What is plurality?
Simply put, plurality is the state of having more than one person in a body. The entire group of entities sharing a body is usually called a system, though other words are used by some (like us!).
You may have heard of plurality before if you've heard of "multiple personalities", but it's important to note that this term is very outdated and shouldn't be used if you don't want to offend plural folks. You wouldn't call yourself a personality instead of a person, and many plural people feel the same way. It's dehumanizing and frustrating to be referred to as nothing more than a personality.
Plurality is more than “work me, home me”; members of a system are felt to be at least somewhat separate from each other, and they are not within each others' control. There might not be an original person or core person either- experiences vary considerably and there is no one correct way for a system to exist. Every experience of plurality is unique, just like how every brain is unique. Experiences range from being completely separate people to being a non-discrete blob of identities, semi-independent facets of a central self, dissociated parts of self, a person sharing a body with spiritual entities, and many other experiences of being more than one. Every system is different. Regardless of these differences, no one member of a system is the "real" one, and systems are not roleplaying or imagining their own existence.
Some systems are disordered, typically due to trauma. The disordered forms of plurality are Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD-1). To have DID, a system must have amnesia for the recent or distant past and must be experiencing distress in addition to being plural. OSDD-1 is like DID, but without amnesia and/or discrete system members. It's worth noting that not all systems are disordered and that plurality is not inherently a problem. For some, it can be a very positive aspect of their lives that helps them function better.
You may have heard the word "alters" used to describe the members of DID and OSDD systems, but that term is very medicalized and not universally used. It's certainly not used by systems that don't fit the medical model. Different systems will prefer different words- ask them what they prefer to be called, and default to "system members" if you're not sure. We personally call ourselves peeps most of the time.
Plural people are not murderers or out to get you, contrary to what media would have you believe. Hollywood does get things wrong, and it's portrayed plurality extremely inaccurately in most cases. If you want a good example in media of what plurality can be like, "Inside Out" is generally praised by the plural community for being remarkably similar to their experiences if one substitutes people for emotions.
I talk to you all the time. Why didn't I notice this?
We’re extremely good at hiding our existence. People either have a similar experience or think we're nuts, and we've been hurt by the latter group of people more than once. Repeated harassment has led us to feel that staying hidden in most situations is the best option for us. If you're seeing this website, congratulations- we're trusting you to respect us and react with kindness.
Don't blame yourself for not noticing; most people don't look at someone and think that they're more than one person. That's not the societal norm, and many people aren't aware that it's a possibility at all. It's more typical to come up with other explanations for out-of-character behavior.
Are you insane or just trying to be special?
We’ve been to several psychiatrists over the years for a variety of mental health problems and have brought up our plurality to see if it's a concern, but the conclusion has always been that we are functioning well and cannot be diagnosed with anything (be that DID, OSDD, schizo-spec disorders, or something else). We take our mental health seriously and make sure to address any potential problems, and our existence has not been declared a problem. We're happy to let the issue rest at that and focus on the things we do struggle with.
As for the question of trying to be special: we've tried to suppress our plurality to be "normal," but it never worked for long and did far more harm than good. We've struggled with denial and doubt for years. We've looked into alternate explanations, tried to appeal to the people that wanted to dictate how we were allowed to exist, and have ripped ourselves apart trying to be anything but "special." Nothing worked and we're done trying to erase our own existence to please others. We're still here after all that effort and all these years, and we're not going away any time soon. Being plural isn't something we chose. Even if we had chosen to be plural, our existence doesn't depend on you or anyone else believing in it.
People are different, and everyone has the right to have their own opinions. It's not our job to dictate what you believe. That being said, it's generally rude and potentially harmful to tell someone they don't exist or aren't real. Please don't be the next person to claim they know our brain better than we do.
Are you planning to fuse/integrate?
If it happens, then it happens, but we don't intend to seek out fusion at this time.
How should I interact with you?
Almost the same as anyone else; we're not especially different from other people aside from not being alone in our head.
