Psychology in Writing: The Persona – Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt

O'Keefe center, Toronto 02/28/1976

O’Keefe center, Toronto 02/28/1976 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.” – Carl Jung

Today’s writing prompt will help you think about how the persona manifests in your writing and offer some questions to help guide your exploration of your character’s persona:

  • What mask does your character wear?
  • What is so core to her/his identity that if something conflicted with or challenged that identity the character would be thrown into disarray?
  • What happens when your character’s rigorously adhered to persona does break how does s/he respond?
  • What would help the character reclaim her/his identity/persona?
  • Who can help her/him or what task would s/he have to achieve or event occur to reestablish the persona?
  • After restoring the persona how does your character deal with conflict/challenges differently to demonstrate her/his growth?

Want your writing to be seen by thousands of people?

Write a 500 – 1000 word story incorporating ideas and themes from this week’s blog and send it to me at  If your story is selected it will be spotlighted on Friday’s blog.  In addition to posting your story, you can provide any websites, twitter accounts, links to books, Facebook pages that you would like to be included following your story so that readers of the blog can follow and support you.  I’ll also promote the story on my own twitter and Facebook feeds.  The only thing I ask is that I have permission to publish the story on the blog and include it in a free Wattpad eBook (that will also contain all the aforementioned promotions still attached) so that readers of the blog can go back and easily find previous stories.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me.



Psychology in Writing: The Persona – Writing Process

Writing Process


Masks (Photo credit: Macknal)

The persona can feature very heavily in our writing process, and when well utilized can help us shape our story into something familiar to the reader.  The evolving masks that characters wear is a well know aspect of writing.  As we’ve noted before, we don’t want our heroes to be perfect, we want them to be flawed like us (and the reader).  Understanding the different manifestations of the persona and their impact on the character can help us write the changes our characters go through in a more universal manner that will be easy for our readers to connect with.

Often times a character, frequently the protagonist, will have a strong identification of a part of her/himself (i.e., her/his persona).  S/he may view the self as the protector of a town, as a caring figure, etc.  Regardless of what this identification with the persona is, it is often rigid and defines the character (note, the persona defines the character, the persona is not an aspect of the character at this point, it is the character).  Then, in the course of events, something will occur that will damage the character’s identification with her/his persona. Examples may be someone destroying the city s/he protects or the person harming someone s/he cares for.  From this damage to the persona the character moves into disintegration, which will often be beginning point of the quest where the character sets out to figure out who s/he is.

After the disintegration of the persona, our characters may move into negative restoration of the persona.  Having failed initially to maintain her/his persona the character may try to reclaim it but due to the position in the story the character cannot claim it (e.g., the city is destroyed/conquered and the character hasn’t developed enough to save it, or the relationship has been ended by another character and despite the protagonist trying to re-demonstrate her/his ability to be a caregiver).  This movement can lead the character into having an absence of her/his persona.

Being unable to reclaim her/his original persona the character may completely abandon her/his identity, lacking a core sense of self.  This may be the moment in our writing where our protagonist stands on the cusp of abandoning the quest, relationship, etc.  This stage of development could be framed by the phrase, “If I’m not X, then I am nothing.”

At this point something occurs that helps our character either reaffirm her/his identity or begin developing a new one, such as a minor victory or the development of a new relationship where the character tries out a new persona.  Usually the restoration of the persona will carry our story through until conclusion.  At each step as the character begins the restoration process s/he demonstrates the new found flexibility of her/his persona.  S/he is able to encounter setbacks and damage to self-identity, but is now able to adapt, integrate, and keep moving.  This restored persona is what allows our character to eventually achieve success.

As is always our goal for understanding and incorporating psychology into our writing is to hold a mirror up to our readers.  The evolution/development of the persona is so core to the human experience that the majority of our readers will immediately identify with this process and with our character(s).  Our readers may see the rigidness of their own persona and begin a personal exploration that starts with walking with our characters in the shoes we’ve laid out for them.

As always, from my couch to your pen happy writing!

And keep sending in your questions!

