Plural Questioning and Discovery Help

What is plurality?

Simply put, plurality is the state of having more than one person in the same body. The entire group of entities sharing a body is usually called a system. Non-plural people are called singlets.

Most people have one person in their body. They have one consistent, unified self that covers their entire mind. They may not control all of their thoughts, but they perceive all of those thoughts as coming from them. When a singlet acts differently, they are expressing a different side of their whole self.

Plurality is more than having different sides of oneself. A plural system's members do not fit under one consistent self. They have their own sense of self and/or agency. Some systems share an identity but behave differently within that identity. Others don't share an identity at all. Regardless of whether they share an identity, one system member is unable to completely control the behavior of another.

A very wide variety of internal structures and experiences can all be viewed as plural by those having them.

While some systems don't see their plurality as a problem, many face additional challenges in life because of their plurality. These systems can be diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) or Otherwise Specified Dissociative Disorder (OSDD). DID can be diagnosed when a system of distinct people experiences memory problems that go beyond normal forgetfulness. OSDD can be diagnosed when the criteria for another dissociative disorder (such as DID) aren't quite met.

While not all systems see their experiences as disordered, many face additional challenges because of their plurality. These systems may benefit from seeking diagnosis or support.

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Questioning- advice
  • The most important thing to remember when questioning is that it's okay to be wrong. Figuring out what's going on in your mind is a process, and you might go back and forth on it a few times. Trust yourself and pursue what helps you most. If you don't like something, don't do it. If there's a word you're opposed to, don't use it. How you define your experiences is your choice alone.
  • Try not to dive headfirst into the plural community just yet. It can be a great place to find resources, but surrounding yourself with systems before you know what's going on will introduce bias. It's the same if you spend all your time in a forum for bipolar folks or spiritual mediums. People tend to see what's around them. If nothing else, make sure that you're looking into other possibilities at the same time. Don't get attached to any one explanation until you've ruled others out.
  • You don't need to commit to any label or framework if you don't feel comfortable doing so. There's no correct way to be plural or singular, and the line is pretty blurry to begin with. Some people can choose to see themselves as both or flip between plural and singular as needed. Don't judge yourself if you don't fit into a label or category. "Neither" is a viable option.
  • There's no rush here. There's no one at your back demanding that you know everything right this second, and if there is, then they're not acting in your best interests. Figuring yourself out shouldn't be finished in a day. Explore your options, pay attention to your experiences over time, and play with different ideas to find what makes the most sense for you.
  • If you run into denial, it can help to think of it as a mask for another emotion. It doesn't tend to happen on its own. A lot of times, it's there to cover up fear or shame. Recognizing the emotions and thoughts behind your doubts can make it easier to work through them and determine what's really going on.
  • Consider what led you to question in the first place. You're reading this page for a reason. Plural or not, something is going on.
  • It's strongly recommended that you do additional research and trust your own judgement over the word of internet strangers. Don't make this website your only source, and don't expect me (or anyone else) to be able to tell you whether you're plural or not. I don't know you or your situation, and it would be wise to consider whether the information presented here is actually helpful and useful to you. If you believe it's not what you need, then go find something else. Even if it does help, take it with a grain of salt and think critically about the information. Do not rely on internet strangers to tell you the contents of your own mind. This is something you have to determine for yourself.

Obligatory disclaimer:
This site should not be considered medical advice or a definitive authority on plurality. It was written by a flawed person who wanted to help others in a way they wished others had helped them. As such, the information may be incomplete, biased, or otherwise imperfect. Linked sources may not be written by perfectly angelic authors; while effort has been taken to avoid sources written by known abusers, it's entirely possible that the author of this site was unaware of a particular linked site's problems.

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Questioning- normal experiences

A surprising number of plural-looking experiences are considered normal. Having them doesn't inherently make you plural, though it's possible for these experiences to be so extreme that they no longer fit the norm. Some typical experiences:

  • Behaving differently in different situations
  • Having different versions of yourself, such as your work self and home self
  • Occasionally forgetting things ("where did I put my phone?")
  • Not remembering things from before age 3-5
  • Old memories being fuzzy or distant; forgetting the details
  • Disagreeing with yourself or having multiple opinions on a topic
  • Not understanding why you behaved a certain way while feeling a different emotion
  • Contradicting yourself
  • Having a lot of different preferences
  • Struggling to understand yourself sometimes
  • Being unable to control all of your thoughts (but still feeling like they come from you/your own mind)
  • Having a rich inner world or daydreaming often
  • Imagining conversations with other people, characters, and occasionally yourself
  • Having a complicated or changing relationship with gender and identity
  • Feeling numb or distant when emotionally overloaded
  • Zoning out while doing simple or routine activities, then suddenly returning to normal awareness afterwards ("huh, I don't remember much of the drive here")

Some experiences are less common. They still occur in non-plural people, but they're usually considered part of another disorder.

