The Persona

Always be yourself, express yourself, and have faith in yourself.  Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

Your Persona is the social mask that you wear in public.  It is the part of the ego that is turned out toward the world, is the image you wish to present, and is made up of both your expectation and your interpretation of the public’s expectation of your behavior.  In social settings a well-adjusted person naturally presents these modified social masks.[1]  It is both[2]:

1.     The good impression we wish to display, and

2.     The false impression we use to create an image that we are not. 

What goes on behind the mask is then called “private life”

The hidden danger is that the persona can be mistaken by ourselves to be our true nature and we end up believing we are what we pretend to be while the true Self slowly fades away under this entity.  The persona by no means is a true identifier of who the person really is. 

So the persona is a certain complicated system of behavior which is partially dictated by society and partially dictated by the expectations or the wishes one nurses oneself. Now this is not the real personality. In spite of the fact that people will assure you that this is all quite real and quite honest, yet it is not. Such a performance of the persona is quite all right, as long as you know that you are not identical to the way in which you appear; but if you are unconscious of this fact, then you get into sometimes very disagreeable conflicts. Namely, people can't help noticing that at home you are quite different from what you appear to be in public. People who don't know it stumble over it in the end. They deny that they are like that, but they are like that; they are it. Then you don't know—now which is the real man? Is he the man as he is at home or in intimate relations, or is he the man that appears in public?

A properly functioning persona must take account of three factors:[4]

1. The ego ideal or wish-image which every human being bears within him and on which he would like his nature and behaviour to be modeled.

2. His particular environment’s view of an individual ‘after its own heart’

3. The physical and psychic contingencies which limit the realization of these ideals.

"I was part of that strange race of people aptly described as spending their lives doing things they detest to make money they don't want to buy things they don't need to impress people they dislike."

-- Emile Henry Gauvreau


We therefore tend to assume that this increase comes only from without, thus justifying the prejudice that one becomes a personality by stuffing into oneself as much as possible from outside. 

The professional man is irretrievably condemned to be competent.

“Thank God I’m Jung

and not a Jungian”

 “The demands of propriety and good manners are an added inducement to assume a becoming mask.  What goes on behind the mask is then called “private life.”  This painfully familiar division of consciousness into two figures, often preposterously different, is an incisive psychological operation that is bound to have repercussions on the unconscious. 

  The construction of a collectively suitable persona means a formidable concession to the external world, a genuine self-sacrifice which drives the ego straight into identification with the persona, so that people really do exist who believe they are what they pretend to be.  The ‘soullessness’ of such an attitude is, however, only apparent, for under no circumstances will the unconscious tolerate this shifting of the centre of gravity[5]  

 “The pious Drummond once lamented that “bad temper is the vice of the virtuous”.  Whoever builds up too good a persona for himself naturally has to pay for it with irritability.” 

Jung lexicon: A primer of terms & concepts“Among the consequences of identifying with a persona are: we lose sight of who we are without a protective covering; our reactions are predetermined by collective expectations (we do and think and feel what our persona “should” do, think and feel); those close to us complain of our emotional distance; and we cannot imagine life without it.” 

The man with the persona is blind to the existence of inner realities, just as the other is blind to the reality of the world, which for him has merely the value of an amusing or fantastic playground.  ... If, however, I take the line that the world is outside and inside, that reality falls to the share of both, I must logically accept the upsets and annoyances that come to me from inside as symptoms of faulty adaptation to the conditions of that inner world. 

The term “mask” indicates that it is not the essential nature of an individual that is concealed behind the exterior and that a certain impression is the result when seen from the outside.  To some extent, therefore, the persona forms a façade and is usually so constituted as to be suitable to the society in which the individual lives; for this reason Jung considers it a segment of the collective psyche.  This means that the individual appears merely as a member of a race, clan, professional class, etc., and not as a human being with his own unique characteristics.  Such a persona comes into existence more or less automatically, since the human being belongs to a particular nation and a particular family or class whose traits of character and way of life he shares.  The original psychic condition of children is one of just such participation or identity with the surroundings, and differentiation from the environment only comes about through increasing consciousness.   TGL 59

Personality self sufficient herd imitate bruce lee

  Persona - Collective

It is not for nothing that our age calls for the redeemer personality, for the one who can emancipate himself from the inescapable grip of the collective and save at least his own soul, who lights a beacon of hope for others, proclaiming that here is at least one man who has succeeded in extricating himself from that fatal identity with the group psyche.   For the group, because of its unconsciousness, has no freedom of choice, and so psychic activity runs on in it like an uncontrolled law of nature.  There is thus set going a chain reaction that comes to a stop only in catastrophe.  The people always long for a hero, a slayer of dragons, when they feel the danger of psychic forces; hence the cry for personality.  TDoP 178

“It is, as its name implies, only a mask of the collective psyche, a mask that feigns individuality, making others and oneself believe that one is individual, whereas one is simply acting a role through which the collective psyche speaks.”

