Hey, Gamers! So this time we’re hopping back on the Mystic Messenger train! This post is going to be slightly negative, which sucks because I made this blog to be positive about gaming but I know a lot of the fandom do not understand the issue with this character and since I’m part of the group being affected, I thought I would explain it a little better.
For anyone new to my blog- Hi I’m Eleanor and I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID is a disorder that stems from repeated childhood trauma, around the ages of 3-7. Many survivors with DID also have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or even Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). As you can probably tell, it’s a very sensitive subject as it involves the repeated trauma of a literal child.
Most of you will actually know DID by its old name- multiple personality disorder. This name is old (it changed in 1994, so it hasn’t been used in this century!). Many systems (those living with DID) find the term ‘multiple personality disorder’ harmful to the DID community, myself and my system included. It was changed for a reason and using old terminology that has been changed to better suit the situation just so it’s ‘easier to understand’ is ignorant and wrong. The name was changed so that the emphasis was put on the fragmentation of identity rather than the multiple part. Furthermore, DID is not a personality disorder, it is a dissociative disorder so the old terminology further lessens understanding.
I am going to try my best not to go off on a tangent for this post, or go on any rants. However, I want to put a disclaimer that I do not and can not speak for the whole DID community. If I say “most of” in this post, this refers to most of the systems that I have spoken to. My opinions are mine alone unless I state otherwise but even then, I cannot speak for everyone.
I was anxious about Unknown’s route. I was aware of it, and I had read that he has several ‘sides’ that go by different names. Representation of DID has not been good, and I loved this game. It really helped me keep a schedule in the first lockdown (which is good because I have autism and thrive on structure). I loved the characters and I was excited to learn more… but at the same time, I was so anxious. I like to think that I’m not sensitive about a lot. I don’t think I’m overly touchy or anything. But I am kinda protective over the media portrayal of DID (and autism too). A whole ton of the DID community is like this. So yeah, there was a lot of anxiety leading up to it. But I had 11 days, I tried my best to go into it with a clear mind. I was in a good headspace, and I was also kind of excited. Like, if they got this right, it would be awesome to share some good representation with the community.
Alas, that did not happen.
Before I talk about the bad, I want to talk about the good! A popular misconception about DID is that you can have it without the trauma, which is wrong. It’s actually hurtful to think about, because it’s like, people think that a coping mechanism developed from repeated trauma in your childhood is just something cool or fun that anyone could have. But Mystic Messenger not only got the trauma right, but also the repeated trauma right which is something that I was happy with. It’s very clear that Saeran was struggling to cope with his childhood trauma, which is why it would make sense for him to have DID. I just felt happy that they did their research about that.
And before I really get into the ‘bad’ stuff, I’d like to explain something because I feel like I’m going to get comments if people don’t understand this beforehand. We – people with DID – have been portrayed as monsters time and time and time and time again. There’s always bad system communication, a ‘bad’ alter that all the other alters are scared of and who are harmful to society, or a literal cult-type thing. These portrayals always make it seem like the only goal should be integration rather than functioning multiplicity, and they completely ignore the amount of hard work that needs to be done in order to integrate, and how harmful it could be to the system. There’s so little good representation out there. It really sucks. Why do we care so much? Because being a system is what helped us through the toughest time of our lives. Systems are typically painted in a negative light when it is literally the best coping mechanism our brains could do with what they had. We were kids when we went through this trauma. This isn’t just how we coped, but often how we survived. Systems deserve better. No child should go through trauma, but if a coping mechanism is painted in a negative light, it dissuades people from supporting functional multiplicity, which is often the best goal for systems. This is why it’s so harmful.
