Noël Dawkins, 2017

NB: This article is based on a solely neurally generated view of plurality—that is, it is a phenomenon that is created by the brain, rather than by supernatural or other metaphysical causes. Since I do not hold supernatural beliefs, my article may not accurately describe the experiences of those who do. I do hope, however, that this will be of service to those with more materialistic philosophies.

Some plural systems have members who identify themselves as having origins in a fictional work, like a television programme, book, or film. These people are often called “fictives” in the plural community. There are other terms, too, but I will use “fictive” for the purpose of this article.

As many of us have said elsewhere, identity formation is a complex process by which people internalise different ways to conceptualise one’s existence in the world. For some, a strong identification with a character, to the point that someone’s identity cleaves to that character’s existence, may make sense to them. Or for some system-members, it may be a coping mechanism that proves to be more adaptive than harmful. It does not need to be a sign that someone has jumped off the proverbial deep end.

Detractors may see fictive identities as harmful escapism, a way for mundane people to compensate for their mediocre lives by conjuring up fantastic alter egos to be special, or to find a means by which they can be oppressed.

However, this need not be compensation or a way to seek out new oppressions. We as a system experience multiple forms of marginalisation as it is; there is simply no need for us to continue to manufacture oppressions. Our personal and professional obligations have precluded us from having the time to dream up identities instead of getting the important things done. We are too busy for that, as anybody who knows us well can verify. In fact, recognising our individuality has improved our functioning and co-operation, and we are better off now than we were before when we tried to adhere to the “normal” way of conceptualising our identities.

One could argue that such an identity would be pathological in the strictest psychiatric terms, and the typical response is “These people are crazy.” However, even if it were escapism, how is it directly harmful to a detractor? It is not their life that is being affected. If you are offended by somebody else’s mere existence, then that says more about you than it does the person whose existence you find offensive. Also, unlike people with clinical delusional disorder, people who identify as fictives are well aware that their identity is deeply subjective, and that there is a distinction between the way they are perceived by society at large, and the way they may perceive themselves internally. Even if their identity seems strange or discomfiting because it does not conform with typical expectations that are associated with human identity formation, that does not mean that it is intrinsically harmful to the fictive, or to those around them. If identifying as Harry Potter or Naruto allows them to cope with some parts of their life that they would not have been able to before, then how is it damaging to them? Even if it is not true in the objective-reality sense, that does not mean that it cannot be comforting or helpful.

For instance, I do not hold religious beliefs, but I understand the deep role they hold in others’ lives; similarly, those who struggle with understanding concepts that exist outside consensus reality can conceptualise fictive identities as being similar to religious beliefs held by someone who belongs to a different faith. Some people believe that their souls will be sent to an afterlife after their physical death; others believe that they will be reincarnated. Even if a fictive identity is a coping mechanism similar to the way religious beliefs may be perceived by atheists, that does not mean that someone who identifies as such should be subject to harassment or mockery as a form of Internet-based “reparative therapy”. People seek comfort and safety; it is foolish to assume that they do not.