Who shall I be today? Unlike most people I know, I am aware that we all use masks to interface with the world around us. In each grouping we find ourselves playing different roles forced upon us by the group dynamic as much as who we really are. For example, some self proclaimed extroverts on Big Brother, when surrounded by other extroverts, inexplicably find themselves being introverted. Similarly I noticed that in some groupings I will be forever doomed to play the naughty little boy, whereas in others I am a paragon of virtue, sensible and mature. So we cast ourselves and each other in roles and like self fulfilling prophecies they exert irresistible gravity on our behaviour. There are practical applications to this; if you see the good in people they will be good, if you see the bad life gets worse for all of us.
The idea of masks implies deception and hiding the truth. There may be an element of truth to this. In my own case, I spent about twenty years actively denying my status as a victim so I chose false masks to convey a false picture. But I would argue, to be real means adopting the right mask or interface for each situation. If trying to teach children, for example, role models as diverse as Maria Von Trap or Mr Chips may assist in channelling your inner genius more truly than the drunken fool you were on the dance floor last night.
I learnt of this concept primarily through the occultist Crowley who used a huge cast of selves to portray his inexplicable essence. David Bowie with characters like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke successfully used this formula, as has Madonna. Even” real” rock stars like Bob Dylan inherited his spaced out swagger from James Dean and has passed the role onto others. The use of the word inherited is important. It is like the use of objects in Object Orientated Programming. Roles or as they are called in programming, objects, are inherited, their properties modified and these new objects are available for replication.
So what follows is a list of some of the many sub personalities I have found operating in my psyche. Some of the teachers who have influenced me are not included; I may have learnt from them but I never wanted to be them. Thus I could say I slightly modelled some of my behaviours on Herr Isyvoo/William Bradshaw from Isherwoods Berlin novels, though I have never found myself playing the role of the real Christopher Isherwood. Similarly, I may have wanted to be Ziggy Stardust, but never David Bowie.
Some of the evil personalities or self harming types are included in the list out of honesty. We don’t always use good role models. When hurt or in a corner, for example, you may find yourself channelling your inner Vlad the Impaler. Also you may note that many of the characters are variations on a theme. Like the concept of inheritance mentioned earlier, there are many similar expressions of the goddess. But they all have their own unique characteristics that I have found in myself.
So here goes. Please don’t hate me for sharing this list. You may, indeed, find it fun and illuminating to construct your own list. It is by no means complete, it misses out a significant list of people I have met and copied from real life, but it is honest.
Bonnie & Clyde
Nancy & Sid
Alexander the Great
Diana (the goddess not the Princess)
Samuel T Coleridge
The lady who presents Woman’s Hour
Lana Del Rey
The Beast 666
Jesus (the early Roman version, before he grew a beard)
William Burroughs’ Kiki
Button & Joe
Nico (from the VU)
Howard Hughes (aka Leonardo)
The Pied Piper
The Vampire Lestat
The serpent in Eden
Cain & Abel