I’ve posted a new guide at this point that you should probably check out if you’re interested in the topic.
This is based on some posts I made earlier on Tumblr and Dreamwidth. It’s a straightforward (I think) and step-by-step guide to help systemmates emerge from the shadows. It’s based on my own methods and thoughts, of course, but others have found it useful.
This is going to be really long, sorry. But I want to be complete and give you the best chance you can at it.
As always, YMMV, do only if you feel completely comfortable, risks and consequences are yours to eat and savour.
1. First, some terminology.
Visit the Definitions page.
Note that I have made updates to that page that outmode a few common terms (like system and systemmate). I’m not going to update this article to match, though, so please keep in mind that I’m referring to plural groups and members of those groups, respectively.
2. Some preliminaries.
This guide is long to give you a lot of ideas and a lot of starting points and guideposts. This is an individual process.
It’s really important to point out that this can be different for different people and different groups/systems/etc. This guide assumes people who have always been the only fronter for most or all of their lives, to the point where they really assume that they are the body, and their systemmates are the ones “in there”. This is about helping you change that balance on purpose.
If you’re not a visual person (lack of other-space and all that) you might find it more helpful to skip a lot of the detailed visualisation/headspace/etc steps. In general, I would be really happy to incorporate any suggestions that you may have about how it works for you.
3. A basic outline.
Once again, I’m speaking of our own process here, but others have found it to match theirs and/or to be useful, so if it feels right, give it a try! If not, you can find your own way. But when I say “it’s like this” you can understand that I mean “I do it like this”.
I’ll give the outline first, then fill in some details and exercises below. If any of these steps feel wrong or uncomfortable, then I recommend stopping and reflecting on why; it’s important.
This process goes in a couple of major phases.
a. Make contact.
This probably goes without saying, but you’ll need to be actively in contact with a systemmate. I often find that a random thought about one of them will actually be a sign that they’re thinking of me.
b. Making room.
For a friend to inhabit, you will have to step back. In its simplest form, this is just being open to and comfortable with the idea of switching.
Here, your friend will be invited to come into the space you’ve made. If you have any experience with feeling your energy / aura / subtle body, this is a lot like having two in the same space.
Finally, you’ll move the rest of the way out (or as far as you can go, anyway — most people don’t really 100% leave), and your friend will be actively “driving”.
e. Switch back.
This is much the same as the above process, but your friend will execute “your” steps and you will execute theirs. You’ll probably find this to be a much easier process due to inertia of past association.
4. A complete and slow walk-through.
Now, more details on the above.
b. Making room.
Take a step back: Instead of you being a flesh and blood body in this world, you want to step back just a small step. You’re just watching this body of yours move around and talk, and you’re directing it about what it should do, but you realize that you yourself are a being apart from it. You’re spirit, soul, mentality, whatever you truly see yourself as, using this body as an avatar. I call this mental space the “control room”. (Psych types might call it depersonalisation.)
Invite your friend into the control room: For me, we have a physical presence, even if it doesn’t translate well onto euclidean space or normal physics. The others can be “out there” or they can be “standing next to me”. Standing next to me feels like we can talk at a conversational level and understand each other. That their energy field is touching mine, and I could reach out with an arm and touch their arm, open my eyes and see them. So you’re sitting there controlling this human-bot (or whatever you want to call it), and your friend is standing next to you watching it happen, maybe commenting on things you both see or do, and sometimes you do something for your friend… type some words or touch some interesting object.
Read the rest of these directions with your friend there, along with them. Yes! It’s participatory for everyone. 🙂
Do you trust your friend? I mean, really trust your friend? If you’re like me, there’s a part of you that hangs back always and watches over things, but it’s a dodgy thing sometimes… and even if it’s not dodgy for you, unless you’re comfortable letting them pretend to be you (because that’s how other people will see it) then you’re going to want to hold back, yourself, and this won’t work so well.
