Soulbonding 101: Etiquette and Safety

(Crossposted from my nonhuman/related subjects tumblr, which you should check out if you are so inclined.)

Because I’ve been a soulbonder for over 10 years at this point and I only ever see resources dwindling, I’ve decided to roll up my sleeves and break out some basics of interactions for soulbonds, systems, and hosts because the same problems that have plagued the community and individual soulbonders alike are still, sadly, prevalent because not a lot of people really know what soulbonding is or how to go about interacting with other soulbonders and their bonds.

I’m not going to go over a full explanation of what soulbonding is here (I’ll do that in another post shortly!) but in short, soulbonding is more or less shorthand for the process of accidentally or intentionally forming spiritual/mental communication- and companionship-focused links with external entities, usually “fictional” characters. While “soulbond” technically refers to the type of link between the host (or soulbonder/bonder) and the other entity (or soulbond/bond) rather than the type of entity itself, the term is still widely used as though it was.

Not all soulbonds exist within a system or in a way similar to one. Many soulbonds, however, do, and that’s where the bulk of this post comes in.

As with all of my posts of this nature, please remember that every situation is individual and not all unusual behaviors are a sign of abuse. Please take your situation and this advice in context and trust your judgement.

Also please note that more experienced systems will likely have different experiences, thoughts, and ideas. This is geared more towards people who don’t know much about soulbonding and how to function as a soulbond-based system.

All these points can and should be taken into consideration alongside behaviors and concepts already outlined in the “Safety” tag over on my tumblr page.

Etiquette and Safety within a System

First off, the relationship between the soulbond and the soulbonder is going to be the most immediately relevant in any situation. I do consider soulbonding to be a type of spirit work, and like all spirit work, there are things that can go wrong or cause problems in multiple different ways. So, there are similar concepts and ideas that exist within other communities that are relevant to soulbonding, which I’ll explain here.

  • Get to know the person you’re bonded to. Most soulbonders will end up with more than one soulbond, and every soulbond is an individual person. Even though they do not have physical bodies of their own, they are still people and should be treated as such. Just as fictionkind don’t appreciate stereotyping based on the fictional characters they as individuals resemble, neither do soulbonds who appear to be “fictional”. They’re not here to be a perfect fantasy for you or anyone else… which leads me to my next point.
  • Soulbonds are not puppets, but be wary of puppeting behaviors. “Puppeting” refers to the act of controlling the words, actions, feelings, etc. of a soulbond or other spirit either through imposing your will onto theirs or straight-up lying about the thoughts and feelings of the soulbond in question. It’s unfortunately an easy trap for new ‘bonders to fall into, since they may have difficulty discerning their own thoughts from their soulbond’s. However, I do have some things to look out for, both for yourself and others!

How to Tell if There’s a Chance You (Or Someone Else) is Puppeting:

1. The soulbond acts in a very stereotypical, predictable fashion. This is often evidenced through the same “perfect fantasy” talked about above: people who are “fan favorite” characters will behave in manners befitting of every fangirl or fanboy’s dream, complete with sudden, all-consuming romantic and/or sexual desire. 

Now, it is 100% possible to have a healthy, happy relationship with a soulbond in your system or someone else’s, but take it from experience: even if they knew you in another life, there is an adjustment period. You will have rough patches, you will have arguments and disagreements and otherwise have to enter a relationship all over again and do all the things that being in a relationship entails. That is, communication, work, compromise… all that good stuff. You will not have a perfect fairy-tale relationship with a soulbond, just as you won’t with any other person.

2. The soulbond in question always makes decisions that benefit the host for seemingly no reason. Soulbonds, especially people you knew in other lives, can be very protective of the people they’re connected to. They’re kind of live-in friends or family to a lot of people. But even friends and family will make decisions that don’t benefit others, because they’re still people who have individual wants, needs, and desires.

If soulbonds talk nothing about their host in the front, constantly singing praises and never once hold their host accountable… and especially if they get defensive and confrontational when politely asked about it or informed… that could be a red flag to look out for. This is unfortunately common with newer soulbonders and should be brought up and remedied as soon as possible.

3. This is more for your own ‘bonds, but if they get upset or angry after talking to you and you thought the conversation went great, maybe consider that you were accidentally puppeting them or misconstruing their words and intent. Soulbonds tend to know when they’re having someone else’s will imposed on them, as do other spirits. I’ve been told it’s a very unique and unpleasant feeling, and learning to pay attention to when this happens not only helps strengthen your ability to hear and see your bonds, it also helps establish trust: a necessary ingredient in any relationship!

