Multiplicity and Sour Grapes

by Tamsin

Starting in the mid-90s or so, there's been an increasing number of people who have come to the conclusion that, disorder or no, multiplicity is a big hoax and anyone who DOES believe themselves to be plural has either a) been talked into it by a therapist or b) just claiming it for attention.  (The Ontario Committee on Religious Tolerance page exemplifies much of the current singlet thinking on multiplicity.)

Does this kind of attitude piss me off? Well, it'd be hard for it not to.  It's being pointed at square in the face and told "You are a delusion, and ergo, incapable of reason or contributing anything worthwhile to society."  But, on the other hand... do I understand-why many of them have come to this conclusion about multiplicity?

Actually, yes, I do.

Quite a few of the people who've taken the stance of multiplicity not existing consider themselves to be debunkers.  Now, I have nothing against debunkers per se, when they're exposing potentially hazardous fads and dubious science-- for example, 'alternative' health treatments that don't really work or may even have a harmful effect, or "MPD/DID" therapy of the type espoused by Bennett Braun.  That's a duty to society.  If it's done without snarking, pettiness, feelings of superiority, then it's a good, needed and useful thing.  But what I'm trying to get at here is that sometimes debunking is more than just debunking.

Let's take an example from our own life.  On the whole, we are very, very skeptical of anyone who claims psychic power, whether helpful or destructive.  Some people have made claims to us that are flat-out absurd, and easily dismissible, but on the other hand, we also have to admit that we have a personal stake in wanting to prove them wrong.  If someone claims to be able to read our minds, our first reaction is not, 'Wow, how cool.'  Our first reaction is, 'We don't want anyone reading our minds.  Get the hell out.'

It's not just that we don't think it's true.  It's that we have a vested interest in wanting to believe it's not true.  That's why we can often be ruthlessly critical when examining others' claims, pointing out coincidences and routine phenomena that they may have mistaken for psychic powers.  Because if someone COULD read our minds, it's scary.  It's a violation of our most personal space.  And if they can do it and we can't, what does that mean? Does that mean they're higher, more evolved? That we're inferior to them? What are the repercussions of that? In light of what it would mean for us, we gladly admit we have an investment in wanting to disprove anyone who claims specialness and unique powers.  

Now, getting back to the issue of multiplicity:

Has anyone NOT wished at times that they could just magically pull another person out of thin air, someone who could stand in for them during those last two hours of work, or clean their kitchen, or take their math final for them? Or that they could just dig up from the depths of their brain someone who was a mysteriously brilliant artist or writer or scientist? Or that they could contact an entity who was in touch with divine wisdom, if they believe in such a thing? Or that they could mysteriously pull out of thin air superhuman physical abilities, strength, endurance, the ability to heal themselves, to write with their non-dominant hand?

Sure, most people probably have.  Including us.  Because while all of those super whiz-bang abilities have been attributed variously to plurals, the reality, as it always is, is much more mundane.  Yeah, we wish we could do those things-- but you can't get something out of nothing.  No matter how many people are in your system, you can't just create a supremely talented front-level person out of thin air.  You can't just mysteriously manifest a new ability that you've never learned, no matter how much you want to know it-- the body has to learn the skills.  There always has to be effort put in.  You can't just sit around scratching your butt, taking up all the time to yourself, and expect "the others" to show up with ready-made stupendo skills which they can put to your use.  No matter what the books say, it doesn't work that way, not for us or for any other plural we know.

The problem is that there are just too many books, TV shows or other 'resources' that do attribute these super abilities to plurals, or worse.  Quite a few of us find ourselves worried about the mundaneness of our actual existence-- that we'll disappoint our singlet friends by not being as dramatic as a made-for-TV movie.  No, we don't have serial killers.  No, our voices don't really sound all that different.  No, we never woke up naked in Toledo with no clue of how we got there-- too bad about our good communication, huh?

But wait! It gets worse from here on out.

Not only do we ALL have genius-level intelligence and super talents, including psychic ones, according to the books (It's a bird! It's a plane! It's SUPER PLURAL!), no mere mortal can ever just decide to become plural so s/he can have all our uber-l33t powers.  No, you see, in order to have all the inner self-helpers and flying toasters, you have to be subjected to repeated, horrible, unthinkable, unspeakable, insert adjective here, etc. abuse.  What does THAT involve? Well, there's no clear definition, but most popular literature on the subject involves grueling litanies of repeated rape, torture, and evil cults.  Just being abused won't cut it.  You can't even HOPE to aspire to the Super L33t Red Carpet Flying Toaster Club unless you're convinced you have a past of repeated, horrible, unthinkable... er, you know the deal.  

All this flaky Super Plural stuff hit a peak around the early 90s, and, perhaps not coincidentally, was followed soon after by increasing numbers of people skeptical of the claims made by self-professed "MPD" experts.  Quite a few of said 'experts' were, in fact, not multiple themselves, but rather singlets fascinated by the concept and/or convinced that multiples represented some kind of new step in human evolution.  (For a period example of this kind of thinking, see if you can get through this article by Jacklyn Pia without wanting to choke on your own vomit after the first two paragraphs or so.  Or you could see what Ralph Allison, the Toaster King himself, has to say about it, but don't say I didn't warn you.)

In effect, singlets were told throughout the 80s and 90s by books, magazines and countless cheesy plot devices: hey, check out all the neat powers these guys have, they can talk to Super Cosmic Consciousnesses, they can perform emergency appendectomies on themselves with the sheer power of their minds and make cars explode just by standing near them and regenerate amputated limbs and cure cancer and fix the ozone hole and raise the dead and it's all real, really, it is, but there's a catch and YOU'RE never going to be able to do it because you didn't go through horrible unrepeatable unthinkable blah blah blah. If you were abused, no matter how awful it was, it just couldn't have been bad enough because you can't do all these things. Frankly, is it just me, or does that sound like a tailor-made excuse for abusing a child if ever I heard one? "But I HAD to do it, your honor. I wanted my child to have psychic healing powers like all the people on TV."

Now tell me YOU wouldn't want to debunk that.  Tell me that isn't a great big metaphorical watermelon sitting in the sights of your metaphorical sledgehammer-wielding Dave Gallagher.  Especially when you start to find out how scanty the actual hard evidence for these supposed superpowers actually is.  

And while I do often resent the words of those who've gone to the other side of "it doesn't exist, it's all iatrogenic or people trying to get attention," I have to admit that it's far better to have their doubt keeping us aware of the image we present than to contemplate what would have happened if the MPD fad had continued unchecked.  

That's why I think this is one of those cases where it's really better to scrap everything and start over.  Not superior, not the next step in evolution, not possessed of uber-cool powers beyond the ken of mortal singlets.  Different, but equal.