Episode #50: You Don’t Have Split Personalities – How to Begin Persona Work
Welcome to Allowed. This is your host, Caneel Joyce, or am I?
This is our inaugural Halloween episode. I believe we are not even one full year into Allowed podcast being an actual podcast, yet I can’t believe it. If you haven’t heard, the beginning of the show, the first couple episodes, I encourage you to go back and listen because I want to hear from you what you think has changed. A lot has changed. When we first started doing this podcast, I had this studio that I kitted out. It was a back bedroom of a little one bedroom apartment, which is the one I rent out to be my office away from home, my home office away from home. Then COVID hit and so much has changed in my life.
I’m currently recording this from my new recording space, which is a beautiful little shed that’s detached from my house outside of my detached garage. If you’re watching this video on YouTube or wherever you’re watching it, because we also video record all these, you can see that there. This is my little passion fruit vine that was grown off of scrap, and then my gardener gave me. It’s awesome, it’s so big now. I love it. I’m really happy. This is the meditation studio I’ve referenced in previous episodes, no longer dedicated to meditating, but dedicated to you so I can be here and record while my kids are inside happy, healthy and well on a school day. Let’s begin.
Today’s Halloween episode is a treat for me to share with you. This is one of my favorite holidays in the whole entire year. I love wearing costumes, I love dressing up in costume. I even often will wear a costume while I clean the house, or at least a crown of some kind, because why not? Why not have fun with it? I’ve always loved wearing lots of different and lots of costumes. My kids are the same way. We have probably more costumes than actual clothes. Certainly more costumes than clothes I actually wear, especially since COVID. I think my Jean shorts can walk on their own and I like it that way. I love it, and part of what I love about wearing costumes is I get to express part of myself, my personality that maybe I don’t fully express the rest of the time, and maybe you didn’t even know I had this part of me.
I so fully allowed to do that and I get to find out what hidden parts of you are in there too. So growing up, my mom used to actually hand-make all of my costumes. I was so lucky. Also, I think store-bought costumes were much harder to come by back then. We didn’t have Amazon. We weren’t mass-producing things so much in China and sending them here. I mean, I remember the simplest costume elements just seemed ridiculously expensive and now I can buy a whole entire. It’s just sorry. Sorry, planet. Costumes contribute a lot to the global warming. Do reuse elements. Go to Goodwill, find some ecologically friendly Halloween where there’s plenty for the taking.
Anyway, where was I going with this? Growing up I used to love doing this too, but sometimes my mood would change. Big shock, right? I’m in Enneagram type four. It would be the night before Halloween, and I would tell my mom, “I don’t want to be a cat anymore. Now I want to be a mermaid.” I remember doing this once and my mom indulged me and she actually made me a mermaid costume in less than 12 hours. Less than 12 hours away from when school was going to begin the next day. It was really hard to walk in because it was a fin, but it was awesome and iridescent and had little shimmery scales on it and I loved it.
I’ve always been really indulged on this and I hope you will indulge yourself too. Now, why is this relevant for this podcast? As you know, this is a podcast largely about the practice of conscious leadership. These two things are actually deeply related, and here’s how. You’ve often heard me in the show mentioning a part of me or a part of you feels this way. These parts of us, we can reference they’re like personas that are inside of us. So there’s this concept of humans are actually made of many selves. There are lots of different parts of ourselves that together combined as a whole makeup a whole self, and each of these parts of ourselves is a persona with its own unique needs and fears and desires, personalities and quirks, their own heroes and role models, their own values.
Often when we get into inner conflict or any kind of suffering, it’s because there are parts of ourselves who are not getting along with each other. Usually it’s because they don’t trust each other, and there’s usually a pretty good reason for that. It could be that one part of you is the one who wants to dress up like a wizard and they are magical and they are wise and they are very smart, and then there’s another part of you who is more like a scared little rabbit and is common and is one of many and is short and is inexperienced and is all instinct and not much intellect and they are soft and delicate and they move very quickly and they need to use their feet to get simpler. They don’t fly, right?
So this is two different parts and these parts both feel really real, right? It is true, each of us has a part that feels more powerful and wise and strong, and then there’s a part of us that feels just so, so very fragile. These are common, but the way that we each embody those, often it’s connected to parts of our life story or life history. It could be that that wise part of you was how you were when you were eight years old and the scared little rabbit part of you could be how you were when you were four years old, but you kept those parts with you and you bring them along in the walking costume closet that is you, and at different points, they get activated.
But the bunny doesn’t trust the wizard to make all of her life decisions because she’s terrified. She knows it’s legitimately true she will get hurt, she’s in danger, she’s not going to out-think everybody else. She does want to protect herself. She wants to run and hide underneath the deep, long grass. The wizard part, also, legitimately doesn’t trust the bunny because the wizard knows the bunny is going to hold her down and take away her power for fear and not let her be seen and not let her be the full, magical, brilliant self that can’t even be explained. So neither part trust the other part. So when those two get into conflict with each other, they have a hard time, or we have a hard time, moving forward together and feeling whole.