  • Having violent or upsetting thoughts that come out of nowhere (intrusive thoughts)
  • Having uncontrollable critical thoughts about yourself; feeling like your brain has a constant stream of negativity pointed at you
  • Being unable to comprehend an emotion you're not feeling right now
  • Acting out of character for yourself when something triggers a strong emotion or memory; for example, becoming noticeably withdrawn when something reminds you of your parents fighting
  • Forgetting traumatic or painful memories
  • Feeling young or small when something triggers a traumatic or painful childhood memory
  • Feeling emotions that don't seem to make sense when something triggers a traumatic or painful childhood memory
  • Feeling like you don't have a strong sense of self

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Questioning- plural experiences

Some experiences are much more common for systems. They may not be 100% exclusive to plurality, but it's rare to find them in non-plural people. Other experiences almost never happen outside of systems.

While no set of questions could cover everything, here are some questions that might help you think about your own experiences. Not every question will apply to every system.

    Changes in identity

  • Are your "parts of self" more literal than metaphorical? Do parts of your mind have their own distinct ways of thinking and behaving?
  • Does it feel like there's no way your experiences could all fit under one consistent identity?
  • Does it feel like your identity is continuous, or are there breaks in it?
  • Does your identity or self-image rapidly change in a way others' don't seem to?
    • Is there any consistency to these identity changes? Do certain patterns keep recurring?
    • Does anything trigger these changes? Are they intentional or unintentional?
  • If someone asked you who you are, would that question be hard to answer? If so, why?
    • Do you feel like you lack a self, or do you have too many selves?
    • Do you have a hard time understanding yourself because you switch between different states that are hard to reconcile?
    • Do these states have opinions about each other?
  • Do your skills and abilities fluctuate more than is normal? Have you ever found yourself suddenly unable to do something you normally have no problems doing, or vice versa?
  • Do you have people, characters, muses, etc. that take complete control of your behavior at times? Do you have "kintypes" that behave independently from you?
  • Influence and dissociation

  • Do any parts of your mind feel like they're not yours? Do you ever feel like you're not in full control of your mind or self?
  • Do you ever feel emotions that don't seem to come from you?
  • Have you ever felt strong impulses or urges to do something that you don't normally like?
  • Do you hear internal voices or have thoughts that aren't yours?
    • If you do: what do these other voices think about plurality? Are you able to control what they say, or are they out of your control?
    • If you don't: do you think in noticeably different ways at different times (e.g. significantly different vocabulary)? Do these thought styles come with significant changes in your traits or preferences?
  • Have you ever watched your body do something without you directing it or felt like you weren't in control of your actions?
  • Do you ever feel like your body is supposed to look significantly different or have a hard time recognizing yourself in the mirror?
  • Do you ever find notes and drawings that you didn't create? Do you ever find evidence of doing things that you don't remember doing? Do you have periods of time where you can't account for what happened (particularly major life events)?
  • Is your memory for the recent or distant past unusually fuzzy, hard to recall, vague, or distant? Are you only able to remember things with external reminders?
  • Is your memory oddly state-dependent? Can you only remember things while in a certain state? Do your feelings towards your memories fluctuate wildly?
  • Do some of your memories feel like they don't truly belong to you? Do you feel detached from any of your memories, like they happened to someone else?
  • Other possibilities

