What is the difference between a multiple personality and an imaginary friend?
Children create imaginary friends as part of a healthy and normal period of development. They may be boys or girls; animals or objects. Friends that become a means of communication and a safe way to put new experiences in proper context. As a child grows, these imaginary friends gradually diminish and in many cases, become part of an older child’s personality and interests.
If however, a child has an unhealthy and abusive period of development, what becomes of those imaginary friends? Do they become ‘real’ multiples? While nearly every multiple personality has a background of abuse, not all children, in fact, very few that are abused become multiples. What then creates a multiple personality in a specific child?
The prevailing theory is that a trauma event, or series of trauma events occurs that the child cannot process and thus a portion of the mind splits and ‘deals’ with the event instead. If this splitting is severe enough, then a new personality is created. But is this personality real or merely an imaginary friend that deals with the ‘bad’ stuff?
Let’s assume for this argument that the created personality is real. That a new person has been ‘born’. How is this possible? If two or more personalities are sharing a body, how can they all be real? This line of reasoning would clearly state that having a body has nothing at all to do with being real. Rather, it is the mind where personalities are formed. The mind, the self-aware mind is where ‘real’ is separated from the imaginary.
For a multiple to be real they need to be self-aware. They need to understand that their personality is separate and distinct from the others. Not only the ‘face’, but any other multiples present. Their desires, their needs may be very different and unique to their own personality. Imaginary friends and characters are not real, but rather projections and facets of everyone’s day-to-day personality. A multiple personality can be ‘real’, if they understand the world around them and react in ways that are different from the others.
To create this difference, this self-awareness, requires the active co-operation of the dominant personality. Black outs occur when there is a power struggle between the personalities for control of the body. Until this is resolved, it can be very dangerous and destructive for the people involved.
Another area of confusion for many is the idea that a ‘normal’ person can have other personalities. The ‘face’, the body the world sees, many times, if not all the time, is also a multiple personality. They may or may not be the birth personality and in our case, the current ‘face’ is not the personality who grew up with the family. Which raises another interesting question.
What do you call the body that is shared by many?