Psychology in Writing: The Persona – Therapeutic Presentation

Therapeutic Presentation


Masks (Photo credit: George)

The persona can be difficult to deal with, at least initially, in a therapeutic setting.  Depending on the quality of the mask, the therapist will have to start at a point of assuming that the client is presenting her/his true self.  It is through continued work with the client that the true nature of the persona is revealed as well as how the therapist needs to approach the persona to assist the client in tearing down, managing, or repairing it.

The client who has fully identified with her/his persona is easy to spot fairly quickly.  All roads that the client and therapist go down will lead back to the central aspect of the client’s personality that s/he identifies with and finds to be the core of her/his identity.  Any attempt to criticize or critique this aspect of the client’s self will be responded to with a defensive response such as hostility or withdrawing.  The identification with the persona is so close that the client cannot stand to hear that challenges to something outside of the core identity.

Through the therapeutic process, the therapist would begin to help the person see the cracks in her/his persona and identity other aspects of self that the person could hang onto.  The goal of separating the client from the over-identified with persona is to help the client understand how the persona is either harming the client by forcing her/him to be too rigid in her/his thoughts or by showing how it is keeping the client from growing by finding other aspects of self that are of value that are being masked by the persona.  By exploring these aspects of self the client may eventually experience a disintegration with her/his persona.

The disintegration (think loss of integration not crumbling away via a laser) with the persona can lead to chaos in the client’s life as s/he can lose a sense of self now that the persona is not available to cling to as an identity.  Some clients, in an attempt to return to a sense of normality will try to reintegrate the disintegrated persona; as the person is now aware of the flaws with the persona, s/he can never fully adopt it as s/he did prior to disintegration.  The use of the negative restoration will feel shallow and the client and will come off as superficial to others because of a lack of conviction to the disintegrated persona.

There is the possibility that having lost the persona and failed to utilize it again the client may completely get rid of her/his “mask.”  In the absence of a persona, the person may abandon any attempts to wear a social mask instead treating everything in the world as the same.  Without the persona the person no longer knows how to interact with others leading to a lack of internal filter between the ego and the real world, which may provide an opportunity for the anima/animus to take over the ego as we talked about here.

The ultimate goal for therapy is to help the client restore a persona, though not necessarily her/his original persona.  A well-adjusted client will recognize the benefits of having a flexible persona, but one that is genuine to her/himself.  This is in contrast to putting a mask that does not honestly represent the self, some of which were discussed in the blog on neurotic defense mechanisms.  To be well functioning the client needs to be able to read others and the situation in order to put on the mask that is required for the situation; the caveat is that the mask should not be so atypical to the self that it is the client is not recognized as being her/his “normal” self.


Psychology in Writing: The Persona – Introduction



Shadows (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

In last week’s blog we discussed the individual unconscious archetypes of anima and animus that exist as part of the collective unconscious.  The anima and animus are a filter between the unconscious and the ego, at the ego level the persona acts as a “mask” between a person’s ego and the real world.  The role of the persona is to create an impression for others, but to also conceal the true nature of the individual.  There are multiple reasons that a person would want to employ a persona: to create an image of self for others, to protect aspects of self from others, or to hide parts of the self that may not be appropriate.  As a person becomes more comfortable with her/his self the persona becomes more of a true reflection of self and less of a rigid mask.

The persona, as with other aspects of self, can be useful or it can be detrimental to the individual.  Jung postulated that the persona, when overly present in an individual’s life could cause difficulty with individuation, the separation of self as a unique identity.  There are five different ways that the persona exists for individuals:

