Validation and Language in Multiple Personality
by Anthony TempleWe have received a good deal of correspondence, and read posts in various communities for plurals, in which the writer attempts to describe a personal experience of plurality as it is for them, and asking our advice or opinion. "Does this happen to anyone else?" Several times, we have flat-out been asked to diagnose someone, which of course is impossible.
We tell such people that even if they were the only one who experienced such things, their experience is valid and real (although subjective, of course) because it is theirs.
"if it's happening to me, then that means it's already possible.. but for some reason I just keep wanting to find kindred spirits or something.."
But it's difficult to describe, isn't it, because the words for your feelings and experiences don't seem to exist. The fundamental sign of absence of cultural permission is the lack of words in the language of the dominant culture which would suffice to describe an experience.
In my opinion the experience of plurality in general is nonlinear and cannot be separated out into distinct categories. This is why I still think the midcontinuum and/or median concepts are very useful for some people (although I don't believe multiplicity has anything to do with dissociation). I believe that people who are having a genuine experience that can't be fully described or categorised under any of the existing terminology often come to feel that their experiences are not valid or that they are "weird" or "strange" (i.e., couldn't possibly be understood by others). I thought using a word like median would solve at least some of these difficulties, since it describes an experience of feeling more-than-one, but not in the sense of clearly distinct, autonomous selves.
When one has had a subjective experience, especially one not approved by the dominant culture, one always seeks validation in the experiences of others (viz. the oft-repeated "Has anyone else had this?"). We take this very seriously, because the dominant culture not only disapproves of many such experiences, it actively seeks to restrain them. In fact, to be different in such a way, in this society, is a thought crime. This is the politicisation of thought; the mind as battleground between the personal and the permitted.
Cultural permission and what I call the dominant culture in themselves have subgroups. I am catholic; if I have a visitation from the Blessed Mother, I can be safely categorised by others. "Catholics always see the Blessed Mother. I saw a movie about it last Easter." Even modern psychiatry is beginning to acknowledge cultural contexts of this sort. Were I of a different faith, I might be judged differently both by my peers and by the culture-at-large.
Other Essays by Anthony TempleMultiple Personality and the Media Why are we constantly portrayed as freaks?
Multiplicity Is Natural We have been sold a bill of goods about a "mental disorder".
On Integration Why it is neither necessary nor desirable... and may be impossible.
No More.. A tirade on multiplicity as sickness.
Our Truth For those who would help us recover from denial.
Removing Diagnostic Labels Multiple personality does not belong in the DSM.
The Kaycee Nicole Thing On the Internet, you are who you say you are.. use it wisely.
Why Activism? We strive to educate the public because other people tend to make it their business -- "You need HELP" -- when you come out multiple.