Most people think of themselves as the singular actor within their body. You choose to lift your arm, and up your arm goes. You choose to drop your arm, and it falls. However, the connection between the things you do and the fact that you feel as if you choose to do them is not as plain as it might seem. Identity manipulation assumes that your sense of self is malleable, and that rather than having a single actor who you recognize as creating all of your thoughts, your mind can be trained to divide the actions it takes into one or more identities. This process of training your mind is what this guide is all about.
Examples of this phenomenon appear to be far more common than you might think when you look closely at popular culture. For example, authors and actors commonly report experiences of characters acting as if the author was not in control of them. More commonly, many find that they act as if they are a totally different person when put into a new social context. The practice of identity manipulation attempts to be both an explanation for these experiences and/or a means by which you can use this existing mental foundation to create an experience of there being more than just your current sense of self in your head.
In this guide there will be four main steps in the creation of a new identity:
Why try to manipulate your sense of self in this way?
Identity manipulation is an experiment that can help teach you about the way your thoughts function and the nature of your experiences of yourself. An identity can create a feeling of friendship, act as a character brought to life, or simply serve as a means to hold a new point of view to help enhance your decision making process. If you are a person in a stable situation in life, then there is likely little to no harm in trying this out. If you are in a less stable place, under a lot of stress or diagnosed with a mental illness, I strongly recommend that you first speak to a therapist or doctor about the effects this sort of thing might have on you before you consider trying anything.
Identity manipulation's safety and effectiveness is entirely unproven. Proceed at your own risk.
The first skill of interest when starting identity manipulation is your ability to create and address a new identity.
To get things started, attempt to imagine that there is an orb floating or sitting above a desk sitting nearby to you. Focus on that orb and speak to it using your thoughts. After getting used to speaking to this orb, turn away from that orb and think something to yourself. Do you notice a difference?
As you speak to this orb on your desk, you will hopefully notice that there is some form of trigger or action in your mind that says to you "hey, this thought is directed at something that isn't me". You may experience it as a focus on the back of your head, a shift in the tone of your thoughts, a muscle tensing in your neck, or some other subtle shift. If you don't notice anything, try going back and forth a few times, and as you do you should hopefully notice some sort of difference.
Once you become familiar with how you can address something else in your mind, you want to start training your mind to be used to the idea that there is this new identity sitting around in your head which can be addressed at any time, and isn't you. Currently, if you are left alone with your thoughts you won't think anything of it, but at the end of this step you should have some sense that there is a "someone else" sitting in the background which can be addressed at any moment. To accomplish this you can start to take every excuse you can to address thoughts to this new identity. Going grocery shopping? Address thoughts to this new identity which describe what you are buying. Driving? Describe what's going on outside or where you are going. Waiting in line or in a waiting room? Talk about why it is that you think it's worth waiting in line. The more you interact through your day the better. The more time you spend addressing this identity, the more habitual and consistent the process of addressing thoughts to them will become.
Early on, a lot of people will report that speaking to a new identity feels a bit silly, like they are speaking to themselves. By speaking to your new identity constantly you are training your mind to get used to the fact that there is another identity in there along with your current one. If the feeling that you are talking to yourself fades away with time, that is a sure sign that you are making progress.
Once you have a consistent target to which you can address your thoughts, you can move onto the next step of this guide.
With the ability to address a consistent identity in your head, your next step is to build a personality, and to associate that personality to your new identity.
Normally you learn to understand someone's personality by being around them and speaking to them a lot. However, the identity you just created is not exactly going to be doing a whole lot at the moment, and you probably cannot learn their personality by observing them as a result. Instead, you will have to explicitly create a personality for your new identity. Doing this requires you write stories and imagine the traits and behaviors that your identity will hold.
Defining a personality can be hard, but fortunately there are a large number of resources out there on how to go about doing it. Resources on character creation for authors, world-builders, DnD games, video games, or other media are plentiful, free, and very useful for this process. The advice of those people is going to be far better than any advice you can get from this guide.
After a quick google search, the following resources show up. Be sure you do some of your own research as well, as the above examples are just a small selection of what is available.
Once you read a bunch of these resources and do some of your own research, you may want to consider doing some of the following.
