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[Sentience] What is the Difference Between a Tulpa and an Imaginary Friend?
Ember Wrote:But the quandry remains -- I've "become" hundreds of characters, dozens of them for as long or longer than Vesper and Iris. Why did they gain dramatically more independence than the others?

In my case, it's clear to me now. I reject everyone else. We actively keep everyone out except for those who fit in and show a willingness to help out. Characters like Vend or Drax simply don't have that capacity, even if they did, they don't fit in. Blame me.

We work on consensus. I have decided that we have enough. I refuse others now. If they show themselves worthy, they become moons. Next year if they want status change that will require consensus. There are moons, but none of then have gained our willingness, nor have they tried.

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Vesper: I'm now ready to address our reading of 'Imaginary Companions'. The book is twenty years old, so there have presumably been some further developments in the field of which we are still unaware.

Dr. Taylor was generally of the perspective that most children believe their imaginary friends are not real. This was one of her more controversial allegations, as many previous researchers maintained that most children believe their imaginary friends are real. The matter is difficult to determine, as children tend to be very method in their pretending. Many children eventually volunteered that their friends were just pretend, thinking that the researcher taking the matter so seriously meant that they were confused. But many others did not even understand the term 'pretend friend', while speaking freely about their friend once the researcher introduced a name provided by the child's parents.

However, Dr. Taylor's standards of 'real' are rather high. I'm not sure that she would regard Ember as believing that I'm real, given that Ember doesn't believe I'm a separately embodied physical being with a physical past independent of her creative process.

p. 143 Wrote:Thus, if we want to identify an adult version of the phenomenon, we need to identify imaginary companions that the adults know are not real. We should stay away from the residents of psych wards who talk to Napoleon and look for something closer to the child model of a pretend friend.

Her favourite examples of this are the insourced soulbonds of authors. In a paper she published three years later, she consistently used the insulting term 'illusion of independent agency' with regard to authors' insourced soulbonds instead of the neutral term 'experience of independent agency', despite many of the authors being very insistent that they experienced their headmates as sincerely independent.

Dr. Taylor regards the ability to control imaginary companions as a major part of their appeal:

p. 124-125 Wrote:One of the endearing things about imaginary companions is that children can boss them around, direct their activities, and dictate their communication with others. There are a few case studies suggesting that if children's sense of control over the imaginary companion is diminished, the pretend friend sometimes disappears.

p. 127 Wrote:The experimenter gave an attractive toy to the imaginary companion and then told the child that the imaginary companion refused to share the toy with the child. This study had to be discontinued because the procedure simply did not work. The children became annoyed with the researcher, not their companion. It was clear that these children were not about to relinquish their authority over the activities of the imaginary companion to someone else.

She does briefly address independence in childhood friends as well:

p. 83 Wrote:An alternative possibility is that the vividness and intensity of the fantasy experience could be at the root of this perceived uncontrollability of the imaginary companion's actions. Even in cases in which no abuse has occurred, children who are intensely involved with their imaginary companions may sometimes feel unable to control their actions.

p. 127 Wrote:There is one caveat to the claim that children experience their imaginary companions as under their control. Research on the phenomenology of elaborate fantasy suggests that at least sometimes when people invent an imaginary other, they experience the imaginary entity of having control of its own thoughts and feelings.

Much of the existing research deals with four year olds, who are usually willing to speak openly about their imaginary friends to anyone. The social acceptability of imaginary friends begins to decline rapidly around six years old and many children are shamed in to giving them up. But many others keep the friend and stop talking about them:

p. 131 Wrote:We have found that about half of the adults we have interviewed who report having had imaginary companions as children indicate that they stopped playing with their pretend friends sometime after they were 10 years of age.

p.135 Wrote:Inge Seiffge-Krenke, a developmental psychologist at the University of Bonn in Germany, conducted a study in which she identified adolescents who kept diaries (94 out of the 241 children in her study) and then analyzed the diary entries in search of references to imaginary companions. She found that 35 percent of the 11- to 13-year-olds, 55 percent of the 14- and 15-year-olds, and 28 percent of the 16- and 17-year-olds who had diaries mentioned imaginary companions.

This overlaps into the age range where many people have intentionally tried to make tulpas using the methods of this community. And so, unexpectedly, we gain insight in to tulpa longevity:

p. 120 Wrote:In any case, children do not seem to mourn the passing of imaginary companions. This point underlines the utilitarian nature of these friends. They tend to be abandoned when they have outlived their usefulness. This in no way indicates that the children's emotional attachment to their pretend friends was never real or important.

Many young people come to this community while lonely, isolated, and feeling misunderstood or unloved. They create a companion to satisfy their needs. When their lives change, the companion, however independent, often falls by the wayside if their only purpose in life was to support their host -- just like any other imaginary friend does.

