Our Plural Experience

by Yavari C., 22 April 2014
This article will be updated periodically with more experiences, so consider this a living document.

I can’t speak for other plural systems and their members but I can talk about the way we experience things as a system. If you’re not plural yourself, this can provide a glimpse into how we see things, and if you’re plural, you may find something you can relate to. Of course, our experience isn’t representative of all systems – your situation can be different and still valid.

Co-fronting and co-present
In a lot of cases we find ourselves ‘co-fronting’, which means that two system members are present at the same time. This manifests in a few different ways for us. Sometimes one person is very much present in the body and is controlling it, while other people are sitting nearby and can communicate. At other times, between two and four people are close enough to control it, and those people are communicating with each other, while other people further back can send messages.

‘Co-present’ people are people who are nearby to communicate with people who are actually fronting and may be aware of what’s going on at front, but aren’t in control.

Communicating between each other
We communicate with each other in a variety of ways:

  • Talking to each other in headspace – this happens in several different ways – we can be talking to each other in the same physical space (for example, I can be over at Hess’s house and talking to him in person), sending ‘written’ or auditory messages in our mental ‘narrative’ (the shared ‘mind’s eye’ we use) without being in the same physical space or using stuff like phones and other communication devices. Because people can be in different places at different times, the second way of doing things tends to happen most often.
  • Sending ‘communication packets’ – there are times when it’s easier to send information as a ‘packet’, like the way information is transmitted over the internet. It’s not specifically verbal information, but people can send a bundle of data and have it interpreted correctly. We often use this to update people on large chunks of information that they may have missed because they were nowhere near the front, and were out of ‘summoning range’, which means they can’t be reached easily at a given time.
  • Writing to each other in a text file – we have a few text files where we talk to each other. It looks like a chat log from an IRC chatroom, because we’re each marking our text with our initials, which is also the convention we use when talking to people online in text chat.
  • Talking to each other aloud – we do this sometimes when we’re at home, but obviously not in public or things like that.

Co-operation (and the lack thereof)
Since we’re a large group of people trying to share a life, we have to co-operate. It isn’t always easy, but we make it happen, for the most part. We use a variety of methods to make sure we’ve agreed on a decision: voting, informal discussion, more active frontrunners holding veto power and making decisions for the entire group in our best interest – depending on the size of the decision, we use all these means of coming to decisions. We’re more likely to allow people to make unilateral decisions if it’s only something they’ll be doing (like a specific person taking a job if they’re going to be the primary person doing it, or someone getting involved in a relationship with someone outside the system), and requiring votes and discussions if it will affect everyone strongly (like moving, enrolling at a university, getting a job lots of people will be doing, career changes).

Otherworlds/subjective space/headspace
We have a detailed otherworld (‘headspace’, ‘subjective space’; we alternate the terms). There are countries, towns, cities, historical periods, cultures, societies and all the other complicated things you’d find in any world. Some of the places in our headspace are very similar to this one (you’ll find countries like China and France), and some are very different. I’m personally of the belief that our brain generated them and it makes ‘more sense’ for us to work within the otherworld paradigm.

Everyone here has their own background independent from the one we share out here, and tends to identify (I know ‘identify’ is a fuzzy word; I think ‘sync’ is a good one too) with it as an individual. That doesn’t mean we’re denying things that happened out here, just that there’s a parallel story they have along with the one out here. Both our experiences away from front and the ones we’ve had here influence the way we think about things. It’s complicated, and I know it’s one of the hardest things for sceptics to follow, but that seems to be the way our brain handles our plurality.

Switching/changing places/swapping
Like many systems we ‘switch’ or change control of the body. These switches can be complete (someone completely changing places with a different person and taking total control of the body) or partial switches, where two people who are close to the front swap with both having easy access to the front.

We tend to have a few people who are close enough to switch without completely knocking someone else from the front. This is going on right now; as I’m writing, Kerry and I are both near the front, but neither of us is knocking the other one out.