Ben was ready when his sister, Brit, greeted her boyfriend at the front door. Timmy was sketchy according to Ben, but Ben was on a mission. His assignment was to observe and name Timmy’s behavior as a psychology class assignment. No judging allowed, only naming. His psychology professor was fond of quoting Dr. Daniel Siegel’s rhyme, “If you can name it you can tame it.” Ben was determined to become a behavior naming machine and he was eager to practice on Mr. Sketchy.

Ben was watching for five behaviors or stories that people tell themselves while they are conversing. We all play different roles and these roles become our personas. During our first half of life, we develop a “false self”. This is our persona, which is Greek for stage mask. Our stage mask is neither evil nor bad, it’s just not true.

We usually refuse to see or acknowledge our false narratives (shadows) and we prefer to keep them from public consumption. Ben was on the lookout for Timmy’s personas, he had five from which to choose.

  • Victim
  • Rescuer
  • Persecutor
  • Fall guy
  • Smartest guy in the room

Since Ben had a very loose relationship with covert operations, Timmy became uncomfortable as Ben hovered around them while he and Brit chatted. Not fully prepared for his assignment, Ben repeatedly dashed over to the kitchen nook and scribbled something down on a Post It™ note; or he’d scurry into the den and grab a piece of paper and scribble some more notes.

After 45-minutes of social discomfort, Timmy asked Ben what he was doing. Ben explained that he was observing his conversation and naming what roles he was playing. Timmy argued that he wasn’t playing any roles and wanted to know what Ben had observed.

“Okay, your first two roles you played were the fall guy and the last role you played was the smarted guy in the room.”

“No, I didn’t,” retorted Timmy.

“Okay,” was all Ben said as he shrugged his shoulders and left the room.

What personas do you have? In reality, it’s difficult to catch our own personas so practicing on others, being mindful not to judge, is a good exercise to start with.

When your awareness is raised you see the invisible, you hear the unheard, and you understand the incomprehensible. If you do not see, hear, or understand what is there, they will control you.

Here is an extended list of roles, personas, or behaviors to look for:

  • Victim
  • Rescuer
  • Persecutor (bully)
  • Fall guy
  • Smartest person in the room
  • Dumbest person in the room
  • Helpless/hopeless/powerless
  • Mind reading
  • Emotional reasoning
  • Overgeneralizing
  • Negative bias
  • Fortune telling
  • Discounting positives
  • Blaming
  • Should-ing
  • Criticism
  • Unsolicited opinions
  • Sarcasm
  • Judging
  • Relating
  • Manipulating
  • Controlling
  • Persuasion
  • Having to be right
  • Holding a grudge
  • Venting
  • Looping

Only pick up to five at a time to observe. Try not to hover and be mindful not to judge.

A suggestion is to inform those you are with that you are conducting a social experiment and will be making some notes during the conversation on roles, personas, or behaviors that we play or engage in during our conversations. Each story represents an internal false narrative that drives behavior. Each behavior is a symptom of a shadow.

With time, the goal is to see your own personas and behaviors and learn how to correct them to become your best self.

Best of success!

Dr H