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Anyone can be a system. Anyone can share their body and mind with different people. They don’t have to have severe personality changes when switching or even any at all. There might not be any changes when someone else is taking over. Some systems might be good at maintaining their single person mask.
Being a system is an interesting experience. I am not alone. I have an entire family in my mind and in a headspace. Even when using my body I can feel my siblings nearby or even acknowledging what I’m doing. They may take over for parts of what I’m doing. While writing this for instance sometimes one of my siblings take over to quickly add something or change something they think would be better. Sometimes it’s loud and I can hear everyone and am fully aware of what’s going on with everyone who’s in here. Sometimes it’s too quiet and unnerving to not be able to hear everyone.
This is just my experience with being a system. Some systems have no communication whatsoever and can tell that there are others by loosing time and seeing things that they did not do. Or they may hear vague thoughts and voices.
There’s also sometimes disagreements a system may have. It could be harder to find a job or pick school courses for a system. Some beings might protest when they don’t get what they want. Sometimes a loss of feeling or a loss of control may occur or it can feel like you’re watching a movie of your own life.
Sometimes with not knowing your system there’s a lot of confusion. Why did I get this? I could have sworn that I could do this yesterday, why can’t I do this today? Why do I act differently? Why are all my interests so weird and different from each other? There’s also a lot of “who am I”s.
Rarely is it the case that a system is dangerous or that they need immediate hospitalization. A lot of people have this misconception that every system is dangerous. This idea can come from poor representation in the media, such as movies like Sybil or the recent Split. Or maybe due to our natural active imaginations of what people who are different from us can be like.
I said rarely is the case. Systems can and sometimes do have beings who are harmful towards themselves or others and may need help. Although fear or possibly even glorification is not the best reaction to this.
The thing about systems is that a lot of the time they are formed from traumatic experiences (of course not always) and commonly (also not always) abuse. So the brain makes a system in order to cope with this horrible experience. Some may lash out or even act violently and sabotage and push away relationships that the rest of the system tries to maintain. Self harm is also common with trauma survivors and some may try to harm their body or even commit suicide. This can be scary for the rest of the system with the experience of coming back to find a failed suicide attempt.
This is something I personally have experienced. Being in my body and finding cuts on my legs that ache and that I know I did not make.
Something that is ignored sometimes is that those of us who are in a multiple system are unique individuals. We may be as diverse as a random crowd of people or maybe incredibly similar to each other. Even if they are similar to each other, every being may have their own unique thoughts and feelings independent from the others.
I can say with certainty that I am different from the others who share my mind even if we have similar personalities. My name is not Remy, Kitty, Cally, Goat, Jade, Brooke, Kelby, or any other name. It’s Rex.
The next common misconception is the idea that all systems have a disorder to go along with it. This disorder would be dissociative identity disorder or otherwise specified dissociative disorder 1a and 1b.
Before I talk about disorders something should be made clear. This is not a personality disorder. It is a dissociative disorder. A personality disorder is an unhealthy way of thinking and behaving. This is different from a dissociative disorder, which involves issues with memory and identity.
A dissociative disorder fits what a system can be more than a personality disorder. It’s not multiple personality disorder, split personality disorder, or any other type of personality disorder.
First, I would like to talk about OSDD 1a and 1b. This is not DID even if they are similar. OSDD-1a is where alters are not present even if loss of time still occurs. There may be alters with OSDD-1a, but they are not as distinct or diverse as someone with DID.
A group with OSDD-1a may still consider themselves to be a system, specifically a median system. OSDD-1b is where there is no loss of time even with alters. Both of these are still just as real as DID.
Systems may not have a disorder to go with their plurality for several reasons. One reason is that DID and OSDD 1a and 1b are traumagneic. They require trauma to be diagnosed. A system may form for any reason: they may not have this trauma, their formation wasn’t exactly how traumagenic systems typically form, or they aren’t sure if they had trauma or not. A system may still be diagnosed with these disorders without having trauma; trauma isn’t listed directly in the criteria so some doctors may diagnose this regardless.
The second way is that the system may not fit the criteria for these disorders. The criteria is the following:
1. Two or more distinct identities or personality states are present, each with its own relatively enduring
2. Amnesia must occur, defined as gaps in the recall of everyday events, important personal information and/or traumatic events..
3. The person must be distressed by the disorder or have trouble functioning in one or more major life areas because of the disorder.
4. The disturbance is not part of normal cultural or religious practices.
5. The symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (such as blackouts or chaotic behavior during alcohol intoxication) or a general medical condition (such as complex partial seizures).
Without 1 and 2, that would be OSDD 1a and 1b respectively. 3 and 4 are the reasons that systems might not have this disorder. Particularly 3.
The idea that a system could be a system and not be distressed or have trouble with functioning may seem strange to some people. How can someone be this way and not experience any trouble with it? Some systems learn how to work together or even automatically have excellent cooperation. A system can function from day to day life very smoothly.
There’s also a common idea among systems without any disorders that they don’t want to view their individual existences as a disorder. A system can be very unique with the individuals that are within it. Sometimes a system feels that the label of disordered may degrade their individuality or make them seem like a result of a disorder.
This is not to say that systems with DID or OSDD are negative. Not at all. Systems can be very diverse with one another and some may prefer the labels of DID or OSDD. Some systems feel that not calling themselves disordered would undermine their experiences. That it would make their trauma seem not as important.
Systems with DID or OSDD may struggle much more than a system without disorder. This makes it so that having a disorder is appropriate. Having DID or OSDD sometimes gives you access to a greater community that may help more than some non-disordered community.
Neither disordered nor non-disordered systems are incorrect or invalid when compared to the other. They are both different experiences of a similar experience. This is okay. No system is exactly the same as the other and to suggest that one system should be like another is wrong.
There’s also no real boundary between disordered vs. non-disordered. Some systems, like us, are in the in between zone. We make have a disorder, we may not, but at the end of the day we‘re still a system. A disordered and a non-disordered system can also be similar to each other. There’s no clear cut lines and there should not be anyone saying “disordered systems go here” and “non
-disordered systems go here”. Some people feel the need to make these distinctions, but really we’re all still systems and we’re all experiencing one common thing even if the details might not be similar.
There is much more to being a system. I could talk about what it’s like to not be human. I could talk about having children in your system. About having walk-ins and those who come in from other places, about trying to be myself even though we’re in a situation where that’s not possible, and about several other parts. That is for another day.

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