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: Mature Defense Mechanisms – Therapeutic Presentation

Therapeutic Presentation

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Individuals who are consistently using mature defense mechanisms would typically not show up in a therapist’s office because they usually have their stuff together; if we see these individuals it’s usually as part of a couple and they can’t understand why the rest of the world is crazy.  So, taking a different approach, I’ll just discuss what individuals using the different mature defense mechanisms would look like in day-to-day life instead of on the couch.

The defense mechanism of humility helps an individual stay in check, and keeps her/him from thinking either too highly about her/himself or being too harsh.  This allows the person to recognize what is realistically possible for her/him, not feeling overly guilty when she/he doesn’t succeed, or acting impulsively without regard for others to get needs met.

Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the moment, open, and accepting of experiences.  The individual who is mindful does not dwell excessively in the past nor worry about things in the future.  This person accepts reality as it as and appreciates it as it comes.

A person who is applying the defense of acceptance is able to acknowledge and be at with peace with things that are beyond her/his control.  This person does not become mired in regret when something doesn’t go her/his way, s/he accepts the situation and looks for the best in it or figures out how to cope with the situation.

Gratitude is the ability to appreciate what one has.  Similar to mindfulness and acceptance, a person using gratitude as a defense mechanism finds the good in what s/he has and appreciates what is real and available to her/him.  This person chooses to ignore what s/he does not have and does not wish for things that could be.

A person who uses altruism as a defense mechanism finds joy in providing services to others without expectation for anything in return.  When a person does something good and expects something in return this can lead to anger and frustration about the failure of the relationship to be reciprocal.  When an individual does good work without expecting anything in return s/he avoids frustration and gets intrinsic joy out of the work itself.

The defense mechanism of tolerance is allowing the existence of things that a person may not approve of.  Again, this eliminates the frustration of expectations of others; the individual allows others to have ideas, while understanding that the ideas of the other do not diminish or alter the person’s core sense of self.  Disapproving opinions are external to the person, so her/his psyche is not damaged by others when using tolerance as a defense.

Mercy as a defense is the recognition of an individual having a place of power, and being in that place of power can be compassionate to others.

An individual who is able to use forgiveness as a defense mechanism is able to release resentment or anger towards others for a perceived offense without need for retribution or restitution.  Forgiveness is part of mindfulness; it keeps an individual from dwelling in the past so s/he can move forward.  Forgiveness also does not necessarily mean a repair of the relationship, it means that for the person employing it a release of resentment that may hold her/him back.

Those who use anticipation can prepare for realistic future discomfort.  This person does not ignore an upcoming potentially painful event, s/he prepares for how s/he will deal with the consequences or outcome so that s/he can address it appropriately when the time comes.

Humor is a high level defense mechanism.  It allows the individual to express pain s/he may be feeling but in a socially appropriate way that amuses others; a common example is self-depreciating humor.  This defense is in contrast to something like projection, where the negative emotions are released as anger towards others.

The healthy use of defense mechanism of identification hinges on the individual modeling positive aspects of another that are realistic for her/him.  Identifying with positive behaviors can help an individual identify what are positive traits and internalize them to improve her/himself.  Introjection similarly is contingent on internalizing positive ideas.  This defense, instead of identifying with a person, identifies with an idea so deeply that an individual integrates the positive aspects into her/his self.  An example would be internalizing moral ideas that guide social functioning.

A person who is using sublimation as a defense mechanism is able to channel negative emotions or instincts into positive actions, behaviors, or emotions.  A person using this defense is able to be constructive with her/his negative emotions, such as channeling negative feelings into art or sport.

Thought suppression as a defense is a temporarily delaying of dealing with negative thoughts or experiences.  In contrast to repression, the individual will deal with the emotions/experience later; they are only temporarily suppressed to allow an individual to function in the current moment.  This person is able to put her/his feelings aside in order to deal rationally with a present issue.

The last mature defense mechanism is emotional self-regulation.  Much like mindfulness and thought suppression, the individual using this defense is aware of her/his emotions (not repressing them) and is not victim to their whims (able to put them aside to deal with issues in the moment).  This allows the person to be fully present in the moment and deal with others in a socially appropriate way.

Psychology in Writing: The Super Ego – Introduction


A jovial exchange

A jovial exchange (Photo credit: Spyderella)

The Super Ego is part of the tripartite structural model consisting of three components, the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego.  The Super Ego exists as an internalization of cultural rules, which are often imparted by parents.  This aspect of the unconscious serves as the parental voice of society providing instruction on how to act/behave in order to fit in.  This voice exists as a counterpoint to the Id, which is the drive to get needs met regardless of how an individual is supposed to act.  The Super Ego serves as the basis for:

  • Personal ideals
  • Spiritual goals
  • Conscience

It serves to suppress through criticism and prohibition:

  • Id impulses
  • Fantasies
  • Feelings

The Super Ego can be looked upon as a form of moral guidance, which instills in the individual the basis for right and wrong, and the feeling of guilt that comes when an individual violate her/his sense of right.  The Super Ego provides a corrective mechanism to the Id telling us how to function in socially acceptable ways, and finding socially appropriate ways of getting our needs met.