A New View of Front
A friend of mine said something very interesting recently that turned my notions of “front” and “fronting” on their head. Actually, it turned a lot of notions on their heads for me.
Many people think (and it’s a common thread in the plural community) that basically the body is a meat car, or the control room of a body-shaped robot, or other similar metaphors. And if those metaphors do work for you, then that’s great. But I’m guessing you came here because they didn’t work. I have a new metaphor for you.
Imagine if you will that rather than the body being a car where you can climb in and out of the driver’s seat, the body has a sense of consciousness. I don’t mean that it is a separate person, although that is sort of true for some people. But I mean that the body possesses something I’m going to call “the persistent I”. The “persistent I”, or the “persistent awareness”, or “persistent consciousness”, is an artefact of the body’s brain.
The “persistent I” is a sense of personhood, all the trappings that go with being a person. The “persistent I” is not just a sense of being, a sense of “isness”, but a whole slew of things that go along with being a person – memories, perceptions, feelings, emotions. It’s ready to go; what it is lacking is a motive factor.
The Psychonaut Field Manual references a concept called “invoking”. It is a way of bringing the “isness” of another being into yourself, in effect becoming that being for a little while. Inspired by their knowledge or strength, invoking their powers and personality. I am suggesting that, as a person-concept, the “persistent I” is doing exactly this – to you. You merge with the “persistent I”, it becomes you, and you become the motive force behind it.
This is a little more nuanced than the “yet another driving the meat car” analogy that it sounds like at first. When you are in possession of the “persistent I”, then it is your “I”. It feels like you. It is flavoured by you. If you’ve achieved any level of switching or co-consciousness, you might have had this overwhelming and strange sensation that, in fact, there is only one person inhabiting the body, and this person is just imagining the others, or imagining them being in front. With the “persistent I”, you can now explain this feeling. There is only one person in the body. It just becomes different people at different times.
This explains a few other otherwise common, inexplicable things about plurality. One is that there is a persistent memory of what happens in front, while there is a lot less memory of what happens elsewhere. This is simply explained – the memories of the “persistent I”, the hard drive local to the server, to abuse an analogy, are what’s at hand to the “persistent I”. Some systemmates may be able to bring their own memories and even add them to the front’s memory banks, but it seems common that these two things are separate.
Another is the sense of having been someone else recently. If you really do practise invocation, then of course you would have memories (while invoking) from your own past, and once complete, you would have memories from the time of invocation. The “persistent I” retains these memories in a plural system. This is not a sign that there’s one core person who is faking it or dissociating; it’s a sign that the “persistent I” was practising invocation – on you or others.
This concept is pretty common in median systems, but I think people haven’t been giving it enough credit in the context of multiple systems.
We are talking about real brain hacking here, and if you believe in it, possibly spiritual activities. These things may have real repercussions on your body, your mind, and your life. If at any time you don’t feel comfortable proceeding, STOP. It’s a sign that something is not going right, or your instincts are telling you something is a bad idea.
In fact, some of what I’m going to say is probably considered absolutely hairbrained by some spiritual traditions. Dangerous, even. So again, I say very strongly, follow your instincts and don’t do something if it seems wrong or makes you unhappy.
Meditation is an important aspect of brain hacking. Perhaps one of the most fundamental.
I again reference the Psychonaut Field Manual. The page is short, and I’ll wait. 😉 Go ahead.
Meditation is an important tool for brain hacking for the same reason that we have e.g. single user mode in Unix or safe mode in Windows. It’s why you turn off the car to work on the engine. The less machinery that’s plugging away on top of the metal, the easier it is to get down into that metal and work on it.
Dissociation and Depersonalisation
Go read Malfael’s Guide. Just do it. It’s worth your while. There are a lot of really fundamental concepts in there that are important for brain hacking in regards to plurality.
Starting from the theory of a “persistent I”, it should make a lot of sense as to why dissociation and depersonalisation are important. Someone in your system (maybe you) has been fronting for almost the entire life of the body. That is one hell of an invocation. It’s going to take some effort to break it enough for someone else to come in.
