The Medical Marginalization Within Plurality

Over the last year of isolation, many people around the world began to understand the importance of mental health and balancing our lives to support it. Many took the time to look inward and find what they were missing in their lives. Some were fortunate enough to find themselves and be supported in their new endeavors, others not so much. Peer support and NGOs have helped a lot of people through these emotional hurdles and life-altering transitions. However, when it comes to plurality and the dissociative spectrum, many within the community were left without direction or aid.

Dissociation has been studied and well documented for well over a century now and covers the spectrum from simple spacing out during the mundane to plurality, and dissociative amnesia. Despite this, there are many things regarding the “hows” and “whys” of dissociation the are still unknown. While the DSM 5 can provide guidelines professional biases and subjective lived experience often leads to further ambiguity. Indeed, it’s hard to find treatment or even support when some professionals do not see extremes of the dissociative spectrum (OSDD and DID) as valid mental health issues.

So what is plurality?

Simply put, plurality is when two or more personas of independent thought (alters) reside within the same body; encompassing all system types regardless of the number of alters. Plurality can be seen as the community ‘umbrella’ term for the part of the dissociative spectrum that is often medically defined by Unspecified Dissociative Disorder, Other Specified Dissociative Disorder, and Dissociative Identity Disorder (UDD, OSDD, and DID respectively). 

While knowledge and support, in general, is growing plurality is still highly stigmatized and marginalized by clinical professionals and the community alike. Medically alters are real. Live MRI scans (neural structural changes to match alters) and clinical observation has long since proven this. Clinical marginalization comes down to professional bias and the notion that “it is something to be cured”; much the same way the LGBTQ+ community was viewed in the 1980s

As for the community side of things, well that pretty much boils down to the argument of validity. Many systems (individuals who are plural) have been marginalized by aspects of the community and well-meaning allies for not having a diagnosis and/or not following the “trauma narrative”. Many who are not trauma-based tend to find themselves ostracized and oppressed, similar to how the trans population is marginalized by TERFs.

Let me be clear, I am not arguing against trauma-based disassociation or system-hood. It has been well established that there is a statistical correlation between trauma (specifically childhood trauma) and disassociative disorders, however, it has not been determined to be the only means of causation. This has been cautioned and echoed by every expert in the field. Nowhere in the DSM 5, nor at the base level of plurality is trauma a requirement of system-hood.

Learning about and discovering you are a system can be a scary, if not traumatizing, experience in and of itself. As a community, we should be encouraging others to explore and figure out what is right for them. Tearing others down as their figuring things out only serves to further traumatize them; such matters should be left up to them and their therapist. 

Neurodivergance is not something to fear or shunned, but something to be explored and understood by those who experience it. So regardless if you are a singlet (non-plural) or a system, if you meet someone figuring out their own plurality express and encourage compassion.