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What Switching Feels Like
Last edited 3/3/2023
So we see a lot of confusion around regarding what people understand switching to feel like, both from singlets and others plural folks. Because only some kinds of switching are thought of as switching by some people, some systems may not be aware that they are switching, and some singlets may get an unclear idea of the scope of plural experiences. This article aims to help with that.
To define switching: Switching is the act of changing the control of the body from one headmate to another.
Different plural folks experience switching in different ways. Not every switch feels the same for every system, and a given system may experience many kinds of switches across their life for various reasons.
Some systems only switch in one specific kind of way, some switch in a mix at random, and others gradually change how they switch over time.
This can be effected by dissociation levels, levels of separation between headmates, level of memory sharing, and other factors, and is unique to that system.
Switches can have a slow and gradual transition, or a jarring one. A switch can happen without the system noticing for a bit, or a switch can be very obvious for the system. A switch can involve high levels of dissociation or distress, or very little to none. A switch can have perfect memory sharing, no memory sharing, degenerative or delayed memory sharing, or anything in between. Switches can be on purpose, accidental, automatic, or other levels of choice being involved or not as well. It is also possible for switches to have somatic effects such as vertigo, nausea, or headaches.
The General Categories:
First there is the anecdotally most common, but often least talked about way switching can feel. This switch is where one may feel like they ‘become’ a different person/the headmate switching in. It may also be described as ‘passing the I’ to the person coming in. This kind of switch may be called a becoming switch or a non-possessive switch.
Some frameworks/explanations for this include ‘continuous front’, ‘low dissociative barriers between headmates’, ‘everpresent I’, ‘only the front makes memories’, ‘monoconsciousness’ and ‘low parallel processing’. You do not need to use ANY of these frameworks if you don't wish to.
Second is what most people think switching is always like, the possessive switch. This is where one continues to be able to make memories from the perspective of ‘I’ while not at front. This is often described traditionally as watching your headmate do things in the body without your input, or going to the headspace and making memory there. The level of sensory awareness of what is going on with the body may vary. If one is in the tulpamancy community, this may sometimes be called ‘possession’ instead of switching wholesale.
Some frameworks/explanations for this include ‘going to another world inside’, ‘everyone has their own memory’, ‘high dissociative barriers between headmates’, ‘polyconsciousness’, and ‘high parallel processing’. You do not need to use these ANY of frameworks if you don't wish to.
The next kind of switch is a blackout switch. No (or very little) memory is shared so it makes it hard to sort it into a particular category as it doesn't feel like much of either. This is usually explained with dissociative amnesia of some kind.
The final category is everything that doesn't fit into one of the other three common categories. A bit of a cop-out, but there is infinite variety in experience with systems and how switching feels to them. As this is an ‘other’ category, everyone makes up their own frameworks here (if they use one at all).