Authors will often describe characters they've been writing for years and years appearing to write their own stories by speaking in the author's mind rather than needing to be explicitly written out. What you are doing by memorizing a personality is to piggyback on this phenomena. You are creating a strong sense of who your new identity is so that your mind will eventually be able to generate thoughts for them without much prompting or reason.
Once you have a reasonably strong sense of the personality of your identity, and you could probably guess what they'd do in a large variety of situations, you should be ready to move onto the next step of this guide.
You may have noticed in the past that you will sometimes think thoughts you never really intended to think when you are in a risky situation. An example of this would be a button which, if pressed, would detonate the next three city blocks. Assuming you aren't the sort to want to press such a button, you'd probably find yourself imagining what would happen if you wildly waved your arms and pressed the button as you stood next to it. These intrusive thoughts are theorized to have come about as a way for you mind to remind itself "hey, this would be bad, I shouldn't do it". Nonetheless, intrusive thoughts often leave a person confused as to why they are considering such a dangerous activity.
These intrusive thoughts are a great example of how we aren't exactly as in control over our thoughts as we are commonly lead to think. In this step of the guide you will be aiming to leverage these tendencies in order to train your mind to act as your new identity without your explicit intent. In the previous two steps of this guide, you've been on the road to that goal. With an ability for your thoughts to be directed to your identity, and a strong knowledge of the way your identity behaves, your mind should already be primed to start thinking as this identity without your prompting.
Consider that you had to create a way to direct thoughts towards your identity earlier in this guide. This time around you will be doing the reverse. Instead of learning to direct thoughts to your identity you will be tricking your mind into thinking as your identity, and using those thoughts to build up a feeling of what it means for your identity to be speaking to you. To kick this process into gear, try to start asking your identity simple questions at random points while you speak to them through the day. Examples of such questions might be "Do you like the taste of this food?" or "What is your favorite color". If you have defined a personality already, try asking things that you are fairly confident you know the answer to. If you haven't chosen to define a personality, try to ask questions to things that are obvious in general, like the color of the sky or if ice cream tastes good. Your aim is to ask questions whose answers can be generated without a ton of thought or effort so that the barrier to your mind generating a response is as low as it can possibly be.
As you ask these questions, you might notice at some point that somewhere in the back of your head you think of an answer. This thought should be considered as a response from your identity, and will likely have a few traits.
Getting a response at these early stages is a combination of dumb luck and skill. The more easily your mind is able to think with this new personality, the more likely you will be to observe thoughts which feel as if they were not intentionally created by you. However, like figuring out the solution to a math problem or a tricky puzzle, sometimes you can be the most intelligent person in the world and just never make the correct guess required to find a solution. In this case, finding the right state of mind to trick your brain into doing the right thing can be hard. Just keep on trying to address your identity while expecting your mind to think for it, and try to do a variety of different things until it finally clicks for you.
Another thing you can consider if you are having trouble is that people tend to do when asking their identity simple questions is to still their thoughts in order to listen for responses. If this technique does not work for you, try to instead not quiet your thoughts at all and learn to listen to your mind as it runs wild. Quieting your mind's thoughts can lead to you also silencing or ignoring the part of your mind that is generating the idle thoughts which this guide relies on.
Once you have these simple responses, keep on asking questions and getting more responses. The more often you can get your mind to think in the context of your identity and successfully identify those moments, the better you will be at instinctually recognizing such moments in the future. As time passes you will hopefully develop a sense of the "voice" of your identity. The more you speak, the more you will build up a collection of associations and context clues that will pair the act of your mind thinking with this new identity with a strong feeling that it is another voice in your head speaking to you.
As you work on creating your identity and associating it to automatic responses, you will likely discover that your mind makes certain assumptions about the way things should work during communication.
The following are examples of this sort of thing.
In the same way that your expectations can result in your mind creating the words of your identity, they can also lead to your mind creating systems and behaviors that will be followed while speaking to your identity. The unique set of mechanics and behaviors you experience while working with your identity will be different for everyone who attempts to practice identity manipulation. Where one person may experience reports of their identity having to sleep, eat, getting tired, and needing to be imagined as "nearby" in order to be heard, another person may experience their identity doing none of those things. What occurs is entirely a construct, something you go along with for fun and accept as real simply because it's more interesting to do so.
