Are the Old Games No Longer Working?

by Peter Milhado PHD on December 12, 2013

head-gamesBoredom, anxiety, depression, physical symptoms, excesses and addictions can all be signs that the old games and approaches to life are no longer working.  The part of the personality we show to the outside world is called the Persona (Latin for mask or façade), which we exhibit publicly with the usual intention of presenting a favorable impression so others will accept us.  The Persona is harmful when we become too identified with it and wear it too tightly.

A woman in her forties carried the Persona of “supermom”, which required her to be nice and pleasing to everyone all of the time.  When her husband of twenty-five years had an affair and asked for a divorce, she responded in her usual passive way.  Shortly thereafter she was plagued with intruding fantasies in which she plowed their Ford truck into her husband while he read the Sunday LA Times on the front porch of their house.  She was obviously terrified with these obsessive thoughts.  Without her old identity of being ‘nice’ and passive she didn’t know who she was.  It was time for her to look inward and get in touch with her assertiveness, anger and inner authority.

A policeman came to therapy after his wife and family left him.  He brought in a night time dream in which he took off his uniform, only to find another uniform underneath, when he took that one off there was another one etc. etc. etc…. Being a twenty-four hour a day cop doesn’t work with your wife, children and friends – he was obviously too identified with his Persona.

If the Persona takes over trouble ensues and psychological symptoms follow.  It doesn’t matter whether we wear the social mask of a doctor, pensive poet, dutiful daughter, intellectual, career woman, rebel, nice guy, etc.  When we get alienated from our soul, life becomes empty and meaningless.  In dreams, uniforms and clothes are often symbols for the Persona.  So when we run around half-dressed or naked, feeling ashamed or exposed in our nighttime dreams, we might look at potential problems with our social masks.

However, the Persona and social roles are a fact of human existence and must find expression, preferably in modest form.  Becoming conscious of the Persona is the crucial issue.  If conscious, we have a choice to wear the appropriate Persona at the right time, which assists us in attaining goals and achievements in the outside world.

Here are some words by the great German Poet Goethe, “If you treat man as he appears to be, you make him worse than he is.  But if you treat man as if he already were what he potentially could be, you make him what he should be.”  In other words we talk to the person’s soul, not the Persona.

One for all and all for one

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Dick Oswell January 1, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Likewise i’m sure.
Here are a couple of alternatives for you:

“Metaphysics is not human knowledge. Thus, it is not in so far as he is man that man can attain it; it is in the grasping in effective conscience of supra-individual states.” —V.Tomberg
from Dogen:

“To learn about oneself
is to forget about oneself
To forget about okneself
is to experience

Dick Oswell January 1, 2014 at 5:04 pm

An alternative from Dogen:

“To learn about oneself
is to forget about oneself.
To forget about oneself
is to experience the world as pure object.
To experience the world as pure object
is to let fall one’s own body and mind
and the self other body and mind.”

Dick Oswell January 8, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Mentioned by Ardrey, this from film:

“In Kenya there is quite a beautiful flower—rather like a hyacinth. If you should reach to touch it, you would discover that the flower is not a flower at all, but a design made up of hundreds of tiny insects called Flatid bugs. They escape the hungry eyes of birds by living and dying in the shape of a flower.”

Dick Oswell January 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Say Russ?
There are several mistakes in this submission(a misquote,’conscience’ should be ‘consciousness’ in Tomberg; misspelling,’okneself’; unfinished Dogen quote, all of which is in 2d comment) probably due to old fingers brushing submit before back space. Will someone correct?

ken knulp January 12, 2017 at 11:55 am

Stumbled upon this tidbit in ure own tongue—

‘As to the ultimate things we can know nothing, and only when we admit this do we return to equilibrium.’
—Carl Jung

Sherry Sereboff August 1, 2017 at 2:03 pm

This is a gorgeous post. Thank you, Peter.

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