Whereas the persona is apperceived as the individual both subjectively and by others, it is actually just a mask of the collective psyche since the persona is nothing more than a compromise between the individual and his community.

Development of the Persona begins with absorbing qualities that belong in the collective that we integrate into our personality in order to ‘get along’. 

The persona is a ‘compromise’ between the individual and the collective.  The persona is made of ‘pieces of the collective’ that the ego integrates into its self for the benefit of social interaction and adaptation. 

The persona is a segment of the collective psyche.  

Art reaches its greatest peak when devoid of self-consciousness. Freedom discovers man the moment he loses concern over what impression he is making or about to make.

…When we analyze the persona we strip off the mask, and discover that what seemed to be individual is at bottom collective; in other words, that the persona was only a mask of the collective psyche.  Fundamentally the persona is nothing real:  it is a compromise between individual and society as to what a man should appear to be. 

…He takes a name, earns a title, exercises a function, he is this or that.  In a certain sense all this is real, yet in relation to the essential individuality of the person concerned it is only a secondary reality, a compromise formation, in making which others often have a greater share than he.          

Persona:  The Herd

To develop one’s Personality is indeed an unpopular undertaking, a deviation that is highly uncongenial to the herd, ... an eccentricity smelling of the cenobite, as it seems to the outsider.

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.  In any case the temptation to be what one seems to be is great, because the persona is usually rewarded with cash. 

Unfortunately, most of us grew up in a world governed by the ‘great educator’ who prides ‘himself’ on creating a breed of ‘mass-men’.  A person whose persona is controlled by his environment’s opinion is in absolute danger of becoming ‘one of the herd’ and being unable to differentiate both his conscious and his self from the herd .  The persona encompasses not only psychic qualities, but also forms of social behaviour and our habits of personal appearance, posture, facial expression, etc. 


The dreamer is a distinguished operatic artist, and, like all who have elected to follow, not the safely marked general highways of the day, but the adventure of the special, dimly audible call that comes to those whose ears are open within as well as without, she has had to make her way alone, through difficulties not commonly encountered, “through slummy, muddy streets”’ she has known the dark night of the soul, Dante’s “dark wood, midway in the journey of our life,” and the sorrows of the pits of hell: 

This personal story line that people with overly inflated Personas have in which they are compelled or driven to speak and act in ways that are guided by calculating statistical probabilities of social success I have termed - Personopera. 

Now, the ideal for the student in India is sraddha, absolute faith with perfect submission to the master.  Through this perfect submission, the student is to concentrate all of his libido, all of his erotic interest, into the master.  … He is to identify with him to the very tip of his fingers.  He is to imitate the master, to be like him, to become him.  You have, you might say, a passing on of the image without any development of the critical faculty. 

   Antithetical Mask

There is a second kind of mask that Yeats and his wife call the antithetical mask.  And so, it begins to get exciting. Just at the age of middle adolescence, when you come to maturity, there begins to dawn on you the prospect of your own life, which is not the same as that which society put upon you.  “They never saw me before!  I am a unique thing.  There are great things in me, and, by gosh, I’m going to find out what they are!”  And so you discover the problem of finding your own myth. 

Mr and Mrs. Yeats work out this conflict between the primary and antithetical masks through the image of the twenty-eight days of the month.  On the first day of the cycle, it’s dark – you are born.  You begin to grow, mostly in darkness.  Nature and society urge you to move on, bearing the primary mask. 

[1] The old Greek word for someone who is acting (as in a play) is Hypocrite

[2] “The persona is a complicated system of relations between the individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.  That the latter function is superfluous could be maintained only by one who is so identified with his persona that he no longer knows himself; and that the former is unnecessary could only occur to one who is quite unconscious of the true nature of his fellows”  BW Anima and Animus, page 166, par 305.

[3] As in: hardening.  It is the walls of separation that keep the Self unrealized.  Self-realization comes from disintegrating the boundaries that divide the Self into components.

[4] The psychology of CG Jung, Jolande Jacobi © 1973 p. 28

[5] BW Anima and Animus – page 167 – par 305/306.