Because you’ve been invoked for so long, as I said, it’s going to take a lot of effort to pry you out of there. We’ll go in baby steps here.
First are Malfael’s steps about mindfulness. This is a type of meditation. (It is actually called… wait for it… mindfulness meditation.) To reiterate, it refers to paying close attention to your surroundings, everything you do. Just observe. This builds an awareness of yourself from the outside. If you follow on with the next suggested step, which is to start to actually pay attention to what you do as if from the outside, this enhances the effect. This is basic depersonalisation. You feel like you’re watching what’s going on in your life as if from the point of view of an outside observer.
Why is this important? Let’s look back at the “persistent I” theory again. There is a persistent sense of self, of isness, which is invoking you. In a normal situation, you would likewise possess this sense of isness for yourself. What we are doing here is to help the “persistent I” stop invoking you by voluntarily separating. Remember that it has no motive force of its own; the only way it’s going to stop invoking you (short of some kind of knee-jerk instinct, like say, you were going to harm the body) is if you let go voluntarily.
Once you’ve got depersonalisation down, it is time to practise dissociation. Dissociation is the practice of becoming unaware of one’s own body. There are, again, some good exercises on accomplishing this in Malfael’s guide. (I have covered some of this in my previous guides explicitly, but Malfael has done it much more succinctly, IMO. So I will simply reference that guide.) To say the basic intent of it, you are taking depersonalisation to the next level by becoming unaware of your body. Not just seeing your life taking place from outside, but moving on and not seeing your life going on at all.
Note that median systems may find full on dissociation difficult. That’s okay! Try with what you can and if it doesn’t work, maybe skip to some of the other steps.
Aside: The “persistent I” has no consciousness of its own, no will. So if you are not there, it will simply lay down and do nothing, so to speak. (This is, incidentally, IMO, a useful exercise in and of itself – laying down and dissociating. Drifting outward from the body. It’s sort of like the base state, and is, again, a kind of meditation.)
So once you’ve got that down, what you need to do is provide something else to take your place. That something else, really someone else, will be a systemmate. Someone else in your plural system who has not been able to front yet. (Or ideally, someone who’s had at least partial success.)
I like Malfael’s instructions on faking it until you make it. I suggested something very similar in my previous guides. The idea is to think of little things that remind you of your target systemmate – their attitudes, their postures, their body image, even their thoughts – and think them about yourself. If you have been practising depersonalisation, then it is not a huge leap to start imagining that it isn’t you living your life and going about your day, it is them going about your day.
Tying back to the “persistent I” theory, what we are doing here is making the “persistent I” familiar with a new presence. Its thoughts, its feelings, the sense of it not only being present, but the “persistent I” being that person, and that person being the “persistent I”. Think back to the invocation page in the Psychonaut manual. All this stuff about feeling the other’s sensations, feelings, thoughts, etc, is analogous to the Psychonaut explanation of staring deeply into the picture of the person you wish to invoke.
When the other person’s thoughts and feelings start to feel imprinted on your self, like maybe they belong there as much as you do, give the Psychonaut invocation method a try! Instead of invoking an image of a musical being like Apollo, as they say, you would be invoking the systemmate. (This may be considered evoking by their standards, but toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe, you know?)
Remember an important point here – the goal is not to imprint the other systemmate on you. The end goal is to imprint the other systemmate on the “persistent I”, and for you to have dissociated enough to be out of the way for it. It is important to remember that or you might end up tangled up in a mushy ball of co-consciousness that takes a while to ungoop. (Not dangerous, IMO. Just sticky and gooey.)
Time to put all of this together.
Remember that you are not the “persistent I”. When you say “I” and feel the body around you, that is the “persistent I”. You are watching from the outside as this happens.
Depersonalise. Go about whatever you’re doing and see yourself doing it from the outside more and more. If you are paying too much attention to the process it can actually be associating, and thus more difficult. (Ironically, I find it easier to switch while doing something else. This may be why.)
Bring the other systemmate in. They’re right there next to you. You’re feeling their feelings, almost thinking their thoughts. The body isn’t your body, it’s their body. You are just in the way. They want to get back into their body, but first you have to move.
