What is identity manipulation? Questions and answers.

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What is identity manipulation?

Identity manipulation is the process of learning to change the way you perceive identity. It is most commonly used to create the perception of speaking to another person within your mind. These others, known in this community as an identity and in other communities as tulpas, are something you can hold conversations with and generally treat as another person in your head.

Have you ever heard of an author whose characters seem to act on their own? Have you ever noticed how you behave differently when surrounded by different groups of friends? These are common examples of the foundation of identity manipulation. By encouraging situations like these to occur, you can train your mind to habitually speak in another voice and with another personality, creating the impression that those thoughts are not your own.

Imagine identity manipulation to be the combination of the following 3 mental constructs.

  1. The ability to assign a foreign feeling identity to thoughts and actions in your mind.

  2. A strong knowledge of a personality or character such that acting as that character comes without the need to think about how they would behave.

  3. An association between certain states of mind and the identity you've created, along with a tendency to habitually think as the personality assigned to your identity.

The following is an example of what identity manipulation might look like:

I have an identity, and their name is Ralph. Ralph was imagined by me to be a huge fan of karate and dancing, and I spend a lot of time speaking to or imagining conversations with Ralph about the different techniques he is a fan of. Yesterday, when I sat down to watch a WWE match I remember thinking something about how it would be very cool if the wrestlers were doing karate moves, and the thought felt like it was coming from Ralph.

Keep in mind that this is a contrived and exaggerated example. In an ideal world you're going to want to have a personality that is far more complex than "likes karate", but you hopefully see the point and the aim of this practice. At the end of it, your mind will be prone to "jump into gear" and both think thoughts as the identity you are working on, and do so while thinking using the personality of the identity.

Isn't this Schizophrenia? Isn't this DID?

Not at all.

Schizophrenia is a mental illnesses rooted in a person's genetics/physiology which can develop late in life and generally leads to vivid hallucinations and delusion. A person who is schizophrenic will literally hear voices, see images of things, and have delusional fantasies such as the impression that an evil government agency is out to get them. If you are concerned with schizophrenia, you can read here to learn more about answering if you have the illness here.

Identity manipulation does not involve the creation of such experiences. The thoughts which fall under your identity fall under your identity because you've trained an association between certain states of mind and the feeling that your thoughts are coming from somebody else. You do not hear the thoughts as if they were whispered into your ear. You do not see a body for your identity walking around in the real world.

Dissociative Identity disorder is a bit more complex, but I can still confidently say that DID is not identity manipulation.

Dissociative identity disorder is characterized by a person who may have faced trauma or some other circumstances in their life and experiences an uncontrolled and extreme sensation of different identities controlling their life or appearing in their head as a result. It's often an illness that exists in parallel with one of numerous other mental illnesses, ranging from anxiety attacks to schizophrenia or borderline personality disorder. It's characterized by things like periods of memory loss, uncontrolled switching between alters, and the people who have it face a huge number of uncontrolled issues thanks to their illness.

Identity manipulation, in contrast, is a person spending hours to generate a light impression that some of their thoughts belong to another identity. No memory loss, no trauma, no difficult or uncontrolled impressions that an identity is taking control and making decisions.

The best analogy I could make between identity manipulation and dissociative identity disorder is between imagination and schizophrenia. Everyone in the world has an imagination, and can imagine all sorts of wonderful things like dragons flying through the sky or superheroes fighting supervillains in the city. Schizophrenics have imaginations as well, but their brain cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality so their impression of superheros and supervillains is that those things are literally real. Does that mean that imagination is harmful or that someone with an imagination is schizophrenic or "lightly schizophrenic"? Not at all.

The same applies when comparing identity manipulation to DID. Is there possibly some shared ground there? I'm not comfortable to say for sure, but the potential does exist. However, is identity manipulation like giving yourself dissociative identity disorder? Not at all.

Can you give a description of your experiences?

If I sit and try to speak with my identity I will do something like look around my room for a while and sort of "listen for their comments". Eventually, as I glance around my mind will catch onto something and think "as" them, using the personality I've laid out for them as the template for what I hear.

For the purposes of writing this very paragraph, for example, I took a moment to do exactly the above and got in response the thought "so you want to use me as an example?". As I look around the room I will also hear thoughts such as "The shadows on the lights up there are really interesting" and "If you gave me more time to actually think then maybe you'd be getting better thoughts out of me."