  • Identification, which is an over identification with the persona leading to it being rigid; the individual cannot separate out aspects of her/his self from the persona.
  • Disintegration is when the persona is overly identified with a collective idea that completely masks the individual’s identity and cannot be maintained; as such it is broken down and removed, which then allows for an individual to recognize her/his self as separate from the collective ideals leading to an honest view of the self as individual, but also creating identity confusion as the person asks, “who am I” now that the rigidly held persona is gone.
  • Negative restoration, which involves the loss of the persona and then the attempted restoration of it; the restoration is usually a shadow of the original persona.  A person at this level of persona development can come off as superficial in their presentation of self as s/he attempts to return to the status quo persona after some event damaged it (usually follows disintegration), though the person’s adherence to the former persona cannot be achieved.
  • Absence is when a person is without a persona; her/his approach to the world is as if the is just a playground; the person doesn’t recognize the need to utilize flexible personas to appropriately interact with others in the world.  The person who has an absent persona will view the world as superficial and respond the same regardless of the situation.
  • Restoration is the necessary redevelopment of the persona, but in a new and viable way; individuals need to have some level of flexible persona so that they can recognize the expectations of others and engage appropriately; at restoration the individual will use a persona to fit in with others but does not hide their true self.


Psychology in Writing: The Collective Unconscious – Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight

On The Couch

On The Couch (Photo credit: pigpog s)

Daniel Marshall of the Wolfgang Von Phadrus blog was selected as our spotlighted author for the week for his response to The Collective Unconscious writing prompt.  I’d like to thank Daniel for his support of the Psychology in Writing blog and encourage others to visit and support his blog at

Memories of a Soldier

Mr. Shade is bent over with all manner of complications in the vertebrae, blind mostly, due to scant efforts by the NHS, no lunge to act on cataract surgery for an old codger on his way out.  There had been one lazy attempt by a student of ophthalmology from the University of Birmingham (Mr. Shade had thought that owing to the Children’s hospital being in Birmingham, the University would churn out fine doctors).  Mr. Shade played with a stupid smile the lab mouse for the sake of the student’s virgin scalpel.

He is left to leaf through his memories, being as his memories are rusty submarines, even if choked by a whales whinny, they might as well be written on a blade of unbuttoned grass.

On Fridays, after the school bells jingle and jiggle the children into a trot home, the school a stones hurl behind Arch Homes for the Elderly where Mr. Shade resides. Mr. Shade veritably tickles from the inside out with excitement, for skipping on her way is his parcel of interest.

It must be firmly established that little Miss Miana is a young girl who writes delicate stories; she listens and absorbs meticulously every detail issued up from the past.

Her favorite resident is Mr. Shade, for he is the most poetic of the residents and had several traits she admired.  Despite his admonishing of his own memory, he articulated what he knew beautifully. In addition, he was an affable man to her.  He was strict in the war-time-meted fashion, which she enjoys in an old man, like the way he refuses an electric wheel chair, opting for a hand carved stick, which he carved in his 71st year, a Luddite like she.  His affinity for reading history books in hardback (for he liked the worn scent) that were written as close to the occurrence as possible; his logic being that the closer the historian to the moment, surely, all the more the accuracy of the account.  She also appreciates how he colour co-ordinates his clothing and carries himself well, even into his prune-like age of 85, particularly fond of plaid mustard toned blazers. Of course, despite being as delighted as the cow that leaped the moon: Io inspired, he never shows it, always maintaining the dour faced, wrinkled demeanor of one who struggles with denouements, the weight of which conspire against the hew of his mental compound.

The nurse came in to give him the news that he was already assured of by the jangling bell:

“Miss Miana is here to see you, shall I send her along?”

“Of course, crickey, always wasting your own breath; yes…yes, send her in.” To himself:: “You don’t have to always ask me.”

“Mr. Shade, I have missed you, it’s so lovely to see you!  It feels like it’s been forever!” The girl says honestly, as she approaches the old man who rises to greet her.

“Yes…yes darling, you do insist on hyperbole, I saw you last Friday, it’s only been a bloody week.” He says this betraying his true self. She knows his true feeling well by now.

She gives him a peck on the mouth, tidying the wrinkles for a split second. Then a second kiss she plonks on his forehead, ironing out the years of life striated into his countenance.

“So what will it be today, more past shenanigans?”

“I would really appreciate it if you continued the story you were telling me last week,” she says, eyes eager and bold.

“Okay…where was I… bugger… oh yes… I remember now..,” he asked, scratching his head which seemed to be the crank that seemed to get the cogs winding.

