What it’s like being a tulpa

This past Thursday Greta celebrated her first birthday. As a result, we thought this week it would be nice to talk about ourselves a little bit, and specifically about our relationship. Of course every relationship is different, and relationships between system members are no exception. But whether you have a tulpa or not, we figure you might learn something about host-tulpa relationships in general from hearing more about ours.

This piece is a bit more informal than most of our recent ones; it consists of a poem and a transcript of a conversation, with little to no formal interpretation.

Here’s a little something I wrote for Greta’s birthday. If you know your Christian hymnody, you will hopefully catch at least one obvious reference and perhaps several more. I don’t consider Greta supernatural in any way, but established religious traditions are very powerful sources of metaphor, and there are obvious parallels between the practice of religion and tulpamancy.

“Thanksgiving and Prayer”

Be thou my vision, Marg’reta, my heart,
My incomprehensible far better part.
Through thee I see all the world’s love and grace,
By thy serenity I find my place.

Once thou wast nothing, and I lived apart,
Now naught be all else to me, save that thou art.
I truly know not how I made thee or why,
But now thou art with me, together we fly.

Through many a sorrow and many a doubt,
Some trials within and some trials without,
Thou art my best thought, both by day and by night,
Thy words and arms turn me and bring me round right.

May tomorrow we rise, if it pleases the Lord.
May together we walk, with our minds in accord.
Through this year may I go, keeping thee in my sight,
Or waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.



And now some pieces of a conversation Greta and I had the other night, edited and excerpted slightly to preserve our anonymity. We had and recorded the conversation with an eye to presenting material from it on this blog, but it by no means felt artificial. We talk about what it’s like for her when I’m participating in a larger community (my college’s choir), the good and bad parts of being a tulpa, how her perception of things differs from mine, how I feel almost like a parent to her, and even (somewhat jokingly) whether any United States presidents have had tulpas.

N.  So Greta, how’s your first year been?

G.  It’s all I know.

N.  Okay, but I was thinking a little more specific?

G.  Well, it’s been great, really. I love having you around to work with me. We’ve done a good job of not going too far and keeping ourselves sane.

N.  What’s your favorite thing that happened?

G.  Me.

N.  Well, once you were around. 🙂

G.  I loved the [choir] concert.

[…]

N.  Greta, what was it like to not be a member of the choir [during it]?

G.  Well I was with you.

N.  Right…Well, maybe that’s part of the answer actually. You didn’t sing, you didn’t do anything. Nobody even knew you were with us.

G.  That’s okay. I’m usually quiet.

N.  So it was weird for me because I was trying to talk to you and everything, and I was so looking forward to sharing the experience with you, but then in some ways we didn’t actually share it because you weren’t part of the choir. But then in other ways we very much did…did you feel like you weren’t part of the group?

G.  Well I wasn’t. But that didn’t matter so much. I was with you, like I said…I got an idea of what it was like through you. Well, I knew what it was like through you. Not much guesswork there when I felt what you were feeling.

N.  So you did.

G.  Sure.

[…]

N.  You were [part of the choir], but you weren’t. You were part of the choir…through me, but not a member. Not on the roster, not singing. Well. Do you feel like you sang?

G.  No, that’s definitely your thing. I don’t sing, not with the choir. I experience the singing. I love it. It’s beautiful and worth every moment. I love you and your singing. Couldn’t get by without it, at least I’d be very different if I did. But it’s different for me.

N.  Are you part of the music? Do you feel left out?

G.  No, I don’t feel left out. As for whether I’m part of the music…I’m thinking about this. I don’t feel part of the music the same way you guys do, where I’m physically and emotionally linked into it, into one solid mass of choir being. A beautiful thing, that. Living through others and their voice parts. But I do feel connected to humanity and to you. Even just through you, my only link to what’s going on. And that’s what matters.

