The way we present ourselves to other people is our persona. While we may wear many masks and costumes, six universal personas underlie all these, 5 of which are controlled by our innermost desires. People typically have a favorite persona, which they rely on when feeling stressed.
Driven by the desire of Expansion-Contraction, Stonewallers seek to protect themselves from harm by avoiding taking any actions and saying any words whenever possible. If they are forced to say anything, it will be as brief and vague as possible. Imagine a prisoner who is also his jailor, locking himself away from the outside world in a dark cell. The intent is that if I make you feel apathetic, you might give up on me and stop hurting me.
Driven by the desire for Acceptance-Rejection, Accusers seek to put the responsibility and blame on everyone else in a loud and angry manner. They do not accept that they have any fault and only want to intimidate others into agreeing with them. Imagine an angry judge issuing a guilty verdict to a defendant. The intent is that if I make you feel fearful (about my anger), you might agree with me and stop hurting me.
Driven by the desire for Control-Surrender, Appeasers try to please others by agreeing and apologizing. They think of themselves as worthless and indebted to everyone else. Imagine a slave who holds his master in awe, always singing praises and seeking forgiveness for being unworthy. The intent is that if I make you feel guilty (about my loyalty and sacrifices), you might forgive me and stop hurting me.
Driven by the desire for Meaning-Hollowness, Distracters try to ignore the issue by focusing on irrelevant topics. They do their best to escape serious issues and keep things light-hearted. Imagine a friendly and warm clown performing tricks and cracking jokes. The intent is that if I make you feel happy, you might tolerate me and stop hurting me.
Driven by the desire for Unity-Separation, Analyzers attempt to cut off all their emotions and focus only on facts. They do their best to stay in control, seeing the expression of emotions as a weakness. Imagine an android that proves a factual cost-benefit analysis without any emotions. The intent is that if I might make you feel envious (of the possibilities you can potentially have), you might partner with me and stop hurting me.
The five personas above hide parts of the authentic self while giving the appearance that they are doing the opposite. For instance, Accusers hide wanting to connect with others. Appeasers hide wanting to listen to themselves. Stonewallers hide, wanting to be heard and understood. Analyzers hide wanting to listen and truly understand. Distractors hide wanting to explore and work with the world. Other people will eventually notice, seeing these personas as fake and hypocritical.
However, there is a Persona that is not controlled by these desires – one’s true self. Mentors express their true thoughts, emotions, and desires in a way that helps deepen the inner growth of themselves and others. They do their best to be authentic yet tactful, creating a positive impact whenever possible. The intent is that I will share what I truly am so that we have a chance to confront and resolve the real issues.
Personas are used not just to relate to people but also to relate to situations. Replace encountering people with encountering situations, and the preferred persona will also be the preferred coping style for these situations.