This post is adapted from an exercise in The Vein of Gold: A Journey to Your Creative Heart, by Julia Cameron, and was recommended on Christine Kane’s blog. It’s worth hundreds of dollars in psychotherapy, so read carefully. It explains a lot about yourself.
She calls these personae “Secret Selves”. I don’t really think of them as secret, but in a way they hide from your conscious thinking. These are characters within yourself, “Each of these historical selves forms the root system for your adult Secret Selves”. To illustrate, she points out her inner Mother Abbess, the product of many years of Catholic schooling. Mother Abbess has many firm opinions about what is proper and appropriate, and what is not. She dresses in traditional nun garb, and encourages all to live a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Competing for Ms. Cameron’s attention is Bon Bon, another Secret Self. Bon Bon is blonde, drives a vintage convertible and wears red lacy underthings. When Bon Bon is in charge, life is fun and frivolous, under Mother Abbess, Ms. Cameron writes, teaches, and does service work. Between the two of them, she manages a life that is both festive and productive. In this exercise name and describe 5 of your own Secret Selves.
Here are mine:
1. Bossy Lucy: The is the extroverted ueber-organizer who works with flair and wears red dresses. She gets things done on time and under budget.
2. Southern Belle: She is full of charm and makes people laugh. She wears summery dresses and high-heeled sandals. She delights in entertaining folks in her home.
3. The Intellectual: An introvert who loves to read and write. She wants to contribute to her own never-ending learning, and that of others. Looks preppy and blossoms in the classroom.
4. Mother Earth: She would like to have 10 children. She relishes the maternal role, tries to nourish the unlimited potential in her children. She wears jeans, t-shirts, and flip flops.
5. Boho Artiste: Looks as hip as possible. She thinks about color, listens to music. Fascinated by visual symbols. Her life style is down to earth, organic, and perhaps unconventional. She plans to move to Paris….one of these days.
See how this explains our complex and wonder-filled personalities. You can understand better why we really don’t know how to accurately answer all those surveys that are supposed to put us in a marketing cubby hole. Each of the Secret Selves contributes to your rich, productive, and creative life. All need a voice at times, plus tender loving care.
Several readers found the concept of multiple characters within ourselves illuminating. Today’s Raleigh newspaper, the News and Observer, gives an example of this paradigm in action: lawyers by day, actors by night. Upon reflection, it’s hard to imagine someone better prepared to play the role of Iago (in Othello), than a trial lawyer. That’s just what Raleigh attorney Seth Blum does, “It’s an extremely lawyerly role as Iago is constantly given new information that on its face is bad, but he has to turn it into something good” (1-D).
It turns out that Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and other law schools have their own drama societies. Furthermore, actors Fred Thompson, Ben Stein, Ruben Blades, John Cleese (among others) all earned law degrees, but never practiced. The article’s author, Orla Swift, interviewed several area attorneys who perform drama in courtrooms by day, in theatres by night.
The theatre provides a creative outlet that allows these lawyers to express themselves in different ways to different audiences. Mr. Blum further explains that both jobs involve capturing a universal truth and expressing it so that it resonates inside the heart of the audience. “If you’re arguing to a jury, then the job of the lawyer is to make it resonate in the heart. If you’re arguing to a judge, usually it’s to make it resonate intellectually. But you’ve got to know your audience” (4-D).
What interests Mixonian, of course, is how the theatre provides form for vital creative expression. Most jobs and careers today, the ones that pay salaries, are far too narrow in scope to provide total personal fulfillment. That’s why Sally works in HR by day, quilts by night. Carrie explains software by day, paints (canvasses and faces) on the week-ends. Dawn teaches science at her “real” job; paints furniture on the week-ends.
While the synergistic connection between professional work and creative expression may not be obvious, the two ways of work interact to make a more completely prepared and happy person