Full Circle POV

Nurturing a holistic, integral point of view for greater leader and team effectiveness and member well-being.

Archive for the tag “polarities”

We are Awash in Persona, Drowning Perhaps

The professional persona, the complex web of how we present ourselves and our expected knowledge, skills, and abilities, is a high-level example of persona-shaping. Persona is what we want other people to experience and perhaps rely on when they observe and interact with us. We simultaneously build connections to the world around us and maintain barriers against intrusion into our inner psychological worlds (Ego and Shadow). We work hard to build and preserve our reputations. Be seen and not seen at the same time, project and protect.

Here’s an interesting exercise: Choose a day to be especially observant and conscious of the multiple ways you adjust how you present and interact (or don’t) with the various people and situations you encounter that day. Notice the constant shaping of your Persona to sync with people and situations; notice the feedback when you fail to, choose not to, or are simply unable to sync.

Persona is not a static mask we wear. Persona is a dynamic shaping process. As I pointed out in Persona, the Public Face:

Persona is more a reflection of the collective values and expectations, than personally created, being at heart the adaptation to the social environment of family, culture, and society. The person particularly bound to the dictates of the collective environment without reflection is the most identified with the Persona.

The Center of Consciousness, the Ego, tends to over-identify with it’s Persona. For most people the “locus of control” is external. Always turned out and  cognizant of the expectations of their environment, either quickly shifting with the changes in the surrounding environment or narrowing that environment to only deal with particular types of people. As we grow, we develop a greater ability to shape shift somewhat quickly, even as the composition of the group we are with changes, or simply walk into the next office at work. Our sense of proper persona can easily become rigidified.

From the moment we wake, we navigate the social milieu. Observe how you interact with your partner, your friends, your new love interest, your kids, your coworkers, your boss, the other gender, people of another race or ethnicity, your boss’s boss, the barista at the coffee shop, strangers,… Observe how you come to understand what is appropriate and not with those different people and in different settings. Notice how you shape shift.

Notice your vigilance. Notice your discomfort when you are out of sync with your social environment and, conversely, the discomfort of people in different environments when you are innocently or flagrantly not syncing; when you aren’t acting as they think you should be acting; you don’t look like they think you should look. Notice race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age…

Turn on your TV and observe the myriad ways advertising plays into this dynamic persona-shaping process. We’re bombarded with messages, products and services that are designed to impact our public faces. Branding is a company’s persona-shaping activity.

Watch politicians shape both their Personas and their opponents’ Personas.

We make judgments about people as we experience their Personas. Narrow, rigid personas are intolerant, even afraid of a diversity of personas. Observe discrimination. Notice how dangerous, even deadly, the inability or unwillingness to adapt the Persona to the social environment (for whatever reason–where someone is seen as other) can be. Think hate crimes, religious persecution, lynching, genocide. Think ISIS.

How can such an essential aspect of our psyche be so destructive? To be conscious, we need to understand Persona’s ever-present twin, Shadow, and the dynamics of Polarities.

 Stair Patterns

Full Circle POV Lexicon: Polarities

Polarities are interdependent, opposite motivational values that are equally important over time in order for a system to function most effectively. The pair of values in a polarity are inextricably linked; they are archetypal, universal in all people, everywhere.

Breathing is an excellent metaphor. We absolutely need both inhalation and exhalation. Make the decision to only inhale. That works for a bit until our body, life shall we say, overrides our intent and forces us to exhale. Choose to only exhale, wait a bit, and life does it’s thing, forcing us to inhale. Inhalation and exhalation cannot happen at the same time, although the circular breathing of horn players comes close. There is a rhythmic oscillation between the two, too much of one or the other causes a disturbance.

Polarities are not a continuum. How do you adjust the amount of inhalation or exhalation on a continuum? They are opposites that are both required.

The breathing metaphor is simple enough, no argument about which is more preferred or better than the other. But, what about the polarity of stability and change, perhaps two sides of a larger archetype of sustainability? By personality and socialization (persona shaping), we tend to have our individual and organizational/collective center of gravity in one or the other. Think about conflicts you might have had with another person about which of those should prevail. You will both be very good at advocating for the one you prefer and think is essential, and lay out, readily, the logic and benefits of that preference. You will both be equally adept at pointing out all the flaws, the danger even, in the other approach. It seems self-evident to both sides. Least likely is seeing how your preference could actually be the undoing of the endeavor.

Other examples of interdependent motivational values are competition/collaboration, action/reflection, quality/cost, other-focused/self-focused

Consciousness naturally assigns a good/bad value judgment on the polarity and organizes and acts accordingly, more often than not without question. Our actions reinforce our preference and simultaneously repress the other necessary counter value. We see the one as good/desirable/wise, the other as bad/undesirable/foolish or dangerous. The one becomes reinforced as a Persona/Ego guiding value, the other is repressed or forgotten and slips into the Unconscious (Shadow). The natural benefits of the other are lost.

Here’s a grand statement: Life will not allow exclusive preference for one value in a polarity without forcing the other value back in to the mix. System disturbance will always ensue; it’s a given.

 

 

There’s no escape!

The psyche of an organization is like that of a human individual. The same structures and dynamics are always at play. No matter how hard we seek to limit the impacts, the Full Circle dynamics are active, polarities at play. We may as well stop pretending it isn’t so and learn to acknowledge and adapt to that reality. Those people, teams and organizations that do will have the advantage in the long term.

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