What is System Responsibility?
System responsibility is the acceptance that regardless of which alter took what action, every alter within the system needs to take accountability for the actions that the body took. If an alter within the system hurt someone else, even if the host doesn’t remember that and didn’t do it themselves, they need to apologize, take accountability, and take the steps to make that right and ensure it doesn’t happen again. This may feel unfair and take some time to come to terms with, but it’s essential to functioning and ethical living as a system. This is another reason to work hard towards integration (not fusion necessarily), but working on lowering those amnesiac barriers and increasing communication and cooperation between alters.
Why is System Responsibility Important?
System responsibility is important for several different reasons.
- Not taking accountability for your alter’s actions will make you less likely to work towards progress. Let’s say – for example – an alter in your system cheats on your partner. If you don’t take system responsibility and acknowledge that it’s your responsibility to your partner to make sure you’re working on communication and to not let something like that happen – that you take accountability for that situation happening, and if you instead just say ‘well it wasn’t me, it was my alter and I have no sway over what they do!’, then you aren’t going to be taking steps towards making sure it doesn’t happen again – whether it’s with that partner, that scenario, or something different. If you can’t acknowledge that you are responsible for working on communication and collaboration within your system to be accountable for the actions your body takes and the effects you have on the people and world around you, you’ll never make any progress and those things will keep happening forever.
- Not taking accountability can be a form of gaslighting. Depending on the scenario and what happened, especially if someone got traumatized by what an alter did, them having a physical traumatic response to you is valid and if you responding with “well it wasn’t me!” that isn’t okay and is gaslighting. Acknowledging that all alters are a part of one whole and share one body is a part of having DID/OSDD and essential to accountability, and if you’ve hurt someone you need to be able to take that accountability if they’re having a visceral reaction to seeing you. Your system hurt them and they’re absolutely valid in having that reaction and it’s not okay to tell them that their trauma is wrong. System responsibility is essential here – taking accountability for what your alter did because you have not built the communication yet to manage your system in a healthy way.
Is it okay to explain that another alter was fronting at a certain time? Yes. However, don’t do this in a defensive way, and perhaps wait until the situation has calmed down to do it.
And always remember the rule of system responsibility: It’s your job to clean up your alters’ messes. It might not feel fair, but it’s the way it is.
“It wasn’t me, it was my alter.”
This is something you’ll hear all the time in the DID community, and while it may be true, it can’t be hid behind. Systems are connected and need to accept that and take responsibility for that because that’s the reality and that’s the factuality and denying that won’t hold up in life, in friendships, in relationships, in jobs, in court, or anywhere else. System responsibility is essential to realizing your alters actions affect you and therefore you need to learn how to get communication and collaboration working and take accountability for when those fail to work. It’s not easy – it’s not fair. But “it’s wasn’t me, it was my alter” doesn’t really hold up.