“I should really begin making a note where I leave off, to save time. Myself and Royal had gone to nick some chickens from a farm not too far from a village where we had been holed up in (an ack ack gun being our beast of burden, set up on a road we needed to scurry across).  We found an old church, a welcome change to mud and rain; the name of the village escapes me, Mont…something or other- escaped. It was a couple of days after D-Day.

“On our return from the farm, where we had been offered the chickens after being caught by the lamp light of the farmer, paralyzed with pity, we realized that bloody close to us, a regiment of German soldiers were stationed.  Their cigarettes emblazoning the night, tracing their conversations in the dark air. Our chickens made a proper racket, and owing to the blackout we had not heard or seen them, unfortunately they’d heard our dinner. Scattered firing went glissando past our ears and limbs.  Royal got a bite in the shoulder and a bite in the leg.  Luckily, we were able to eke out a ditch and owing to the cloak of the night, I settled Royal down there. He was trembling, terrified of course. I promised him that I would return post-haste. If it wouldn’t have been so dark he may have trusted me more, for I stared into what I believed to be his eyes before me. Sounds daft doesn’t it?

“I fumbled in the dark for goodness knows how long. Eventually I met my famished company. They opted to rescue Royal without me, but I insisted on plodding along for it would take them too long to find him without experienced direction.  This never tended to be the way decisions arose: if you had already had a gander at bullets and cheated the reaper you got to sit the next one out, at least in regards to rescues. We found Royal without further casualties and without more skirmishing. Royal spent a happy couple of months in the infirmary, where he saw a few firm ladies that sorted him out.”

“So you are a hero Mr. Shade? Did you get a medal?”

“No, I did what men do; we helped each other in the most desperate of times, no medal is necessary for that, you have your pal still, that is enough.”

Miss Miana simply smiled. Then they had a cup of tea.


Like this? More of Daniel’s writing can be found here–Wolfgang Von Phadrus blog

Psychology in Writing: Anima and Animus – Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt

Carl Jung

Carl Jung (Photo credit: Bruno Amaral™)

“It belongs to him, this perilous image of Woman; she stands for the loyalty which in the interests of life he must sometimes forego; she is the much needed compensation for the risks, struggles, sacrifices that all end in disappointment; she is the solace for all the bitterness of life.

And, at the same time, she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws him into life with her Maya-and not only into life’s reasonable and useful aspects, but into its frightful paradoxes and ambivalences where good and evil, success and ruin, hope and despair, counterbalance one another.

Because she is his greatest danger she demands from a man his greatest, and if he has it in him she will receive it.” –Carl Jung

I know that’s a long quote to introduce today’s writing prompt, but the anima and animus are a complex topic so it seemed fitting.  For today’s writing prompt think about your character’s anima/animus development.  What are the strengths your character has at her/his current level of development?  Even at lower levels of development there is clarity in thought and vision that may be useful to our characters.  What is the character’s boundary?  What occurs that s/he cannot overcome/move past because s/he has reached the threshold of her/his current anima/animus developmental level?  What occurs to help your character move to the next level of development?  How does your male character manifest his “feminine” traits or your female demonstrate her “masculine” traits at this level of development?  What about other characters—how do they react to your character’s anima/animus development level?  Do they do anything to help or hinder further development?

Want your writing to be seen by thousands of people?

Write a 500 – 1000 word story incorporating ideas and themes from this week’s blog and send it to me at  If your story is selected it will be spotlighted on Friday’s blog.  In addition to posting your story, you can provide any websites, twitter accounts, links to books, Facebook pages that you would like to be included following your story so that readers of the blog can follow and support you.  I’ll also promote the story on my own twitter and Facebook feeds.  The only thing I ask is that I have permission to publish the story on the blog and include it in a free Wattpad eBook (that will also contain all the aforementioned promotions still attached) so that readers of the blog can go back and easily find previous stories.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me.


Psychology in Writing: Anima and Animus – Writing Process

Writing Process

The Web Planet

The Web Planet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve frequently discussed the development of characters and that the change related to this development across our writing process is something to be strived for.  The same holds true when thinking about how to incorporate the anima and animus in writing. These archetypes of the individual character’s unconscious provide both the opportunity to demonstrate character development in our writing and to write to the individual archetypes that our readers possess.

