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Who Am I Right Now?

February 04, 2014, at 09:02 AM

You know you're multiple. You're used to having a gaggle of voices in your head at all times, to the sometimes-comforting presences and multitude of opinions on everything from which toothpaste to use today to whether to reach out for a doorknob with the right or left hand. When you've been living with the voices since childhood, it can be nerve-wracking when they disappear suddenly, leaving you uncertain of anything, even who you are.

Depersonalization is actually written down in the psych literature. That's what you've got at these times. We're used to having many identities, a sometimes chaotic, sometimes harmonious chorus in our minds. On paper it might look like losing this chorus is a blessing, but it's not. Depersonalization is not integration. It's not being a singleton. It's not being a multiple. It's this haunting sense of being nobody at all.

It's alarming. It can induce panic. "Where did everyone go!?" and "Who am I right now?" are the signs that depersonalization has taken hold.

Multiples who don't know what's going on try to describe it. I've called it "Criss-ing out" -- which means that rather than us all blending behind the Criss-mask just to the people outside, we can't even tell who we are on the inside anymore. I've also called it "Mashed Potatoes". Someone called it greying-out, another calls it "purpling". The idea is that everyone is still there, but rather than being one distinct identity (the goal of integration), you're very indistinct, there's no way to tell who is who, where one person ends and another begins, or even to hear each other over the blandness of fog going on inside.

You don't have to be a multiple to depersonalize -- this happens to singletons, too, because there are people who are singletons who also are dissociative. It's a dissociation issue, you lose yourself, your identity gets grayed out, you feel like you don't belong here, or anywhere, like you don't know who you are anymore. Similar to most other mental crises, it's a product of anxiety and/or depression, both of which are at their root products of fear.

So suffice to say, all the usual fear-controlling suspects can help. Grounding, meditation, mindfulness, etc. But I have one particular cure that you can work on at any time, and keep pretty easily on-hand for those times when you "lose yourselves."

Music is a powerful mood-altering agent. Nowadays almost everyone carries a hand-picked cadre of songs called a "playlist" and it's easy to tweak, change, etc. No more mix tapes and cd compilations -- our music can be shuffled, carried everywhere, etc.

So make a playlist. It's your system's playlist. The order doesn't matter much, but you can customize it at your whim. We have a playlist that starts with a system song (we like "Are We Ourselves" by the Fixx), and then 1-2 songs per major-front in our head. This could be a privilege you extend only to people who actively participate in your system's governance, your choice. The main point is to have some power-songs that people in your head associate strongly with. What makes this person dance? What makes that person sing? What power song motivates them so strongly that they want to front?

Songs are powerful mood-changers. In terms of "state-dependent-memory", they can act as a wonderful purposeful trigger. I'll have to rant on state-dependent-memory some time (note to self :) ).

Once you put this new playlist on your device-of-choice -- iPod, phone, android tablet, whatever -- you're now carrying around a tool to use at any time to encourage differentiation (the polar opposite of depersonalization). You know yourselves best, and who should or shouldn't be on your playlist. You can have a full playlist, a "trigger a safe front" playlist, a driving playlist (triggering responsible adult drivers), etc.

One thing we like is to sing while driving. It's really neat when a song with a deep voice comes on and one of the guys fronts and takes our voice as low as it can go, which is pretty impressive. We like to mimic the voices in the songs on our playlists or on the radio. We play with switchery when we're alone by using the power of music to trigger switches on-purpose, playing male-female duets, songs with many layers of harmony (so whomever's got the voice can pick the harmonic line that appeals to them).

When we remember the power of music and use it purposefully to create inner harmony and differentiation, we're far far happier with our multiplicity. When you're happy, you aren't stressed and anxious, so you depersonalize even less.

Share some ideas for your own playlist here, and start making yours today! Try it out, and let us know if you find it helpful, or share a tale of woeful depersonalization with us -- what did you do to get out of it, if you can remember? Did you just wait it out?

Other Posts in February 2014


I found myself feeling a deep sadness, a stabbing at my heart, in the beginning of reading this. However, it's only because you "hit the nail on the head". I too have felt this way many times, but have too few people I can explain it to. Thanks for being able to put it in words, as well as offering what I believe to be a great tool for overcoming it!

Comment by Cathie on February 04, 2014, at 12:04 PM

Hi, Cathie,

Thanks for the comment. Since we multis are on the far side of the dissociative spectrum, we can experience nearly all dissociative symptoms. Depersonalization is just one of them. PTSD is also being considered dissociative. Today, while writing another article for the blog, I was falling asleep at the keyboard. Not due to tiredness, but due to some sleepiness defense mechanism in my head getting triggered -- dissociation again. Makes it harder to write about sensitive topics!

Comment by Crisses on February 07, 2014, at 10:20 PM

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