  • Does all of this require energy or effort to ignore, suppress, or hide?
  • Do these experiences persist when you're not thinking or reading about plurality?
  • How long have you been having these experiences?
  • Does someone else have a stake in whether or not you're plural? Are you questioning for yourself or because someone else thinks you're plural?
  • Most people change from time to time and have complex, multifaceted identities. Can your experiences be explained by normal identity shifts, or do they go beyond that?
  • Have you ruled out any medical causes for your experiences (such as seizures)?
  • Have you researched other possibilities and found they failed to explain your experiences? Did your research address common stereotypes and myths surrounding those conditions?
    • BPD, C-PTSD, and schizo-spec disorders are often mistaken for plurality. Have you fully researched these conditions? Have you read any personal accounts from people with these conditions to see what it's like to have them?
    • Are changes in your identity only ever situational or linked to spending time with certain people? Some possibilities to research include code switching, masking, BPD, and HPD.
    • If you have memory problems and/or amnesia, have you investigated other possible causes or sought medical advice (if possible)?
      • Can your memory problems be explained by normal forgetfulness? If not, do you have another known condition that could explain it?
      • Memory problems exist in many different conditions. Some possibilities to research include C-PTSD and PTSD, other dissociative disorders, amnesia from psychosis, depression, seizure disorders, conditions causing fatigue and brain fog, ADHD, and more.
    • If you dissociate and believe that it's evidence you might be plural, have you researched dissociative disorders other than DID and OSDD and determined that they don't fully encompass your experiences?
    • If you suspect you're plural because you sometimes act like a child or animal, have you investigated age regression, pet regression, and alterhumanity?
    • Does genderfluidity encompass your experiences, or does it fail to explain some of what's happening?
    • Have you ruled out psychosis as a cause of any voice-hearing? Some possibilities to research include schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, delusional disorder, postpartum psychosis, and assorted medical causes.
  • Does another cause or framework fit better but feel too scary to accept? Do you feel like you want your experiences to be anything other than that?
  • Do you only have these experiences when under the influence of a substance? Do they persist when you're sober?
  • Do you have multiple points of evidence in favor of you being plural? Is the evidence in favor much stronger than the evidence against?
  • Other

  • Does the framework of plurality make sense to you? Does something about plurality keep drawing your attention?
  • Do you feel like you don't fit into the norm of being a singular, unified person in some way? Why or why not?
  • What do other parts of you think is going on, if you can ask them?

If plurality makes sense for you but you're not 100% sure, don't rush to a conclusion. Think about why you're uncertain. What are you afraid will happen if you are plural? What about if you're not? Regardless of whether you turn out to be plural, you're not alone in struggling to figure yourself out. There's no rush. Keep thinking it over and follow whatever framework helps you most.

Questioning- getting confirmation

If you think there might be others in your head, there are a few ways you can try to get proof.

The easiest option is often leaving a note. Write a note explaining the situation and asking if anyone else is there, then wait to see if you get a response. Do your best to ensure that the note won't be intercepted by an outside person, even one you trust. Even if you are living with safe people, they may assume the note was left for them and respond accordingly, giving you false results.

Good places to leave a note can be in a personal journal, on a private device, somewhere safe in your room, or any other private place that you often check or find things. It may take a while to get a response depending on how often someone else is in control and how comfortable they are telling you they exist, so be patient and give it time. This kind of external interaction can also be very helpful in combating doubt. A note is tangible evidence that someone else exists.

Another option is asking inside your head. It's as simple as thinking "is anyone else in here?" and being open to responses. Responses might be in words, but they might also be emotions, sensory information, impressions and concepts, or just "knowing" something you didn't before. You're listening for any not-entirely-from-you response, no matter what form it takes. Keep in mind that not every system can talk to each other inside their head. A non-response is best followed up by another method of reaching out. Even if you do get a response, it's a good idea to try confirming it with another method.

Sometimes, you can use your imagination to get a message across. Imagine something like a mailbox, a cell phone, a slot in a wall, or any other items that you associate with communication over a distance. Push a message through the object. For example, you could push a letter into a mailbox. If you can't imagine visually or use your senses inside your head, that's okay- the idea of the object and its use is the important part. You're using symbolism to get around a communication barrier by doing this.

If none of these methods are an option, you may be left working off your daily experiences. Pay attention to your daily experiences. Notice any changes in your behavior and identity and write those times down, along with any other significant information about you. If you notice any unusual thoughts or feelings, write those down too. Keeping a log of your personal information over time can make it easier to spot any differences. A personal journal can be very useful.

Sometimes, the people around you might know more than you do. If you have someone you trust, you could ask them about your behavior to see if they've noticed anything unusual. Be careful doing this. Some people have used plurality to manipulate others, and even a well-meaning person can't see inside your head. At best, you're just gathering clues.

