Funny that Michael J. should invite me today to join in the Notio Experience. I’ve been thinking recently about personification and its value in psychological health. Intentional personification stands in stark contrast to the harsh black and white world of the fundamentalists. While our loved ones may know that we have “moods” or “phases” most of our business and community colleagues would like to think of us in a single way. Paul’s a doctor. Beth’s a lawyer. Marc works at the Chamber of Commerce. Kate is a waitress. John is a deacon at our church. Jill is a mother of twins and volunteers at the Waldorf school. All very neat and tidy. If it turns out that Kate is a waitress and a sex worker, people are shocked, just shocked! Such a nice girl……
But the reality is that we have multiple personalities, and successful people know how to move from one to the other smoothly. Your wife doesn’t need your aggressive business attitude in the house, and your assistant probably doesn’t want to hear “I love you!” after meeting some ungodly deadline. Or, at least, your wife doesn’t want your assistant to hear that.
When I was first starting my psychological studies, Timothy Leary was an early read. Not your typical starting point, I know. But he clearly saw the truth of multiple personalities, from wherever he got his insight. Later, James Hillman via David Miller, carried the idea, and me, through to Jung’s idea of the collective unconcious. Enough history.
Knaves may think it is splitting hairs, but in fact we are different people in different situations. We are not just “on our best behavior” at a formal dinner party, we say things that we would not be able to think of while mowing the lawn. When Mr. Charlie returned to white-collar work after his little weekend of fun in Albany, he did not greet his supervisor with “Dude! Killer shows!” He said, “Yes, thanks, I had a wonderful weekend. We visited some friends in Albany – it was great to see them.” His personality is the collection of his personas. This is very useful, online and off.
Contrast this with the single-minded persona that, say, our President would like to project. An image of stability, a solid citizen, a trustworthy leader. This is why, when a crack in the hologram shines through, the media can be so relentless. Did he inflate the State of the Union speech? What else has been exaggerated? Does North Korea really have nukes? How can we trust for sure? When that hologram cracks, you can also see how disruptive it is for the person thinking they don’t have personas. In our example, Bush, in explaining the 16 words, said that Saddam didn’t let the inspectors in. This statement is entirely false, and makes one wonder what other statemets are false. So we witness our President, cornered, stammering, grasping at straws, lying, trying to regroup into the single familiar persona. Good luck. (c.f. the virtous William Bennet with a gambling habit for additional material.)