Carl Jung, a psychologist and advocate of positive psychology, often made reference to the concept of “persona” – the social face a person presented to the outside world. He went on to describe the persona as a type of “mask” with a dual purpose – to make a definite impression on others and to conceal the person’s true nature. So, just how does the concept of “persona” affect the interactions with have with others? First, let’s talk about identification.
Identification, according to Jung, generally occurs when we align ourselves with a particular persona or role. For example, we take on the role of mother, father, doctor, lawyer, friend, sister, etc. There are an infinite number of roles any one person can “play”, but any one person is likely to only identify with a set number of roles. Jung believed that adherence to a particular role could actually be psychologically limiting. These limitations usually occur based on society’s perception of how the said role is supposed to be filled. A doctor is supposed to fulfill a certain “role” in society; many people struggle to identify with the doctor outside of his or her healing role. A mother is supposed to be a caretaker, a father is supposed to be a provider – when we confine ourselves to these “boxes”, so to speak, we limit ourselves in a variety of different ways.
Let’s talk about those “boxes” for a minute. “Boxes” are generally societal-based constructions designed to help us (and others) define the roles a person plays. It gives meaning, direction and rules to those “personas” we adopt. However, many times, those rules can be limiting or even in direct contrast to the life philosophy we believe it. Here is where problems can arise – how do we adopt a certain persona and play by the rules without offending others in society? Walking that fine line can be a complex task for many individuals.
What should a person do if he finds his life philosophy in contrast to his “persona”? First, examine your life persona and determine what exactly is in contrast; write it down and make a list, if necessary. Rank those elements in order of importance and establish whether or not adjustments can be made either way. If minor adjustments to either your life philosophy or your persona can be made and will result in higher life satisfaction, your problem is solved. If major adjustments need to be made to either, you have a bigger dilemma on your hands. You will need to decide if making a major adjustment to your life philosophy or persona is something you want or even can do. For example, some “personas” have very rigid “rules” attached to them; it may be impossible to change that without adopting a completely new persona. Only you can truly decide if a new life direction is the right choice for you.
One thing to think about, and one important concept in Jung’s theory of the persona is balance. In order for life to be fulfilling, there must be a balance between the inner desires of a person and his or her outer reflection. This does not mean the inner desires should always be expressed no matter what; rather, a person needs to, at times, proceed with caution and express those desires in a socially acceptable way. For example, many people feel anger on a daily basis – anger is a natural emotion, felt by everyone. However, the expression of anger is not always socially acceptable – depending on the environment or the means of expression. Finding that delicate balance between feeling and expression helps ensure an equalized lifestyle.
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