After reading the entire book, I still believe that many childhood imaginary friends gain substantial temporary independence of will and action, but tend to lose personhood over time due to lack of purpose and drive separate from the interests and needs of their creator.


(08-13-2019, 12:06 AM)Bear Wrote: I reject everyone else.

Ember: We didn't really start active rejection until this past Halloween. There was a period of nearly three years that I was hearing from characters intermittently and just accepting whatever happened, yet the feeling of independence and presence from most characters actually declined during that period.

(08-11-2019, 03:54 PM)Bear Wrote: doesn't fit our model

You've referenced models twice in this thread, Bear, without explicitly telling us how your model impacts the potential degree of personhood and independence demonstrated by childhood imaginary friends.
Ember - Host   |   Vesper - Soulbond (since ~12 May 2017)   |   Iris - Soulbond (since ~5 December 2015)
[Our Progress Report]     [How We Switch]

'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you.' - The Velveteen Rabbit
Yeah, Ember, I do say a lot of things. I wasn't commenting on childhood imaginary friends at all, but mostly just being a bear. Nice write up though, I think I know where she's coming from and I can see a slight bias toward legitimacy when saying 'experience' because experiences are comparable to going to the store. To someone who doesn't understand, how can they put talking to a headmate on the same level as a recorded conversation. They're both experiences, no one would have to be a delusion to the independent researcher. Since there isn't enough basis in science to support a stronger statement.

What we do here can't be understood by researchers that haven't successfully gone through it. Many in this community can't understand half of what the Bear system does either. It's fine, we're all shades of gray.
I wrote a response and then I forgot to post it awhile ago.

(10-18-2018, 08:49 PM)Ember.Vesper Wrote: Ember: I've done intense theatrical tabletop roleplaying for years. And for most of that time, I've described my characters as "real personalities with fictional lives". They've had such rich emotional lives from the beginning and most of my growth as a roleplayer has just been learning to externalize and portray what I was already sensing inside.

Sometimes the sense of a character's presence would linger with me pleasantly for a while after an unusually good session. Sometimes my characters would speak to me, briefly, outside of game, when something relevant to them came up. I never thought much about it. Authors often describe their characters speaking to them, even displaying agency and independence. Normal and harmless, right?

Vesper comes from a single player Vampire: The Masquerade game in 2016-17. For eight hours a session I poured every ounce of my psyche into being her and losing myself. Shortly after the sixteenth session, she started speaking to me. And unlike every other character, she wanted to talk about me.

This is what I read, and "back-stage" is probably something I threw in accidentally. I was trying to refer to the part when your characters would react to things you did outside of your game. The only way they could react to the meatspace environment the way you reported is if they were forced to think for themselves in the first place.

Exploring and "learning" about characters reminds me of two things- how I processed stories for my characters and an old entry back from 2016 when I was trying to learn about a thoughtform I called "The Conductor". In both cases, I was observing- I wanted to see what my subconscious mind could help guide me to create. However, the "observing" I was doing in both of these cases is different.

For the character, when I "observe" I tend to forget I'm there watching, but sometimes I manifest myself into the form of a different character and latch onto them. This is "becoming one" with them in a way. I always felt like I was Gray Ranger or the other characters I created, but I never considered them to be  truly "me".

When talking to "The Conductor", I was there, not as a character, but as myself. I interacted with him to learn more about him by talking to him. I re-defined what "I" means and little did I know, I was no longer the puppet master.

It's a subtle change and it's hard for me to explain. I have a feeling that there's an important shift in what "I" means. I believe that shift occurs once, very briefly, so your character and you become separate enough to host conversation after a game. With that slight shift in play, Vesper is forced to think on her own. That's my theory at least.

The shift and how it works is unclear, and I don't believe I fully understand it. When I observe the Grays, I sometimes lose confidence because the difference between a puppet show and two tulpas speaking to each other blurs. They are not always as stable as Ranger, so I tend to feel uneasy and fearful that they can become absorbed into a fantasy of my own design. To make things more complicated, I can animate myself and Ranger in this fashion too by creating clones of us or directly controlling Ranger by accident.

Going back to imaginary friends, my case is strange because I didn't create the concept of "Ranger" until mid-late middle school, and I believe Ranger (not Tec) was created around late high school. I didn't have any imaginary friends prior. Because of that, I felt like my experiences with Ranger didn't line up with the experiences of kids who had imaginary friends. I couldn't get much out of "adult imaginary friends" when I tried looking it up on Google, and the thoughts that crossed my mind were "why am I different? Why is this happening? Why is Ranger telling me he's real?"

After that I discovered what tulpamancy was, reading the introduction on I realized that the definition for a tulpa made far more sense than the definition for an imaginary friend.
My Wonderland form minus the glasses and the fur. I'm not a hippo, I promise.
Ranger now speaks in
light blue text, but he used to speak in blue or orange text. He loves to chat.

The Grays, my other Tulpas, have their own account now.

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