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.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance"
Photo-Hendricks 34

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?

Read the original post

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).

Update: Life Beyond Logic Interviews Gay Hendricks – Part 3
posted March 31, 2011 by Nate

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.

Update: Life Beyond Logic Interviews Gay Hendricks – Part 2
posted March 31, 2011 by Nate

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).

Update: Life Beyond Logic Talks to Gay Hendricks – Part 1
posted March 29, 2011 by Nate

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.


  1. I love this post. I want more of your persona names, too!

    In the “positive” category I’ve got:
    Penny Pitcher -not to be confused with “pincher” ;) - who tells execs all about our latest story idea.
    Trina Travel Agent, who plans trips all over the globe, and even right here in LA.

    In the “self-protective” category I’ve got:
    -Wreckless Rikki, who drinks a lot and curses and doesn’t give a sh*t what anyone thinks.
    -Hyper Con Dreack, who always thinks she has cancer.

  2. Kaley says:

    Personas I’m currently playing with:
    - Patti Planner – she keeps me organized and uses the day as efficiently as possible.
    - Ness – my fitness persona, who doesn’t have any friends, but gets a *great* workout.
    - Bitch – I wouldn’t want to have a social dinner with her, but if you need something done or something “wrong” made “right,” she’s your girl.
    - Neat Freak – she’s obsessed with dirty knives and will nit-pick you to death until you clean them up.

  3. Nate Klemp says:

    Here’s what I’ve got so far:
    -”Somber Intellectual Man” — he’s super serious. Philosophy shouldn’t be fun or playful. It should be rigorous, hard, and exhausting.
    -”Different Dude” — nobody understanding this poor persona. They miss his creative gifts and he likes to sulk about that.
    -”Zen” – he is chilled out and mellow. He’s the perfect persona for a yoga class but tends to check out in intense situations.
    -”Workhorse” – procrastination is a non-issue for this guy. He leans the other way. He gets obsessed about finishing, completing, and working to the point of exhaustion.

  4. Phil McMahon says:

    Hi Nate….you might get a laugh out of these, but here we go…
    ‘P.J. the Punisher’ – (my initials, also named after my great grandfather the IBM executive). He is driven to succeed and is always looking for opportunities to better himself, a thinker who loves to learn.
    ‘Madd Maxx’ – kind of the bad boy who likes to slack off, therefore stubbing PJ’s toe.
    ‘Phreaky Phil’ – The worry wort, who freaks out over life’s problems and wants to run and hide from them.

    • Kaley says:

      I don’t know how to “like” on the blog, but these are awesome!
      I was also reminded by my friend Liz about my “Judge” persona. You can count on her for an honest (albeit critical) opinion on most anything!

  5. Niles G. Jeran says:

    This is amazing.

    Personas I fluctuate between:

    “The Romantic”- this “Niles” looks at all beauty in the world that is taken for granted, is very optimistic, light-hearted, and takes pride in acute observations.

    “The Wanderer”- this “Niles” enjoys being alone, roaming around aimlessly (typically in nature), and getting lost in the world around him as well as his own thoughts; a questioning state.

    “The List Maker”- this “Niles” is the stressed out, way to much to do version who makes lists for all his responsibilities yet still has trouble getting all of them done.

    “The Cynic”- this “Niles” believes that people around him are cliche and conforming to their surroundings. He believes the world is flawed, hopeless, and he has no choice but to stray from society.

    I really enjoyed this weeks experiment. I had never thought about the idea of people having various “personas” and found it incredibly interesting to look at myself and try and decipher my own versions of myself.

  6. An update:
    Hyper Con Dreack had an appointment with the endocrinologist yesterday. She asked a lot of questions about lumps and lymph nodes and things to watch out for. And guess what? She did not have cancer. Relieved, she was pretty tired, so she went into hibernation and was replaced by–

    Pollyanna, who believes all is right with the world and loves sunshine, country music, and a long drive down the 10. Pollyanna got a frustrating business phone call was promptly hip checked by–

    Sue-rious, who wanted to know all the information before judiciously deciding who needed to be called and how stern she needed to be with them. Satisfied, she went to check her newsfeeds and couldn’t help but become–

    Sara-castic, who posted a cynical update on Facebook about the state of The Industry. Bored with everyone and everything, including me, Sara left. And I ended the day with lively conversation over a martini and a play at the Geffen as… Sophie-sticated.

    Apparently a lot of my personas are “S” names. Probably because I like the ssssound of that, but under any other name, they are all welcome to return.

    • Nate Klemp says:

      I love that your personas shifted throughout the day and that they all started with the same letter. I actually think that I replied to Sara-castic’s update on Facebook! My reply was drafted by Funny Frank, who thought that he might make someone laugh by talking about rainbows and unicorns. In retrospect, Frank’s comment wasn’t actually that funny, but he definitely tries hard to make others laugh.

