the sum of our parts


Subpersonalities are our inner-world personifications, and the figures we meet in our dreams. In working with subpersonalities, we begin to discover our own healthy multiplicity, and the richness that such a world-view affords.

what are


Learn the basics of subpersonalities: who they are, what they do, and how they affect our lives. If you’ve ever marveled at your behavior, thinking, “That didn’t seem like me, at all!” this introductory article might be of interest. pinned article

how does it feel

when a complex is active?

Psychological concepts are often best understood through the lens of our experience. In this article, we get to know complexes, or subpersonalities, by considering what it feels like when they are present and active. article

Mansion of Mind

The Imaginal World of Stephen Leeds

Brandon Sanderson’s novella trilogy Legion explores the larger-than-life imaginal world of Stephen Leeds and his community of subpersonalities. In this relatively spoiler-free exploration, we consider the series through the lens of complex psychology. article

Multiple Personality

The Complex Psychology of Dissociative Identity Disorder

What do personal complexes and the alters of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) have in common? Here we consider the shared origins of alters and complexes, ultimately suggesting that it is not plurality of psyche, but rather the impermeable barriers to communication between parts of a dissociative self, that constitute the ‘disorder.’ article


Celebrating the Complex-Driven Psyche

Often cast as the underdogs — or even the villains — of our inner world, complexes are a foundational part of the psyche. When we consider them through a more heroic lens, we discover just how much they have to offer. article

the lexicon


A normal part of the human psyche which holds collections of related memories, affects, and beliefs. Generally understood to have an archetypal core and a more personal shell, they are sometimes called complexes or parts. The alters of multiple personality (dissociative identity) can be understood as subpersonalities with more profound barriers between them.

what are subpersonalities?

A normal part of the human psyche which holds collections of related memories, affects and beliefs. Generally understood to have an archetypal core and a more personal shell, they are sometimes called subpersonalities or parts. The alters of multiple personality (dissociative identity) can be understood as complexes with more profound barriers between them.


Used to describe the state when a complex is active. In some respects similar to a state of being ‘triggered.’ Perhaps best understood by illustration: Imagine that you are driving a large van. Your unconstellated complexes, or subpersonalities, sit in the rows of seats behind you. When a complex becomes constellated, it may either 1) take the seat beside you, perhaps advising or nagging you, and thus impacting your driving decisions, or 2) bump you out of the driver’s seat entirely, taking control of the van.

how does it feel when a complex is active?

A process by which we ‘shelve’ certain, often traumatic, information differently than other information. In dissociation, memory may be ‘held’ separately from the feelings experienced at the time the memory was formed. Dissociation can, in many cases, be understood as a ‘safety valve’ that keeps us from being overwhelmed by traumatic or strongly undesirable experiences.

dissociative disorder

A diagnostic category comprising disorders characterized by a division of self, from self. Because of these divisions, there may be lapses in recall, sense of identity, or access to knowledge.

dissociative identity disorder
multiple personality

Also known as dissociative identity. Generally understood as a pathological state, multiple personality is the traumatogenic, intensified version of the normal and predominantly healthy plural psyche. In cases of multiple personality, however, the level of dissociation is more marked, and more pronounced ‘walls’ exist between parts/alters.


The part of the psyche that shapes itself to meet the demands of the outer world. This complex has the sometimes difficult job of behaving in ways that feel — and, perhaps, are — antithetical to the deeper, authentic nature of the individual. Our persona, for instance, may present itself as a logical and fearless team player, while we more genuinely experience ourselves as timid, artistic, and introverted. Arguably, the persona’s function is to facilitate our survival, to create a ‘game face’ that allows us to integrate into the tribe.


The tendency of the parts of our psyche to manifest as persons, as seen most clearly in dreams. Also, a deliberate, often therapeutic choice to envision parts of our psyches as people, generally with the goal of creatively interacting with these parts to discern their needs or inner forces they represent.

plural positivity

A grassroots, largely online movement in support of those who identify as plural, experiencing their inner worlds as occupied by multiple inner figures. Embraces a variety of experiences of multiplicity, ranging from the normative to the disordered.

pluralistic psyche

A model of the psyche which embraces the idea that we are made of many semi- autonomous and autonomous parts called complexes. Related ideas include polytheistic psyche, multiplicity, plural self, and polycentric psyche.


The totality of the inner world, encompassing conscious and unconscious, ego, shadow, inner figures such as complexes and psychic archetypes (anima, Self, etc.), and processes like thought, memory, perception, and more. Arguably, psyche can be understood to extend beyond the limits of mind, embracing somatic experience, the fields of projection and transference that exist between people, intersection with a collective unconscious and/or the wider experience of an anima mundi, or world soul.


An inner archetype, force, or over-complex that moves the psyche as a whole toward the individual’s greatest fulfillment, destiny or individuation. The concept of the polycentric psyche may, however, cause us to ask whether there is more than one teleological ‘center’ in the psyche — or perhaps more than one Self. If this is the case, it may be that a person individuates not in respect to a single Self or Telos, but, rather, may achieve individuation by way of numerous centers within the psyche.


The parts of ourselves — or the place occupied by those parts of ourselves — which get suppressed because we perceive them as dangerous, inconvenient, too fragile, or otherwise undesirable. The shadowing of our inner parts is not necessarily a conscious process, and often it is strongly interwoven with fears about survival or being excluded from the tribe. Complexes (with the exception of the ego-complex) are generally said to dwell in the shadow region of psyche, and can certainly be understood as shadow-selves.


The part of our psyche that operates below the level of awareness or consciousness, particularly in relation to the perceptions of the ego-complex. Sometimes called the subconscious, we most commonly interact with this part of ourselves as the source of our nighttime dreams. Much of depth psychology is involved with making unconscious material conscious, as with practices like active imagination.

what is the unconscious?