Kerry Dawkins, James Dawkins and Lilly Ghia-Wilberforce, 2013
(some minor edits made in 2016)
Who are you?
We’re a plural system: a group of several people sharing a single brain. While a lot of people know plurality – or multiplicity – as ‘MPD’ (Multiple Personality Disorder) or ‘DID’ (Dissociative Identity Disorder), we don’t view our being plural as a pathological state of being. In fact, we consider it beneficial – having each other has given us a support system that we wouldn’t have otherwise. The idea is that it’s not bad simply because it’s different. For us, being plural is a cognitive difference, and we choose to view it as an asset, rather than a flaw. Having each other has allowed us to accomplish more than we were able to before we found out about ourselves in 2006. Unlike some other systems, we don’t have a ‘host’ or a ‘main personality’; we share responsibilities co-operatively. There’s no central ‘I’ running the show; it’s just us. We also refer to ourselves as ‘people’, rather than ‘alters’, ‘personalities’, ‘ego states’ or ‘parts’. We have no desire to ‘integrate’, or combine everyone into an idealised single personality. We don’t even think that’s possible with our system, and again, being different isn’t a crime in and of itself – we resist treatment that is focussed on removing a difference without determining its benefit or detriment to the person/system experiencing it.
Other facts about us: we’re autistic; we’re in our early 30s; we’ve lived in three countries.
How did you get here?
Ultimately, we don’t know our origins. The best way we can describe it as several different self-perceiving entities appearing and evolving over time. Some of us view it as a phenomenon that occurred naturally because of a particular predisposition; some of us view it as a sort of spiritual thing; and some of us view it as an adaptation to the stress brought on by our experiences. We don’t want to rule anything out, but we also don’t want to ‘rule anything in’; this is a complex experience, and we don’t feel comfortable drawing ultimate causes from it. Our strategy is to simply live as we are now, and do the best we can. Whether it’s separate souls, splitting from trauma or natural identity formation over time (or a combination of the above), we’re here, and we’re going to try and make the best of the life we’ve been given.
How does it all work?
In our system, people come forward (or ‘front’) to take turns running things out here. We share daily-life responsibilities: we cook, we pay our bills, we do our homework and sit exams, we clean things up (well, sometimes). We share projects with each other and come up with ideas. It’s a mutually co-operative existence, which we value greatly. Sometimes we hold meetings to make more significant decisions, but a lot of the time, veto power just belongs to the people who come out here the most often.
What are you like as individuals?
Like any group of people, we vary in our personal traits and interests. Some of us are optimistic and hopeful; others are cynical and sarcastic; others try to fight off pessimism. We have atheists, pagans and agnostics: Kerry, Richard, Em and Yavari are atheists (but Kerry’s fine with magic, while Richard and Yavari wouldn’t use it); Noël’s an atheist-leaning agnostic; Lilly’s a pagan, and James and Hess view themselves as being largely spiritual. We have varying political beliefs; for instance, Hess is a socialist, while Kerry, Em and Lilly are social democrats, and James considers himself a centrist Democrat. Most of us lean to the left, but the ways we interpret it are different. Our ethical stances vary too: Noël’s a pacifist, while Kerry and James are more pragmatic in their views on foreign policy. Neither Kerry nor Noël eats red meat, but Hess, James, Em and Lilly can’t get enough of it. Richard refuses to eat pork.
(We can say, though, that we don’t have any Republicans. Well, one was here for a few months, but he didn’t last long.)
The reason for this is pretty simple: we’re separate people, and like any group of different people, we will vary. There are, though, some ‘themes’ that we have: we’re generally passionate about intellectual inquiry; a lot of us are artists or writers; quite a few of us have sceptical or rationalist philosophies; and most of us identify with the political left. These are things that bring us together, though, not things that make us ‘the same person’. When you’ve got a group of people with a collective goal, you’re bound to have some things in common.
If you’d like to know more about us as individuals, just talk to us! Try to get to know us as individuals, and not just as a collective. Try to learn our names and use them. If you’re trying to tell different people apart, we do give off a few cues. Most of us have different accents and vocal pitches when speaking as ourselves. Some of these differences are more subtle than others, but if you’re curious about who’s talking to you, feel free to ask; we’ll be glad to tell you. We actually appreciate it when people try and get to know who they’re dealing with here. Treat us as individuals, not as an indistinguishable conglomerate.
Do you have an ‘inner world’?
Yes. In general, we perceive it as a subjective space in our head where we spend time when we’re not at front. (And more accurately, it’s ‘worlds’; they’re quite intricate.) We consider discussion of our headspace relatively private, but it does exist, and it is very important to us.