This isn’t a question I found on Quora, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was there somewhere. It is a topic that greatly interests me, and has since I discovered them. It’s one of those things I’ve puzzled over for years, talking to pretty much whoever would listen to me about it. In the end though, I’ve only come up with theories, as I don’t believe there is any one specific way they come into being. There are ways that therapists and psychiatrists have theorized, and there are the ways I’ve thought about it. My thoughts are certainly more entertaining than what the scientists have come up with, but then I want to spend my life telling stories for a living, so my ideas should be more entertaining. So, I think what we’ll do from here is have a nice little discussion of what these theories are. We’ll start with the way I understand the scientific theories (it’s very important to note at this point that I am NOT a medical professional, and everything I say in this section should be taken with a grain of salt), then we’ll progress to the entertaining theories that I’ve come up with, and lastly we’ll discuss what my current and previous therapists think is the most likely cause for my specific case.
(Now, what’s probably going to happen is I’m going to give a very brief overview of the topics here then expand each one to its own post later on. If I do go through with that plan, I will come back to this post, and add a link to each individual topic.)
(Just a reminder, I am NOT a medical professional, and everything said here should be taken with a grain of salt.)
The causes of the disorder in the classical sense are almost universally some form of traumatic experience during the patient’s childhood. This could be some form of abuse such as physical, mental, or sexual. It could also be some other traumatic experience like the death of a close friend or family member, a car wreck, constant bullying from ones peers (which I suppose counts as constant physical and mental abuse), among a wide variety of other things. The way the mind copes with these events is to create the alternate personalities. In other words, the disassociation is a type of defense mechanism. The mind will create these alternate personalities for specific purposes, but often enough those personalities will reach out and become much more than the intended purpose, and evolve until they are a complete and distinct personality from the core (or host) personality.
In my experience and somewhat limited research (again, not a medical professional) I’ve found that there tend to be four primary types of classic personalities: a splinter personality, a defensive personality, a sort of emotional focus, and the focus of an intense drive or desire. (I’d like to note at this point that there is going to be a lot of overlap between not only these personalities, but those discussed in later sections.)
The splinter personality is typically a one off personality, created by a single traumatic event and lasting only long enough for the primary personality to process whatever situation created the splinter personality. These personalities are almost never fully formed personalities, though they can evolve, developing a complete character separate from the primary personality, this will often move them from being a splinter personality to one of the other personality types. In my experience the new personality type is most often a defensive personality.
The defensive personality is exactly what it sounds like it should be. The mind creates this personality as a way to deal with a traumatic experience that occurs over an extended period of time (such as the mental, physical, and emotional abuse discussed above). There are a number of ways this personality will react when faced with the situation its meant to defend against. In some cases it will simply absorb the negativity of the experience like a sort of sponge to protect the primary personality, while in other circumstances it will react violently when faced with the experience that created it. The period of control this personality can exert varies just like the splinter personality, though the defensive mechanism almost always develops into an independent personality complete with its own hopes, dreams, mannerisms, and a plethora of other traits. This personality is not always aware of the primary personality, and will often come with a sort of backstory and false memories that it fills in from early childhood to whatever point in life the personality was created at. This personality is often the first one to realize that it isn’t alone, and that it isn’t the core personality. In my experience this personality is also the most likely to become a negative personality.
The emotional focus personality is also pretty self explanatory. This personality is created when the primary personality feels an emotion so strongly that it overwhelms the primary personality. An emotional focus created in this fashion is most often created by feelings of anger or rage, and manifests whenever the primary personality crosses a particular threshold when it comes to this emotion. This does not mean that feelings of anger and rage are the only emotions that can spawn an emotional focus personality. It is just as easy for a person to convince themselves that they’re not allowed, or don’t deserve, to experience true happiness. Then whenever that emotion arises this personality manifests. The potential exists for this type of personality to develop with every emotion. In my experience I’ve seen emotional focus personalities that are based on feelings of sadness and depression, sexual feelings, romantic feelings, anger, happiness, and quite a few others. These personalities often fall under the category of splinter personalities, and, depending on the inciting emotion, they can have a high chance of becoming negative personalities. Emotional focus personalities can also serve as defensive personalities, and poses the potential to become full fledged independent personalities.
