Today is Halloween – a day when people get to dress up in costumes, play, laugh, eat way too much sugar, and participate in all sorts of silliness that adults usually are too “grown up” to do. For several days now, people have been costumed and partying with friends and loved ones. With each costume and each fabulously painted face or well-designed mask, I have felt curious about why the person chose that particular costume or mask.
This year, the costumes have sparked a memory for me. I remember many years ago, I was taking part in a genius workshop of some sort or another that lasted an entire weekend. I can’t be sure, now, what kind of workshop it was because there was a time in my life when I went through workshops and seminars like they were a kid’s trick-or-treat bag full of chocolate. At this particular event, the facilitators asked us to show up the second day in persona costume.
It was the first time I had heard the word “personas” and I was really unclear on what that meant. All I knew was I got to dress up! Having no real understanding of the vague concept of “persona” I went with my yearning – gypsy! There is a part of me that stretches back through time to my Italian ancestral heritage of gypsy magic and often she is who I turn to when I am feeling ceremonial, playful, spunky, and magical. When I step into her, I become lyrical and flowing, adorned with sparkles and beautiful art. I generally wear tinkling nymph bells, full and layered skirts, and lots of sheer material. I love the energy of her.
When I showed up to class, I was in full regalia and feeling so excited. My Good Student (by the way, I’ve come to learn she is a very regular star in my Persona Play) was certain I had “done it right” and my Playful Child (another persona who is around a lot) was simply thrilled to be in dress up. I felt authentic in my costume and I liked that she matched who I was.
Then they began talking about personas and that they aren’t really who we truly are, but are, instead, a fragmented portion of who we are. The way they spoke about it, I gathered that personas weren’t necessarily a positive thing and I went into defense mode immediately. I felt myself puff up and I literally put my hands on my hips, feeling justified in my costume and I actually said the words – out loud for the whole class to hear, even – “I feel more alive and real, now, dressed up in this costume than I felt yesterday.”
ZOWEE! The facilitators both jumped on my comment, pointing out the flaws in my logic and “helping” me see how I had misunderstood the new word that had just been added to my language. The zingers that came from the facilitators nearly knocked me on my ass. I remember tearing up and feeling embarrassed because I had “done it wrong.” I couldn’t stop the tears from falling down my face and I felt like an absolute fool. I remember looking around and imagining everyone in the room was laughing at me. I felt, suddenly, like I was in a funhouse with distorted mirrors all around me. I felt little and inadequate and broken.
I have learned a lot about myself since that day and I’ve also learned a lot about personas. I understand them to be just a part of me and that they house a fraction of my pure essence, but it’s only a fraction. Hence the reason they are not “me.” They are only a part of me and if I learn about who my personas are and what messages they have, then I am able to incorporate their knowing, their gifts, and their abilities into my wholeness and benefit from them, rather than having them run my life in a hectic, unhealthy, fragmented way.
Since that day, I have had fun getting to know the aspects of myself that I hadn’t known before. I have spent time invoking them and listening to their messages, getting to know their voices and languaging and I am continually surprised when one of their voices pop up even today. Just like Halloween, getting to know your personas is an opportunity and invitation to play. One of the most empowering gifts you can give yourself is space to listen to and understand the parts of you that you may be hiding from yourself.
I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and comments.
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