The anima and animus represent a character’s internal growth process as related to accepting and integrating the counter-gender aspects of her/his self.  For our male characters, their relationship with the anima represents their growth of “feminine” traits such as sensitivity and empathy.  The more developed anima helps our male characters better understand others and their multifaceted nature, whereas the underdeveloped anima sets our male characters up for disappointment due to rigid expectations of ideal objects (re: others) through a lack of empathy.  For our female characters, their relationship with the animus represents a development of “masculine” traits such as strength, independence, and understanding.  As our female characters’ animus develops, they gain a better understanding of the world at large and a better understanding of self.  Underdeveloped animus represent a simplified view of strength and independence, e.g., the use of “masculinity” as a tool instead of a way of being.  It is through failing by applying underdeveloped anima/animus aspects or through external guidance or experience that our characters’ unconscious more fully develop.

Another way that anima/animus can manifest is as a breach between the unconscious and the ego.  As we covered in the blog on the Id, if a character is not tending to her/his unconscious needs there is the chance that the unconscious will override the ego in order to get needs met.  The anima/animus can function in the same way, if the individual pays too little attention to these aspects of the unconscious they can manifest independent of the conscious filters our characters have in place.  This can be demonstrated through a character that may overly suppress her masculine side, and because of the suppression of the animus may become overly aggressive and not sensitive to the needs of others.  A male character may suppress his anima, which then may manifest in feelings of hopelessness, becoming so emotionally vulnerable that he cannot take action (versus being aware of an honest with his emotions and allowing them out in a moderated way).

As I caveated in the introduction blog, this theory is a product of the time it was written and relies heavily on gender stereotypes.  In writing this blog, I struggle to strike a balance between the academic presentation of the information and presenting it in a light that inspires writing.  That all is to say, while I presented the material in its time and gender specific context, we as writers do not need to hold the ideas with such rigor.  We should add the information to our toolbox and use it how we see fit, we are not psychologists we are writers, and as is usually the case for writers, our goal is to synthesize information from multiple sources to create something new.  I hope you take this information and use it to inspire yourself and not limit yourself.

As always, from my couch to your pen happy writing!

And keep sending in your questions!


Psychology in Writing: Anima and Animus – Therapeutic Presentation

Therapeutic Presentation

Anima latina

Anima latina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As anima and animus belong to the unconscious they cannot be directly observed, but there are two ways in which these aspects of the unconscious may manifest in therapy.  One is by the demonstration of their developmental level; the client will show errors in their anima/animus or seek to advance the development of these archetypes towards a higher level of development. Two, the anima or animus may manifest through the invasion of consciousness, whereby the darker aspects of the anima or animus take over the client’s conscious mind.

As we discussed in the therapeutic process on the collective unconscious the unconscious archetypes can be both helpful and harmful; the same holds true for the individual unconscious archetypes.  If a client’s anima or animus does not develop, it can cause thinking errors that can be detrimental to a person.  Each subsequent developmental level adds a layer of richness and understanding to the client’s life and a failure to develop can cause issues, such an excessively rigid set of expectations.  An example would be a male whose feminine anima is stuck at Eve; there is permanence to the feminine object of desire at this level of anima development, any object that fails to confirm to the ideal perception of desire is rejected.  As the perfect object of desire frequently doesn’t exist it is difficult for the individual to sustain relationships at this developmental level. The goal in therapy would be to help the client develop a more nuanced sense of their feminine or masculine qualities.  For a mostly well-functioning individual with a well developed anima/animus the goal of therapy would be to help her/him attain the final level of anima/animus development, which would result in a deeper sense of meaning and a more nuanced view of the world around them.