  7. Hi! I really enjoyed the videos. What is the wonderful music?

    • Nate Klemp says:

      Hey Richard,

      It’s actually one of the stock tracks on the iMovie editing program for macs. I guess that means that it was composed by Apple. I really like the feel of it and so I’ve starting using it as a theme for my video posts. If you have iMovie, it’s the song called “Celestial.”


  8. Alexsandra says:

    look forward to part 3!–need to love my no 2 personas big time ;-)

  9. I have a question on this, for you or for Gay.

    I understand that the things one complains about, feels most injured about, gets most angry at, are things we keep in place in order to feed the needs of our number 2 personas. When it’s an emotional cycle you enter with a spouse, I can see how one breaks free of that. (one such cycle I’d get in with my husband, for example is: “You aren’t kind enough to me.” And I see that I have a number 2 persona who feels she doesn’t deserve kindness and love.) When it’s with a spouse, I understand how one deals with that– discussing/embracing the persona and the resulting emotional response and habit. What makes that process easier is that it’s a discussion you can have together. (ie: “I realize when I say that to you, it’s really Loveless Lettie talking…”)

    How does one deal with it when the issue is more nebulous or doesn’t have a face? I’m thinking in my life of being a writer, and how I have a persona I named (Lack-of) Faith who sees it as “impossible” to get a project up and running because of everyone ELSE’s decisions. That persona obviously has a need for that because a) she doesn’t think she deserves to have a project made and b) If she believes a project won’t get made because of someone else’s decision, then it isn’t her talent that’s in question.

    Since I can’t have a conversation with The Industry about this persona, or get out of a negative cycle with “someone” who’s involved, what do I do? Do I just love (Lack-of) Faith, and tell her I understand her concerns, and damn straight, it’s everyone else’s fault? Is it just about letting her be there when she wants to be there?

    I understand how this process works when the number 2 persona appears with a friend or spouse, but when the number 2s come out in tandem with faceless situations, I’m less certain how to handle it.

    • (and I should elaborate about the issue with my husband… there is NOTHING he can do to be kind enough when Loveless Lettie has taken over. That’s the thing about those number 2s, they won’t let anyone “win.”)

    • Nate says:


      I would love to hear Gay’s thoughts on this as well as the thoughts of others who are reading the blog. Here’s my thought on what you describe as the problem of faceless personas (those personas that cannot be played out directly with others).

      It sounds to me like “Lack-of Faith” is one of those ingenious self-protective personas. Rather than getting your hopes up and having faith in the decision makers in The Industry, this persona works to create a kind of preemptive rejection. It tells you that your project will never get made before others even have a chance to weigh in.

      You don’t need to hash this one out with The Industry because they have little to do with it. The Industry is just doing its job. It’s job is to make strange and somewhat arbitrary decisions that frustrate writers and actors.

      So to come to peace with this persona, you’ve got to go inside. I see two key steps:

      1. Begin seeing it as a persona. I find that I get most caught when I’m not even aware that my beliefs and actions are coming out of a persona.

      2. Begin playing with the persona and loving it. This might take the form of persona play — of going into the persona and playing out an exaggerated version of it. Or it might arise from noticing the resistance that you feel when you experience the particular form of energy that this persona creates in you and then bringing love and acceptance to it. I try to do this whenever I experience one of those difficult Number 2 personas. It’s almost like a meditation. Rather than pushing away this persona and wishing it would just go away, you lean into it and welcome it as a part of who you are.

      That’s the way I’ve been playing this week…Thanks!


  10. I think “playing” in this persona with other writers and actors could be really fun, actually. Just a bunch of us whiiiiiining and biiiiiitching about how everyone else is making the wrong decision.

    Thanks, Nate!

  11. Liz E. says:

    It’s been a little while since I’ve thought much about my personas, so I’ll resurrect one or two of them here for you Nate!

    *Cara – is a fantastic friend, who uses actions and words to communicate how much she cares about you.
    *Charlotte – is sexy and knows it. Need I say more?
    *Diedre – (is new and) loves having fun, which usually means meeting friends for drinks or going out dancing!

    *Indy – is terrible at making decisions (…as in “inde-cisive”) and would rather narrow the choices down and then have someone else pick for her.
    *Lizzie – is the girl that gets anxious or upset when she feels like she is being left out of the loop on important issues.
    *Adult – is very concerned with being “an adult” which means meeting a (large) set of unwritten standards.

  12. Nate says:

    For her creative persona names as well as her engagement in the question, I declare Dara as the winner of the persona naming contest. CONGRATS!

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