Desire driven personalities overlap with both emotional personalities and splinter personalities. They are created most often when an individual find something they want, but feel they aren’t capable of achieving that goal. It is a type of escapist personality, and often becomes a sort of ideal self for the primary personality. A sort of daydream personality, where they imagine this personality doing all the things they feel they’re incapable of achieving. There’s a very easy and popular example of this personality type in the form of Tyler Durden from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. (If you believe certain, fan theories this type of personality would also describe the character of Ferris Bueller from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.) This type of personality is almost always a fully formed personality though they will start out as either an emotional focus personality or a defensive personality and evolve from there. The primary personality will almost always be aware of this personality to one extent or another, typically with this personality existing in the imagination as the primary personality’s ideal self. (In children the desire driven personality will typically appear as an imaginary friend, and work as both the desire driven personality and a coping mechanism for the child. It will also typically take on the form of one of the child’s heroes/heroines from a TV program/movie/cartoon that they’re particularly fond of, as they age it will evolve into the image of the child’s ideal self.)
And, now we get to move on to the fun and entertaining theories I’ve come up with over the years. I also can’t claim full credit for these theories as I’ve picked them up from multiple different sources over the years, though, as far as I can tell a couple of them are wholly my creation.
Old Souls are one of the first things that come to mind. Old Souls are part of the idea of reincarnation and they tend to be the collection of your memories and experiences from a past life. Sometimes these personalities are merely flat representations of the memories, basically a repository of the information to be gleaned from that life, and other times they are fully fledged independent personalities that exist separate from the primary personality. I’m not sure how I would connect this type of personality back to the classic cases. I guess the personality type would fit in with any type of personality discussed in the classic cases, though it would overlap most with the defensive personality and the desire driven personality.
New Souls are the second to come to mind. I believe this is one of the ones that I’ve come up with on my own. (At least I don’t remember seeing it anywhere before.) Anyway, the idea if a new soul is just what it sounds like. This is a soul just being born and is basically using the “host soul” as a sort of egg to develop and grow in. In my estimation, it is most likely that these new souls are going to be the souls passed onto the children of the “host soul”. I also believe that these personalities have no connection to the personalities discussed in the classic cases section.
This next theory probably counts as the most “out there” theory, and centers around the idea of the truly supernatural. If you can’t guess, I’m talking about avatars, demonic and angelic possession, and anything else that might fit into the realm of the completely inexplicable. Basically, I’m talking about the “host soul” becoming a true to life conduit for beings that exist beyond our concept for reality. It could be that one of the personalities is a type of demonic possession in which the “demon soul” is entwined with the “host soul” in such a way that even an exorcism wouldn’t separate the two beings. Then you have the possibility of angelic “possession” in a similar fashion where the angel is sharing a symbiotic relationship with the “host soul”. And, the final, kind of most entertaining part of this theory, is the “host soul” being chosen as an avatar for one of the divine powers in existence.Loki, Thor, Odin, Zeus, Aphrodite, Horus-Ra, Bastet, God, Lucifer, among countless others. An avatar is the mortal representative of the divine being who chooses to manifest in a mortal form. As I mentioned earlier this is the most out there theory, and as such, is the least likely to be the correct answer to the question of where the others come from. It is fun to think about.
Another kind of sub classification of the Supernatural Conduit theory is that of an eternity in a living hell. My idea behind this is that a supernatural being, an immortal of sorts, has been bound to a mortal soul as a type of punishment. I feel like this is one of the real laws of nature/physics. The idea that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. As such, what is consciousness (standing in for the idea of the soul) if not a type of energy, and the consciousness of an immortal mythological being is a representation of pure energy. Therefore the consciousness of this immortal being is bound to the soul of a mortal, and the magic used to bind the offending soul exists in such a way as to allow the immortal soul to be aware of everything happening around it and the mortal soul, but it’s bound in such a way that it can never act under the power of its own will. To me this would be like being trapped in some form of an ultimately debilitating physical or mental condition. For me that would be hell, being trapped in a body, being alive and aware of everything happening around me, but having absolutely no ability to interact with the environment and those around me. My only wish at that point would be to die, so I no longer had to face my own personal hell. (That’s where the idea of a personality trapped in an eternal hell comes from.) I would also say that this personality is the most likely to be a negative personality.
