the aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others: her public persona
In psychology, often contrasted with anima.
a role or character adopted by an author or an actor.
origin: early 20th century: Latin, literally ‘mask, character played by an actor’
The image above from an Ingmar Bergman classic. In analytical terms, the principal characters’ experiences exemplify the conceptual interplay between subject and object, as it pertains to issues of personal identity.
While the human is always the subject in a human world, we do frequently forget that what all we see or hear is done by way of our own eyes and ears, and that we are physiologically both endowed and limited in what see and hear of our environments. For example. No bouncing light is one part of what produces our experience of darkness. Human eyes perceive light and colour spectrums differently from dogs, and other creatures, as do things in the world absorb and reflect light differently. Basically: Assuming the availability of light and a pair of functioning human eyes; we co-exist among things which in turn produces human sight.
On it goes like that. Much of that which we sense and feel and perceive is one part due to our physiology and another part due the environment. Another few parts belong to each other. Delusions and illusions and all. Creatures of habit are we also.
And it is by habit. We simply forget to factor ourselves in as the interpreters, the imaginers, the perceivers. It was once thought we could achieve a purely rational, dissociated, objectivity. A god’s eye view of ourselves and the earth and answers to why… The universe and her mysteries revealed through the omitting of an I.
Humans and subjective objectification. It’s a lot more like an imposition but that we rationalize. Can even be a force against which we are shaped or crooked. Sandwiched ‘tween it and the earth. For better or worse. That’s what. About an objective that is but isn’t.
There can be no subject-less moment. We can forget and we sometimes we ignore. But we are not, unto ourselves, capable of objectivity. Due to an intrinsic subjectivity. And it isn’t always disastrous that. It’s just that. We can; we can shift to and fro perceptually. So that we create objects of others as well as attribute personalities to things.
Objects. Can be earthly things. Things in the world. Mutually real and propertied and concrete. Or can be representational ideas. The latter is what is more often referred to in psychology. A fixed idea. A conception. An inner perception. Sometimes not even all that explicit.
Instead, an object might be a motivational catalyst. Maybe a sensual or emotive incentive. If we pause to grasp sensation of it an image of it may come to mind. There may well be an actual thing but that we internalize, representationalize, and endow with meaning. Making good use of the habit as well as memories, observations, apperception, and empathy too. It’s but some of what we’re built to do; be it among persons or things.
The habit of the creature that we are is that much entangled with things. Endowing, attributing, and projecting. Beholding an object as if it were a subject. Or perceiving a subject as an object instead.
We can behold our very self as a conceptual object also. Sometimes we even need to reach in and pull something examinable out. It happens. It helps. Other times. We are quite unaware that we’ve crafted a thing of our Self.
Clinging to an ideal or imposed conception of who we are. Whether out of habit, fear, romanticism, or spite. Living and breathing as an objectified subject might; the crafting of a Self for to be in the world meanwhile another is hidden away. Engenders or reflects a dichotomy is at play. Such as our habit with subjects and objects; as if these are opposites instead of different ontologically. White then black. Good and evil. Right and wrong absolutes. Can as much create as protect different versions of a Self. The one ideal and a perpetual attempt to drown out that which is disdained. Meanwhile sustains unawareness of the sufferer’s scope of influence.
Where subjective experience is re-collaged, fractured, and / or absented (cast-off) parts of oneself may be so unpreferred that they are abandoned entirely. Repressed and at the mercy of an unstable yet omnipotent expression of persona.
This select self-object may even have once been a necessary adaptation, to get by well enough, to survive. Can have been forced upon us and then refused to relinquish control. Can create fierce competition among all of one’s oppositionally splintered identities. To the extend of persecuting, torturing, sometimes even murdering each inner other. Because. The unpreferred are persistent reminders of a persona’s falsehood.
Even if veiled or masked. Ignored or drowning or languishing somewhere’s within. There is always a subject. Which may also be the object of terror or hatred all at the same time. Can even be erased in willing memory – as if the subject is an object that can be discarded – just like that: Objectively disappeared. Objectifiably subjugated.
Sometimes a living being can be perceived so like a thing that they become self-referencing accessories, like a bracelet, or like a pair of shoes. Another person’s character might even be tried on and worn like a skin suit. Loved as a favourite sweater is. Liked as much as a fine felt hat. Until it looses it’s uni-form. Until too wearily worn. Until the self / subject and mask / object are recognized as the ill-fit of too frequent contradictions.
The actor excavates, explores, exploits, and exaggerates. Aware and with intent toward a becoming of sorts. All the world, however, is not a stage. A life among others begs for an experiential wholeness; dimensionality. Grey shades with gradients of colour as well. Not merely the performance of a concept, a titled and labelled, or categorical thing. This marks the split; the consequences of perceptual rejection, and emotional denial, trapped in a cyclical pattern. Locked-up but bent on escaping. Always guarding the ever-fluctuating.
More often this absorbing or suppressed and casting out happens subtly and far less disturbingly than it sounds. One attaches themselves to attributes of another, to fulfill a psychic need, or so as to have it stand in for their absented parts. Commencing as the perfected object but which is sure to fade and loose it’s shape with time. As does the sweater. As does the hat. Ill-fitting and then, inevitably, not concealing enough or too revealing and soon after. This adopted part of the Self must then be cast away so that the fresh, firm, and assured can take it’s place. That which is for wearing is researched and redesigned and recollaged again and again.
So did Freud faint and Jung need his very own house. A worldly separation – a manifest split – the necessity of individuation. At least and more honestly I imagine this is plausible. Because it’s just as true; sometimes we come together as two-sides of a coin. Entangled as but one part of another. Or perhaps the other is absorbed as but an extension of oneself. Or as but a mirror, instead, adorning the image reflected back to us. Or, alternatively, might be projected out upon us like a skin suit.
Meanwhile two whole bodily selves still intend to thrive. Confined and subservient. Encapsulated. A whole self cannot survive as a parasite or as an appendage nor as a collection of traits that have been objectified. Therein comes the chaos, a struggle, or threatening sense of a trespassing. An intuitive rebellion against a subjective co-inhabitation. Experienced as though it were a threat to their fleshly lives.
That’s what. About individuation. The learning whom is who, and which attributes belong where, and what’s a thing. A not-divisible whole marks the boundaries between bodily selves in the world. And ensures the fractured psyche’s conflict among personae.
Personae as Selfs. Are not sometimes and at times but always confounding the who and the what. Unawares and ephemeral but all too real of an experience. And. That’s what they’re made out of.
On the problem of defining ‘the self’ in psychology:
“The Self in Vocational Psychology: Object, Subject, and Project.” Mark L. Savickas. Paper prepared for presentation at the 8th Biennial Meeting of the Society for Vocational Psychology (May 30-June 1, 2007) Akron, OH.
“The End of Authentic Selfhood in the Postmodern Age?” Michael E. Zimmerman in Heidegger, Authenticity and Modernity: Essays in Honor of Hubert L. Dreyfus, Volume One, ed. Jeff Malpas and Mark Wrathall (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001).