There are a few things you can do to make us more comfortable:
- Do not refer to us as a collective in public unless we're around people that already know we're plural. This is a safety thing; not everyone reacts well to plurality and we'd really prefer to avoid getting hurt. Don't out us to others if you can help it.
- Ask before touching us in person. Many of us are very particular about physical contact or have sensory problems, and problems with memory mean that we might not always remember you enough to feel okay with being touched (even if we've known you for years!). Asking first avoids problems and makes everyone more comfortable.
- Be patient if our memory is bad. We don't have the best memory and sometimes things get mixed up or lost. A quick reminder usually helps us find the memory but sometimes it's just gone.
- When referring to our entire collective, call us the Owls and use plural they/them pronouns.
- We're brainweird and might have atypical reactions or ways of going about things. Be patient and let us do things our way as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. If we are doing something directly harmful to you or others, please let us know and we'll change our behavior.
Other systems have different preferences and it's best to ask them how they want to be treated. For more information on how to interact with plurals in general, please check out Plural Etiquette.
Can I talk to someone specific?
If we trust you and have enough energy to isolate one of us and get them settled into control long enough to chat, then you can probably have a conversation. If we're too tired to do that, it's probably not going to happen at that time.
Luckily, the majority of us actively work to share information with each other, so odds are that whatever you need to say will be passed along to those of us that missed the memo. Don't worry too much about addressing individuals. If anything, you may need to ask us to block things off from each other!
There’s a tradition in plural communities to name your group for easier referencing of you as a collective. We couldn’t agree on a name when we first got involved in these communities, but we managed to agree that the nearest pattern to us would work as a placeholder. We were next to a blanket with an owl pattern at the time. The name has stuck around and we don’t intend to change it any time soon.
Why do you call yourselves a collective, peeps, archetypes, aspects, etc. instead of an existing term?
The short answer is that we're sick of discourse surrounding the existing terminology. It's frustrating to see people fight over who's allowed to use what words, so we decided to use our own words and avoid the issue altogether. In addition to that, we know that what words we use and how we use them can have a significant impact on our experiences. We're far more comfortable choosing our own words and making sense of our plurality in our own ways; doing so allows us to grow as ourselves instead of trying to make ourselves fit the ideas of others.
You said you're nonhuman- what's that about?
Growing up, we never felt human. We didn't understand other people and never fit in anywhere, and most of the time we felt like we were living among aliens. We were diagnosed with autism later in life and we do believe this is a significant part of why we have this identity, but our nonhumanity goes beyond that for us.
We often experienced ourselves as being in a body far too small for us, and we can remember laying in bed many nights and trying to make sense of the feeling of being bigger than our body and stretching out from it. It felt like we would fill the room without moving an inch. Sometimes the feeling of being a different shape from our body would become less overwhelming, but it never entirely went away. On top of that, we never quite related to humanity as our own species and felt that we should have been something else, that our body didn't align with what we were inside. On a deep level, we felt we were inherently something else.
Maybe it's sensory issues and problems mapping ourselves to humanity. Maybe it's a recurrent spiritual experience and unique way of seeing ourselves. Maybe it's something we haven't even thought of. It could just be a brain glitch. We don't know the causes for certain and many of us have our own opinions on the matter, but it doesn't matter particularly much in the end. We experience ourselves this way regardless of what causes it.
We spent years hiding this identity and trying to deny our experiences because it all sounded ridiculous. Who would ever believe us? It was hard enough to believe it ourselves. We'd never met anyone that felt similarly about themselves, so we assumed we were alone and kept it to ourselves for years. In 2016, we came across the otherkin community for the first time and found others that had similar experiences of not aligning with their body's species. Knowing we weren't alone in being internally nonhuman let us accept that aspect of ourselves and explore it, and as a result we've become much happier. We realized we didn't have to try to identify as human. As long as it helps us and we know we're in a human body, we can allow ourselves to identify as nonhuman.
We prefer the nonhuman label over "otherkin" or similar alternatives because it feels more comfortable. People are also very pedantic about labels, and we'd prefer to avoid arguments about terminology that isn't well-defined to begin with.