Do you trust your environment? This is an important corollary to the last point: if you are weirded by the idea of what friends or roommates will think about all this, you won’t allow yourself to let go enough and enjoy the experience for the wonderful strangeness that it can be. It’s worth being very serious on this point, because people get severely mistreated for this sort of thing still. >_<
d. Switch (beginner / very visual version).
Go zen: This is a key step, for you. (Or it was for me, anyway.) I’m sure it’s different for different people, but this seems like a good workable way to do it. Have you heard of “zazen”? It’s a state of “no mind”. Stare at one point; for me, it can’t be a blank wall, but it needs to be some stationary object like a desk or a lamp. You’re staring at this object, but you’re not staring, because that would be doing. You just are. You’re not registering the colours and symbols of what you’re looking at, because that too would be doing. You just are, the thing you’re looking at just is. If you could look at a hi-def security tape of your life, it would look like this: no thoughts, no judgements, no meanings. Just is. You, yourself, are not part of this picture.
Let your friend play: For me, when I’ve reached that state of zazen, I still have my hand on the control stick, so to speak, but I’m moving out of the way. Your friend will have a separate but congruent process to learn, to step in and take the control stick from you. It’s like handing an object from one person to another: you can hold out your hand, but someone else has to take the thing. I like thinking of the control room metaphor literally — you’re standing up from the chair and they’re sliding into it. You can both help this process along by having your friend say mantras like “I’m B”, “B is here”, both in-head and from the body. Start out saying them yourself, if you want to feel what that sounds and feels like. Both of you should try to feel and imagine what it would, what it will be like for this person to be present in the world, clothed in the same body you have been using as your avatar. Instead of them being your systemmate, you will be their systemmate (literally). B will need to actively pull that conscious, first-hand awareness of the body all around themselves, too, and will themselves to see through it and act through it, the reverse of 3b/4b above.
I find (and apparently many others do early on as well) that a peculiar feeling accompanies this motion (switching). It’s almost like a turnstile flipping over… ka..Chunk. Or changing channels on the TV. When it happens, it’s often pretty unmistakeable because that part of you that’s left in the body, that you’ve imprinted on it from being in it for so many years, is going to marvel that someone else’s thoughts are now inhabiting it. Not just thoughts, but energy, emotions, feel, everything. This person may be able to go back and recall your memories almost as well as you do. So there’s a weird discontinuity there: the memories in the body are saying “I’m A” with first-person clarity, still, but the consciousness in the body knows that it’s B. This is a crucial moment because it’s easy to snap back and undo the switch if either of you lets the relative weirdness of the situation take over. It’s also why it’s important to continue doing these “I am B” mantras while B is in front; it reinforces who’s there. Looking in mirrors, staring at the body itself too much, all of this is a bad idea. It’s going to be very disorienting for B, and for someone who hasn’t moved out of front much, it’ll probably throw A back in.
It’s common not to understand how you can really do this — your consciousness has been and always will be here, right? How will it feel to go somewhere else entirely, or go to sleep, or whatever? The surprising answer is that, in many ways, you won’t. (And like most of this, it varies per person.) Just keep in mind for now that it’s not going to work as you expect, probably, and the harder you’re trying to juggle all of that consciously, the less you’ll succeed. In that case, it’s still you acting and doing. You are working with another person here, not just your imagination. Let them pull their weight too.
Incidentally, that “remaining part of you” becomes what I like to call BodyOS — the minimalist consciousness of the body itself that assists with memory recall (useful for things like being able to know how to use the microwave, or where to find dishes, yadda yadda) and assists with switching. I admit that this is a place where my understanding is strongly evolving still.