A more threatening way that that clients’ anima/animus may manifest in a therapeutic setting is through the taking over of the conscious aspects of the individual.  Archetypes have both light and dark sides, and sometimes the shadow aspects of the anima/animus can overcome the ego.  As discussed in the blog on the Id, if the individual does not have methods for managing the shadow aspects of the anima/animus they can become manifest in outer world.  This breach leads to the anima/animus becoming the voice of the ego instead of as a moderator between the unconscious and the ego. The goal of therapy is to find the middle ground between the under and over identification with the anima/animus, instead helping the client regulate it into an intermediate position where it can serve a regulatory function in the unconscious.

Psychology in Writing: Anima and Animus – Introduction



anima (Photo credit: AlicePopkorn)

Carl Jung, who we talked about last week in regards to the collective unconscious, in addition to proposing archetypes of the collective unconscious, suggested some primary archetypes of the individual unconscious mind.  The two that we will focus on this week are the anima and the animus.  The anima is the feminine inner personality of males, whereas animus was the masculine inner personality of females.  Jung postulated that these aspects of self exist in the unconscious because males have to suppress their sensitive side and females have to repress their masculine side.  (To avoid the emails, Jung was a product of his time and its thinking; this was an early psychological theory).

What makes the anima and animus interesting as a psychological concept is that Jung conceptualized them as a an evolving aspect of the unconscious.  Like an individual the anima and animus progress through different stages of development.  Jung believed that the anima and animus each consist of four distinct development levels.

The ascending stages of anima development in males:

  • Eve, which represents the emergence of what a male finds desirable
  • Helen, represents recognition of the feminine self-reliance, intelligence, and insight, but the feminine aspect is lacking in virtue, faith, or imagination
  • Mary, represents the virtuous view of the feminine, and the feminine being without flaw
  • Sophia, an integration of the feminine and masculine; an awareness that the feminine possesses both positive and negative qualities; at this point the male can recognize the multifaceted nature of objects, and that no object permanently represents the images it is perceived to have (e.g., ability to recognize an archetype a person represents, but recognizes that the person can demonstrate other aspects of other archetypes or change archetype); as we talked about in the previous blog, through therapy a client can come to see that mother is not always a nurturing archetype

The ascending stages of animus development in females:

  • Man of mere physical power, represents the masculine as just a personification of physical power
  • Man of action or romance, represents the masculine as being able to initiate and take planned action
  • Man as a professor, clergyman, orator, represents the masculine as the bearer of the word or knowledge
  • Man as helpful guide to understand herself, represents the achievement of understanding meaning; a source of spiritual knowledge

For males, Jung believed that the anima represented a single evolving vision, whereas the animus for females was represented by multiple masculine images.  For both anima and animus, the end development leads to an openness and understanding of the world with its pluralistic qualities.  The final result being a sense of self and sense of the world.


Psychology in Writing: The Collective Unconscious – Writing Prompt


archetype (Photo credit: Eddi van W.)

Writing Prompt

“My thesis, then, is as follows: In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature and which we believe to be the only empirical psyche (even if we tack on the personal unconscious as an appendix), there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals.”  —Carl Jung

Using the links to example archetypes from the introduction to the collective unconscious explore how your character aligns with an archetype.  If the character is a loyal companion archetype for example, some things to write about:

  • What lengths would this character go to in order to protect the protagonist?  What is the ultimate sacrifice s/he could/would make?
  • What is it that s/he believes in that leads her/him to be willing to make an ultimate sacrifice?
  • Is your loyal companion and reflection or contrast to the protagonist, and how?

Once you’ve answered these questions write about how the character would manifest these aspects in a story without you actually saying this is what this character is representing.  Write in a way that gives cues about the archetype of this character to tap into readers’ expectations from their own collective unconscious.

Want your writing to be seen by thousands of people?

Write a 500 – 1000 word story incorporating ideas and themes from this week’s blog and send it to me at  If your story is selected it will be spotlighted on Friday’s blog.  In addition to posting your story, you can provide any websites, twitter accounts, links to books, Facebook pages that you would like to be included following your story so that readers of the blog can follow and support you.  I’ll also promote the story on my own twitter and Facebook feeds.  The only thing I ask is that I have permission to publish the story on the blog and include it in a free Wattpad eBook (that will also contain all the aforementioned promotions still attached) so that readers of the blog can go back and easily find previous stories.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me.