Healthy multiplicity is the idea of many minds, persons, souls or individuals coexisting within the same physical body. Emphasis is placed on a functional co-relationship with shared responsibility and accountability. The idea is presented as an alternative to other more conventional views about multiplicity in which it is viewed as a disorder, often brought about by psychological trauma. It does not, however, seek to deny that trauma-based multiplicity exists. In fact, the philosophy doesn't exclude the possibility that a multiple system that was born of trauma may learn to cooperate and function in a healthy fashion.
Mental health professionals' opinions vary on whether or not such a healthy co-operative "group of minds" is possible. A relative few believe that it is possible and will help their clients in a kind of "family" therapy. Some doubt that multiple personality exists in any form whatsoever, while others believe that any client who experiences two or more minds has dissociative identity disorder and needs treatment to eliminate all but one personality. According to anecdotal evidence from websites and Internet forums, clients who self-report as being multiple, even if fully cooperative, are sometimes diagnosed with a thought disorder and placed on anti-psychotic medication or hospitalized.
Healthy (or functional) multiplicity has found its greatest voice and organization on the Internet, mainly because the risk of stigma, judgement, hostility, and forced treatment led many multiple systems to remain "in the closet" in their day-to-day lives. The ease of anonymity and pseudonymity in web-based media allows the multiple community to meet and discuss issues without fear of direct reprisal. However, many members of the multiple community may also confide in close friends and family.
Some contend that the unity of the self is an illusion and that everyone is fundamentally multiple (an opinion similar to the observations of William James and other modernist writers). Others take the position that some people are inherently singletons, some inherently multiple, and that people should be allowed to express themselves as they are.
While such evidence suggests a common psychological mechanism for multiplicity, it also highlights the influence of the surrounding culture on the perception and subjective experience of multiplicity. For example, people in other cultures who are multiple do not express their other selves as "parts of themselves", but as independent souls or spirits. There is no evident link between multiplicity, dissociation or recovered memories, and -- surprisingly -- between multiplicity and sexual abuse.
There is a fair bit of cross-cultural evidence to suggest that a small but persistent fraction of humans everywhere experience themselves as multiple. Many religions recognize shamans, people who claim to communicate with and be possessed by gods or spirits. [How to reference and link to summary or text] In yet other religions, like voodoo and the orisha religions of Africa, all devotees aim to be possessed by the gods. Here, multiplicity is not a dysfunction, but a spiritual goal. [How to reference and link to summary or text]
- Astraea's Web Resources and many links devoted to the idea of functional, healthy multiplicity.
- Collective Phenomenon More articles and FAQs dispelling myths and promoting healthy, responsible multiplicity.
- Pavilion Awareness taskforce for functional multiplicity.
- The Layman's Guide to Multiplicity A non-disordered multiplicity resource, written and edited by multiples.
- In Essence We Declare Example of a healthy self-identified multiple group's co-signed agreement to maintain responsibility and functionality.
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