i keep procrastinating on writing here, like i have anticipation anxiety or something, but then i remembered i can just throw whatever i want on here and it doesn't matter so here i am! first entry yeehaw. this might be kind of lengthy i had a lot to say lmao
something i've wanted to write about for a while is my take on the parts vs. people argument when it comes to DID, but i haven't had a place to put it until now. for context, there's discourse among those with DID online whether or not alters can be considered people in their own right, or if they are merely parts of a whole person who was kept from fully forming in childhood. this debate often brings up a lot of feelings for systems, especially those who believe that their alters are people, because of course it feels offensive to be told "you aren't a person!" when you believe you are, and feel like you are - it's deeply invalidating. on the other hand, a lot of systems on the parts side of the argument seem to disregard those identifying as people with a lot of disdain, thinking they are immature, too influenced by the internet, or are using "being people" as a scapegoat for trauma denial, like "this didn't happen to me, it happened to someone else!" personally, i struggle to see how these two concepts are mutually exclusive. i believe there are ways to be both "parts" and "people" at the same time, and to do it healthily where the system is both aware of their scientific/traumatic origins without trauma denial, and also able to identify as separate individuals and present as such on the external, if it is desired by the system. this belief extends to ourselves - ayano is both a part of me and her own person, and i am both a part of her and my own person.
to deconstruct why and how i could possibly feel this way, i have to explain the parts argument first. when a child is born, they do not have a fully integrated identity, but by the time they are roughly 9 years old, the child has developed their full identity, and all parts of self have been joined into one person. DID forms as a result of childhood trauma, which interrupts this process and separates the parts of self further with dissociative walls, often to the point of developing completely different senses of identity from one another. additionally, healing from DID involves breaking down those dissociative walls and either fusing all parts together (final fusion) or maintaining a status of healthy multiplicity where alters still maintain their sense of individuality (their elaboration) but without dissociative amnesia or traumatic emotional intrusions. there are systems who link their sense of personhood to the fact that their memories remain separate and have different life narratives within one body, which goes against the core of recovery. by recognizing that alters are parts of a whole, alters can therefore recognize that the trauma held onto by other alters also happened to them, and healthily integrate those emotions and memories into the overall life narrative, decreasing negative symptoms. it's an essential part of trauma work for someone with DID. this is why i think it's easy to say that viewing alters as people is always unhealthy or even dangerous for the system involved.
additionally, to a lot of outsiders, the idea that alters can be people also just doesn't make sense. usually when a singlet (someone without DID) thinks of a person, they associate said person with their body. if someone you know always talks out of the same body, that body is theirs and no one else's. you associate their body, voice, and movements with that person. even on the internet, you recognize it is the same set of hands hitting the keys to text you. the idea of there being multiple people in one body feels incongruent with their view of the world. since this is obviously the most common and widespread view of personhood, that only one person belongs to one body, this also spreads to systems, who apply the same set of logic to themselves. this is a fair way to feel, too! it's not bad for a system to view themselves as nothing but parts and chase after final fusion as their method of healing, to become an integrated, singular state of self again. but what happens when a system believes they are multiple people in one body? how is this rationalized without being anti-recovery?
i'm going to get hypothetical. imagine your friend or family member says their name is "john" but then suddenly says their name is "alex" instead and talks/behaves in ways foreign to their usual identity as john. for the sake of argument, for just a moment i will be discarding the parts side of the debate, and also assuming john and alex have DID and aren't just roleplaying or something. so, in this case, john and alex both have individual senses of self, they even act like different people around you and identify with different names, but they're using the same limbs, the same organs, the same body. john talks with a deep voice and he is really into cooking. in fact, when alex is around, he never cooks at all. alex, on the other hand, spends all his free time playing video games, and not only talks in a slightly higher pitch, but also talks at a louder volume. when they speak about their memories and past experiences, such as a beach trip, john says he had a great time, but alex says he wasn't too interested in the ocean and was bored by the whole trip. you interact with both of them, but john seeks out your company more and considers you a close friend, while alex considers you more of an acquaintance. in this case, john and alex can be defined by their internal feelings of personhood, their behavior, their personalities, their opinions, their feelings, their thoughts, and every other thing we associate with a person except for their body. this is very easily shown if you imagine john and alex using separate social media accounts. if they didn't share that they were in the same body, you'd have no idea! their body doesn't define them.
however, this is where the parts argument comes back in. "how can alters be different people if they're in the same body? the body includes the brain, and the brain makes up our personalities, memory, etc, so alters have to have overlap in the brain that causes them to be connected, not separate. also, how can it be healthy? if alters view themselves as having different attachments to their memories, doesn't that encourage dissociative amnesia and trauma denial? doesn't the disownment of the body as the self encourage not taking care of the body because it supposedly isn't theirs?" these are the sorts of things that are said by those on the parts side of the argument very often. at this point, most of the parts vs. people argument seems to be divided into systems who are actively trying to stay grounded in reality and recover from their trauma (parts), and systems who are actively anti-recovery, denying their own trauma and floating off into delusional territory because they don't want to accept science or their own origins (people)... but, these things aren't mutually exclusive like everyone seems to think they are!
