Kerry Dawkins, James Dawkins and Lilly Ghia-Wilberforce, 2013

(Significantly edited in 2018.)
A drawing of several members of the Sylvan System standing together: Yavari, Noël, Kerry, James, Hess, MD, Lilly, Richard, Em

Who are you and how did you get here?
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 adaptive – having each other has given us a support system that we wouldn’t have otherwise. 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.

We share responsibilities co-operatively, though there’s a smallish group of us who hold veto power.

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.

How did you get here?
Ultimately, we don’t know our origins, but we think trauma and stress played a significant role in our being here. The best way we can describe it as several different self-perceiving entities appearing and evolving over time. Whatever our origins, 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, though we have some consensus beliefs on human rights. All 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.