When two (or possibly more) sides of you battle.
“Persona, in psychology, is the personality that an individual projects to others, as differentiated from the authentic self. In this way one can arrive at a compromise between one’s innate psychological constitution and society. Thus the persona enables the individual to adapt to society’s demands.” (As defined by PsychCentral)
The purpose of transformation, which is what my work is about, is to undergo the very human process of becoming more authentic. Transformation can be defined as permanent change, moving in the direction of the authentic self. We are susceptible to so many external pressures and influences which naturally cause us to develop inner personas. These personas help us navigate and organize where we stand in our outer world. For example, we probably present ourselves very differently at a party with our friends than when we’re attending a professional seminar. Those traits we share with the world, depending upon which setting we find ourselves in, are defined as our personas.
(I want to stress that in this article I’m referring to the personas of a healthy psyche. I am in no way referring to Dissociative Identity Disorder, or what used to be referred to as a split personality, or multiple personality disorder.)
Personas are a completely normal aspect of the human psyche.
Everyone has them. But sometimes our personas become so specific to the person we’re interacting with (common for empaths) that we start to act like different people, entirely based on who we’re with at the time. This can create a painful, fragmented internal state.
The goal, if we’re choosing to do transformational work, is to feel less fragmented and more integrated, meaning we feel authentically consistent no matter who we’re with, or what scenario we’re in. It’s totally normal to act differently with friends than with professional colleagues and with strangers. But if we’re feeling less and less authentic (unsure about who we are or what we want) it means it’s time to evaluate our own personas to determine which, if any, we’ve outgrown. To remain in a circumstance we’ve outgrown can feel anywhere in the range of a bit stifling to soul killing.
If and when we start to feel like we truly don’t know who we are any more (if ever we did) then psychological and spiritual unraveling begins. And so begins the healing journey of a return to authenticity (remembering who we truly are).
My own journey of authenticity is the subject of my forthcoming book, Stark Raving Zen…
…which tells the story of two of my personas– the feral (Stark Raving) and the tame (Zen)– that, ten years ago, battled so hard they created an inferno inside of me sufficient to incinerate my entire known world.
Nothing left but ashes…and the best thing that could have happened to me.
I healed from that conflagration.
Stark Raving Zen lives inside of me as a persona and has been politely biding her time for a full decade. Now that she’s ready to legitimately enter the world (in all her chaotic wildness) my tame persona, in the form of Coaching To Come Alive– my professional persona, which I’d like to believe is 100% authentic by now, but clearly isn’t– is having a bit of a temper tantrum. They’re still not best friends, the wild and tame in me. The professionally credentialed transformational coach with the Master’s degree in transpersonal psychology isn’t so sure she wants the truth of my wildness running amok all over the world. (Which is actually kind of funny, because transpersonal psychology is probably the most “running amok” form of psychology, but nobody said personas were always rational.)
All I know is repression is no longer an option.
My intellect is going to have to share the stage with my intuition. (Of course they’re both saying the exact same thing, like two kids who don’t realize they’re arguing each other’s points.)
But what that leaves is a noisy colliding of two worlds (two realities, two personas) and a glorious invitation to further integrate two of the biggest and beloved pieces of my authentic self. I am both wild and professionally polished. And I have been given a universal mandate to equally express both sides of me.
Though this was incredibly disruptive at first, (the past two months have been a bit confusing), I could not be more eager to discover what the merging of these two worlds will mean for my creative expression. This inner conflict resolution is my spiritual journey. Because if I’m committed to expressing my soul throughout my everyday life, I have to learn to love all parts of myself, and free those aspects dying to be let out of the cage.
There is a safe, healthy way to express who we are on a fundamental level. The key is to learn what feels true and what feels forced, and to commit to liberating our spirit no matter how much our ego tells us to fear freedom. (Underneath it all, the ego is just always afraid.)
Transformation is the most courageous evolution a human can undergo.
Assisting others with their transformational journeys is the greatest gift, and my expertise requires both the wild and the tame in me. I’m so grateful for both personas, and I’m so grateful for your courage in your own integration. If you care to leave a comment on the blog, and name which of your inner personas are in conflict right now, I’d be thrilled to weigh in on that, and share what I’m feeling in your energy.
As always, I am so grateful you’re here, a part of my cherished universe.
P.S. — Psychosynthesis is an entire branch of psychology dedicated to the integration of healthy personas. If you’re fascinated by personas, I strongly recommend my favorite book on the subject: What We May Be by Piero Ferrucci.
Love this Kristy! At some point I’m going to stop being amazed at how whatever you write sums up what I have been most recently struggling with. I’ve been studying alchemy lately and it is just another expression of what you wrote. Taking unrefined base personas and transforming them into shining and valuable personas.
I’m struggling with a persona that has to have a plan, purpose and everything secured and safe. The creative, empathetic and dreamer persona is starting to come alive again. The sure thing persona doesn’t like this dreamer and tries to win out with worry. The dreamer fights back with laughing at things and even more ideas. The sure thing comes then fights back and tells the dreamer that his ideas will never work. This goes back and forth inside and it’s been getting really bad over the past month. They need to fight fair with each other as you describe.
As always your thoughts are just what I need at the moment, I’m going to ponder this some more, but look forward to your take on this. Also as another weird side coincidence I started writing on my blog again! I had forgotten how much that helps me sort out this war peacefully.
Kristy Sweetland says
Dan you describe this so beautifully! And I’m so glad we’re sharing the same path at the moment. (I’m sorry that I didn’t respond sooner to this, but I used to receive notifications on blog comments and for some reason I wasn’t notified!) Dan, humanity is undergoing a very dramatic return to Wholeness. The Logos/Eros, or Feminine/Masculine balance with each of us has to be honored, healed, and worked with at this time in our evolution. It sounds to me as if you are describing this battle within you. The “Sure Thing” persona (Logos) and the “Dreamer” (Eros) will have to work this out by understanding that one will not be permitted to annihilate the other (which is certainly what they want to do at times). They have to understand that the nurturing of one does not mean the death of the other. They can both be honored and nurtured, and deserve EQUAL time. Logos (Masculine) likes to dominate our focus and attention.
I want you to try working with both personas as if they were children arguing. Sit them down facing each other and let them have their say. Listen to each one. Promise to try your hardest to soothe their fears (because their fears are valid, even if they’re irrational). Work to help them understand that it’s not about who is “right”. They’re both right. As long as one attempts to micromanage the other, however, the war will continue.
Please let me know how it goes! xoxo!