Further Composite Thinking

I think enough has changed in the last couple of weeks to warrant another post. You can see all of my writing on this subject so far in the plurality tag.

Last time, I spoke about the idea of each of me having an individual name, more of a distinction than simply being one-fifth of Terrana. This has had several unexpected effects, mostly positive.

I’m still “I” rather than “we”, but that thing binding the composite feels looser now.

Like learning to ride a bike

When my composite was formed in 2007, neither I nor Korran really knew what it was. Our intention was to try and stabilize what we then saw as my volatility in personality and emotional state. What we created was therefore, by necessity, something inherently self-balancing.

This mostly worked, and it did so for a long time. On the rare occasion when there was internal disagreement, it manifested as a strong feeling of dissonance which made it very difficult to reach or act on decisions. I would resolve these by modifying the decision to something that didn’t produce that feeling, in effect reaching a compromise with myself. Balance restored, life continues. I never really understood how literally true it was all those times I said, “but part of me feels like…”

Now I know what I am, and I’ve learned to tell which of me is feeling what. More importantly, I can usually articulate why I’m feeling those things. That’s why, over the last few weeks, I’ve slowly been relying less and less on that self-balancing mechanism. I’m deliberately reaching an internal consensus.

It feels a lot like taking the stabilizing wheels off a bicycle once you’ve learned to ride it properly.

Everyone’s turn in the limelight

One thing that’s been happening, more or less on its own, is that each of me in turn is taking a couple of hours almost fully in control to figure out who they are now and who they used to be before the fusion.

Querral was the first. That happened about a month ago, as dissatisfaction with the half-name Synth grew, and is largely what led to me trying on proper individual names in the first place.

Nex followed, actually spoke to a couple of people, then settled on the name Nex and wrote most of my last post.

Siburis managed to do it while I was out somewhere, enjoyed foods I wouldn’t normally touch and enjoyed the opportunity to swear a lot more than the rest of me are comfortable with and, following the pattern, refined the name by dropping the last s from Siburiss.

Kayama hasn’t had one yet. This is a source of some “why hasn’t it happened yet” anxiety that I am trying not to let myself worry about.

But Allie, well, that one deserves some particular discussion. Allie had a difficult turn, initially reacting to the idea of being separately identifiable from the rest of me with what I can only describe as mortal terror. That led to a lot of soul searching, and realizing just how many times Sib stepped in to defend her in my pre-fusion days.

I can think of multiple times in school when it was like something flipped a switch in my head, and I suddenly did something uncharacteristically violent to protect myself. One in particular came to mind, and two thoughts came to mind. The first was Sib’s: “Yeah. I did that.” The second, Aliie’s: “…for me.”

As an aside, let me tell you how very strange it is to simultaneously feel pride, admiration, and disapproval for something you also remember doing yourself.

That was kind of what turned it around. Allie feels safe taking charge if hiding behind Siburis is an option if things go badly. With that barrier out of the way, one thing immediately became clear: she hates the name Alepoldar that I sort of settled on by default.

The feeling is this: these names are supposed to reflect who I am, who each of me is, but Alepoldar is explicitly a name for who I’m not. It’s an alias, a name to use when I’m not being Terrana. But that left me without another name to use from my own past.

Luckily, I had recent precedent for this in the form of Nex, and I came up with the same sort of multiple-meaning name to reflect that. Allie can be short for Alepoldar, representing the person behind the mask. It also sounds like alley, because urban fox. And it reads like ally, a reliable friend, because despite the trauma and the fear, Allie was always the one among me who most wanted to be everyone’s friend.

Something genuinely life-changing

So, quite aside from the fact that I am now apparently my own therapist, all of that led up to something last week. The 6th of October is going to be a date I’m going to remember for a very long time.

I was asked out to a restaurant with someone very important to me. I was very tired, so I considered saying no, but had the idea that it might be okay if I got them to handle all the interactions with staff and such for me, which they readily agreed to.

That wasn’t what happened. After figuring out that Allie actually likes people, I went full Allie every time someone came over. The effect was profound. Talking to people was effortless. I chatted with the restaurant staff, joked, empathized, and none of it cost me a single precious spoon. I actually came back feeling better than when I left.

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve wished I could do that.

And it wasn’t a one-off fluke either. Earlier this week, I needed some help at work – for those unaware, I’m a professional coder – so a colleague and I worked together on the problem. I’ve done pair programming before, and while I can’t deny its effectiveness, I’ve generally needed at least the rest of the week to recover from the strain.

Not this time. I shifted to a half-and-half mix of Allie and Querral, the best of me at social problems and programming problems respectively, and held that balance for the whole four-hour session. I normally burn out after two! We got the problem solved, and I felt fine afterwards.

In effect, I can turn my social anxiety off at will by letting the one of me that doesn’t have it handle things. This is a truly life-altering discovery, and it’s going to take me a long time to really grasp just how many things this is going to open up for me.

What does this all mean?

Do I actually count a plural at this point? I’m not sure. I lean towards the more inclusive definition, but it’s very different from my experiences with Korran. That really was more like two otherwise entirely separate people who just happen to share a body.

Composite still works as a term, I think, though that’s mostly because I coined it myself and can make the definition be whatever I like.

Words and names, you’ve almost certainly noticed, are important to me. I like to know what to call things, especially myself. I’m still working on the right words to explain how and why I am what I am. But I’m definitely making some good and powerful discoveries on the way.

And there are some names I do have now. Allie, Kayama, Nex, Querral, and Siburis all thank you for taking the time to read this, and so by consensus does Terrana as a whole.

Tags: introspection, plurality