The Mask, Part 1: You Are Many

It’s an undeniable biographical fact that you’ve had the experience of becoming a different person just because you put on a striped shirt, or a knit tie with a ketchup splotch, or a fancy new pair of eyeglasses. Or because you got a new haircut, or because you shaved that beard you had worn for twenty years. Or because you talked to a Norwegian tourist at a street corner and, almost unwillingly, you started imitating her accent. Then you weren’t “you” anymore, but a completely different person with a whole other inner life.

Inside you there are dozens of different personalities raring to come out. And all it takes for any of them to take over your life is a simple trigger that I'll call the Mask: a shirt, a tie, a word said with a funny accent. In this series of blog entries we’ll look at how Multiple Personality Syndrome is the natural condition of every human being, and how the Mask is an effective way for you to tap into all your personalities and their respective talents and strengths.

We don’t talk to our bankers in the exact same way we talk to our infant daughters. We behave one way in the shower, another in public; one way at mass on Sunday morning, another watching Monday Night Football; one way with our wives, another with our mothers-in-law. We change our minds over time, according to context and to specific needs and wants. We change our body language, our tone of voice, our discourse—all those things that are visible and audible to the world. But we also "wear" different priorities, beliefs, convictions, and many characteristics that aren’t so immediately obvious.

Let’s take as axiomatic (and that means, “so obvious we don’t need to argue about it!”) that we all have many sides to our personalities… which is just another way of saying we have many personalities. Out of our inner multitute, a certain unity arises, highly complex, complicated even, full of contradictions and paradoxes, messy—but unified all the same. You may be a rock star singing in the shower and a sniveling beggar asking your banker for a line of credit. And yet the star and the beggar both are YOU, absolutely and totally the same “you” and not two different people.

This paradoxical version of the Multiple-Personality Syndrome is the natural condition of a human being. There are risks and dangers to it, of course. But it’s truly innate, inevitable, and desirable. You don’t want to talk to your banker the way you sing in the shower—trust me on this. You’re much better off if you’re able to change your posture, your tone of voice, your "everything."

In the next post I’ll tell you how.