as mentioned earlier, i view ayano as a part of me as well as her own person, and myself as a part of her and also my own person - we are "parts of a whole" but also "separate people." additionally, we are working towards healthy multiplicity (with a licensed therapist) and trauma recovery. with this context, let's first break apart all of the previous arguments as to why identifying as people could be harmful or ridiculous:
1. the brain is shared by alters, and the brain makes up our personhood, so even if alters act different they still are using overlapping neurons
this is actually true! me and ayano share a lot of opinions on a lot of different things and have similar reflexes and responses to various scenarios. for instance, as an easy example: we both enjoy sweet foods. this is most likely because the part of our brain that handles taste overlaps regardless of who's fronting. now, imagine we are singlets in two separate bodies for just a moment. would it be unusual for us to both enjoy sweet foods as separately-bodied individuals? plenty of people in the world enjoy sweets! for something a little more complex, we can take a look at our political opinions. ayano and i don't disagree on pretty much any political topic. we are nearly identical in that regard. but, again, if we were singlets in different bodies, this wouldn't be too unusual - people are often drawn to those of the same political opinions, and absorb the political opinions of those they are close to fairly frequently. the only difference is circumstance, but not the end result. for others, having the same political opinions is caused by independently having similar life experience and being exposed to the same types of people, but for us, it's an overlap in memory due to a shared brain causing us to have the same life experience, plus general brain overlap. in the end, the result is the same, and the circumstances as to why we are the way we are doesn't impact our sense of self or validity as people.
2. alters having different attachments and opinions to memories encourages dissociative amnesia and trauma denial
it definitely can but it doesn't have to. ayano and i have reached a point where we are able to value each other's traumatic memories and emotions as important to our own. if ayano is heavily affected by a traumatic memory and i'm not, i am still able to recognize that the trauma happened to both of us and that the reason only she is affected by it is due to the origins of our DID, not because it didn't actually happen to me. i am then able to work with her towards a goal of both being able to personally feel attached to the memory, and to process those emotions together. ayano thinking something was boring while i found it fun and letting those differences exist doesn't invalidate us being able to integrate our traumatic memories and responses together. of course, it is a process to get to this point, and if someone is using "we are separate so that traumatic thing didn't happen to me" as a way to deny their own trauma (which most systems do at first, that's kind of the whole point of the disorder), that is unhealthy and should be evaluated. the point is, it is not inherently unhealthy if handled correctly.
3. the disownment of the body as the self encourages not taking care of the body/self
once again, this can be the case but it doesn't have to and isn't inherently true. me and ayano see our body as a vessel, not what we actually look like internally and not what we identify with, but despite our body not being our identities, it's still the thing we use to interact with the outside world, and a huge part of how people perceive us. we also feel like garbage if we aren't in good health. we are able to lovingly take care of the body for our own reasons, even though those reasons don't include "this body is us." if a system is not taking care of themselves because they don't identify with the body, that should, again, be evaluated.
the last argument i hear often that feels a bit separate from the others is that it isn't realistic to identify as separate people and that it puts the system into harm's way. to an extent, this is true - if someone with DID goes out in public and is switching between alters in front of people they barely know, coworkers, etc, that probably won't be taken seriously and puts the system at risk of harassment and potentially even violence. the idea of "multiple people in one body" is not understood or even thought about by most of the general public. because of this, ayano and i charade as one person in public and in situations where our identity as multiple people isn't appropriate to divulge or present. it is not safe for us, and would not be understood by most people we have to interact with outside our own home and friend circles. however, i don't think this means we should give up on our individual identities. identifying as separate individuals has not only been unharmful, but also deeply healing for us. it brings us joy to be multiple. the cause of our plural existence, our trauma, is terrible and tragic, but now that we are multiple, it is like a way of reclaiming to embrace our multiplicity instead of disowning it. i could go on for much longer about all the reasons it brings us happiness, but you get the picture. we might not be able to be separate in the eyes of the entire world, but enjoying being separate among our friends and family, the people who actually matter, is still worth it. there are many systems who feel the same. besides, by continuing to talk about our experiences as multiple, perhaps one day in the far future it won't be as weird and impossible to conceptualize for most others. systems should not have to back down from their personhood because society told them to.
clearly, it is still important for systems to recognize their origins as parts and to not delve into delusion as a form of trauma denial, but my point is that a system can healthily believe that they are both parts and people, where being parts is the circumstance of existing and being people is a philosophical self-identification that is as valid as any singlet's personhood. the two are not mutually exclusive. the journey to recovery doesn't have to be going from separate to identifying as one, it can go from being separate to still identifying as separate but with a healthier outlook and healthier habits.
of course, all of this comes from our personal understanding of our own disorder, and our own life experience, thoughts, and feelings. there are plenty of systems who do not even feel remotely the same way as we do, and that's fine. i just wanted to offer a personal perspective because it's something i'm passionate about and like to talk about. it's been on my mind a lot lately and i've had the itch to talk about this for months. i'd like to think after working on this whole DID thing for so long and getting opinions and medical care from a therapist who thinks our way of existing is healthy that i've reached a comfortable and healthy, parts and people way of living. i'm honestly feeling pretty good after writing all that out except for my right wrist which is currently strained and telling me to stop typing, so i really gotta stop lmao. i don't think all of my journal entries are gonna be NEARLY this long but it's the early morning and no one was awake so i just went off gsdjoifsdoifsd. if you read this far thanks for listening. tldr; don't be a dick to systems for identifying as people but also recognizing that systems are parts as well is important