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: Anima and Animus – Writing Prompt

Writing Prompt

Carl Jung

Carl Jung (Photo credit: Bruno Amaral™)

“It belongs to him, this perilous image of Woman; she stands for the loyalty which in the interests of life he must sometimes forego; she is the much needed compensation for the risks, struggles, sacrifices that all end in disappointment; she is the solace for all the bitterness of life.

And, at the same time, she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws him into life with her Maya-and not only into life’s reasonable and useful aspects, but into its frightful paradoxes and ambivalences where good and evil, success and ruin, hope and despair, counterbalance one another.

Because she is his greatest danger she demands from a man his greatest, and if he has it in him she will receive it.” –Carl Jung

I know that’s a long quote to introduce today’s writing prompt, but the anima and animus are a complex topic so it seemed fitting.  For today’s writing prompt think about your character’s anima/animus development.  What are the strengths your character has at her/his current level of development?  Even at lower levels of development there is clarity in thought and vision that may be useful to our characters.  What is the character’s boundary?  What occurs that s/he cannot overcome/move past because s/he has reached the threshold of her/his current anima/animus developmental level?  What occurs to help your character move to the next level of development?  How does your male character manifest his “feminine” traits or your female demonstrate her “masculine” traits at this level of development?  What about other characters—how do they react to your character’s anima/animus development level?  Do they do anything to help or hinder further development?

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: 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 – 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: Self-Actualization (Rogerian) – Writing Process

Writing Process

Sam, 5x4 negative

Sam, 5×4 negative (Photo credit: Jasmic)

As writers, we can sometimes be complicit in A. failing to help our characters work towards self-actualization or B. having them magically self-actualize.  We often deny our characters’ negative feelings for them, which can lead to characters feeling flat.  We want our heroes and heroines to be golden children, mirroring a perfect savior in their progression towards their goal, but this is not reality and our readers know it.  Our readers want to see characters with some dirt on them, and in spite of the dirt can polish themselves up enough to be successful. Some of the ways that our characters may experience negative emotions that they suppress:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of ulterior motives in themselves
  • Recognizing aspects of the antagonist in themselves
  • Experiencing typical negative emotions anger, sadness, frustration

I like to think of people, and by proxy characters, like glasses containing water where the water is emotional energy.  Each character has a limit to how much negative emotions s/he can manage and suppress internally before their holding glass overflows and these emotions begin manifesting externally.  By confronting and addressing their own negative emotions our characters are able to balance out the water in the glass and keep from overflowing.

This emotional processing also helps keep our characters (and the writer) in the here-and-now.  The character moves away from either past failures or fear of future failure to focus on the immediate task; the hero has to conquer what is before them before moving forward.  It is by having the energy and focus to confront the immediate task that helps our characters keep moving forward from challenge to challenge until the ultimate climax.  So to recap, to help characters progress towards self-actualization they need to:

  • Accept both positive and negative aspects of her/his self
  • Be present in the here-and-now
  • Trust her/his feelings and make choices that are congruent between the character’s ideal self and actual behavior
  • Demonstrate creativity in taking risks and overcoming them
  • Seeking out new challenges and experiences

Through walking through this process, we allow readers to connect with our hero when s/he is struggling with the same doubts as the reader and show the reader a path that in spite of personal challenges there is a path that leads to personal growth and success.