Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Two Minds, One Head

I have been reading lately about Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as multiple personalities.  It has granted me quite a revelation about myself:  I have multiple personalities, two to be precise.  Thankfully in my case the word disorder is not appropriate because my personalities work together well and effectively with no notable issues.  DID is associated with gaps in memory, lack of control of switches between personalities, anxiety, depression, emotional instability, and other issues.  In my case though none of these problems is evident.  Like most mental illnesses DID exists on a spectrum that stretches from those who are officially diagnosed to those like me who have just a few of the traits but none of the problems that would make change or intervention necessary.

I call the two personalities I have The Director and Passion.  It isn't that they converse with each other using those names but those designations came immediately and powerfully to mind when I was thinking about how I work.  The two personalities shift control back and forth regularly but they are co-conscious.  That is, no matter which of the two is driving the other one is in the passenger seat and can see and remember everything quite clearly.  For people with DID some personalities spend some of the time in the back seat and are not able to see or remember what is going on and that never happens to me.

The Director is an analyst who sits back looking at the big picture.  He is usually completely divorced from the emotional impact of a situation and notices interesting things to think about even in the midst of tremendous stress or tragedy.  The Director likes to be alone or involved in quiet discussions with others who like to spend time entirely in the realm of thought, separated from the realities of the world.  However, The Director is very aware of other people and is extremely concerned with making sure everyone else is taken care of - he is well intentioned but also cold and calculating, not capable of generating the warmth and sympathy that others so often desire.  The Director is particularly focused on the future and has immense reserves of self control which he uses to make long term decisions.

Passion on the other hand is hot and all about the body.  He loves extreme physical exertion and sensation and is very focused on sex.  Passion wants other people to have a good time but does not concern himself with trying to observe them to make sure that is happening.  He just goes for it and is happy to help when asked.  Passion likes to do things with other people and revels in competition, especially things like dodgeball or paintball where he can throw himself fully into it with no thought for anything but maximizing his own performance.  Passion loves to trashtalk, scream, and shout while playing physical games but doesn't actually care much about winning - really he just loves the sensation of pushing himself to his limits.  It doesn't have to be a competitive sport though as climbing up a boulder field brings out Passion just the same.  He also has little to no concern about the future and lives purely in the moment.

It isn't that I hear voices in my head exactly, though that is something people with DID often do.  It is that I always have two completely separate tracks going on in my consciousness and which track is dominant shifts quickly and dramatically.  Even when I am crying at a movie The Director is busy marvelling at how adeptly the director manipulated my emotions.  While in the midst of a esoteric philosophy discussion Passion is there in the back of my head quivering with pure erotic energy, sitting in place tapping his foot, waiting to be unleashed.

While it might seem like I just have two different facets my internal experience does not support that.  I actually manage transitions between the two states both subconsciously and consciously.  For example, if someone argues with me on the internet Passion leaps out and wants to flame on, telling them they are stupid and wrong.  I often begin to write in as Passion, then Director forcibly steps in and I actually feel a chilling sensation and the world locks down, organizes itself into lines, and Director slowly begins to compose a more appropriate message.  (If you think I am confrontational as it is, you would be blown away by what Passion has to say.  There are a lot of variations on "Fuck me?  No, fuck YOU!")

Another example is my experience running an Escape Room last weekend.  The Director evaluated my group, realized that it was full of technically skilled gamers, and stepped back and let Passion be in charge for the rest of the game.  Not only did I focus on physical tasks but I wasn't *able* to do the puzzles competently because Passion isn't particularly good at that stuff.  I ended up being valuable to the team because Director's evaluation was right - my team needed Passion to run about and bash on things and did not need another puzzler.  When I encountered a puzzle I mostly handed it off to somebody else and continued to hunt for physical things to do.  There were a few times I did things like entering codes and such but only when it was simple and straightforward.

Playing poker is another situation where the two personalities have to interact in interesting ways.  Passion is fantastic at playing other people, bluffing, maintaining table presence, and bullying his way into victories.  The Director is very good at sitting tight, folding for hours until just the right hand comes along, and maintaining iron discipline even when facing a bad beat.  There are tables and situations where both of those strategies can be very effective and I can remember switching tactics back and forth as circumstances dictated.  This technique of switching gears is a thing poker books recommend but it wasn't that I was trying new tactics out - I *was* the rock, and I *was* the gambler at those times.

Some people have seen me in both modes and those that know me best have confirmed that this way of thinking about myself reflects their experience of me.  I am confident that many people I know have only seen either Passion or The Director though and for them this might be something of a surprise.  I am pretty sure the largest group is those who have only seen The Director because he is in charge most of the time.  People who only know me through sports might have only seen Passion but I suspect that is a very small group indeed.

How exactly it gets decided who is in charge is a bit of a murky issue.  The Director feels like the decision maker though, if there has to be one.  It is as though The Director knows that Passion needs to have his hedonistic needs met and that Passion's satisfaction is key to my overall happiness.  I feel better the more Passion gets to come out and run the show but The Director can't just let Passion be in charge all the time because everything would quickly become a mess without proper oversight.  I need both the level headed planning of The Director and the wild joy of Passion to make my life be the best it can be and thankfully these days I seem to have that balance pretty well in hand.


  1. Please extend this line of thought to your parenting! I'm interested. (Although it's obvious that when Elli was little the Director MUST have been the one in charge when diaper changing needed doing).

    1. I have that post already planned, a bit. Coming shortly.

  2. Which one wrote the blog post (hahaha... too obvious!)