If you suspect you may have amnesia between system members, see if you can notice any gaps in your recent memory and try to find out what happened during those gaps. Did you behave in a way that's not typical for you? Did you express opinions or preferences to anyone that don't match your own? It may not be that obvious. Many systems make a point of hiding their existence. It may be easier to notice littler gaps in your memory, such as by finding objects aren't in the places you always put them. Make sure these gaps are not better explained by another condition affecting memory and recall. It's worth getting medically checked out if you're noticing large, unexplained gaps in your memory.

If you don't think you have amnesia, try to notice times when someone else might be "nearby" or in control. This might feel like watching your body do something, like you've become a different person, or like something else; the feeling varies from system to system. Notice any memories that don't feel entirely yours, or that feel like they happened to someone else. See if you can pick up on switches or influences coming from others in your head.

Regardless of what method you use to try to get proof that someone is around, trust yourself. You know your own brain best, and listening to your own mind is the best thing you can do. Do not rely on others to tell you whether you're plural or not.

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Newly discovered- advice

The first thing recommended for most newly-discovered systems to work on is communication: get talking with your system members. Getting good communication going between you and your headmates will make life a lot easier and can help you adjust to sharing your brain with others.

There are two main types of communication: internal and external. Both are equally good, and you're not limited to using only one. Use whatever method works best for you.

  • Internal communication takes place inside your own head and involves thinking back and forth with your system members. It can take the form of words, images, sensory information, emotions, and more. Anything goes if it can happen in your mind. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky to figure out where something is coming from; trust your intuition if you're not sure. If it doesn't feel like the thought is entirely yours, it might be coming from someone else. If you experience intrusive thoughts, this may be much more difficult if you do not have a good sense of where thoughts originate from. Get confirmation from your system members if you're not certain whether something was an intrusive thought or communication.
  • External communication is any type of communication that happens outside of your head. This can include leaving notes, talking out loud, sharing or trading control of the body and typing back and forth with each other, asking someone to move a part of your body, or any other method of talking to each other outside your head. It might take longer to have a conversation like this than it does to have it internally, but it works even when internal conversation falls through. If you choose to leave notes, make sure they won't be intercepted by friends, family, partners, or other people who may take the opportunity to mess with or manipulate you. Even if you live in a safe situation, it's possible they may assume the note is for them and respond accordingly. It's best to ensure the note won't be seen by anyone not in the system. You could leave it on your computer or phone if you want additional privacy.

Once you've established a line of communication and gotten a response, it might be a good idea to make a list of all the system members you know about. Write down their names, pronouns, and any other information you think is important to know about them. Having this information is very helpful for keeping track of people and getting to know your system, and asking your system members about who they are is a good way to learn about each other. You want to establish good relationships with your system members, and getting to know each other is the first step of that.

Speaking of, that's likely the next thing you'll want to work on. Do your best to really get to know each other and work on creating a positive internal environment; be respectful of each other and try your best to be understanding of any problems or flaws. Everyone has a reason for acting the way they do, and it's worth remembering that people aren't perfect. Even if someone's being truly horrible to you, they have a reason for doing so, and it's important to figure out what that reason is so you can help them through it. After all, you're all sharing the same brain.

It might be worth setting up some house rules or an internal government to ensure people treat each other with respect. You can find an excellent article on making rules and/or a system government here and a sample set of system house rules here.

Above all: don't stress out too much. Everything is going to be okay, and there's no rush. You have plenty of time to learn how to live together, and you'll figure it out as that time passes. There's no right or wrong way to be plural. Your experiences are real, and you know your own brain best. Trust yourselves and give yourselves time to work things out. Be wary of anyone who tells you that you have to be a certain way, that your system is structured a certain way, or who otherwise claims to know your brain better than you do.

You're not alone in this either; you have your system members. Don't be afraid to ask them for help, and do your best to help them in return. You're all in the same metaphorical boat here, and you can work together to figure things out.

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For those who want to become plural

Before reading this section, it would be a good idea to read the section about questioning plurality. A startling number of people that want to be plural already are, and it's common for these people to inexplicably want to be plural or feel drawn to the idea. If you happen to be one of these people, it would be best to find and meet the headmates already present before deciding to make more.

