Friday, November 20, 2009

United States of Jigsaw Analogy

"I pledge allegiance to the fact of the single personhood of Jigsaw Analogy, and to the community for which that stands, one person, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I've been thinking about a lot of things, lately. Or, more to the point, we have been thinking about a lot of things lately, since there are two parts writing this! Anyhow. One of the many things going on in our collective head is some thinking about what it means to "integrate."

Reading the "healing" literature, (well-intentioned, but sometimes that is some really damned SHAMING literature!). Anyhow. Reading that, you'd get the impression that for a multiple to heal, they have to do something like become part of a Borg collective: "Your emotional and intellectual distinctiveness will be assimilated into our collective. We are Borg, resistance is futile. You WILL be assimilated."

Um, hello? That version of integration would be like telling people of color that in order to be integrated into society, they have to act just like everyone else. It's like saying that an integrated society is one where somehow people retain their "culture," but God forbid they go around acting different from the norm, because that would mean they weren't really integrated. And sure, there are people who believe this. Hell, there are people who think that the way to make society--or, frankly an individual with multiplicity--happy, healthy, and worth living in is to get rid of anything that doesn't fit with their idea of perfection.

That is just about the stupidest idea, when you come to think of it. Sorry, racists and people who can't handle difference. I know that other parts of this system like to act all tolerant and everything, and want to make sure that everyone feels welcome reading this blog. Too bad. If you're a racist, I don't care if I offend you that I think racism is stupid. And if you're someone who is going to tell me that the best way to be integrated is for all of the parts to merge into one, well, I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and risk offending you, too.

When I read or hear about people "integrating" in that fashion, it seems more like they are becoming ex-gay. I mean, yeah. They've learned to repress the parts of themselves that make them different from the norm. And this can make people feel more comfortable, and some people--therapists and psychiatrists included, God help us all--think that feeling more comfortable by avoiding conflict is totally the way to go.

I respectfully disagree. I want to integrate in that fashion just about as much as I want to become ex-gay, or want to integrate racially by pretending my skin color is invisible. Ain't gonna happen, folks.

But what if there were a different way to do this? What if integration as a multiple could be more like becoming a republic, which is to say--a lot of individual parts, recognizing that they are part of a whole while still being individuals. What if instead of focusing on merging into a seamless whole, integration could be something messy and complicated and hard to work through? Something where maybe it isn't easier, but no one has to be assimilated into the collective?

Which isn't to say that I'm against that whole "pulling together the disparate parts of yourself." 'Cause the fact is, multiples DO need to do that, or at least my system did. Or maybe it's just checking in, and recognizing which parts of the whole go with which parts. There are a lot of folks inside of my body who thought that they were just one thing. (Ellis, for example, thought that aside from being resentful, she was pretty much perfect. :P ) But as we've had each part "integrate" their experience, they've discovered, "Oh! look at that! It turns out that I'm not just angry--I am the one who is really good at these things, and I'm the one who does those things that are totally unrelated to being angry!"

Because the complicated thing with sharing a body is, if you're not very in touch with yourself as a part, you can lose touch with parts of yourself-the-part. If you've got shame, or fear, or whatever, maybe you attribute parts of your actions that don't fit with your self-image to other parts of the system.

So let's say you see yourself as absolutely perfect, like Ellis does. You might have a hard time reconciling that with the fact that you're really critical, and judgmental, and just a wee bit controlling. And parts like that (sorry, Ellis, but this is true. Goes for you, too, Cleo.) will think that when they fight to make sure that the entire system acts like one single person, some assimilated Borg collective of "individual parts" who represent to the outside world as a fairly seamless whole, that they are doing this for other peoples' comfort, or that they are doing this to keep the system safe.

Here's an analogy for you: This is like gay people who are so uncomfortable and afraid and ashamed of being different that they "act straight" all the time. Don't get me wrong. There are times that you need to act straight. Or at least, there are times when you need not to call attention to the fact of your difference.

But that doesn't mean it's true ALL the time. I suspect it's not even true MOST of the time. It's all about calculated risks. Look around you. Are these people really going to hurt you if they find out you're different? How can they hurt you? Most of the time, there is absolutely nothing they can do, if it turns out that you're different.

Sure, this isn't true for everyone. There are people who will lose their jobs, or their children, if someone finds out they are gay. There are people who will lose their jobs, or their children, if someone finds out that they are multiple. I say, those of us who don't run that risk have a responsibility to be as out as we possibly can. Because you know what? The only way, the ONLY way to make the world safe is for people to be brave enough to reclaim the different parts of themselves, and be proud of every part of who they are.

I'm not saying that individual parts can go off acting like they own the whole body. Because you are parts of a whole. Call it a jigsaw puzzle, call it a crazy quilt, call it a republic. It doesn't matter what you call it. You're not in this alone, and you can't go off acting like you are. And that includes the parts who try to pretend that the way to integrate is to pretend that everyone is exactly the same, and there is none of that difference that makes people so uncomfortable.

Note: this post started out being written with Ellis, but then she got over her bad self and let me take control. Me being Xan. I'll point out that it's a problem, when someone who is all over the idea of being out as multiple has trouble coping with the idea of some other part showing up in a space that is supposed to be accepting of multiplicity. Like, you know, their own blog.


Battle Weary said...

