Persona – The Mask We Wear

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The persona is the mask we wear.

Carl Jung said that, ‘The persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is." Robert Johnson refers to the persona as our "psychological clothing." The persona refers to that aspect of the ego that we present to the world for its approval. It is like a mask and we can hide behind it.

The word "persona" comes from the Greek word for the large masks that early Greek actors would use to portray their characters. With audiences in the big Greek amphitheater the nuances of performances could easily be lost. The primary function of the mask was not to hide the actor but give information about the character. The persona is the mask or role that a person plays in society. While it gives information it can be used to hide the ego.

As a social role the concept of the persona is useful in allowing an individual to move in and out of relationships without being too vulnerable. A persona can be the oil to ease potential social friction. A persona provides for some predictability of relationship. For example, the personas of doctor and patient or of student and teacher can be useful in knowing what to do, when, and where. Other examples of the persona are: mother, father, husband, wife, lawyer, judge, policeman, baker. A persona becomes a problem only when a person becomes too attached to it and can not put it aside. For example, when someone who is a judge is a "judge" all the time at work and at home. Or perhaps, a teacher who is in her role all the time. When a person cannot move flexibly between roles then the persona not only hides the person from others but also from himself. It is difficult for such a person to have appropriate self-knowledge.

An overemphasis on the persona not only blocks avenues of communication between people but also between the ego and the darker aspects of the personality that need to be acknowledged. These darker aspects are represented by the shadow.

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