One of the core ideas we have is that plural systems are constantly working towards being healthy multiples. Being a healthy multiple involves (but is not limited to):
- Communicating with others in-system
- Taking responsibility as a system for actions any headmate takes
- Taking each other into account before taking actions
- Learning how to compromise
- Building trust and safety with each other
As in any relationship, learning and continuing to do all these things is hard so attempting to define healthy multiple is defining an ideal which we constantly work towards. In practice, we would say someone is a healthy multiple if they are able to do most of these things most of the time.
We strongly believe that you can be a healthy multiple and have DID at the same time. For us, having DID means that we have to work through trauma, and that in-system issues are likely to come up during our healing journey. As we continue to strive towards being a healthy multiple, we actively take steps to learn how to work with and and care of each other. When we see potential problems such as someone who may harm the body, we establish communication and talk with them before any issues arise. We make plans to take care of trauma holders when they appear so they do not have to suffer alone. Being a healthy multiple does not mean that we never have any problems, it means we actively work towards preventing them and working through any issues which arise.
We recently encountered someone who said they believed that you cannot be a healthy multiple and have DID. Instead, they believed that someone with DID is working towards becoming a healthy multiple and once they become a healthy multiple, they no longer have DID. We strongly disagree with this and consider ourselves to be a healthy multiple despite having DID. Healing to the point where you no longer have DID is certainly not required to be a healthy multiple. Working towards becoming a healthy multiple places you in a position to begin working through trauma, but working through trauma is not a requirement to become a healthy multiple.
All of this preparation for processing trauma is contained in Phase I in the ISSTD DID treatment guidelines (p.139-140). In this “phase”, systems establish co-consciousness and communication and learn to compromise and work together. Processing of trauma does not begin until the next phase so someone with DID is still considered to have DID when they begin trauma processing even as they make significant progress towards learning to communicate and work together. Beyond this point, systems can spend years digging through trauma and finding new system members and establishing communication with them. Plans and routines may have to be changed to take into account desires of new system members. Dissociation and splitting can still exist as a protective response against ongoing trauma. DID symptoms such as involuntary switching can continue to exist even as everyone does their best to communicate and care for one another.
Working towards being a healthy multiple is a part of working through DID, but certainly not all of it. This leaves space to have DID and be a healthy multiple during a healing journey.