So uh here we go: having a ‘bad/evil’ alter. That’s where we’ll start. The goal of a system is to help the host through traumatic events. I’m not saying that every single alter is perfect, but the way Saeran was portrayed was awful. He was a metaphorical monster (I have to define what kind of monster because the atrocity of Split unfortunately exists). There seems to be some sort of system communication between Ray and Saeran, so Saeran coming out and doing that to MC likely wouldn’t happen. I’m not saying that Saeran would have just liked MC because Ray did, or that Ray would have complete control over him. I’m saying that most systems have a united outlook and it’s very rare for things to go that drastically different. It’s clear that his system is in chaos, but showing that is actually pretty harmful to the DID because while it is a part of having DID, it’s an over shown and often small part of a system’s journey. I don’t think I’ve consumed media where there wasn’t a ‘bad’ alter. It’s just uncommon amongst the DID community, especially for any alters that could be seen as bad/evil to front so much. Remember that DID is formed in childhood, therefore when most people have a hero/villain perspective of life, and most kids don’t want to be the villain so a lot of alters have morals based on this.
Next up is the whole integration VS functional multiplicity thing that I mentioned previously. For those who don’t know, there are usually two routes you go down when you heal from your trauma: integration or functional multiplicity. It’s like an end goal. Integration is when a system (two or more alters) kinda merge back together, like a singlet. I’m not 100% of the details because it’s never been a goal I wanted to achieve and therefore didn’t feel the need to research it myself. However, I do know that it is a lot of hard work, can take years, can be emotionally painful, the process itself can be traumatising and a lot of therapists think that this is the only option. A lot of people, in general, seem to think if you successfully integrate, you are ‘cured’ of DID. This often gets forced on systems, particularly new systems that haven’t had the time to do the research and work out what’s best for them and their system themselves. It’s often seen as the only option and this is seen in Mystic Messenger. The hard work and pain and everything is missing, and everyone seems to think that integrating is the best for the system. If the system had received the correct help, they could have gone down a different route that was better for them and not as damaging (to me, I felt like they were in pain in the end but that just might be me remembering wrong because it’s taken me a few months to be okay to write about this).
For those who are curious as to how they could have done it better: Functional multiplicity is when a system can function together as one in society when they all work together to get things done successfully. It can take a lot of work, a lot of patience and a lot of time but it’s the calmest way and it is what most systems choose to do because it leans more on the acceptance side. From our perspective as a system, integration is like trying to pretend the trauma didn’t happen and working to get rid of trauma, acting like it’s something to be ashamed of. On the other hand, functional multiplicity is like accepting the trauma as a part of you and working to move past it, and you can do it at your own pace, and honestly… you’re not alone. Some of my best friends are members of my system and I am thankful that we were never forced to integrate. I would be lonely without them.
That being said, some people do choose integration and that’s their choice to make, and I respect that. Remembering to do what’s best for your system is always most important, I just feel like Saeran was never given the option to choose.
Another thing that I didn’t like about Saeran is that he is literally trauma-inducing. I’ve spoken about this before but I got massively triggered due to the threat of sexual assault. I know that this isn’t directly to do with DID, but it just didn’t sit right with me that someone with a disorder caused by trauma was causing more trauma.
I know I’m going to get people defending this and his character, or saying that I’ve interpreted things incorrectly. People can obviously have their opinions and I have mine. I have a blog where I share these opinions, and this is it. While I am happy that they seemed to do at least some research into DID, it is – yet again – used to villainise us, fetishize us and it spreads misinformation. Another thing I know that I’m going to get is “oh you’re saying that someone with DID can’t be a villain” no. I’m just saying that we are not part of the horror genre, nor should we ever be considered part of the horror genre, and that’s the vibes that this gives off. We’re always portrayed as the bad guys and there’s no reason for it.
But that’s it for this post, Gamers! Leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you’re new and just here for this post, please remember to be respectful and know that this is a real disorder that real people deal with that stems from repeated childhood trauma. Check out my socials if you want to keep updated and I stream (with Josh) over on Twitch @2nerds_1game, but all of that should be linked somewhere. See you next post, Gamers!
Just wanted to add a link to my post about what I think a game involving DID should look like for some comparison: https://eleanorreesgaming.com/2021/01/03/an-insight-into-what-i-think-a-game-about-did-should-be-like/