And now, back to your regularly scheduled pointers.

  • Make sure that there is mediation between soulbonds (and other system members/entities.) Soulbonds can exist within mixed systems! So they can coexist alongside system members who originate from within the host for one reason or another, from traumagenic headmates to tulpas to beings born in the same body. Once again, it’s vital to remember that soulbonds are individuals. If you keep that in mind, mediating things will become a lot easier. Give people accommodations, be willing to help make things work.
  • House rules are your friend. This is probably the singular most important advice I can give to anyone alongside remembering soulbonds are individuals. Even if you and your ‘bonds function as a system with no real “host” of which to speak, you all need to agree on things that can’t and shouldn’t happen, both within any “inner space” you may have and especially while fronting.

Some recommended “house rules” to be used while fronting:

1. Nothing is to be done that will bring harm, be it to the body, the mind, the spirit, or the reputation. Even if the system has no real host, everyone must be 200% aware that the body is associated with a single individual in everyday life. So anything that would cause the body and the associated persona harm, such as losing a job or crashing a bike or ruining a relationship or even just being a jerk, is to be forbidden. Not only is this common sense, it benefits everyone in the system even if it may not feel like it at times.

2. On a related note, even though soulbonds are individuals and should be treated as such, it is up to everyone in the system to understand that any actions the body does affects everyone in it. Even for people who know you’re a soulbonder, it’s absolutely inappropriate conduct to blame the behavior enacted by the body on someone who currently isn’t in the front. People in the system need to take responsibility for their own actions, which means not making a mess of things and then shoving someone else in the front to deal with them.

This can be another potential sign of puppeting or outright abuse, especially if it’s repeated and blame is constantly shifted and responsibility avoided. This goes along with the point of making decisions that always benefit the host, as it basically relieves ANYONE of responsibility if you and everyone who shares the body with you is avoiding it entirely. Not only is this immature and irresponsible, it makes you look bad as a soulbonder.

3. If you need to interact with people who aren’t aware there has been a change of who’s in control of the body, try your best to behave as the host or body-associated persona would until you can switch it up again. Some people have soulbonds or system members who are more comfortable with this than others, or are generally better at it, and this should be discussed as a possibility before it becomes an issue. Once again, soulbonds acting out of turn and causing problems is the responsibility of the host or other designated system member(s) and causes unwanted repercussions for everyone.

4. Make sure you trust who’s fronting and don’t just let people have free reign over fronting without discussion and careful consideration. Just like how people can lie to you about their personality and desires until they’re put into a situation where they can let their true colors show, so can soulbonds. It’s not overly common, but it is enough of a possibility and a risk that it needs to be addressed. 

It is imperative in a soulbond-based system where soulbonds can front that the host or other designated system member(s) can regain control of the front when needed in case of emergency. Precautions should also be taken to prevent that person from being locked out of the front, as well. That could include co-fronting or co-consciousness as the default setting, or letting only one person have special “override” features for the front (magical, psychological, or a combination of the two).

Those last couple of points can also apply to interactions outside the system, even though overall they are problems that are solved and dealt with between the host or other associated person, their soulbonds, and other system members. Which leads us to…

Etiquette and Safety with Other Soulbonders (or Just Other People)

Friends and acquaintances who are also soulbonders sounds like a fun and exciting prospect, but as myself and others can attest to, it has its own special obstacles, considerations, and dangers, because other soulbonders may not be as thoughtful and (dare I say it) ethical about their interactions and the nature of their bonding.

That’s not to say every soulbonder you meet will be a sinister puppetmaster! Many soulbonders are wary of others, but have their shit together as individuals and as a system. Others, however, might not to varying degrees, and these are some things you might want to be aware of and look out for when interacting.

