Saturday, June 13, 2009

Persona

Hmm….what does it mean to have a “persona”? According to Merrian-Webster, (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/persona) a persona is “an individual's social facade or front that especially in the analytic psychology of C. G. Jung reflects the role in life the individual is playing”. In other words, a facade, almost like a controlled projection of one’s self by one’s own choosing to the world. The persona is what YOU are willing to show the world about yourself. Think of it as a mask that you wear in social situations. You wear the mask of “friend” to those you consider valuable comrades, the mask of “family” to parents, siblings, and cousins, and the mask of “lover” comes in handy when dealing with your temperamental spouse. Yes, the persona is a very handy ability for us humans in our day to day communications with each other.

Why am I talking about personas? Well, to be honest, I have had thoughts like this (but in a different way), about dealing with people in social situation, how to act and know what to say around people. However, what got me thinking about this in a different light is this nifty little game I recently purchased called “Persona 4”. It’s a great game, which mixes tradition RPG elements like dungeons and fighting monster, with dating sim elements like raising stats (Knowledge, Courage, etc.) and making choices of what to say to people. The main character is a white haired kid whom you can name (or you can just call him the “Brotagonist”). During the course of the story, he meets up with other people, like the wacky Yosuke (or “Brosuke”), the athletic Chie, the beautiful Yukiko, and more. They all get together to try to solve a string of murders happening in their small village, all while dealing with day-to-day things like schoolwork, dating, and relaxing with friends.



Why is this game so special, you ask? Well, the title of the game (Persona 4) gives a clue as to what the game has to do with this blog entry (Just so you know, this is the fourth installment of the “Persona” series. Yea, I start at the end, sue me.). In the game, you, as the MC, get to fight with several different creatures that are called “Personas”. They include spirits, angels, demons, gods, demigods, goddesses, and all sorts of mythological creatures. Anyway, these “Persona” are special, because they represent different facets of your personality, in a way. The MC is special since he can use several different Persona, but the other characters you fight with only have one, which they get after a strenuous look at themselves. In the game, each character that isn’t the MC ends up in this mysterious place where they meet their dark desires and evil intentions, personified. This evil personification goes berserk when their real side rejects them, turning the personification into a hideous monster who attacks you and your friends. Only when the person has the courage of heart to accept the personification as a part of them does the personification become your “Persona”.



So what does this have to do with real life situations? As I played this game, the concept of Personas and getting to know more people by talking to them (this connection is called a Social Link) has been making me think about my own way of communicating with my peers (my own “Social Links”). As the Social Links progress in the game, not only do you get special things from your characters (like extra help on the battlefield), but you also get to know more about them and become closer to them. In my life, I have several social connections that I try to make grow- with my family, with my friends, with other people. It is a hard process, because it not only involves having the knowledge of what to say, but also the understanding to know when and how to say it, the courage to say it, and the patience to listen. Unfortunately, through my own fault or the fault of an other/others, this social linkage is not as smooth as the game makes it seem. Unlike the game, these social links can decrease or even break. This has already happened to me, because of a silly prank and a misunderstanding, and believe me, fixing a social link is a lot harder than breaking it. I was, or maybe still am (to a lesser extent) both naïve and stubborn. Due to my childhood and adolescent experiences, I have grown up to be… different from everyone else. Some can attribute this to my background, but that only explains part of why I am like this. Anyway, I grew up being a bitter person with no friends. It was only in the beginning of high school when I started to finally get to know people and leave my solitude behind. However, this is when I realized that, because of my relative seclusion from my peers, I had little communicative skill and thus could not make many friends. Even now, I have only one real friend from my high school days. However, those skills of talking, listening, planning my speech, came to me slowly but surely. As I entered college, a whole new world of experience met me, with getting to know even more unfamiliar people as well as being in social situations that had never come up in high school, as well as the different sense of relationship with people that you more or less live with. It’s something that I was not used to, and even now I’m still trying to get the hang of it, with mixed results. However, overall I would say it is going well for me.



Now, what do I think about this whole social link/persona business? You could say that I have a persona, or several of them, some very different from others, but all share facets of my core mentality and beliefs. At home, I talk much more openly and rough. I tend to use more slang and vulgarities, since that is how most of my cousins talk. As a Mexican, words like “mamon”, “guey”, and “pendejo” (words that translate more or less to “dumbass” or “stupid [one]”, can be used akin to “dude”) are everyday language, especially when among close friends or family (but not parents!). However, at school, these words are unacceptable. Also, since most people do not know Spanish (at least in my scholastic experience), it would be weird to joke around in a language only you would understand. And again, different customs demand different ways of speaking. Thus, a new social mask is born. When I finally went to college, it seemed that everything I had learned about the social game was twisted on its head. No longer would my old antics be enough to connect with people. I could not assume that everyone would react to me in the same was as they had in the past. My earlier recollection of a broken social link was due to this, as well as a rocky start with several people. By talking, listening, sharing time with these people, I gained insight as to how to better communicate myself with them be a better friend. For the most part, I can say that I have succeeded in that point. However, my persona is, not to say fake, but it is not the most accurate representation of me. Like the characters in the game, there are things which I alone know about and cannot tell the world. Why? Simply a matter of trust, or of something very much treasured by one’s heart. These might be things you do not want to show the world, like fear of heights, or jealousy toward someone, or they can be dark secrets about you, like a tragic past. All of these things are emotions, thoughts that can fester until they consume you. However, you must have the strength to face this “persona” of yours, and have the strength of heart to accept these things as part of you, while at the same time, always making sure that you remain sovereign over your emotions and actions. This is one little thing I liked about this game. When the person in question finally had the courage to stand up to these dark emotions and tell them “Yes, you are me”, the game acknowledged that they had the strength of heart to face the world, as a strong willed individual, and live in society with the ability to share connections with their peers. In this respect I think I have started to make some headway into. There are many things I still have not told anyone about me, but little by little, I both gain the trust of others, and trust them back, to tell them these things. They too, have things they cannot tell me right away, but possibly at some future time. It really does take a different strength to admit to one’s faults and fix them. As I think about this topic of personas, I can say that perhaps the persona I possess now is not the best one I can show people. It is hard to show the real me, yes, but if I never try to express it, it will always remain hidden from sight. This game has helped me to reexamine just what I am doing with my persona, and where my social links are going. I feel as if I need to rethink about how I talk to people and how I make myself be shown. This is a process that takes time, but here and there, small adjustments to my attitude and expression will open the door to more opportunities and intimacy with my peers. I have started to think about just what about my persona needs to change. How do I conduct with people? Is my speech pattern pleasant to people? What is the correct thing to say? At the same time, never forget that a persona is a reflection of self, and it will contain what you think and believe. A persona that does not match at all with you is just a false front. The persona should be the way you approach the world, but by your own standards, not by others deciding for you. Make sure your persona is your own and not just a way to act to please people. After all, it is your social mask. It represents you to the world.



And remember folks- don’t forget to try this game out! I love this game (I’m still playing it) and while weird, it is quirky in a good way. Until next time!

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