Psychology in Writing: The Persona – Therapeutic Presentation

Therapeutic Presentation

Masks

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: 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 – Introduction

Introduction

Carl Gustav Jung painted portrait P1050156

Carl Gustav Jung painted portrait P1050156 (Photo credit: Abode of Chaos)

In last week’s blog we covered the individual unconscious, which are the unseen aspects of self that can affect behavior.  Carl Jung proposed that in addition to their own unconscious mind all individuals share a collective unconscious.  While the individual unconscious is unique to each individual, the collective unconscious is a shared system that all humans use to organize their personal experiences in a similar way.

The common organizing of ideas in the unconscious leads to universal themes and concepts that occur in distant and unrelated cultures.  Jung postulated that the collective unconscious was not developed across the lifespan by an individual but was inherited.  The common themes of the collective unconscious are referred to as archetypes; like the unconscious mind, individuals do not have ready conscious access to the archetypes, but they are revealed through events and experiences in individuals’ lives.  When an archetype is experience individuals unconsciously recognize it as what it represents and it appears as “mental forms whose presence cannot be explained by anything in the individual’s own life and which seem to be aboriginal, innate, and inherited shapes of the human mind” (Jung, 1978).

Some of the common archetypes include:

  • The Hero
  • The Mentor
  • The Fool
  • The Seductress
  • The Devil

Expanded writing on archetypal characters, plots, and themes, can be found here, here, and here. (Or you can just do a Google search)

There is some question on whether Jung was speaking biologically or spiritually about the collective unconscious.  Some interpret the collective unconscious as something inherited through a species like a common arm.  This would mean that just as all humans share a similar bone, muscle, skin structure forming an arm, they also share similar unconscious structures in common.  Others interpret the collective unconscious as a tapping into the divine.  That there is a “universal truth” (e.g., the presence of a divine) that all humans are part of and can access through our common truths.  Either way, the collective unconscious has the potential to establish common ground when communicate within and across cultures.