  • The person claims to know your soulbond from another life after meeting them once, or one of their soulbonds claims the same about you. Now, as I’ve discussed before it’s entirely possible for you to have shared a life with a soulbond just as you would any other person, but this takes time and deep introspection to figure out. This is why I like to play my hand close, so to speak, only discussing details about my lives in private or in more vague terms so I can tell if someone is just parroting back what I have said in an attempt to get close to me. I know it’s exciting to find people you have known before, but you need to be very cautious and think critically about claims like this.
  • The person or one of their soulbonds claims to know everything about your soulbonds. Soulbonds are people. You cannot just magically know everything about them, even if they’re sharing a brain, body, and astral space with you. Other people who are just as disconnected from them as they are from your actual mental processes have no place to make up details about their life, their habits, their backstory. I know it sounds crazy, but it can and does happen. People pretend to be know-it-alls when they actually know nothing and can spew the most ridiculous bullshit with utmost confidence and authority, but trust me when I say they don’t. Even if they claim to have some sort of special spirit- communication ability (honestly, ESPECIALLY if they claim this), don’t fall for it.
  • Soulbonds are not toys, accessories, or trading cards. If someone cannot form a bond on their own, or is begging you for one of your soulbonds due to who they are, or acts like their soulbond is more “real” than yours, you are under no obligation to bother with them. You and your ‘bonds do not owe anyone anything just for existing. It’s one thing if someone needs help figuring out how to form a bond with someone. It’s one thing if they want to get to know some of your soulbonds better. But it is a whole different can of worms when they start acting entitled and bratty over it.
  • Soulbonds being able to move from one person to another is completely possible, but comes with its own set of very special and specific considerations. Despite what some syscourse on here will say about “system-hopping” being impossible, that only applies to people, beings, and personalities who only exist within the confines of the host’s mind and body. Soulbonds are external entities, and like any other spirit, they can move about from place to place. Not all soulbonds are even system members, in whole or in part.

Now, I’m going to break this point down a bit further because it is huge. Seriously, this sort of thing is exactly why I refer to soulbonding as a type of spirit work, because things like this take time, practice, discernment, and a hell of a lot of trust.

1. Don’t start letting soulbonds move between bodies until you’re confident in your own abilities and trust the other person. Seriously. I’ve messed this one up bad a couple of times and have gotten very hurt over it. You need to trust the other person to not puppet your ‘bonds, provide false information, and otherwise be rude and inconsiderate. You will need to have a serious discussion with the other party and really, truly make sure they’re mature enough to not do anything stupid. Take reactions into consideration, make sure you are crystal clear with your expectations and restrictions. If the other party cannot be respectful of these things, do not pass go, do not collect $200. They are not worth risking things over if you cannot have an open, honest, and mature discussion with.

2. If the other party does agree to your terms and conditions and is respectful of your boundaries, and if you do decide to go forward with sharing your soulbonds, START SMALL, START SLOW. You both need to talk with your ‘bonds about things and then with each other. This is where it starts to become obvious that it’s spirit work: discernment is vital here. It’s also a good idea to play your hand close here, to see who picked up on what and where things may need a bit more work. This is also part of why trusting the other person is absolutely essential, because people can and will lie, make things up, and withhold information unnecessarily. 

If you’re still wanting to go forward with this, practice. Often. Make sure everyone’s comfortable and feeling good about things throughout the entire process. If you or your soulbonds start feeling uncomfortable, stop. Bring it up with the other person. Discuss, adjust, make changes as needed. Nobody is required to do this, ever, and that needs to be clear.

3. If something starts seeming seriously off or wrong, stop what you’re doing and reassess the entire situation. Remember that sometimes people will only show their true colors in certain situations, and if those colors start to look wrong to you, make sure to look out for yourself and your soulbonds. If you need to ward, ward. If you need to do a sweep of your astral and inner spaces to make sure everything’s in order, do so. If the other party gets offended… maybe ask them why. Someone who truly cares about you and your wellbeing should be considerate and aware that mistakes do happen, and everyone should feel comfortable with the situation.

4. I honestly, truly, cannot emphasize the need for clear, open, and honest communication enough. Communication is vital to the survival of any long-term interpersonal relationship. Be it friends, spouses, housemates, even your boss or your deity. You need to be able to negotiate, discuss, and rework things as problems arise. You need to be able to compromise and be aware of the needs of yourself as well as others. If you or your bonds feel scared or ignored or confused, it needs to be discussed and addressed.

Not everyone will get their way all the time. Sometimes the things people want aren’t possible for one reason or another, or they’re just not workable in a certain situation. That is where communication and trust comes in. It takes time. It takes work. There will be issues along the way, and you need to be able to weigh your options and decide accordingly.

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I hope this post helps shed a little bit of light on acceptable and unacceptable behaviors within your own system as well as between other people. As always, trust your own judgement and gut feelings and play it safe.

Szayel

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