Sylvan System FAQ
by Kerry, Hess, Lilly, Richard and Noël
What are your preferred pronouns and forms of address?
As a system? Third-person: they/them/theirs/themselves; first-person: we/us/ours/ourselves; we prefer ‘yourselves’ in the second person. You can call us ‘Sylvan System’, ‘Sylvan’, ‘Sylvans’ or ‘Sylvanians’ when referring to us as a whole; we’re flexible in that regard. Don’t use our non-plural name if everyone in a group knows we’re plural. We use plural grammatical constructions: ‘Sylvanians have lots of homework’, etc. We refer to ourselves as ‘people’ or ‘system members’; don’t call us ‘alters’, ‘personalities’, ‘ego states’, ‘parts’, ‘fragments’, ‘personas’ or anything like that. Individuals have their own pronoun preferences; ask them what they prefer if you’re not sure.
How big is your system?
We’ve had at least twenty people at our front; however, we tend to have about five people who come about regularly at any given time. There was a while when we only had three people guaranteed to be here on a frequent basis, but that seems to have rectified itself.
How long do you think you’ve been plural?
We think that we’ve been plural for most or all of our life. Many of us had pretty defined sets of behaviour that remained persistent throughout our lifespan.
Aren’t you a bit old to have imaginary friends?
Whose imaginary friends? You presume that there’s a ‘real person’ underneath all of us who’s conjuring up ‘imaginary friends’. No, we’re just people, thanks.
Is there someone called [name on the ID] or [birth name]?
No. Nobody has either of those names here; the name on our ID is a government-recognised name that functions more like a stereotypical online handle, and we dumped our birth name a while ago.
What gender is your body?
If you can say that our body ‘has’ a gender, we’re trans male with genderqueer leanings. Each of us, though, has their own gender; we have men, women and genderqueer people. Some of us are gender-fluid; some of us have no gender at all; some of us fit quite comfortably in the gender binary.
How can you have people in your body that have different ages, ethnicities, species or personal histories?
Short answer: We just have.
Long answer: Many of us see our identity as being a subjective phenomenon in our brain, but we’re also a system with a complicated and intricate subjective ‘headspace’, in which people have their own histories and identities independent from the front’s. We consider it a product of our neurones, but it’s part of who we are, at least as individuals. Since we have our own histories, someone may very well be much younger or older than we are bodily, or may come from a different ethnic group, or may perceive themselves as non-human.
Do you have a ‘host’, ‘core’ or anyone who identifies themselves with the body?
No. Each of us has their own set of experiences in-system, as well as our shared experiences out here. We collectively identify with our experiences here; however, it’s a collective thing, rather than an individual phenomenon. That being said, though, we don’t view ourselves as ‘being the body’ to the exclusion of our individual selves, though. We view it as a shared resource and we share responsibility for it. There’s not a ‘body owner’ either.
How do you sometimes say ‘I’ and sometimes ‘we’?
If one of us says ‘I’, it refers to their individual experiences or emotions; ‘we’ refers to the system at large (or the people present at the time). Language is slippery, and we recognise that it can be confusing.
Isn’t multiplicity a rare disorder? Why do you claim to have it? Why do you perceive yourselves as having several people in your brain?
We find it the most convenient way to describe the subjective psychological and existential perceptions we have. Each of us has a distinct set of thoughts and ways of making sense of the world, and for us, it works best to describe those patterns as being separate people. And for us, it’s not disordered; we co-operate well enough.
Aren’t you glorifying a serious illness?
We don’t suffer from our plurality, and there are many DID-diagnosed systems who don’t view their system as a means of suffering. We don’t pretend to be experts on DID; there are numerous resources for DID-model systems. Our site focusses on the philosophical and practical aspects of plurality. If you’d like further resources from an explicitly medical model, An Infinite Mind is a good resource.
What are your qualifications? If you’re not a psychiatrist, why are you commenting?
We have social-science-related qualifications (though not psychology) – but this isn’t a psychiatry webpage. If you want one of those, there are numerous websites that focus on the medical model.
Does your plurality impede you from engaging in daily-life tasks?
No, it doesn’t. In fact, having each other around helps us to be more functional.
You must have some amazing spiritual powers in order to be this way.
Errrr, no. There are quite a few of us who don’t actually believe in any spiritual phenomena; those of us who do are a (quite vocal) minority.
You must have undergone severe abuse in order to be plural.
We’re abuse survivors and many of us now think that our plurality may be connected to trauma, but that’s not a universal view. Even if it is connected to trauma, that doesn’t mean that we lean entirely towards the medical model.
How ‘out’ are you?
We’re almost entirely out online, except in a few spaces where it probably wouldn’t be a good idea (eg, Facebook). Offline, it varies, depending on how we judge a situation.
Why do you spell differently on your website? I noticed that some of you use British spellings and some of you use American spellings.
Each of us has individual preferences. The overwhelming majority of people here use British/international spellings and punctuation conventions, but there are some of us who use US-style spelling and punctuation. (This is why there are two articles about sceptics with two different spellings; Richard uses British spellings, whilst Em uses American ones.) Guest authors use the spelling system they’re most used to. Explanatory text uses international English spellings.
Mac or PC?
Mac. Windows is dreadful.