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.