Getting Acquainted With Your Personas
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going home to Nova Scotia. While I did do my fair share of laid back east coast lifestyle things like staring mindlessly at the crashing waves, catching up with old friends over cold drinks, and driving along twisty coastal roads, I also did some self work.
For the past few summers, my pals and I have made a point of spending at least one night at a friend’s family cottage as a way to reconnect, make and share elaborate meals together, and genuinely relax into the ease of our existence. It’s also a space that I’ve come to associate with doing a lot of inner work shit shoveling.
Good food and great company make up for it though, I promise.
If the shit shoveling inner work piece doesn’t elicit feelings of internal discomfort, let me paint a visual for you. Imagine laying in a puddle of tears and sweat (for some reason we lit a fire on a night that was already sweltering hot) with three other people holding you close while you cry inconsolably and feel like your mind is about to implode and your heart is about to combust because you’re coming face to face with icky, dark, and sad thoughts/feelings about situations that have been preoccupying your attention for months. Fun stuff!
Although it was emotionally painful to confront and sit with those feelings, what I found to be difficult wasn’t the situation in general, more so my lack of ability to communicate my thoughts efficiently and put words to my pain. It felt like there was too much going on to articulate. I had feelings that seemed to swirl into one another, which made it challenging to untangle the truth; was I angry or was I sad? Was it all in my head or was there legitimacy to the feelings I was experiencing? Two of the people I was with recommended that I try giving these parts of myself ‘personas’, where essentially I could be all of the things I was feeling but they could be broken up into different pieces of me.
Different parts of yourself are activated in any given situation.
To give a working example of a persona of mine, I’ll give you a little insight into one of my behaviours. Sometimes I have a tendency to withhold my thoughts, feelings, and experiences from people that I care about, instead preferring to give them space to express what they want or need. I call this part of me ‘Space Saver Syd’. She serves a purpose. She genuinely cares about others, especially those she loves, and wants them to feel like they have space to be whatever they need to be. She also has a drawback, however. Space Saver Syd is infamous in using that as an excuse to hide behind the fact that she fears that people don’t actually care about her - so why bother say anything?
Space Saver Syd’s first cousin is Lonely Syd.
What I really find useful about assigning personas to different experiences of myself is that it allows me to detach from them and understand them (thus, myself) better. I can hold it away from me and say “Oh hey, Lonely Syd is active.” When I find myself here, I can use the distance to practice compassion, almost as if it were for an entirely different person. I might say, “Lonely Syd, your feelings are valid and I understand your pain. You’re not alone, I love you and care about you." By assigning personas, I’m creating a way to articulate my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It’s also a useful tool to help others understand you better as well, because they’ll know what parts of you are activated and together you can all hold space for the persona that’s present.
What I’ve come to realize is that I have a vast repertoire of personas; some I’m quite familiar with and others I haven’t had the privilege of meeting yet. By identifying them, I’m able to talk about them in contexts that are difficult or convoluted. By detaching myself from them, I can understand them better and am more able to practice compassion. I find this practice to be useful and have enjoyed getting to know parts of myself better, give them names, and become their friend. Have you gotten acquainted with some of your personas yet?