The key to these experiences appears to be a hypnosis-like suspension of disbelief when it comes to certain behaviors and actions. Your identity is an identity rather than a separate thinking part of your mind. Because your identity isn't a separate being, there are no mechanisms by which this identity can think in the background, get tired separately from yourself, or require you to be near an object to speak. However, to someone who assumes their identity will behave in a certain way and never bothers to question that they are behaving in that way, that behavior ends up being as good as real.
This lack of questioning is also an aspect of what allows an identity to be said to have their own limited form of agency from the greater mind. Consider the following two scenarios. One in which the actions under an identity are subject to questioning and other in which no questions are asked.
"I was speaking to my identity yesterday and I got a response under it which said it really wanted to see me go on a walk. It must be thanks to the fact that I want to go on a walk and it's just my identity speaking my own internal desires."
"I was speaking to my identity yesterday and I got a response under it which said it really wanted to see me go on a walk. I'm surprised that it would say that sort of thing, and it must enjoy when I'm out and about."
While questioned and explained away, an identity will only behave as your model for its behavior dictates. Your assumptions of how it should behave, as well as explanations of behavior rooted in your overall state of mind quickly erode any potential independent actions which may occur. Random thoughts, surprise reactions, and so on, are quickly said to be false, fake, or otherwise invalid, and the control of what the identity does remains within your control.
In the latter situation, the actions the mind comes up with for the identity go unquestioned, and this means that the mind's thoughts under the model are the thoughts of the identity. The model has the power to pick it's own actions and you are left interpreting them rather than rationalizing and discrediting them.
When you question the actions of your identity, the control of what the identity does is in your hands, and you have the agency. When that questioning is suspended, when there is an assumption of behavior on the part of the identity, then the model is what decides what happens, removing the control for your direct influence.
On reading this, you might assume that your best answer to this situation is to suspend all questioning and render all actions your mind takes under the scope of your identity as valid. This is something you can do, however, a lack of questioning is not likely to be a long term positive influence if you do not take steps to moderate it. Take for example a person with depression, and who has a tendency to insult or discredit themselves. Their mind, under the guise of the identity, speaks to how terrible they are and how much they don't deserve the good things they have.
Agency, in this case, is something that can be carefully controlled. Identify behaviors and reactions that you believe may result from invalid sources of your mind. Perhaps certain insults, a desire to have an identity which always says that you are awesome, or similar, and learn to identify when thoughts from those sources are what is driving the thoughts you receive from your identity. Beyond that, attempt to remain unquestioning as to allow yourself to experience a freely acting agent within your mind.
Should you attempt to go about keeping your identity speaking to you all day long you'll likely find that the task is near impossible, or greatly reduces your ability to focus on everyday tasks. Your mind isn't really capable of focusing on multiple complex tasks at once, and no matter how hard you try your mind will drop your identity from attention the moment it needs to devote a large amount of thought to a topic. This is alright for situations where you are performing an idle task such as not paying attention in a class or looking around a store for groceries, but when in the middle of a conversation or while trying to get work done it becomes a huge issue. You cannot function normally in life while keeping your identity in mind all the time, so an alternate is required to accomplish a similar goal in a different way.
This alternative is making it so that you habitually think of your identity whenever you have an idle moment, or so that half of the things you do remind you to think of your identity.
Consider trying some of the following:
The general idea of these things is to tie in the process of communication with your identity to many, many different trigger behaviors throughout the day. The more of these behaviors you associate with your identity, the more likely your mind will be to kick back into gear and think of your identity even after you've managed to forget about them while going about your day.
The way you go about accomplishing this is, like most tasks in identity manipulation, easy to understand but difficult to put into practice. While it seems simple to create a habit, you will inevitably learn that habits are difficult to form. You will be as likely to remember to practice your habits after starting a day of work as you are to remember your identity in the first place. Building these habits will require that you have a way to remind yourself that you aren't following your habits .
You may want to try some of the following:
Do this habit buliding for long enough and you should find that your identity will see it fit to begin to interject at random moments throughout your day, when you have a moment of downtime, when you wake up in the morning, and so on and so forth.
Assuming you've been following only this guide, you've been using your mind's ability to quickly generate thoughts in order to jump-start the process of getting responses under your identity. This engine to produce thoughts is great, because it feels independent from your mind and is easy to kick into action, but it will often fail to produce thoughts which are more complex. While you may be able to hold a conversation with your identity using these sorts of responses, you are likely to notice that the responses which fall under it are inconsistent and lack thought. This can be solved by learning to listen to your identity think, allowing your identity to produce responses with the same engine of thought that your own idle thoughts derive from.