Because in fact, we are divided on the inside. If I was going to be unpacking this from the standpoint of conscious leadership, I might want to look at, well, who are the personas at play here?. That’s how we might identify, oh, there’s this part of me that’s like a scared rabbit. How does it feel like? Oh, it feels like small and it feels quivery and it feels shaky and it feels like it wants to run away, and it feels very short and it feels very young and it feels very scared. Then who’s this other party that feels powerful? Well, that part feels more like a magician, a wizard, and we’d get to know these parts and we’d actually interview them.
We’d interview them and we’d ask, “What are your deepest fears? What are the things that you most want? How old were you when you first joined Caneel? How old are you now? What do you want to share with the world? What do you need in order to feel comfortable? What do you really need Caneel to remember right now?” Through this process of interviewing them and actually taking on the stance, that body position of those personas as we do this interview, you would get to feel into the answers in a way that you never could think into them with just your head, and you can even dress up like these personas to get to know them even better. This is the part I want to tell you about now.
But first, let’s identify one or more of your personas. I want you to think back to a recent time when you found yourself in a kind of extreme situation, some kind of drama in your life, like you were getting really mad about a parking ticket, or you were really sad about something or scared or maybe you were really extremely happy or you felt really powerful, some emotionally intense moment. Have you identified one of those yet? Okay, great. Now, if you were to imagine that that experience was mostly the experienced of a part of yourself, a personality inside of you, and you were to make a comic book or an action adventure movie, and that part of you were the star, meaning make the personality even bigger. Can you picture that?
It could be that it’s a human being, but it could also be an animal or it could be a caricature, something like that. Now that part of you, let’s give it a name. Could it be Honest Abe or Nit-picky Nancy or Frightened Freddy, Little Girl Lily? Whatever you want. Now, I want you to take the body position that you picture this one having. Take on that position. Take on the actual spinal posture. Maybe your shoulders are in. Would this one want to sit or stand or lay down or be in the fetal position? Would hands be across the chest or twiddling your thumbs? Or would they be wide open like a hero? Would you be flying? What would the body position be? And actually wherever you are, take on this body position and see what that’s like.
Can you actually make the facial expression that that one would make? From that position, that’s where we want to start understanding how old is this one? What’s their name? What do they need? What are their fears? How old were you when this one joined you? We want to get to know them from that stance. We can start fleshing it out and begin to listen to the wisdom and find out what they want. Once we have some clarity on what our different personas are, we could even put sock puppets on both of our hands and have one of them act out the part of one persona and the other one act out the part of the other person, and they can talk to each other and have a conversation and have their little fights and disagreements and talk about why they don’t trust each other and then figure out what they need to do to trust each other.
Until the two hands are not at odds anymore and they’ve actually moved close enough to each other that they can hug and embrace and you have integration, they’re not at war anymore. That’s probably too complicated for right now. We’re just getting started with this. I hope you’ve identified a persona, and you can work more with that and I would love if you could dress up as your persona for Halloween. If you do that, please, please, please, please, please post it to social media and tag this show. You can do #allowedpodcast, tag me on Instagram. I’m @Coneel.IS, C-A-N-E-E-L. But tag me, I’m going to share you, I’m going to comment back, whatever.
I want to get to know your personas and I want you to be holding them loud and proud, because often the thing is as we shadow our personas or we hold them back, we act like we don’t have them, we try to be bigger and higher than all of them, but we’re not. They’re all at play, they’re all riding a big, huge bus together, and sometimes one gets to drive and the other ones want to take the wheel and they have to get in a fight, and that’s just what it’s like to be human being. It’s so fun. One of the practices that we’ve also done in conscious leadership with personas is something called a persona party, and I first was introduced to this by the amazing Diana Chapman.
She has been on this show twice before, and she is one of the founders of the conscious leadership group who has handed a lot of this work down to myself and many, many others. I’ve done a lot of training and work with them. But Diana has been a coach of mine before for years, and I was in a group that she was leading. We did a persona party where you get to go to this party and you’re actually dressing up as one of your personas. She would bring buckets and buckets of costumes. By the way, this is the thing that I now do with my own leadership forums. Buckets and buckets and buckets of costume pieces. You’d go into a room, you pick out your costume and then you come out and you were in full persona for the whole night.
Not only are you doing this with the other people who are in your coaching group, but you’re going out into the real world to an actual restaurant or bar dressed and acting as your persona in character the whole entire time. This is that fun place from my prior life acting when I was growing up really intersects well with my life as a coach. One of the many places. I love this experience. Imagine this, this is … I think the last time I got to run an in-person conscious leadership forum of my own was before COVID, and I took a group out to Malibu and we spent about three days out there for a retreat. Then we show up at one of the restaurants in Malibu and everyone is in a costume. I address that by the way, too.
