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How can you tell when a multiple switches?

This article is a . Needs some editing.

We've (The Crisses) seen switches take place with "tells" for some systems (we've known a lot systems in-person) and never had the "droop" issue — but it is something more like "lag".

If you have the pleasure of watching a plural switch, you can really come to appreciate a wide variety of how body language and other unconscious mannerisms can express a person's individuality.

Here's some different ways we've spotted other systems' (and sometimes our own) switches:

Complete shift in posture/ergonomics
How they carry themself completely changes, so they can even seem to grow or shrink several inches.... so someone who naturally has a lower self esteem and bad posture — slumped shoulders, curved back, no core strength to hold themselves upright — switches to someone more badass and they are upright, more core strength, more centered, shoulders back instead of forward, etc. And it's unconscious, not forced... it is like they unfold over a minute or so. (when we do this sometimes it comes with stretching because as we're shifting our body feels uncomfortable and we need to stretch muscles we're about to use lol)
Rapid blinking/eye movements
Almost like open-eye REM lol —— they're "thinking inside" and sometimes a switch can occur during that time. Eyes may look up and to the side, may become a little heavy-lidded as a conversation goes on inside. Then they're looking at you again and fully present.
Unconscious facial tension/muscles
Facial muscles can shift and change some facial details slightly. Like our boyfriend has a bump on his head from a childhood accident, but when 1 person fronts, a vein stands out right over the bump, making it more obvious.... they have no conscious control over that.... but I know instantly who it is by the set of the jaw, the throbbing vein in their forehead, and other micro-tension facial tells.
Different speech
This includes changes in word choice, volume level, pitch, speed, accents. It's not always major. One ex-girlfriend had a more pronounced accent from her childhood Russian origins at times. Her pitch would drop. Her tongue would roll differently around words. This went along with posture etc. changes. You might hear more childish language even if the voice doesn't completely sound like a child's voice (they may be trying to "mask" a switch!). Look for changes in the speed of speech, word-choices (how many "big" words, changes in place-holder noises or words ("Uhm" vs. "like" vs. "…So…" vs. "…Right?"). Also vehemence such as more casual cursing, or are they more formal and proper?
Physical comfort/discomfort
Once a switch takes place, they may now be too hot, too cold, need to change something about what's touching their body (Erin needs to put our hair up, she hates the feeling of hair on her face and neck), such as jewelry or a scratchy sweater. This doesn't usually become a full wardrobe change like is sometimes portrayed on TV or a movie, but it can be a sign if something they were perfectly comfortable with a moment ago is now no longer comfortable. Especially if it comes with complaints like, "Argh, I hate bracelets!" :)
Walking Gait
Hip swing, fluidity, limping, speed, arm-swing, etc. can all change between persons in a plural system.
Other Mannerisms
How they flip their hair or push it out of their face, knuckle cracking, nervous tics (leg bouncing, finger tapping, chewing, stimming).
Changes in Knowledge
Skills, awareness of current events, hobbies and interests, can vary between alters. Different alters can have different knowledge in general or specific. For example, one may have poor etiquette skills while another is very conscientious regarding cultural norms.
Changes in Cognition
Alert, inattentive, curious, know-it-all, do-it-yourselfer, etc.
Moral Compass
Ethics, morals, beliefs, religion can all shift. This may be subtle or not, depending on what venue you're in, what you're talking about and so on. But if one is Ok with something shady, and another is so NOT ok with it — probably different people. Or one believes in one god or pantheon, and another does not, or is agnostic.
Body image
One can be perfectly happy with their weight or size or gender etc. another is really UNhappy with it.
Body Language
Some people have repetitive hand shapes and gesticulate to emphasize when they speak. Some use gestures while communicating to mimic what they're describing, or paint a canvas in front of them with a story. Facial expressions can add to or emphasize questions, surprise, sarcasm, humor, etc. This is an important additional context when communicating and using text or voice can lose a great deal of this subtle layer of language.
Physicality
How does that person behave within their personal space? How big is their personal space? Do they touch people? Huggy or stand-offish? When someone comes closer, do they shrink? Do they "fill" their personal space with big gestures and wide movements, or are they pulling in on themselves, narrowing their energy and keeping their "space" small, like they're not comfortable in the physical world? Do they love or hate exercise or sports? Roughhousing?

Of course any of these changes can happen in singular folks, but they usually happen with a change in topics, roles, social situation, or over time. Examples are being alert after a cup of coffee and drowsy & inattentive after a heavy lunch, or someone who curses often who doesn't curse around their mother, or a pick up in pace and gesticulation when talking about something they're wildly passionate about.

So for prudence's sake, mainly apply these ideas to people you already know are plural. Don't assume seeing changes in people must mean they are plural — this isn't for diagnosis — this is to help partners and plurals to spot the switches (even their own switches!!). If a known-plural is calmly talking to you about something, then suddenly shifts position, leans forward, starts gesticulating, sitting on the edge of their seat ramrod straight, smiling and speaking in a high-pitched voice — maybe that's not just a change in topic or mood. Something else may be going on there.

To get better at spotting these shifts, pay more attention to anyone and the wide range of variety in how people express themselves in real life: how differently people walk, talk, move, think, speak, act — and that all becomes possible in a one-body plural system. Once you start looking for these differences between people's self-expression in general, the easier it is to spot them when with someone with DID.


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<< Dealing with Multiples | ManualTOC | Etiquette >>


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