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 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 Persona – Writing Process

Writing Process

Masks

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

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: 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.