We’re all acting as our person. So we had somebody who was being very, very quiet and meek and pious, and another one is being extremely helpful. Someone else is being super controlling and know it all and trying to control everyone and everything. Another one who’s this strong, silent, sexy type. Another guy who normally likes to be very … He’s a peacemaker by nature, and he wants everyone to feel comfortable and he’s very spacious, but instead he showed up as this really fabulous guy that’s very flamboyant, fabulous guy. So trying on these different parts that we may or may not be shadowing most of the time, and then we get to interact as our personas.
That’s the craziest thing. Here I am learning what it’s like to have to be committed to only one of my personas. I don’t get to have them take turns. I don’t get to be like, “Well, which persona is going to serve me best now?” Okay now, two minutes later, I’m being in another person and another one. I’m going to get to both feel the pain of being in that persona, as well as learn the gifts of being in that persona. I’m going to learn what is that persona doing for me? At the same time, my persona is going to be bumping into your persona, and we may know each other really well, and this bumping into might even feel really familiar. But we were never doing it as big and committed and in as fun a way as we’re doing it now.
If this sounds horrifyingly embarrassing to you, I promise the putting on of the costume and going there as a group really helps it all melts away, and it’s just hilariously fun and weird. I do call the restaurant beforehand and I let them know we’re coming so that they know a little bit what to expect and that it’s going to be a party and that it’s going to be a little bit strange. It ends up being fine. Fun for all. I want to share some of the things that I’ve learned in doing this kind of persona work and I’ll share just from that one Malibu experience that was recent. I decided to go as the part of me who is shy, who actually doesn’t want anyone to notice me, who’s actually hoping not to draw any attention to myself at all, who’s embarrassed even to be there.
Now, if you know me, it might surprise you to find out that I have that persona because I also can be very … and I would say this is probably the one I let show in public more, is one who’s very comfortable and confident being in front of a crowd and one who likes to be provocative and shock people and express myself. But sometimes that’s a cover for this other part of me who actually is afraid I’m always in the way, I’m not wanted anywhere I go, that I’m embarrassed just to be in my own skin, and my basic assumption is you don’t want to have anything to do with me and you wish I had never showed up to begin with. That’s a pretty big part of me too. But I’m terrified to let you know that because that’s my most vulnerable part.
As much as it didn’t seem like it was going to be very much fun, I decided it was really time to bring that costume out of the basement and miss out on all the fun that I could have in a really flamboyant costume and be in my full, sexy self, loud mouth self, and instead to just be as plain and nondescript and small as possible and quiet. What I learned is it was so much more relaxing. I had been thinking it was so painful for me to be that shy and embarrassed when I was little that it was going to be just as painful now. But then I recognized this person who’s only this shy, who’s not also the confident outgoing one, that one who’s only this shy, she’s totally willing to not do anything to invade her own privacy.
She’s willing to not draw attention to herself. She’s only interested in hiding, and so she gets to rest. She doesn’t need to be interacting with people, starting conversations, meeting people, answering questions, handling having attention, and instead she gets to just be there. The only exhausting part of it was fighting off attention. I remember there’s one of the people was really hamming up the part of her that wants to help everybody, and that was her persona. So she kept trying to draw me out because she thought that was going to be helpful. That persona thought that it was going to be helpful to draw … I don’t know, draw the confidence out of my shy person.
It was both sweet to my persona and it felt loving, but I was much more interested in using her to protect me from anybody else talking to me. Then I was having her draw me out. So then there began this little dance between my persona and her persona, and I basically learned that it’s okay for me to be shy, which is not a thing I thought was okay before. Obviously, I didn’t and that’s why I was scared to play this persona, but I did and it was amazing. You just get so much juice from this. There are other stories I could tell. I don’t want to ramble on and on about this because I really actually would like you to begin to think about who some of your personas may be, and you can construct them.
Start with a seed of the part that you do understand. Like there seems to be a part of me that is really wanting to always earn gold stars and be the straight A student or be the best, and then there’s also a part of me who is a rebel and really wants to break all the rules and wants to be the best at being bad. And there’s a part of me who wants to be in charge of everyone and make sure that everybody stays in line and follows all the rules, and you might have all three of those interacting with each other. Whatever your personas are, identify one and think of how you can turn it up and make that personality even bigger. I would love for you to dress as that one as Halloween.
If you’ve already got a costume planned, I’d like you to ask yourself this question, how is it true that the costume I’ve already planned is one of my personas? How is it true that my planned Halloween costume actually is one of my personas? What were you last year and the year before that, and how is it true that those are part of your personas? The goal of this persona work is to help that persona relax a little bit and to learn what you do can from being in that mode in a way that’s bigger than you would normally let yourself be in that mode.
There may be things you don’t appreciate about that one, there may be ways that that persona represents a loved one in your life that has been painful, but you’re able to come to some reconciliation with that person without even talking to them. Because whatever we see out there, it’s true in here. So go out this Halloween, have a great time. Please tag us on social media, #allowedpodcast. You can tag me, I am @Caneel.IS. I can’t wait to see what you dress up as. I have no idea what I’m going to dress up as. I’m going to get into my persona work right now, and I will be letting you know when we get there. So follow me on social, see you then. Bye guys.