The multiverse theory. This is another one I feel like I’ve come up with mostly on my own, though I did have a bit of help with the idea in the form of a Jet Li movie, (i)The One(i). In this movie Jet Li plays two or three of the primary characters, I can’t remember, but the premise is that one character, the villainous version of Jet Li is hunting down the other version of himself that exist across the multiverse in an effort to consolidate the power of all of those versions of himself into one being (the intent is for the villainous version of Jet Li to be left as the last remaining version of that character). In the way I see the multiverse theory is that we, as individuals, exist in all universes at the same time. Were not always the exact same person, though our genetics and such are pretty much identical (in most cases), but we are linked through the string of our shared soul. Some of the others that manifest within a multiplicity individual could possibly be reflections of that individual from other universes. That doesn’t mean the soul in the other universe is dead, only that this personality (or the host personality) has learned how to look across the barrier between realities and is strong enough to manifest and interact with our reality.
Fantasy made reality/life imitates art. This isn’t really a theory I’ve had direct contact with, but it has been more observation of the lives going on around me. Primarily the lives of celebrities. Now, I’m not a big one to follow the stories of different celebs, but there are some factors I’ve found impossible to ignore. Primarily with actors, and the type of acting they do. I mean method actors, of course. These actors seem to embrace the idea of Multiplicity. They don’t pretend to play a character so much as they literally focus on becoming that character. They work to pull the character up off the pages of the script/novel/whatever and transform themselves into that character. There is a very powerful example of this, but I don’t think I’ve got time to talk about it right now (not unless I want this post to get waaaay longer than it is already). This topic will most definitely come up in a post of its own.
The Most Likely Explanation
Now for the final, and probably the most boring part of the discussion.
I am not a classic case of MPD/DID. I’ve been aware of my others for almost as long as they’ve existed. I know, and can control, when they manifest and for how long they’re out. It not so much as me stepping out of the driver seat to give them free reign of the wheel, its more like they’re sitting on my lap while I work the pedals. I can remember almost everything that happens while they’re manifesting, and they have to work, very hard, if they’re trying to hide something they did or some piece of information they have from me. In short I’m always in control. (And, that’s not necessarily a good thing. At least to me anyway.)
I do have some of the classic causes for the development of the others. I was bullied as a kid in grade school, all the way from kindergarten up to ninth grade. I was the kid with the big @$$ bullseye on the back of my head. I practically always had a figurative “kick me” sign taped to my back. I don’t know why. But, that mental and emotional abuse did create probably the only classical personality I have. Kain.
I believe Kain was born as a defensive personality. He is the being that took control of me when it came to facing down the bullies. He never got violent. Don’t get me wrong, he wanted too, but other factors in my personality prevented that from happening. So, he did the next best thing. He absorbed the abuse (it was never really physical abuse, just the mental and emotional variety), and he protected me from it. I was a relatively well adjusted kid for much of my childhood, and it was only in the later years (after the bullying had stopped, oddly enough) that a lot of my mental health issues began to surface. And, if I remember correctly, I was aware of Kain while I was a child. He was my imaginary friend. I don’t remember what his name was at the time, but I know he was the red Power Ranger and we had many interesting adventures fighting the vile forces of Rita Repulsa.
Now that we’ve got the classic case personality out of the way lets talk about the rest of my retinue. All of my therapists have come to pretty much the same conclusion. I am a novelist, a storyteller. I was born one, and have wanted nothing more throughout my entire life than to make a living telling stories. As such, this has created a predisposition in me towards creating fictional characters. I’ve populated countless worlds with many many different fictional characters, and my therapists believe that the personalities I share a mind and body with have been born from this predisposition.
I’ve come to grudgingly accept this explanation over the years, as much as I enjoy the entertaining theories discussed above. This explanation does make the most logical sense.
If I wanted too, I could continue to drag this post out by discussing the different varieties of fictional characters I’ve noticed over the course of my time with Multiplicity, but I think that would be better left to another topic. And, sense this post has run on so long I feel the need to offer those of you who made it this far something of an apology. So, as an apology, here is a picture of a Jesus on a potato chip:
Ryan S. Kinsgrove