From Otherkin Wiki
Four overlapping rings similar to a venn diagram
The Plural Rings, a common symbol for plurality

Plurality is the state of being more than one consciousness or entity in one physical body.[1] A group of entities experiencing plurality is most often called a system.

There are many experiences that can be called plural. One example is the dissociative disorders: Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), other specified dissociative disorder (OSDD), and partial dissociative identity disorder (p-DID). There also exist various forms of healthy multiplicity[2] or systems who otherwise reject the medical model for various reasons. Some subcultures such as tulpamancy, soulbonding and daemonism can be considered plural experiences. However, many of these communities have separate origins and their own terminology, and many members do not use the plural framework.

Experiences[edit | edit source]

Many systems have the ability to change which system member is controlling the body, also known as switching. The member who is in control is said to be fronting.

Another common experience is the existence of an inner world where members not controlling the body reside.[3]

Some systems have members who are or are based on fictional entities or others in their system which are nonhuman.

Systems may or may not be able to communicate internally with each other, and may or may not have segregated memories or amnesia.[4]

Terminology[edit | edit source]

People have had various different words for plurality over time. Multiple or multiplicity was among the first used in the early community,[5] and is still widely used today. In multiple systems the members are discrete, while in median (or midcontiuum) systems the members are less so. "Plurality" is specifically used to encompass this full spectrum.[6]

A group of entities sharing a body is typically called a system, but other words such as "collective" may be used.

A person in a plural system might be called a system member, headmate, alter, or pluran.[7] Some systems may also come up with their own terminology. The term "alter" in relation to system members was coined by medical professionals and is short for "alternate personality" and therefore may be considered dehumanizing by systems.[8][9] However, the term still sees frequent use by systems who have DID or otherwise see their plurality through a medical lens.[9]

A person who is not plural is called a singlet.[1]

Varieties and understandings of plurality[edit | edit source]

Plurality may be divided into several forms and as a broad experience also has several subcultures. People have attempted to categorize plurality based on origin or type,[10] which has been the source of some controversy.[11][12]

Median[edit | edit source]

Median or midcontinuum people exist in the gray area between singlet and fully multiple.[13] The word "midcontinuum" was coined by the system Vicki(s) to describe their experience being dissociated but not quite multiple, sitting somewhere in the middle of what they call the "dissociative continuum".[14] Pavilion Hall, a multiple activist group, took issue with the broadness of "midcontinuum," discarding it in favor of their own word: "median." They defined this word with a metaphor of multiple people who share a fire and who depend on one among their number. As many found this definition confusing, they took the definition of midcontinuum and applied it to median, effectively erasing the Vickis' contribution.[11]

Median systems may use various metaphors to explain their plurality. Vicki(s) describe their system as like a plant with stems,[15] while another person describes themselves as a camera with various lenses.[16] The median Adriel identifies with three archetypes: The Empath, The Scholar, and The Child.[17] Kiya, who is singtuple, describes their "me"s as raisins in ginger ale; the raisins drift around in the drink, with some closer to the top and others closer to the bottom; who their "I" is is very fluid.[18] Members of a median system are sometimes called facets. Fictional entities in a median system may be called fableings.[19]

Soulbonding[edit | edit source]

Soulbonding is the act of forming a mental connection with a fictional entity. Normally, the soulbond takes a form in one's mindscape or head as an autonomous entity. A soulbond of one's own character may be called a muse.[20][21] Soulbonds may have a permanent presence here, return to their world occasionally, or be permanently present in their world with a mental link to the soulbonder.[20] This is the subculture from which the term "fictive" originated.[22]

Tulpamancy[edit | edit source]

Tulpamancy is the practice of creating a separate autonomous, sapient entity, known as a tulpa, within one's brain.[23][24] The word 'tulpa' is an uncommon alternate transliteration of the Tibetan verb 'sprul-pa' (also 'sprul skul' or 'tülku'), which is used as a noun in Mahãyãna Buddhism to describe a manifestation of an enlightened being. The practice of tulpamancy itself has its roots in western theosophism and the latter's concept of thought-forms, entities created in one's thoughts.[25]

