I think that the ” other personalities” are in a sense various “facets” of one personality. Actually that’s how some people with DID describe it.
One thing I find interesting is that in those people with DID that I have conversed with (admittedly not many) the other personalities tend to be archetypical: the little girl, the bitch, the old man, etc….
I think everyone has the fundamental components that make up DID, it’s just in people with the disorder, the components are malfunctioning.
Think about all the people you know, particularly your friends….. for each you will have what amounts to a mental construct of that person’s personality in your head.
Say you do something like spill a drink all over yourself, you could use one of those mental constructs to extrapolate what your snarky friend Jack would say in reaction…this may be conscious, or perhaps unconscious to an extent….but the end result is something like just what jack would say.
People often conspicuously perform these sort of personality extrapolations with people they know who have died….they will stand around and someone will say “jack would be looking down laughing right now” etc.
Additionally you have these same personality constructs for archetypes….just as you can imagine what your friend would say in response to you spilling a drink, you can imagine what an “archetypical little girl” might say.
In fact, these constructs are HOW we interact with other people.
If you think about it, it’s impossible to “directly interact” with another person….it’s physically necessary to have a couple layers of abstraction in the communication process: we have a thought, and we abstract it into speech, which the person we are talking to extrapolates into thought.
When you interact with your friend by, say having a conversation with them…you are actually interacting with a personality construct of them in your brain.
It’s something that we do without thinking about it, but if you observe, you’ll realize that during the process of conversing with another person (or “empathizing” with them) you’ll constantly be consulting this mental personality construct during the conversation to help decide what to say, and to interpret what the other person is saying In that sense you are interacting with the construct rather than them.
The mechanisms most of us have to construct and interact with these constructs are pretty good…..this is because you’re constantly fine-tuning the construct based on interaction with the person….but in the end you don’t actually “know” the person…you don’t know their inner-most thoughts, etc….you just know this construct you have created which to some extent represents the “real” them…but ultimately is just a faced (it’s good enough though, so we don’t usually worry about it)/
When you’re interacting with someone you don’t know well, you’re constantly updating the mental construct, but in the mean-time “filling it in” with archetypes.
You have an archetypical construct of a bank teller in your head, that allows you to converse with most bank tellers…you might augment that with a construct of the particular teller by noting they are generally grumpy…etc.
This whole process is pretty transparent most of the time, and I’m not sure I’ve done a good job of explaining it..
…but it becomes more visible when you can see this process break down: one example is when you say something, and your friend reacts in a way that you completely didn’t expect.
This is because on certain level, you’re actually interacting with a mental construct rather than the other person. The construct would react in the way you expected, but not the real person….of course the construct get’s updated at this point which is what allows this whole system to work.
So when we interact with other people, on a functional level, we are actually interacting with symbolic versions of them in our minds. I call this our “empathic circuits” or “empathic systems” for lack of another term.
Another way to visualize these personality constructs for those familiar with computer programming is to visualize them as something like an object or class with properties and methods. This also makes apparent the benefits of this system through “class inheritance”.
We don’t have the “memory” to carry around a “high resolution image”, that is a detailed account of all our interactions with our friends (or other people)…so instead, to have something to interact with, we have a class, a sort of interface…. this personality construct of that person, which is made up of other classes or interfaces (in fact inherits from them). This construct of our friend Jack, probably inherits from “classes” like human, male, and so on, down to thinks like nerd or jack, until we reach a level where it constitues a particular person (instance) or their own unique class.
As I said earlier, people have mental personality constructs for “real” people they know as well as “archetypes”…these could be considered the two “types” of mental personality constructs…two distinct kinds.
In people with DID it seems that “real” constructs are being created when they should be “archetypical . This is what causes the delusion that the constructs actually are “other” or “real” people.
Also, wheras “normal” people don’t really notice these internal interactions, and use them unthinkingly to inform their interactions with real people…. those with DID have “empathy systems” that are on the fritz AND also have an acute awareness of these systems (that may or may not be coupled with an understanding of them) and play with or worry them in an almost masturbatory fashion out of some psychological necessity.
It’s more complex than I’m describing it of course, because this all gets tied in with other mechanisms we have that form identity etc, but I think this is what might be happening fundamentally.
When I dream, I recognise that certain people are there, even though I can’t clearly see their faces, only how I feel about how they look, or how they react to situations. That spiel up there explains why that happens very clearly, and while the details may be incorrect, I like it.