The Owls' Nest
The Owls' Nest

What are We, Jell-O?

This was written on January 21st of 2021 in an attempt to break out of a rut and describe the journey we'd been on with identity exploration.

Every time we put an understanding of ourselves out there, it feels like we're chaining ourselves into it; even now, writing this post brings on this feeling of digging our own graves again, locking ourselves into a way of being by writing it into the world. We keep thinking that if we change how we are publicly again, people won't believe us. They'll think we're faking, or lying, or otherwise reject us for having changed or been wrong. When we share a new understanding, we feel compelled to argue in favor of it despite no one arguing the other side because we're paranoid that others will doubt us. Coming out is always an essay.

Because of our fears, we become trapped in our own selves-made molds for lack of energy and bravery to share a new one, stuck following our choices even when they become too limiting and hold us back.

How we function is (at least in part) a choice for us; being fragmented gives us some flexibility in how we want to organize ourselves since we can take the same pieces and build something new with them. To a certain extent, we can rewire ourselves to fit different selves-concepts and structures. We suppose our problem is that we don't think other people understand that we can have that kind of flexibility and thus expect one linear, constant experience rather than one that changes alongside us. We're a collective that takes the forms most needed and wanted to get us through life and that arrangement changes as time goes on, but we hide that because we're afraid of what other people might think. If we say we're having one constant experience of plurality forever, we're probably lying ("but what if-" hey selves-doubt, shut up).

We've been thinking a lot lately about polarity and binaries in identity. Even stepping outside of established poles, we still tend to force binaries on ourselves because that's what we keep seeing others do. It feels like we have to do this to make ourselves understandable and palatable for others. Something we've noticed is that most people only operate under absolutes on the internet. There are no middle zones online.

Every attempt we've made to make sense of ourselves has been restricted by polar opposites. Using names or not using them, being distinct and not being distinct, being atypical or being normal, binary after binary layered on ourselves in an attempt to understand and appeal, to make ourselves know-able to others. Being different was dangerous, but being in the middle was worse. Folks in the middle don't get the protection of those on either end.

Yet again, it seems like we've pushed a binary on ourselves to be more palatable to others. We pushed at being neither people nor parts, not the norm but atypical hiveminded fragment globs with nothing in-between and no shared identities. Constant change but ironically with no flexibility, just another mold of our own making that we had to live up to lest we be told we were wrong.

Our first selves-conception was essentially that "everyone is their own person and must be Someone (capital intended), no exceptions." We don't miss forcing ourselves to fit that mold and the strain it caused once it stopped being helpful, but we miss the companionship of it and the way it helped with internal structure. There was something nice about being able to talk to a defined Someone when they were around, and it helped a lot with memory issues because we could use names to recall the associated peeps, thus bringing their memories forwards. At the same time, it was a major strain after a while as we realized those "people" were either composed of shifting fragments or were fragments themselves, and identities began to fall apart because we couldn't reconcile the idea of "single" people being made of many fragments. Naming every single peep we found made it worse, especially since many didn't want their own names- at some point we were naming every single peep we found, many of whom didn't want to be labelled or have an identity. It became a race to define everyone regardless of their wants and needs.

Inevitably, that broke down and we had a major identity crisis (access list) that broke down everything we'd set up regarding identity and selfhood. We reconstructed a new way of being (also access list- sorry to those without a Dreamwidth account!) from what was left behind in another attempt to make sense of ourselves, rewrote our understanding of how we were before, and tried to move forwards. It felt much more right than the old understanding. We really needed to break out of the old mold because at that point it was choking our ability to grow, holding us back from making progress.

It's been a little over a month since that identity crisis, and today we're looking at the current configuration, seeing how we've so heavily emphasized breaking out of the existing notions of plurality at the cost of locking ourselves into it, and now we're wondering if this setup is right for us after all.

We like the current configuration because it acknowledges our fluidity and the peeps that make us up without forcing them to all be individuals. It gets incredibly close to the base of how we work and who we are, and it describes us on an individual level much better than the previous setup. Communication is a lot easier and we worry less about who we are because there's not really a "who" to worry about. We've also made major progress in not letting others define us. We're able to talk about our experiences instead of shutting up and trying to fit the norm, and we've gotten better at openly being ourselves.

We've realized that this fragment-mass model is the base of how we exist, but it turns out that we need another framework on top of that to function optimally. Operating on the base alone has some major issues. There's a serious lack of identity and continuity of self that's become a problem, and we're running into issues answering the question of who we are. We exist, but we exist as nothing more than a smattering of traits and thoughts; there's no sense of self to bind any of them, no way to know who we are aside from the body we're in. That's not a pleasant way to live for us, and it gets lonely never knowing who we're talking to inside. Our memory has definitely suffered too since there are no names or clear selves we can really call to find memories. The best we can do is try to remember a complete blank and hope it gets the relevant peeps near enough to remember something.

Tonight, it finally hit us that we don't have to fit pre-established ideas of anything, including our own models of selves; we don't have to be people, we don't have to be parts, and we don't have to be a fragment blob. We can be all of these at once. We can be none of these and be something else instead. We can be all of those and something else. We don't have to limit ourselves to binaries! Heck, we don't have to have one, constant experience of plurality; we can change and shift between different configurations as it suits us. We can be a hybrid blend of experiences and reconfigure ourselves as needed. Screw the push to define everything cleanly under one label or another within binaries. Labels shouldn't define what we are; we should define ourselves and let the labels come later if we want them.

Having said that, what do we do now? The previous model fell apart and it feels wrong to go back to that, but the current baseline model has faults that need to be dealt with and is starting to hold us back again. We need to make another change and build upon the current configuration to continue growing.

We're going to try a new hybrid configuration for a bit and see if it suits us. Instead of one mass of fragments, we'll try setting up several masses that collectively function as their own people but are still composed of peep swarms that interact within the wider selves; it's sort of a combination of the previous two understandings. Some groups will take on shared person-identities, but some will continue being nebulous fragment masses. Put simply, we're going to try out grouping into people composed of fragment-mass median subsystems in addition to the existing fragment hivemind. It'll probably take a little while to establish because we have to (mostly) separate out groups again, but we can do it and have agreed on it. At least one of those people is going to be one of the old groups from our first understanding of ourselves since they've expressed the desire to take that collective identity back up, but we're not sure whether other groups are going to break off into their own people/clumps or not. We'll figure it out with time and see what works.

If this model doesn't work, we'll try another one. The nice thing about realizing we're flexible is that we can reconfigure ourselves as many times as we need with a little brainhacking and patience. Almost anything goes.

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