Ah! the journey of life. One never truly undertakes it alone, do we? The eternal struggle and internal monologue of “Me, Myself, and I” accompanies us all throughout this brief journey. Have you ever found yourself lost in thoughts, pondering over unnecessary things, or issues out of your concern, asking yourself questions like, What am I doing? Who am I? What makes me me? Why am I this way? Did I really mean to say that? etc., you know, existential questions or rhetorical ones, and then out of nowhere, you find yourself engaged in a conversation with yourself? And, if you do, doesn’t it feel like there are 12 unique little angry people having a perfectly normal conversation in your mental plane? I say a conversation because each voice brings with it a set of reasons and justifications into the argument. And the way the voices enter the chat is quite smooth too, like one of the voices could be a personification of “well, what would my father say?” or a line from a movie you recently watched. One could dismiss it as just a figment of the imagination and they wouldn’t be wrong in assuming so, but it is still a figment of imagination with a personality of its own.
Of course, as you may have guessed by now, we will not be pondering the complexities of the psyche and existentialism… he he… Though I must admit it is a charmingly fascinating topic, what with its associated fantastical flashes of personal insights, and personal epiphanies on the psyche. And that a most intriguing thing that I have noticed is that depending on the mood and setting in which these existential epiphanies happen, it either shines the path and provides fuel to the light at the end of a tunnel, or it rears its ugly head and throws the wet blanket on all things as though the end of the world is nigh. But that is a topic for another day… (o ^▿^) o
So, yes… we will be pondering over the intricacies of the personae here, the figments of imaginations with considerable personalities. It has always been there somewhere at the back of my mind, the idea/thought that an individual has as many personae as there are the people we meet in this short journey that we are thrust onto. For starters, there is the “self” persona, the “work” persona, the “friend” persona, the “parent” persona, the “other self” persona, etc., to name a few. I must admit I have this weird belief that all personae start out as figments of imagination. The “self” persona is one of the earliest personae we create to interact with/ cope with/ navigate through the intricacies of daily life. With time, it becomes the persona we are most familiar with, and the one we are most notably associated with by those who know us longest. A side-effect of the “self” persona is its subtle but ever-present ‘voice’ in our continued view of the world, and thus, I also call it “the driver” persona (for lack of a better alternative).
The events surrounding the molding of “the driver” is definitely different for everyone. If there are any shared similarities, it will be that it gets molded at a very young age, and under the heavy influence in the eyes of the local society. Did you know that most people hate vanilla ice cream and that it has nothing to do with the ice cream or the flavour but the term “vanilla”? I was one of them because of society. But then I grew up and now I know better, but you will still never catch me listing it in my top 5 or top 10 ice cream flavours because it will be listed at 6th and 11th respectively because of society again. It is what it is and I feel there may be parallels pertaining to designating a favourite ice cream flavour and “the driver” persona. When in truth there can never be one single favourite flavour, if forced to choose, certain circumstances will push our decisions into a box labeled “his/her favourite ice cream flavour”.
This, I feel, is similar to an individual’s persona pushed to “drive”. Metaphorically speaking, a kid is a sponge. They may see and they may hear but their understanding of what they see and what they hear are biased. Biased because they are being told what those were, with no room for any questions. So, equipped with the knowledge, limited though it may be, a fledgling persona gets assigned the driving responsibility. For a male child, their early stages will most definitely be filled with the taunts of “You are a boy, act like one, or are you a girl?”, “Boys don’t cry,” “You, chicken?” etc. For the female child, it could be, “Pink is your favourite colour,” “You are a girl, act like one, boys will be boys, but a mistake will ruin your life,” or “Learn these kitchen skills, you will need them,” etc. And just like that “the driver” persona is molded and assigned, and with time gets designated as his/her “personality”. Now, anytime a decision must be made we subconsciously follow what is expected of us, and any deviation from the “expectation” or “expected reaction” is met with ridicule, and thus owing to fear of repercussions and a desire to “fit in” with the crowd, any other potential personas either gets blacklisted and thoroughly suppressed, or they become relegated to mere passengers. Unbeknownst to the self, these suppressed personas almost always become little backseat drivers and continue to remain active at the subconscious level.
Now, as we grow older and continue to learn more, we also start creating our personal understanding of the world, and our view of what is right and what is wrong. As we continue to discover more about ourselves, there comes a time when we realise we are driven by all involved, and that we are the sum of all personas. This moment of realisation may come early for some or late for others, but it will eventually, and for some, it will be sudden and out of the blue. In any case, our first response is strangely personal acceptance and inner peace (like, ah! It all makes sense now), unfortunately, these moments of bliss and clarity are quickly and suddenly overshadowed by what follows next-fear and denial.
Experiencing the very foundation of You crumble under your new understanding of the “self” can frighten the soul out of anyone. Realising that it is perfectly okay and natural to cry, that there is nothing wrong in asking for directions when you feel lost, that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, etc., can foster a sense of detachment, loss, and/or derealization. The impact on our worldview can be so drastic that we instinctively refuse to accept it. The stage of denial is long for some and may be short for others. But it is a frightening state to be in, and especially so for those of us who may have discovered more than what we bargained for (oh, boy!).
We are timid creatures of habit with a subconscious aversion to change, and great love for the comfort zone. For most of us, by the time of discovery, we have (either) become too familiar and content with the designated driver and thus continue to let him continue driving, or the designated driver has become an overbearing driver (narrow-minded, short-fused, and deaf to reason).
It may also be so that the change in perception of the self scares us so much that we try our best to hold on to the “designated driver”, that we try to act ignorant, we lash out, we sever our most recent connections hoping the phase will pass. We deny the other personas and start labeling them radical personas, and we become afraid to hand over the keys to the “radical personas” by hiding behind the slogan of “fear of the unknown”…
Blessed are the few who are fortunate enough to find an acceptable driving assignment beneficial to all parties involved. It also helps to have the company of kindred souls during such times. I believe that being truly honest with yourself and willing listeners is a positive step towards a peaceful and harmonious reconciliation with the personae of the self.
For the record, I’m still starting into the Abyss myself, so here ends my ruminations… (~‾▿‾) ~
With love from the personae of Selilah…