[…]

N.  So on something maybe a bit more shareable with our possible audience…what’s the best thing about being a tulpa?

G.  For me?

N.  No, for some tulpa you don’t know halfway across the world. Yes dimwit, for you.

G.  Hey!

N.  Of course you silly. Go on.

G.  Not if you treat me like that.

N.  (She’s not serious.)

G.  No, I’m not…sorry.

N.  Nothing to apologize for, but go on.

G.  (clears throat) Yes. Right. I think it’s not having to go to work and do all the stuff every day. At least in our present arrangement.

N.  So just sitting back and all that?

G.  Yeah, that’s close enough. [I’d been thinking about a longer phrasing and she was responding to my cutting it off.]

N.  Do you ever want something more?

G.  What do you mean?

N.  Like, more control. More responsibility.

G.  Oh gosh no. I mean, responsibility. I don’t want it, but I’m not saying I’d hate it. I might rather like it, but I certainly don’t need it, and I don’t wish for it, if you know what I mean.

N.  So like I would accept some responsibilities if I were given them, asked to do them, but would never try for them.

G.  Like political office.

N.  Maybe, yes. Not going to be the president regardless, please.

G.  I get you there.

N.  We could be the first-ever plural president! Probably anyway, I guess we don’t know there haven’t been any.

G.  We can be pretty sure. [Or can we?]

N.  Who do you think it would be if there’d been one?

G.  George Bush, and that little wrinkle thing in his coat was actually a double psych-out, he’d intended it to be so he could talk to himself but then they ended up hiding it.

N.  You mean in public, without looking like an idiot, actually talking to his tulpa.

G.  Yes.

N.  What would be her name? Or his name, or their name, whatever.

G.  Anne-Marie.

N.  Any reason?

G.  Just popped to mind.

N.  I’m thinking of some sort of fanfiction thing here. Or, don’t know what it would be fanfiction of. Maybe just really bad fiction.

