Persona (non grata est)

Forgive the little pun above; I couldn’t resist!

I’ve been thinking lately in a very unfocussed way about the persona, that mask we wear. I don’t fully understand the “proper” concept, of the Persona, or the ramifications in Jungian psychology, so those of you who do, please bear with me and accept this as my ramblings to get to grips with my own understanding of who I am beneath the mask.

The title is also untrue; the persona is not just welcome, it’s essential. It’s about how we function as individuals in society, by concealing our full selves. Usually people are unaware that the self the world sees is not their true self, but I’ve become acutely and uncomfortably aware that what the world sees is a much nicer being that the real me underneath.

I don’t consciously choose to project anything. But the words that others use in describing me have begun to disturb me somewhat. I don’t find I am happy to have people think of me as, “tough” or “strong” or “sweet”, and I really don’t know why. My husband tells me I project an image of someone who can cope with anything life throws at me, and be unfazed entirely by it. I suspect this one bothers me the most because it is not true. I can’t cope with a lot of things. Oh I deal with it, sure, but then, when no one is watching, I go home and crumble into a million pieces. I absorb the blows but I don’t heal from them.

I’ve begun to really wonder who this “I” is that is writing here.

Other people hold a mirror up to us, but it’s like the mirrors that you have at funfairs, that distort reality. And even a true mirror everything is transposed to the other way round.

The most terrifying maze I have ever been in was a mirror maze, at Wookey Hole in Somerset. Every way I turned I was faced with an image of myself coming the other way; the only way to escape the maze was to head for a space that didn’t contain a self-image. I emerged, not far short of a panic attack, gasping for air and reality.

I’m beginning to fear that the way to true self understanding is to head for the gaps where no self-image appears and find myself outside the maze, lying in the sun on the warm grass.

13 thoughts on “Persona (non grata est)

  1. This has got me thinking about the different masks I wear around people.
    I understand your point about not being the person other people perceive you to be.
    I would suspect that most of my friends and colleagues perceives me to always be in a good mood with something funny to say, but none of them know the real me! I also know what it feels like to be perceived as someone who can face any situation only to go home and as you said crumble into a million pieces with no one to put me back together.
    Writing my blog and commenting on blogs is the only place I feel safe enough to remove the mask.




    • I had a good time with a different colleague yesterday and she said a couple of things about me that made me smile.
      “You’re REALLY strange but in a really good way!” and “One of the things I like about you, Viv, is that even with your very varied and wide range of beliefs and interests, you’d never judge or condemn anyone for theirs!”
      I’ve had people’s jaws actually drop visibly with surprise when I’ve admitted being a long term sufferer of serious clinical depression; one chap nearly tripped over his own feet and declared, “But you’re always such a cheerful person!” That, I guess is part of the persona. I don’t wish to make others suffer when I’m suffering, so I hide it as best I can or I hide myself away so no one can see it.
      I don’t keep my illness a secret though, because I feel that is wrong. I’m just not sure people really believe me because they never get to see me when I’m really ill. I think I fear rejection for this more than anything.


  2. Viv, you write: “I’m beginning to fear that the way to true self understanding is to head for the gaps where no self-image appears and find myself outside the maze, lying in the sun on the warm grass.” I would agree with that completely, because any image, even a self-image, is by definition not real, yes? There is no image of the soul, as far as I know!

    I am so very sorry that you suffer so with the depression. Is there no medication left to try? 😦
    With hugs and love, Psych


    • I’m not too bad at the moment, Psych, and I found that medication had very limited effects, plus some of the side effects were unacceptible. I use various methods of lifting depression, such as the use of certain essential oils, plus herbs of varying sorts, and vigorous exercise too.
      It’s so very complex, though.
      How are you now, by the way?


  3. Hi Viv, it’s me again. I am catching up now that the day’s plans have faded into the darkening clouds. Persona, there are many ways to think of this, not all of them Jungian of course. I will only add a few comments here, not a primer of definition which was my first response as a teacher.

    There are more masks than one is ever aware of for the self, masks that you rightly say are essential. There will always be masks. You are exactly right when you say that what is under the masks in the fearful part. As you said: “I’ve begun to really wonder who this “I” is that is writing here.” This is where courage to take that journey “In Search of the Undiscovered Self,” that Jung writes about, the process of individuation. The more the journey is pushed back, the more one buries deeper the shadow stuff of self, the more it will find a way to ooze out to mess up one’s life.

    But of course, you already know that. Take care.


    • I have a set of cards (not true, I actually have a shelf full of sets of cards… I kind of got addicted..) called The Faerie Oracle, the ilustrations of which are by Brian Froud, who did a lot of work for Jim Henson’s creature shop. One painting in particular springs to mind, called The Mask of Truth, True dreaming. It’s quite hard without having the pic to show you, or the text that goes with it, to explain quite how powerful this card is for me. The faery says, First you put the mask on and hide and then you take it off to reveal the truth. One of the things I use when doing shamanic journey work is a Tibetan shaman’s mask made specially for me by a friend.
      Ah the words aren’t coming right today. Blame the cold virus that’s got me by the throat (not to mention the eyes, the nose, the chest and just about everywhere. Worst cold I’ve had in years!)
      Here’s the link to the oracle site:


  4. I would love to see the image – scanner anyone? Viv, I hope that you get well soon. I am looking forward to your comments about my book.



    • I’ll try to get the comments done soon, Robert, but this damn cold has thrown all my plans and I’m even working tomorrow, a Bank Holiday.
      I’d scan the card but I do wonder about copyright though.
      My poor nose is now without much skin and is looking decidedly clownlike!!


      • Just to set your mind at rest, I’m over half way through completeing my notes on your book. It’s quite hard to read from a screen and make notes on the pc at the same time, so I’m doing the notes longhand and will write them up in a proper document when I’m done!


    • Emerge from your cocoon and be the beautiful butterfly, Psych!!
      Today I have not so much a headache as a face ache. I had a good day at work, which helps too!


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