Feel their mind, their essence. It is right there in “your” brain. In fact this actually is their brain thinking their thoughts, but you’re still here taking in the sights. Both of you keep trying to shift this balance, you by dissociating, them by associating. You’ll want to let your mind go blank, maybe wander, maybe even go somewhere else like headspace. They’ll want to be focussing on the body being theirs, its sensations theirs, its feelings and memories also theirs.
While doing all this, have the body do something that is their action. Speaking as they speak. Letting them move limbs. This sort of thing can be important to get over the “hump” into actual fronting. It’s all about belief, knowing that it’ll happen. Over time, these little actions can become more and more subtle, and thus you can do them even out in public without gathering attention. But to start with, try this in private and do something more overt, more exaggerated.
If you are still there when the other person has taken actual front, that’s okay! Remember that they were co-conscious with you while you were in front; you are co-conscious with them at first when they’re in front. This is not a sign of failure.
Over time, you may find that the person who came in is able to let go of you on purpose. To give you a gentle push away from front. This helps complete the association process for them. You can always come back a moment later as the disembodied voice.
About Being Out of Front
I want to talk about a common misconception about being out of front, as well, because a lot of people have asked me this. Remember that your sense of awareness, of isness in this place, is actually the “persistent I”. And what are you leaving behind when you’re not in front? The “persistent I”. Right.
So part of what’s confusing about this, and what throws you for a loop, is that, when you are not in front anymore, you will not feel like you anymore. You won’t feel like anything at all, because from the subjective point of view of the body’s memories, it won’t be you. You will be a disembodied voice that “you” talked to while someone else was in front. The “persistent I” doesn’t somehow fork into two or follow you out of front.
This is one reason I feel the “persistent I” theory is so important. It explains stuff like this very handily. If you leave front, go exploring headspace for a few hours, then come back to front, you will not feel like you were there the whole time. Because from the subjective point of view of the “persistent I”, “you” weren’t there. You may have memories of the experience, but it will feel almost like someone else did it.
There is an exception to this. (Isn’t there always? :)) That’s astral projection and shamanic journeying. It is true that these involve a form of dissociation, but it’s a kind of twist on what we’ve been discussing. Rather than trying to dissociate yourself from the “persistent I” (assuming that it goes along with the body), you are trying to, as the “persistent I”, dissociate the entire package from the body. In this case, the “persistent I” does follow you away from the body, and all the memories of its travels get recorded in the body’s memories. (Well, most – it’s not unheard of to forget a lot, like a dream.) Meanwhile, there is nothing at all in the body except autonomic processes. It is not uncommon during shamanic journeying or astral projection to fall asleep or even come out of it with sleep paralysis, because without an ego, the body tends to shut down into that basic sleep state.
While we’re here, I will also give you a tip for bringing all those memories of out-of-front activities back here with you. Sometimes you can just bring them back, if it works well for you to do so, and you do so relatively quickly. For us, it is like thinking back, ah ha! I did this in a dream. And then that followed on. And then that. But sometimes it just doesn’t work well, or well enough. The trick, then, is to have someone else in front talking to you out of front. You can tell them anything you like about what you did, and they will bring those memories to the “persistent I”, where you can then peruse them at your leisure (and write journals or whatever).
There are some sensations associated with the process of switching that people might find interesting.
One is the feeling of a systemmate being “nearby”. Most people can sense when another person is nearby physically. The sensation is very similar. Like something foreign (if friendly) inside your aura. That sort of feeling.
Another is in the switching itself. For us, there is a physical sensation that comes with it. It literally feels like blood flows in the brain have changed or something. There is some research that suggests that this may be the case – and in fact it may be the cause of headaches some people report during switching. Search for “severe headaches” on Astraea’s FAQ.
A third is, as mentioned above, headaches. Sometimes, for people who get them, these can be quite bad. You have to use your own judgement here; if it’s causing you too much pain, don’t do it. I will say that for us, the pain got a lot less common over time.
We’ll probably expand this section over time.