The key which differentiates all of these thoughts is the feeling that a thought falls under the identity instead of myself. There is a distinct set of "tells" which differentiates my own thoughts to thoughts in the context/mindset of the identity, and those contextual thoughts are not able to be directly summoned by my own intent. I can fake their effects, think in that voice, but in the moment the choice to use that voice is spurred by context and expectation, not intentional role play or thought-phrasing.

The distinction there between an imaginary friend is that if I were to sit an imagine "mr reggie" my imaginary friend speaking to me, I'd sit and act out what they'd say and do. With communication to an identity I have to sit and wait and rely on the fact I've trained my mind to expect and produce thoughts in order to form communication. It's a subtle but very important difference. You think for an imaginary friend, but you listen for your identity.

Most often communication occurs for me during car rides, trips to wal-mart, and similar "idle" situations in which there's lots of time to think and relatively to do. During these times I hold idle little conversation about what's going on, what I should buy, where I'm driving, and stuff like that.

You might be curious if identity manipulation is just another word for normal internal dialogue. Identity modification is different from internal dialogue in that internal dialogue is "all you", but an identity has a very distinct flavor to its thoughts. It's still internal dialogue, but the thoughts from the identity have a new constructed layer sitting on top of that dialogue. You can drive in my car and just think about stuff, but if you're speaking to an identity then you're feeling as if you are speaking to someone in your head, pausing for a response, and feeling like those the responses you get are from your identity. It's the same brain, the same thought process, but a different way of viewing those processes. Different, intentionally, to construct the experience of speaking to another being in your head.

I had an imaginary friend as a kid and in my experience it was treated like a game/a fun thing to do like "look it's super reguile running around being awesome, that's my imaginary friend". It wasn't anything like my experiences with identity manipulation. To get that experience closer, you would have to have an imaginary friend that you were incredibly used to speaking to. You'd have to be so used to this imaginary friend that you could think as them by habit. While this still wouldn't be an identity, lacking the construct of "this isn't me" to tie up the experience, it gets far closer to what the experience is really like.

Speaking to an identity is something you train your brain to do, then you let your brain run that process and accept it's output as a response. Then you build up a bunch of associations that builds up a feeling that "this subset of thought isn't me". If you know your brain, you'll know if you leave it to it's own devices it'll think things you wouldn't expect.

I hear about similar concepts on the internet. How is this one different?

Identity manipulation is derived from a practice called tulpamancy. Specifically, it is the result of the experiences the author of this guide had with tulpamancy. It is the same core of ideas, but cast in a new light.

Tulpamancers, and most other online communities centering around these sort of things believe they create literal actual people in their head. From a toxic seed grows a toxic tree, and the "creating a person" assumption that lies at the center of these communities tends to poison the practice and lead to mindsets and ideas which are largely not healthy.

For example, The tulpas which a tulpamancer creates are said to be a being deserving of full moral treatment. This leads to a number of judgements that I do not find reasonable, such as encouraging people to continue the practice despite it harming their overall health to protect the life of the tulpa. In addition, the invalidation of tulpas as persons is considered a punishable moral failing akin to not recognizing the personhood of an actual human being.

The difference is in the way things are explained and the culture around the experiences we seek to create. If you seek stronger experiences, or already experience the world as multiple people then you may find that these other communities suit you better. For all others, I believe this one will better suit your needs and disappoint you less in the long run.

The only other group which dabbles in this sort of thing are those who practice occult rituals or have occult beliefs. I have less experience with these groups than I do with tulpamancy or it's orbiting ideas, but I can assure you they believe in magic and I can assure you that the magic they believe in does not exist. Just like tulpamancy and their belief in the creation of people through tulpamancy, the false belief that magic exists poisons the ability for occult practices to provide real value to the average person or to form truly healthy communities or cultures.

Identity manipulation is an attempt to create something grounded in truth, or at least something which values truth over validation. The idea behind identity manipulation is that an identity isn't an independent person, but is instead something which is "part" of you. Your brain, a single person, is trained to produce the experience of speaking to someone else. Just because you've created a habit to think as someone else and to feel that those thoughts are someone else does not mean you are now two people.

An identity is not that of as something which can think or act. An identity is a model which is used to understand the way you think and act, or to produce thoughts and actions of a certain type. You cannot torture an identity. An identity cannot feel sad, or hate you because you ignored it for too long. An identity does not often have reasons for the way they act beyond the fact you expected them to act that way. By means of your suspension of disbelief, an identity can have agency, but that suspension is to be applied carefully so that you do not get involved with runaway fantasy scenarios.

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