Psychology in Writing: The Persona – Introduction

Introduction

Shadows

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: 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! mailto:W.T.Jowett@outlook.com

 

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

Introduction

anima

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

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 W.T.Jowett@outlook.com.  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 Collective Unconscious – Writing Process

English: Universal archetype expression of the...

English: Universal archetype expression of the ancient legend Green Man. One of many modern renditions of the Green Man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Writing Process

There are plenty of resources out there for writers on archetypes, I included some in the introduction blog.  As writers we should not only be aware of archetypes, but aware of them at a meta-level.  It’s easy to identify the hero or the mentor archetypes in our writing, that’s writing 101, but there are several ways to incorporate archetypes at a deeper level in our writing.

At the meta-level, the first step for us as writers is an understanding of what makes up an archetype.  A generic hero will fit plot needs, but will not help tap into our reader’s sense of the collective unconscious.  We need to identify what are the common threads that make up the archetype of the hero, mentor, etc., so identifiable that readers across cultures would be able to identify with our characters.  As an example, for the hero we need to recognize that the hero as an archetype represents a return of balance for the community, has a sense of good, and because of these traits others will follow the hero.  Another example is the archetype of the fool who is represented by blind hope and frivolousness.  It’s at this level of understanding that we as writers can make our stories really resonate with our readers by tapping into the unconscious categories that our readers possess.

At the story level, a way for incorporating archetypes is having characters explore their archetypes, and encounter and challenge potentially faulty ones.  As I mentioned in the post on therapeutic presentation, our character may have an error in identifying healthy or helpful archetypes and may align with or get into relationships with the wrong people.  We can incorporate our characters’ working through, resolving, and developing new archetypes as part of their journey.  Another way to incorporate archetypes into our writing is by having characters change archetypes; like defense mechanisms, our characters are not locked into a single method of operating.  Our protagonist can move from a fool, to a hero, and depending on the length of the story, potentially to a mentor.  Along the way, our protagonist can represent an archetype without becoming the archetype, such as representing the outcast or rebel to advance the story or a particular story arch.

The basic reason to understand the collective unconscious is to gain an appreciation of the commonalities that all individuals share.  Through understanding these commonalities we can create characters and stories that resonate with our readers and lighten our writing load.  If readers at an unconscious level recognize our characters or themes then we can save effort in exposition and keep focused on the parts of our writing that make our stories move.  Both readers and writers want to be part of something bigger than their self, and nothing is bigger than being part of a shared cultural experience than connecting with the collective unconscious.

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

And keep sending in your questions! mailto:W.T.Jowett@outlook.com

Psychology in Writing: The Collective Unconscious – Therapeutic Presentation

Therapeutic Presentation

 

Mother and Child watching each other

Mother and Child watching each other (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When focusing on the collective unconscious in therapy the focus is primarily on the archetypes and the client’s identification and association with them. There is an entire branch of psychology focused on archetypal therapy.  At its root, this form of therapy focuses on a search for meaning through an identification with and exploration of different mythologies and their associated archetypes that make up the client’s world.  The role of the therapist is to help the client identify the archetypes present in her/his world and what they mean.  By understanding the archetypical structures that the client identifies with and what is possible through understanding other archetypes, the client begins to understand how to change through tapping into this innate themes.

 

Another way that archetypes can manifest in therapy is through a misidentification of an archetype that can lead to a reoccurring relational error.  An example would a client who has a non-supportive or abusive mother.  The client’s archetype for mother figure becomes an inconsistent caregiver, which may replicate in later relationships.  For example, the client may enter an intimate relationship with someone who is abusive or demeaning to them, but does provide some support, as the client’s archetype for mother/caregiver matches this person, the client may stay in an unhealthy relationship because of the appearance of normality.  The role of the therapist is to help the person reconstruct the archetype of mother/caregiver, which may include an exploration of myths, literature, or other examples of a positive archetype.  Based on the exploration of a positive archetype the client can then begin to change her/his own internal schemas.