The Evolution of Our Persona

I believe that although, for each of us, our persona—how we present ourselves to the world—is unique and filled with individual quirks, the process by which all personae evolve follows a general pattern:

When we are born, we are relatively free of programming, as close as we get to the Garden of Eden days before the serpent.

Something happens (a trauma) and our machinery interprets it as a threat to our survival, drawing the conclusion that “There’s a terrible problem here” and “I’m not safe.”

The old woolly mammoth DNA from prehistoric days kicks in, the machinery jumps into our driver’s seat and has us do something to mitigate the problem and assure our place in the tribe (which could be just Mom and Dad). We develop complexes and learn adapting skills—being cute, crying, or countless additional sophisticated maneuvers—which, over time, by trial and error, morph us into “people pleasers,” “entertainers,” “bullies,” “sex machines,” and all the other personae or roles that people develop.

We get used to the belief that “There’s a terrible problem here” as well as other beliefs such as “I’m not lovable,” “I’m a loser,” “I’m superior,” and other self-evaluation labels, and these beliefs become incorporated into our machinery’s programming about who we are. These beliefs become the mold that we are stuck inside of, our set way of presenting ourselves.

All of this is repeated and repeated over the course of our lives as our programming keeps us scheming to stay safe and we have no idea what is actually going on. The parts we play as a result collectively become our persona, and we remain unconscious that it’s all in our machinery!

Unless we change this dynamic, the die is cast, and we will keep creating a future that will be exactly like our past.

Why Our Machinery Likes to Keep Us Stuck—and the Cost of Being Stuck

Rigidly adhering to the same old ways of presenting ourselves to the world, with the repetitive, unconscious actions they consist of, has some consequences that our machinery misguidedly judges to be rewards. These “rewards” are all some form of justifying our behavior and feelings while finding ways to blame other people. The reason the machinery perceives these as rewards is that it uses justifying our behavior and feelings and blaming others as strategies to help achieve its goal of our being accepted by the tribe.

But the cost of being stuck in our set way of presenting ourselves is huge. Being stuck in our character, our persona, costs us freedom of expression, satisfaction, fulfillment, vitality, and well-being. It makes it impossible to truly connect with others, and therefore it makes it impossible to get the love we crave. Having a set way of presenting ourselves keeps us unconscious. It keeps us stuck in our past and recreates that past into our future, killing off all potential for our experiencing something new and different. How can we experience anything new and different if we are stuck in our old ways? The following truths help to keep me mindful of remaining aware of why it’s vital to interrupt my machinery so that I don’t have to pay the costs of remaining in a set way of being:

Joy comes from being in the now, and we are never in the now when our machinery is in the driver’s seat.

The potential for new experiences can only exist when we are free of our machinery and are being true to ourselves—just being. This uncharted territory is the land where the remarkable and the wondrous are possible.

What we often think of as our feelings come from this set way of being—the self with a small “s”—and come from our machinery’s responding to being activated. Often we feel that these feelings control us. The Self with a capital “S” is not a set way of being under the control of our machinery; it is just being. When we are just being, we experience the full range of our feelings and we’re not controlled by them.

Excerpted from My Mind Is Not Always My Friend by Steven J. Fogel (Peppertree Press), pp. 75–77.
© Steven J. Fogel