knew we were a multiple system. But it wasn't til 2004 and 2005 when Molly began to form. Proto-Molly was briefly Nahtahdjaiz, my child Goddess of children, with whom I would have conversations to pass the time at a boring job. Later, I came up with Molly Elizabeth as an age play persona; I remember thinking at the time it was weird that she decided to be blonde and blue eyed, when it was very far from what I felt about myself. (Makes sense; Shao'Kehn is a medium-dark skinned humanoid alien goddess, and Fayanora Ahnabahn and Tempest Alexandria both look essentially exactly like Her. Only person in here who even remotely resembles the body is Alex, who has dark brown hair and no freckles. And isn't quite as pale as the body, though still white.)

It wasn't until we figured out the multiplicity thing that some of the others were "born" so to speak, but Alex had been developing for years, enough to argue against his own existence when someone suggested we might be a multiple collective. I was ready to accept his position, that the idea was absurd, until one day Alex was raging at incompetent drivers at the exact same time Molly was happily singing along to music on the car's cd player. Having two entirely different emotions about two entirely different things at the same exact time with neither Alex nor Molly engaging in the other's emotional state convinced me we really do have Multiple Consciousness Complex.

But yeah, the standard model of DID is of blackouts where fully formed other personalities take the punishment for the "original" while the "original" checks out. But with us, our extras didn't have fully formed personalities until years later. Before that, we were non-sentient Masks - soul shards - drifiting in and out of the Front at random. No purpose at all to any of them, unless proto-Alex was just taking out years of quiet rage out on my sister whenever she started being a little Hell-beast. It was only years later, in the aftermath, when they took on whole personalities, and they DO have a purpose now; they help me function as an adult. (They're not great at it, but a hell of a lot better than them not being here. I doubt I would have made it this long without them.)

That's where we differ from the standard model. In the standard DID model, patients appear to be maladapted to the aftermath, whereas my headmates are adaptive for me. Shao'Kehn gave me comfort, peace, support, advice, and free therapy when I needed it most, and continues to be on-call for me. Alex gets angry at a lot of things, but is practical, thrifty, and at least knows how to play the role of an adult. I doubt I would have done as well at my paid jobs without him. No, scratch that, I know I would have been rubbish at them without him. He once disappeared for a week and it took the combined efforts of all the rest of us to do half as good a job as he did, with at least triple the stress. Also, Alex is loyal and passionate.

Molly gets excited about stuff even when none of the rest of us do, and makes things fun. She's also a natural magick user, as is Pi. Also, Pi is helping us express our feelings and how to have conversations with people without constantly being quiet because we're too slow to avoid people interrupting us all the time. As well as taking on the thoughts about things we don't want to think about (like blood and death) and transmuting our terror into... joy. (wink wink nudge nudge)

Ian, who for all he doesn't talk is only really a Face rather than a Mask because we like the number 9, is our ability to feel romantic love. Lo and Negarahn are very quiet these days, too, but we love them still. Not actually sure where Negarahn is these days. Wish I knew. Lo is still in there, I can feel her.

There are a lot of other ways they help, too, but I don't want to make this any longer than it already is.

This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1262743.html
You can comment either here or there.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
kengr
Dec. 3rd, 2014 09:39 am (UTC)
Do note that bullying *is* abuse. I've got at *least* as much of my problems from kids at svhool as from my mom.

And at least with mom, I could "model" her reactions to stuff in my head so I could (if I got the chance) figure out how to "spin" things for a more positive reaction.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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