Your idea of integration is actually very similar to what our T and we have talked about! What we have come up with is integration is all of the parts working together in such a way as to be able to be aware of what each other has done (or has not, as the case may be), to respect and not hurt each other, to allow for each others' interests and individuality without complaint, to allow each other time to pursue said interests, and to be able to feel a full range of feelings and have a full range of memory without the need to switch. The last is where the most work and "messiness" seems to be. Oh...and this does not mean everyone has to have all memories...but has to be able to figure out what the heck happened yesterday :P

That huge run-on sentence almost sounds like a preamble...we the people, in order to form a more perfect union...etc etc. :P

Jigsaw Analogy said...

ooooh! i like the idea of a parody of the preamble as well. :)

Oh...and this does not mean everyone has to have all memories...but has to be able to figure out what the heck happened yesterday

DEFINITELY. i mean, being able to accept the general shape of what happened, and *that* it happened--i think it's important for all the parts to do that. also, to be able to accept that the bad things were actually bad. but mostly, the goal is, if we're thinking back, we can be like, "well, did i pay that library fine or not?" and actually know the answer.

it's funny, though, about switching. i (ellis) realized that for our system, the switching isn't the problem. and that i've been blocking other parts from coming out when it's really not necessary to block them. more to the point, it's not *fair* for me to block them. they have as much right to determine, i don't know, what this body wears as i do. or what we do, or anything like that. and i don't have to be in control all the time.

i've really been thinking about my need to be perfect, and to try to force everyone inside me (and a lot of people outside me) into my idea of what it is to be perfect. and i'm experimenting a little with letting that go.

the things xan wrote about being out, and that it's safer than lots of people tend to believe... i do believe that, but i've been acting like, i don't know, it's better not to make people uncomfortable. i realized that's just an excuse. no one, but NO one cares what i'm wearing, and whether it matches up with what i wore yesterday. but more important, people who read my blog aren't going to be weirded out if someone posts who isn't exactly like me. i mean, online, i'm pretty out about being multiple, but i don't always act like one.

and i guess i've been stopping a lot of parts from getting to do what they wanted, or to just be themselves, because i've thought that i know what's best for everyone, all the time.

Battle Weary said...

and i guess i've been stopping a lot of parts from getting to do what they wanted, or to just be themselves, because i've thought that i know what's best for everyone, all the time. (hoe I did that html correctly!)

We sound a lot a like. This is something I have been working on for quite a while.

As for the switching...what we would like is to switch because we want too, not because "uh oh, Sera is feeling some anger, Jesse better take over because he does anger". Of course it doesn't happen cognitively like that, but it's a good example. We actually are doing pretty well with the making choices about getting dressed type issues. Although it is a little hard on some of us to walk around campus with knee length jeans, black converse with flames, a pink Tinkerbell shirt, and heavy black eye makeup! lol

Jigsaw Analogy said...

that last bit made me chuckle. yeah, it's hard to walk around in something that is totally not "you."

i was thinking more about this, and i realized that i will take something that is soothing for a short period, and then it's like i have to keep *on* doing that, because, well, that's a thing that keeps us feeling okay, right? so i'd better make sure that keeps *on* happening... even after the part or parts that needed it no longer need it.

and i see what you mean about the switching. yeah, switching because a part wants to come out is good. switching because they feel they *have* to come out, because the other part can't handle it? not so good.

cinderkeys said...

I've never read the literature. But as a non-multiple, I wonder if the knee-jerk bias toward integration has to do with lack of understanding of what it's like to be multiple.

Funnily enough, I often think of myself in terms of different facets. The amygdala self that just reacts. The emotional self that wants things. The rational self that tries to accommodate the emotional self's desires, and also judges the worthiness of those desires. Sometimes it seems like the sum of those parts is an illusion held together by a shared consciousness and memory.

And yet ... life as a multiple sounds terrifying. If I'm one of many people sharing the same body, what happens to me when it's someone else's turn to come out? What happens when I come out and I have no memory of what's just happened, and there are people around me who expect me to know what's going on, and expect me to do something appropriate?

I just stumbled onto this blog, so if I'm asking questions you've addressed in previous posts, please feel free to link me to them. :)

Jigsaw Analogy said...


Thanks for your comments.

I suppose that for me, being multiple isn't all that scary, because it's how I've been for as long as I can remember.

I'm more fortunate than some systems/multiples, in that there is usually enough overlap between parts who come out that none of us is suddenly out without having *some* sense of what's been going on around us.

More often what happens is watching yourself do things that aren't the choices *you* would make, or making compromises with others in the system when it's not something you would choose.

It's not about choices I'm ashamed to make--ice cream is my usual example. I have to figure out which parts are out, and get their preferences narrowed down to two or three choices, which can result in a bubble gum, mint chip, mocha fudge sundae.

The thing with switching, much of the time, is that it's more like having exceptionally state-dependent memory. Any part has a pretty clear memory for times they've been out. But they have only a hazy memory of times when other parts were out.

It also helps that years ago, long before I even really knew about multiplicity, my system developed a "computer," which keeps track of things like who people are, or what happens in a particular situation. So whoever comes out in the body has some sense of how to behave appropriately.

I'm also comfortable enough with who I am that I've been known either to step back a little and observe what's going on, or ask someone I know what's happening, if it comes down to that.

The problems I've found are more along the lines of trying to juggle what's happening so that each of the dozen or so people inside who have things they urgently want to do can somehow have time to do them. And that's frustrating, because it would be hard enough to manage time for any one of us, and finding time to satisfy more than that is a major challenge.