Dæmonism[edit | edit source]

Dæmonism or daemonism is the act of creating a representation of ones own subconsciousness or inner dialogue in the form of an animal.[26] This subculture was inspired by the book series His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. It is common for daemonism to involve finding a specific animal form which represents one's personality. Both personal and animal analysis is common.[27] This is also the subculture in which the term animal-hearted was coined.[28]

Medical model[edit | edit source]

Many who could be called plural come to their understanding through the medical literature, particularly the Theory of Structural Dissociation. According to this theory, in an integrated state, one recalls their memories effectively and in such a way as to identify with them. Trauma or stress can prevent this identification with memories surrounding the traumatic event, leading them to be stored in such a way that the person does not identify with them or even does not recall them at all. According to researchers Nijenhuis, Hart, and Steele, the disintegration involves "apparently normal personalities" (ANPs), who are focused on survival and daily life and are numb to the trauma, and "emotional personalities" (EPs), who are focused on reliving the trauma. These personalities are seen in various forms in PTSD and in dissociative disorders such as DID, and exhibit "enduring patterns" in how they relate to the world. Infants, the researchers continue, are unintegrated, with one's ability to integrate developing as they grow. This puts children in a particularly vulnerable position regarding the disintegrating effects of trauma, especially in cases where the trauma is enacted by those who are supposed to support the child, such as caregivers. All this is to say that the experience of plurality present in those who understand it through the Theory of Structural Dissociation is a product of trauma or stress and exists as an extreme manifestation of PTSD symptoms.[29]

Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a disorder with features that can be considered plural. According to the DSM-V, it is characterized by two or more distinct personality states (alters) and recurrent amnesia. It causes distress or impairment and is neither caused by cultural norms nor external substances or conditions.[30] DID was formerly known as multiple personality disorder (MPD). The change was made in the DSM-IV because professionals disliked conceiving of ANPs and EPs as personalities in their own rights.[29]

When the criteria for DID are only partially met, then a patient may be diagnosed with other specified dissociative disorder (OSDD) type 1.[31] The DSM-IV lists the subcategories of OSDD-1a and OSDD-1b. These are not present in the DSM-V but are still used by the community. OSDD-1a occurs with amnesia but either no alters or nondistinct alters while OSDD-1b occurs with distinct alters but no amnesia.[32]

History with otherkin[edit | edit source]

Plurality has a long history of overlap with otherkin and similar subcultures. Lupa describes multiplicity as an origin and type of otherkin in A Field Guide to Otherkin,[33] as does Jay Johnston in his paper On having a furry soul.[34] Lio, then Malchior, noticed a lot of overlap between otherkin and other communities such as plurals, therians, soulbonders, and daemians in the early 2010s. It was this overlap that led it to coin the word 'alterhuman' and to include space for all plurality under it.[35][36] The nothing network observed in the 2000s that systems with nonhuman members typically preferred to participate in strictly otherkin communities over strictly plural communities. To them, "[o]therkin seem to have an easier time accepting multiplicity than multiples have with otherkin".[37]

Otherkin hosts[edit | edit source]

In 1999, the mailing list Otherkind-Hosts: nonhumans in the system was created for "people who have more than one mind per body, of which one or more is not entirely human."[38] A number of older resources describe "otherkin multiples"—systems with members who identify as otherkin.[39][40] The term "otherkin host" (or simply "kinhost") was also used to refer to this, with "host" describing the entire system as opposed to the primary fronter.[41] The nothing network uses "host" to refer to a more specific experience: they assert that the system members of an otherkin host are spirits who joined the body later in life. They compare this with a different kind of otherkin multiple, a system with a "main person" whose headmates are past lives. They describe otherkin hosts as having highly discrete members, and the "past life" type of system as being typically a more median experience.[37] The term otherkin is still used by systems today, particularly those who dislike the term extranthrope or who are comprised entirely of nonhumans.[Citation needed]

