Gay Hendricks –
Loving Even Your Most Painful Personas
There is a mortifying experience; I mean ‘the foolish face of praise,’ the forced smile which we put on in company where we do not feel at ease in answer to conversation which does not interest us.
Let’s do a thought experiment.
Imagine yourself at a cocktail party where you only know a few people in the room. It might be a work function or a social gathering. Picture yourself standing in an informal circle with three random acquaintances schmoozing away. Close your eyes and think about what version of you shows up to this event? What does it feel like in your body? How do you talk?
You might notice that this version of you isn’t the same as the you who shows up when talking to infants or having an intimate moment with your partner. And that’s a good thing. If your “schmoozing self” showed up while comforting a baby, you would reduce the poor kid to tears. If your “intimate self” showed up to a social function, you would end the night with a black eye and a restraining order.
Emerson calls these shifting versions of self “screens” and worries that they mask our authentic selves. As he says, “under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are.”
This week’s guest, Gay Hendricks, offers a slightly different view. He agrees with Emerson’s idea that we wear a wide array of screens, or personas as Hendricks calls them. But he rejects the idea that personas are bad or that we need to get rid of them.
Here’s Hendricks’ key insight – the more we resist and try to get rid of painful personas, the more we energize and strengthen them. Instead of fighting painful personas, Hendricks teaches us to love them.
For this week’s experiment, let’s explore this radical practice of loving the parts of ourselves that we resist the most.
I’ll post clips of my conversation with Gay Hendricks on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday to help guide this exploration. But here are three ways to jump-start this inner journey:
- Step 1: Name Your “Positive” Personas – Hendricks describes these as our “lead” personas. These are the personas that bring you attention, awards, and approval. For instance, I have a professor persona named “Dr. Klemp” who is serious, intellectual, and loves using sweeping hand gestures.
- Step 2: Name Your “Self-Protective” Personas – Unlike “positive personas,” these are the personas you try to hide. Their function is to protect you from pain and discomfort. For instance, I have a persona named “Weak Willie” who obsesses over possible injuries and illnesses. I have another named “Different Dude” who feels like nobody understands his creative genius. Here’s an important tip: when you find both “positive” and “self-protective” personas, be sure to name them. The more creative and far out, the better.
- Step 3: Shift from Resistance to Play – This is Hendricks’ most profound insight. If you try to get rid of these personas, you are guaranteed to suffer. The gateway to making peace with them is play. The more you can laugh and play with these painful personas, the more you can love and appreciate them. And then, you might find that the pain and shame start to dissolve.
Please share your 3-5 most creative persona names. You can leave them here, on the Life Beyond Logic Facebook Page, or tweet them to @LifeBeyondLogic. To make it interesting, I’ll even throw in an incentive. I’ll send an advanced reader copy of my forthcoming book The Living Philosophy Anthology to the person with the most creative persona names (entries are due by Saturday 11:59pm PST).
In part 3 of our interview, Gay Hendricks offers key tools for shifting from resisting your “Number 2″ personas to loving them. To learn more about Gay Hendricks’ work check out The Hendricks Institute. He and his wife Katie have also authored a number of insightful books on living more consciously. Here are just a few: The Big Leap, Conscious Living, Conscious Loving, and Conscious Breathing.
In part 2 of our interview, Gay Hendricks talks about how to spot our “Number 2″ personas (stay tuned for part 3, which I’ll post on Friday).
In part 1 of our interview, Gay Hendricks talks about the distinction between our more positive “Number 1″ personas and our more painful “Number 2″ personas.