A foreword

I've chosen to use both the words "tulpa" and "parogen" when referring to intentionally created headmates. The terms "parogen" and "parogenesis" were created as a response to accusations of cultural appropriation; "tulpa" is a word originating from Tibetan Buddhism, and as such, some of the wider plural community believes it should not be used. This response is not universally liked or appreciated by this part of the plural community, and some consider it to be an unwanted pressure on the community to change language that is not harming anyone. Despite this conflict, both sets of terms are used widely enough to be worth considering, and as such both are present on this site for the sake of providing choice and access to terminology. If this is bothersome to you, then this may not be the resource you are looking for, and you are welcome to go elsewhere for information about tulpamancy/parogenesis.

What's a tulpa/parogen?

A tulpa/parogen is an intentionally or accidentally created headmate. Anyone can create one regardless of plural status, brain quirks, or other factors, though it takes dedicated time and effort and is a serious commitment that should not be undertaken lightly. A detailed overview on what a tulpa/parogen is can be found here.

People that create tulpas/parogens are not giving themselves DID or another disorder. Plurality is only one criterion for DID and OSDD, and many systems created in this way do not meet the other criteria. That said, it's possible for any system to become disordered if functioning degrades to a point where there's significant distress present.

So you're considering creating someone.

Before you go looking for resources, it's important that you understand how major a change in your life it is to create an entirely new person. You're going to share your brain and the rest of your life with the person you create, and you won't be able to take a break from that; they'll always be there in your brain in some capacity once they're solidified. They will be privy to even your most private moments, and you to theirs (and yes, that includes the bathroom). It's not entirely unlike having a child in terms of how seriously this decision should be taken.

You're undertaking this with the intention of rewiring your brain and building someone from the ground up, and it's your responsibility to teach this person about the world and treat them with respect for all the years to come. They're going to think, have feelings, have their own opinions, and live as their own person. Take a moment and really, truly think about why you want to share your head with someone else, especially if you haven't done so before. What's your motivation for doing so, and is it good enough of a reason to pursue a serious and lasting life change? Would that reason be distressing or harmful to the person you create, should you decide to follow through?

Being plural can involve a lot of compromise, teamwork, and collaboration, and it won't magically fix your problems or let you foist them off onto someone else. You'll be in this together. Will you be able to balance your own needs and wants with a headmate's? Are you willing to find compromises and work through disagreements if you ever have conflicting opinions? Are you willing to support them in their own endeavors and let them pursue their dreams as well as yours?

Tulpas/parogens can deviate from how they're created, meaning that they might not have the traits, appearance, or personality you want them to have. Are you okay with that possibility? Are you willing to accept them regardless of what they look like inside or who they choose to be? Are you able to treat them with kindness and respect regardless of their identity?

Sometimes, creating one person leads to more showing up; you may or may not end up with more people in your head than you'd intended to have. Walk-ins are headmates that just "walked in" without one intentionally creating them, and they're common enough among tulpamancers to be a notable phenomenon. While it doesn't always happen, it is a possibility. Are you willing to accept the possibility of sharing your head with more people than you anticipated?

All of this isn't intended to dissuade you; it's meant to make you think about why you want to pursue tulpamancy/parogenesis and make sure you're prepared to handle an enormous and lasting change in your life. It can be a wonderful thing to share one's head with someone else, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows either. Creating another person is a serious decision that should not be taken lightly, and you should take your time considering this. If you can't keep up with the time and effort required to change your brain and create a new person, you should reconsider whether creating a headmate is the right decision.

Plurality comes with its own benefits and downsides, and it's worth talking to plural people about their experiences if you're not already plural yourself, particularly systems with tulpas/parogens. Plurality seems to be one of those experiences that you don't truly understand until you're living it yourself, but it would be wise to get the best idea of it that you can before deciding to create a headmate yourself. Ask them what they wish they knew, what their experiences are like, and what advice they might have for you.

If you've thought it over for a while and are still convinced, a large number of guides are linked here. Look through them and find methods that work for you- there are many different ways to go about creating someone to share your brain with, and some will work better for you than others.

If you decide you're not sure yet or don't want to pursue tulpamancy/parogenesis, but you still want to experience a similar phenomenon, you may want to look into daemonism. It's the practice of giving a part of yourself a bit more independence while still keeping them as part of you, and it's reversible if you decide it's not for you. Internal Family Systems therapy, or IFS, may be another avenue worth exploring. IFS suggests that everyone is made of parts that interact as an internal family, and that working with these parts directly can enable someone to heal from various issues ranging from trauma to minor unwanted behaviors.

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