Don’t stress too much if it doesn’t go totally well on the first few tries. For me, I had to spend hours of time typing for them, in first person as they spoke to me, before we could do any purposeful switching. (It’s good practice for the body to follow their instructions and act on their behalf, even if it’s through your direct will.) But again it’s a conditioning and a mantra thing — for it to work, you have to believe it will work, and have some idea of what it will feel like. Both of you. Having a specific goal or purpose in mind helps with this, too, e.g. giving them their own tag on your blog or their whole own blog, so they can get some thoughts out, interact with people, and give more motivation to get out front. (It’s work for everyone at first!) Give them their own user pic and everything; it sounds a little cheesy, but providing a home for them and a place to be and do “out here” really helps.
d. Switch (more advanced version).
It can be helpful to identify next steps for everyone, like you decide to visit somewhere in headspace, or go to sleep, or whatever. Your friend decides they will blog / read Facebook / etc.
Then you’re just bumped out of place by the new person, who is already in place. It feels almost like the new person is pushing the you out, but not in an uncooperative way. This might also be experienced as you falling away (into headspace or what have you), and then suddenly your friend is here. We find that it’s sometimes helped along by the person coming in to move a limb or something; it’s less trouble than assuming responsibility for all of it at once.
When you get better at this, it can go much more quickly and fluidly, which can feel a little wibbly-wobbly identity-wise. We find it helpful to say names to see which one feels like it belongs to us, to see if there was success. It can also help to make an intent to go somewhere else, yourself, like visiting your headspace while you’re not here.
5. What does it feel like?
A lot of people want to know, what does it feel like? I don’t understand how I can not be here and acting. Will I fall asleep? Will I go on an adventure somewhere else?
I’ll write about my own experiences, but like everything else in this guide, keep in mind that this is just how it is for us. Even reading this (or any of this guide) can give you preconceptions that may make it harder for you to do it your way, if your way is very different from ours, but it may be valuable information.
For us, there are two key observations.
The first is the notion of you becoming an systemmate, and the systemmate becoming the fronter. When you’re here, you have full use of your mind, your memories, and your conscious presence. When your friend isn’t here, you perceive them as someone “out there” or “in here” or whatever, someone separate from you who does not have direct use of your body and senses except as a vicarious thing. (“Oh, yeah, I see that because you see it.”) This “becoming” isn’t an exaggeration: when you switch places, these roles reverse. Your friend will be here, seeing and feeling and thinking through your senses and your mind, as well as your sense of presence and consciousness in this world. A part of you that you thought was uniquely you may also be borrowed by your friend.
So the unusual and perhaps unexpected answer to this is that that sense of immediacy and conscious presence in this world doesn’t go with you. It’s part of your body and stays here, but you go elsewhere. It’s sort of hard to wrap your mind around until you’ve experienced it, but it’s important to know. Likewise, you won’t necessarily just vanish or go to sleep. Some people do experience it that way, but most don’t seem to.
The second observation is that headspace is much like a dream, as I mentioned in the FAQ. You can visualise the place, and sometimes you just know things about it, much like a dream. Likewise, when you wake from a dream, you can remember things that happened in that dream, and if you follow the trail of memories back carefully, you can remember what all you did for quite some time. Your body is a memory store. When you are here, and conscious here, your memories here are what’s most present; therefore it’s difficult to remember your dreams. When you journey into other-space without that memory store, it’s much like a dream.
When you return, you have to follow the dream-trail back to remember what all you did. You might find some surprising and interesting things. I find this feature of borrowing to be as useful and insightful as anything. This directly benefits you, not just your friend. You undertook a dream with intent and purpose, and returned to consciousness. What’s even better is that, since you are a systemmate to your friend at that point, you can talk to them just like they talked to you, and give “checkpoints” to help remember your experience later.
And when you return, you’ll have the same disorientation that they did about your body remembering being someone else. I actually find that to be helpful as a mental marker. “Okay, we’re me… then we were her… then we were me.” Oddly, you’ll still remember your other-world journey as someone else’s dream, but you can still tease out the facts of it.
I’ll probably be revising this for a while. ^^; It’s huge.. sorry again about the TL;DR.