Chapter 7: Persona: the actor and the mask
The word ‘persona’ comes from the Greek word for an actor’s mask in the ancient theatre. There were different masks for actors playing in comedies and for those playing in tragedies. The mask’s function was to convey the main characteristics of the role to the spectators, even those who sat far away from the stage. In Carl Gustav Jung’s psychology ( 1990) the persona is a mask of character – the role an individual plays in the society: ‘One could say, with a little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is’ (Jung,  1990, p. 123). The Persona is a façade, an image we present to the world and to ourselves. It consists of our attitudes, mannerisms, facial expressions, scripts we follow and co-create as well as appearance, attire and make-up. It is a kind of dress we put on our personality, often devoting considerable effort to it. We derive inspiration from tradition, the lessons we learned at home and at school, social expectations or, more precisely, our perceptions of the latter, and our imagination. Complications appear when the Persona becomes an inflexible armour, preventing the development of a spontaneous personality and making it difficult to experience the world. This happens when defence mechanisms start to dominate or when the perceived external expectations suppress individual expression to such an extent that a person feels alienated from the world and their own image.
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