A Collectively Suitable Persona
“The persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.” [Jung, CW 9i, par. 221]
On my bio [about] page I give a definition of who I am. After reading these words of C.G. Jung’s, I realise that I have simply given a picture of my persona and have basically left the reality of who I am hidden. For those of you who have been reading here for some time, you have been able to grasp some larger sense of who I am. I have been reading more from Daryl Sharp’s book, Digesting Jung, and in the process a few small lights are showing their presence in the foggy shadows from which I hope one day to emerge with a decent sense of awareness of who I am and what this process of life is all about. One of the things that Sharp talks about with regards to the persona is how persona is as much about the collective as it is about the self. The persona only comes to life in relationship to the collective. It is only through interactions with the world that one gets to see reflections of oneself. Here is what Sharp has to tell us:
“The development of a collectively suitable persona always involves a compromise between what we know ourselves to be and what is expected of us, such as a degree of courtesy and innocuous behavior. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that.” [Sharp, Digesting Jung, pp 21-22]
The words “collectively suitable” stands out for me, in large part because the “naturist” part of how I know myself is not collectively suitable in the western world in which I live. Still, there are smaller groups within that larger collective for whom I am “suitable.” As I bring this aspect of “self” into the larger picture, there are small negotiations between myself and a growing circle of “others,” the process is allowing me to peel away bits and pieces of persona revealing some of what is buried, some of what could best be called the authentic self.
The adoption of naturism has a deeper meaning than simply being nude at times. Naturism has become an active image mirroring the work of the journey to an authentic self as I shed the masks, disguises and costumes which I have used to construct what I had believed was a collectively acceptable persona, a construct that I had come to believe was the sum total of who I was. The process doesn’t deny all of the constructs but simply becomes aware of what they are.
For example, I am a father to three incredible adult children (yes, the typical viewpoint of a parent). I did take part in the act of creation that led to their appearance and I did take a large role in taking them from their birth to their present status. That said, this is only part of who I am, not a definition of who I am. Over the years, mostly through unconscious processes while fathering, I discovered more and more of who I was and who I wasn’t. I fathered under the influence a father complex, making conscious decisions to do the opposite. Along the way, unaware, I responded to some situations unconsciously only to see the surprise in my children’s eyes which then pointed to something hiding in the shadows. Bit by bit, my children helped me discover and uncover bits of that authentic self, even if the things were not so nice.
I have mentioned that naturism, the uncovering of the physical self as part of the uncovering of the self hidden in the depths; however, I have not mentioned how by putting clothing back on, I get to see myself differently, a self that isn’t defined by clothing or the absence of clothing, something deeper and fuller. Naturism helped point the way for me, as though the process was a holy one in which I could only approach that centre of self in a state of purity, a state without the attachment of persona, without the taint of a collectively suitable persona.
I wonder if any of this makes any sense at all? I often feel that words get in the way concealing more than they can ever possibly reveal.