There's a lot of misinformation out there.
The internet is a great resource filled with information. Unfortunately, not all of that information is accurate or helpful, and some of it can be downright harmful. In the plural community, misinformation about fusion and integration runs rampant. It's more common than accurate information in some spaces.
Debunking this misinformation is critical if the community wants to encourage free choice between unification and healthy multiplicity. It's not a fair choice if one option is poorly explained or demonized. Having been through unification myself, I thought it would be a good idea to take what I've learned and go mythbusting.
Myth: Integration, fusion, and unification are the same thing.
Fact: These terms are similar, but they're not the same thing. They're often assumed to be the same because of old terminology. Years ago, "integration" referred to integration, fusion, and unification. This was confusing, so the terms were separated.
Integration is the process of bringing any information together. In the context of plurality, this can look like improving communication, sharing memories, and increasing co-consciousness.
Fusion is when two or more system members merge together. It's a special kind of integration that combines multiple selves into one self. I like to describe fusion as being when system members X and Y become person XY; XY holds everything X and Y were, but there's no sense of X and Y existing as their own people anymore.
Unification is the fusion of all members of a system. When a system chooses to unify, they become a singlet. This is often referred to as fusion or final fusion instead, but unification appears to be the "official" term at this time.
Some systems define fusion as a temporary merging of internal forms, much like in the show "Steven Universe". For clarity, that is not the kind of fusion being talked about here.
Myth: Fusion kills your headmates.
Fact: Fusion doesn't kill anyone.
When someone fuses, they don't go away. They're still experiencing the world and interacting with others. They still have opinions and preferences that they contribute to the person they're part of. They're fully present as part of them. If you pay attention, you can notice their traits. Everything they are is still there. The difference is that they're no longer blocked off from others. It's like the wall between them and another system member was taken down.
Fusion does not mean killing or rejecting your headmates. Fusion means fully accepting and embracing them as part of yourself. They will always be present inside you.
Myth: Integration kills your headmates.
Fact: Integration doesn't kill anyone, nor does it look like death. Integration includes things like improving system functioning and getting to know each other better. It brings the system closer together and makes it easier to get along. For many systems, integration is part of their journey regardless of whether they want to fuse or not.
Myth: Fusion will get rid of traits you don't like.
Fact: Fusion isn't going to get rid of unpleasant traits, but it can make them easier to manage.
Nothing goes away when you fuse. If a member of your system lashes out because they're angry at the world, then you'll likely still experience that anger after fusing with them. The upside is that you may be better able to cope with it. Fusion is a process of acceptance. When you accept a trait you dislike, it's not as upsetting as it was. It becomes easier to deal with. It may even become a quality that helps you. Accepting your anger lets you use it to protect yourself and others, for example.
Even if the trait doesn't become helpful, you may find that your positive traits help balance it out, and you might have access to more coping skills than before.
Myth: Fusion will fix all of your mental health problems and make you normal.
Fact: Unfortunately, fusion isn't a miracle cure. If you have mental health problems, those problems will still be there after fusing. You may be better able to cope with them, but the hard work of recovery still falls on you.
Myth: Fusion always creates a new person made of the ones that fused together.
Fact: While a lot of fusions do create a "composite" person, not all of them do.
Not all fusions are between two specific people at all. Sometimes, a system member will fuse into the entire system and everyone else will get their traits. Even if two specific people do combine, the resulting person might still have the identity of one of their parts, just with the other person's traits added to them. Fusions can turn out in all sorts of different ways.
Myth: You need a therapist to fuse.
Fact: It's entirely possible to fuse without a therapist. I certainly did! It may be easier for some systems if a therapist is involved, particularly in cases where the system has a trauma history, but a therapist isn't necessary for fusion.
Myth: Fusion is always intentional.
Fact: Not all fusions are intentional, or even wanted. Sometimes, system members fuse without meaning to. This was the case for me- I didn't choose to fuse until very late in the process, and yet here I am.
Unintentional fusions happen. Usually, it means that those system members didn't need to be separate anymore, and the time was right for them to come together. It can feel very natural.
Myth: Only disordered systems can fuse.
Fact: While there aren't any academic papers on the topic, I have met several non-disordered systems that experienced fusions. One system stands out to me because a spiritual soulbonder fused with their 'bond. If that's possible, then I don't see why other non-disordered systems couldn't fuse if they wanted to.
Myth: Fusion always makes a system into a singlet.
Fact: Systems don't have to fuse every member together. It's entirely possible to fuse part of the system together while keeping other parts separate, and doing so can be helpful for systems who want to reduce their number of headmates.
Unification is the fusion of an entire system. The existence of a separate word for this is further proof that not all fusions involve the entire system.
Myth: Fusion is always permanent.
Fact: Fusions have a track record of falling apart under stress. In the follow-up of one study, four out of nine fused participants had split apart again. Many systems pursuing unification have to fuse more than once.
This doesn't mean that fusion is impossible; all it means is that it may take more than one try before a fusion becomes stable. Being fused sometimes takes practice. Generally, it appears that the longer someone has been fused, the less likely they'll split apart again; this is why fusions are only considered stable by psychology after 27 months.
Myth: Fusion is always temporary and easily reversible.
Fact: For some people, fusions are permanent and will last for decades without issue. Others struggle to remain fused at all. It varies between individuals.
Not all fusions are perfectly reversible. Splits from failed fusions may create different people than existed before the fusion. The participants may take some of each other's traits or form entirely new identities. In some cases, the resulting system may be unrecognizable. It's generally best to assume that fusions will create some level of permanent change even if they don't last.
Myth: Most fusions fall apart, so it's not worth pursuing it.
Fact: If any amount of fusion appeals to you, it's worth pursuing it. The worst case scenario is that your fusion splits apart. Even then, it's possible to re-fuse. Sometimes it takes practice being one person to make it stick.
While many fusions do fall apart, others are stable and maintained over time. The ISSTD guidelines for DID treatment note that 16.7%-30% of DID patients achieve unification (pp.133). The odds seem pretty good that a fusion might stick considering that many of the non-fused participants didn't pursue fusion in the first place. This statistic doesn't account for fusions that aren't part of unification, either.
Myth: Unification is always the right choice.
Fact: Unification isn't right for everyone, and it's a deeply personal decision.
- Some systems are truly happier staying plural. Pushing them to unify might lower their quality of life.
- Some systems process fusion as a loss or have mixed feelings when it happens. They may experience unification as the loss of their support system.
- Some systems can't fuse due to life circumstances. If it's not safe to live as one person or the system lacks necessary coping skills to handle distress, then unification probably isn't the right choice.
- If a system can't get along, then it's better to focus on improving cooperation instead of fusing.
- Unifying can force a person to confront their trauma history and accept that it happened to them. This can be very distressing.
- Some systems have trauma surrounding forced unification in psychiatry.
- Some systems just don't feel ready to fuse or unify. It's not a good idea to rush them into a decision.
Unifying is not the best choice for everyone. The ISSTD guidelines themselves acknowledge that for many systems, the best resolution will be learning to function well as plural.
Myth: Unification is always the wrong choice.
Fact: While unifying isn't everyone's ideal outcome, some people find unification to be overwhelmingly positive for them. It can make it easier to cope with life and create a sense of increased wholeness and resilience. A stable unification is the goal for many systems for a reason, and it can be a very beneficial path to take.
Ultimately, the decision should be left up to personal choice. If a system believes that unifying is the right choice for them, then they should have the chance to pursue it. If a system does not want to unify, they should not be forced to.