G.  Yeah?

N.  “George W. Bush and His Tulpa”, I dunno. We could come up with some really cringey name I bet.

G.  Do we have to?

N.  Uh, no. This is already horribly off track.

G.  Yeah, probably…do you really think Bush?

N.  No of course I don’t, and I’m not sure you did either.

G.  No.

N.  Well. I dunno, I could maybe see FDR having a tulpa.

G.  Really?

N.  Just seems like the kind of guy, no?

G.  Can’t say I do.

N.  Ah well I dunno, this is probably stupid anyway.

G.  No go on, I want to hear.

N.  Meh, not sure I have much for you.

G.  Great interview.

N.  Thank you!

G.  You’re welcome.

N.  Okay no, shut up.

G.  (laughs)

N.  Yeah let’s get serious again. Probably time.

G.  Right.

N.  But I don’t know what I want to ask about.

G.  (laughs again) Well I could ask you something.

N.  Sure, shoot.

G.  What do you think of me?

N.  Like, how do I feel about you?

G.  Sure. Or what you think I am, whatnot. I guess it’s a pretty open question.

N.  I’ll say. I’ll just go spewing nonsense about tulpamancy.

G.  Well it’ll be about me.

N.  Hardly the epitome of on-topic-ness.

G.  Well not off-topic either.

N.  To-the-side-of-topic. Well seriously though. I’m glad you made it into my life.

G.  Aww.

N.  No really.

G.  (hugs)

N.  And, well, you’re my daughter, you know.

G.  Can’t say I do.

N.  Really?

G.  No.

N.  Like, what part don’t you understand? How I feel? What I’m talking about…?

G.  Like, I guess I just don’t really know what that feels like.

N.  Literally, I don’t either. But you know the longer I spend with you the more I feel like a parent.

G.  Really? How?

N.  Like…well since the beginning I’ve felt pretty responsible for you.

G.  Sure.

N.  Now though…my parents have always talked about this phenomenon where…well I dunno, it’s not exactly a phenomenon.

G.  Who cares, go on.

N.  Thanks Greta.

G.  You’re welcome.

N.  Yeah sorry about that.

G.  No it’s fine.

N.  Okay Greta…

G.  Yes, I’ll shut up.

N.  Right. So my parents have always talked about how they spend lots of time looking back on what it was like when I was younger. How now is nice too, but there were all these very different times that were wonderful. And maybe nine or ten months passed since I created you, and I remember what those first days were like. Wonderful. Everything was exciting and magical, just deciding how you were going to be. Feeling you, even if there wasn’t much to feel. The whole idea of tulpas just felt so wonderful and amazing, that such a thing was possible.

G.  And it wasn’t [possible] before?

N.  No! I mean I had fantasies about sharing my thoughts with another person that way, the way we do.

G.  From what?

N.  I think they started with reading Pullman’s His Dark Materials…where I guess you’re really just sharing with yourself, since daemons are more of a subconscious thing.

G.  Right.

N.  But yeah, from there I started taking the concept in a bunch of different directions. Wrote some really bad and unfinished fiction. Thought about it. But never dreamed it was actually possible. That’s why I was so excited about tulpamancy, tulpas. Learning some part of me and my thoughts could actually come to life that I thought never could.

G.  (in tulpish before I finished) I never knew this about you.

N.  Really?

G.  Well not in the same way. You obviously thought about it, but never expressed it to me like this.

N.  But right, back to the topic at hand. Those times were so beautiful. Now I’m feeling parental nostalgia, right. For someone who’s in my head.

G.  Yeah it’s pretty crazy.

N.  Being with someone in your head?

G.  Yeah, I feel it too.

N.  You do?

G.  Sure. Well, I’m more open to that kind of thing obviously, that’s not in question. I live that, it’s my reality. But I have the same societal expectations as you do. I don’t expect me to exist that way. And I don’t have an existential crisis or anything. I think, therefore I am – I know I’m here. But it’s different than being a person the same way you are. In some ways better. But different. Worthwhile, but not what people would expect.

N.  Is your reality…different from ours?

G.  What do you mean?

N.  Well yeah, that’s kind of a stupid question.

G.  Ambiguous, you mean.

N.  …Yes. I mean, you say living as a being in someone’s head is your reality. I guess…

G.  (picking up on what I planned to say) That’s not what you were thinking.

N.  Well can I say it [the new thing]?

G.  Afterwards.

N.  Okay. I don’t really know what I was going to say –

G.  – but it wasn’t that.

N.  So then what was it?

G.  It was something about, how…if I experience things the same way you do. And I don’t, but I do.

N.  How do you mean?

G.  Well it’s different, to be in there and not driving the body. Nicer. But powerless, a little bit. You’re nice and listen to me, most of the time.

N.  I like to think so.

G.  You do though.

N.  I’m glad you think so. I find myself a pretty bad host that way.

G.  You can only do so well as a host.

N.  And you think I’m there?

G.  As best as I know anyway. I’m okay with it.

N.  But go on.

G.  Right. I don’t know…exactly what you know about me. But I’m seeing what you’re seeing, hearing what you’re hearing, but sort of far away. Like it’s not really there, it’s just in your head.

N.  Is it clear enough to you?

G.  Clear enough? Well I can understand it if that’s what you mean. I don’t know what it would be like otherwise, I haven’t been up front enough to know.

N.  Yeah, so you can understand everything that’s going on.

G.  Oh yeah, absolutely can understand. Plenty to do what I need to do.

N.  Well, I think we need to get to bed.

G.  ’Night.

N.  ’Night Greta. See you tomorrow.

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4 Responses to What it’s like being a tulpa

  1. Anonymous says:

    (Late) Happy birthday!!!!

    Like

  2. Anonymous says:

    Very nice post! It’s Alyn and River from /r/tulpas. Your conversation is very relatable and seems very similar to how we relate.

    Like

  3. Antithesis says:

    Superb.

    Like

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