Fictives[edit | edit source]

Early fictive communities by soulbonders also overlapped with fictionkin, especially on LiveJournal.[22] The two communities continued to be adjacent to each other with 2010 kin networks and chat rooms often being advertised to both fictionkin and fictives.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "More Than One"
  2. "Alters in Dissociative Identity Disorder and OSDD/P-DID"
  3. The Blackbirds. "Other/inner worlds" The Layman's Guide to Multiplicity.
  4. Julia Naftulin. (April 19th, 2022) "4 signs of dissociative identity disorder, according to an expert working with people who have the condition" Business Insider.
  5. (September 6th, 1994) " FAQ"
  6. Vicki(s). "The power of naming" (Archived version)
  7. kinarchist. (September 15th, 2019) "Hey so I keep using it in posts and swearing I’ll make it A Thing and see if it catches on, so [...]"
  8. The Blackbirds. "Multiple Preferences" The Layman's Guide to Multiplicity.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Faith Formation, House of Chimeras. "Glossary - Plurality Resource"
  10. emmengard. (April 4th, 2019) "Plural Positivity"
  11. 11.0 11.1 LB Lee. (Aug 31, 2020) "Quick'n'Dirty Plural History, part 4 (LJ, the Genic Slapfight, and THE END)"
  12. Kerry Dawkins. (2007) "Divisions in Plurality, 1.0"
  13. "Medians"
  14. Vicki(s). "Welcome to the Wonderful World of the MidContinuum!" (Archived version)
  15. Vicki(s). "A (slightly dated) model of our system" (Archived version)
  16. "I am a Camera" (Archived version)
  17. Adriel. "Median Talk"
  18. Adriel. "Portrait of a Hydra"
  19. flock-of-changes. (January 29th, 2018) "Proposed New Term"
  20. 20.0 20.1 "soulbonding: an introduction"
  21. "About our Site" (Archived version)
  22. 22.0 22.1 LB Lee (via headmatesfaq). "The history of the term ‘fictive.’"
  23. "What Is A Tulpa?"
  24. "Introduction"
  25. Natasha L. Mikles and Joseph P. Laycock. (August 2015) "Tracking the Tulpa: Exploring the “Tibetan” Origins of a Contemporary Paranormal Idea" Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. pg. 91, 93. University of California Press.
  27. "ANALYSES"
  28. House of Chimeras (liongoatsnake). (August 17th, 2014) "The History of the Term Animal-Hearted"
  29. 29.0 29.1 Nijenhuis, E.R.S.; Van der Hart, O. & Steele, K.. (January 2004) "Trauma-related Structural Dissociation of the Personality"
  30. "DID in the DSM-5-TR"
  31. "DID Versus OSDD-1"
  32. "Spectrum"
  33. Lupa Greenwood. (March 1st, 2007) "A Field Guide to Otherkin" Megalithica Books.
  34. Jay Johnston. (June 27th, 2013) "On having a furry soul: transpecies identity and ontological indeterminacy in Otherkin subcultures" Animal Death. Sydney University Press.
  35. Lio (x-rds). (February 19th, 2023) "[Lio] Yes! Phasmovore is my old blog. I used to go by Malchior..." Comment on "".
  36. Malchior (phasmovore). (September 26th, 2014) "This will probably be my last post on semantics..."
  37. 37.0 37.1 The nothing network. "Otherkin Multiples" (Archived version)
  38. Orion Scribner. (September 8th, 2012) "Otherkin timeline: The recent history of elfin, fae, and animal people, v. 2.0." pg. 51.
  39. The Crisses. (February 8th, 2001) "Otherkin Multiple FAQ Beta 2/8/01" (Archived version)
  40. The Consortium. "Consortium FAQ" (Archived version)
  41. The Crisses. "Hosts"