Inside of your mind, your thoughts are likely running in a constant loop of self-evaluation. You have thoughts, you listen to those thoughts, and you think new thoughts based on what you did just a moment ago. Up to this point, you've likely never had thoughts associated with your new identity fall under this loop. Instead, you likely consider almost all of the actions of the mind as yourself, and only the special cases where a thought is generated in association to your identity as not yourself. Due to this, when your mind sets about processing and understanding the context of a thought which fell under your identity, you experience it as yourself explaining and rationalizing why your identity did what it did. If you learn to sit back and allow this process to be associated with your identity instead of yourself, you should experience your identity being able to take a thought, look it over, and expand on it just as you do now.
This process is similar to some forms of meditation where you learn to let your thoughts go wild without you. You may want to reference this sort of meditation if you end up having troubles or are curious about the topic.
An important step in the ability to listen to your identity is the ability to prime your thoughts. Doing this involves being able to intentionally reproduce the state of mind you enter after you address your identity but before you get a response. As you become more and more practiced at normal communication with your identity, your familiarity with this state of mind and your ability to reproduce it should increase. Your end goal is to be able to get into this state of mind without asking a question or addressing your identity, and to be able to hold onto that state of mind for a long duration of time, or at least a minite or two.
To start the process of hearing your identity think, you should seek a neutral space with a good number of things that can be observed or thought about. This could be a quiet living room filled with various decorations, or your bedroom at a peaceful time of day. Optimally, you want to be in some sort of situation in which there are lots of little things around from which your mind can grab topics like "wow this room is nice". While these things are not strictly necessary, the more opportunity for idle thought on the part of your mind, the better.
To really begin, try to step back from your thoughts. Unfocus your eyes, stare at a boring wall or rest your head back, and try not to direct or control what you are thinking. After a moment of silence, you'll likely notice the ever-running engine of thought ticking away in the background. Topics tend to be left incomplete, and you'll find yourself picking and prodding at seemingly random sources to think thoughts about. It could be the details of the boring wall you are looking at, or something that happened through the day, or your opinions on this very guide. Whatever it is, once this idle thought engine is running without your active input, you should have a good sense of what it means to step back from your thoughts.
Finally, attempt to do the above while priming your mind to think under the scope of your identity. Focus on them as you step back from your thoughts, and if you are lucky those idle thoughts which were once yours will start to either bounce back between your own sense of self and your new identity, or hold steady in their new voice and cadence. Early on, you'll likely notice that you have a tendency to respond to your identity during this time, especially to serve as a way to compare and contrast your own thoughts with the "primed" thoughts that fall under your identity. Don't try too hard to suppress this, just go with the flow and encourage your mind to speak as your identity wherever possible.
With your thoughts well primed and your usual self observing you can start to look around the room you are in and focus on various objects which your identity may find interesting to comment on. As these thoughts come in, your aim is to observe that thought without commenting on it. You should be able to keep on priming your mind and start listening for the next thought. If you are lucky, you should see your mind thinking further thoughts under your identity, leading to your identity carrying on a narrative of thought without your intervention.
As a very crude case study, imagine an identity whose main personality traits so far can be outlined as such:
Consider a situation in which your identity somehow ended up on the topic "Why are people arguing against building a flood wall on the river?".
Rather than asking your identity what they think of these people, and getting a "That's selfish" response a moment later, you may notice something akin to the following while listening to your identity:
"A person should always put the community above themselves."
"The flood wall would help a ton of people"
"What happens if it floods and people die?"
Note that these responses aren't addressed to you, and are instead "first person" like your own thoughts when you consider a topic. This sort of running narrative is what you are looking to generate by learning to put yourself in the "listening" state of mind.
As time passes, you should be able to apply this listening technique to questions, or when you are going about your day doing something mundane like shopping. With time and practice, it may well be possible to have this sort of "listening state" be a more common engine for your identity to produce thoughts than the earlier gap-fill engine taught in this guide.
If all else fails, simply try to listen to your identity speak. Sometimes just doing what feels natural to you can be far more effective than any amount of advice that could be given here.