The human personality — what a concept!

Persona is derived from the Latin word for mask.

When I was a younger man, I thought the human personality was a lot more pliable than it actually is.  I thought I could change my basic personality with relative ease.  Switch from being an introvert to an extrovert at will.  Resolve my phobias.  Or at least switch to different phobias.   Like that.

I was greatly influenced by the rock star David Bowie at the time.  Bowie was famous for constantly changing his image and his persona and even, seemingly, his basic personality.

So I harbored this stupid notion that the human personality was pliable.  That it was like how actors picked and chose whatever role they wanted to play.  We could pick any personality we wanted.

As Timothy Leary — one of the biggest imbeciles of the 20th century — once famously said:  “You can be anything you want this time around.”   What a WONDERFUL notion.  To bad it’s completely false.

I wrongly assumed that our personality was basically just a social construct.  It was a mask we put on, mostly as a way to function in society.  And that, like with masks in general, we could take them off and on.  I wasn’t even sure if there was anything behind the mask.  It was like the famous Kurt Vonnegut line:  “Be careful who you pretend to be.  Because that’s who you become.”

I spent 40 years trying to smooth out the rough edges of my personality.  With little success.  I spent 40 years trying to un-warp my warped psychology.  With little success.  After undergoing endless therapies, I’m still basically the exact same person I was when I was 17.

When I was younger I was always hoping for a big, cathartic experience.  Where I’d be “born again.”  And heal my wounded psyche.  Become a new person.

Nowadays, I realize, if I can make any changes, make any improvements, in my basic character.  They will probably come in small increments.  If that.




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I’ve suffered from depression for most of my adult life.

Over the years people have offered many possible explanations for this state:  “You have a chemical imbalance.” . . .  “You’re manic-depressant.” . . . “You think too much.”  . . . “You drink too much.” . . .  “You’re too sensitive.” . . .  “It’s your karma.” . . .  And even:  “Well, a lot of this life is just really fucking sad.”

Often it’ll hit me for no apparent reason. I’ll be walking down the street and I’ll suddenly be overwhelmed by waves of melancholy sadness.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  There’s usually some kind of reason that triggers it.  A sad memory will flash across my mind.  Or a sad scene will flash across my eyes (I’ll spot some lonely old man in broken health staggering down the street).  And then the editing machine in my mind will start churning out one sad image after another.  It’s as if my life has been a relentless series of unending misery.  It’s weird how my mind does that. When I’m in a funk it’s like the good times never existed.

Generally I don’t do anything about it.  I just wait it out.  “This too shall pass.”   And usually after an hour or two it passes and I’m off to something else.  Soaring joy or anger or slapstick comedy.  Whatever.

I guess I’m leery of most therapies.  Often the cure seems worse than the sickness.  And I’ve seen some of my seriously depressed friends end up more damaged by their therapists than by their depression.  I just accept my depression as a weird kink in my wiring.  Like a ruptured muscle in my soul, or something.  (Don’t get me wrong: if you’ve found therapies that work for you, more power to you.  I guess I’m just a person who takes his own counsel.  For better or worse.)

The Hindus maintain there’s a metaphorical wheel inside our chest with all the different emotions on it.  And the wheel is constantly spinning.  And we randomly experience all the different emotions through the course of our days as it spins.  Sadness.  Happiness.  Fear.  Envy.  Love.  Depression.  Etc.  Maybe it’s something like that.


Charles Manson seeks professional counceling


Charles Manson enters the office and sits down on the couch.   Dr. Steven Schloshman, a licensed psychiatrist, is sitting on a chair nearby, writing in a little notepad.

Dr. Schloshman:  Good afternoon, Mr. Manson. How are you feeling today?

Charles Manson:    I been doin’ just fine, doc.  What’s happenin’.   This life’s a trip, ain’t it, man?

Dr:  I was wondering if you had given any thought to some of the issues we discussed at your last session, Charles?

Manson: Hell yeah.  I been spendin’ a lot of time in my cell thinkin’ about some the things we was rappin’ about last week.  Like all that stuff about my feelings-of-repressed-hostility and shit.

Dr:  Good.   Precisely.  We were talking about how your compulsion to act out in socially inappropriate manners  may in fact stem from deep-seeded feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem.  Like your need to be a big hippie cult leader.  It seems to me you might be over-compensating for your feelings of inadequacy.

Manson:  Oh ma-a-an!  You’re way off base there, doc.  I feel fine about myself and my scene.  Its all these other people that are always fuckin’ with my trip!

Dr.:  Well, what I was driving at Charles.  This need you feel to, say,  go on killing sprees and splatter blood on walls and the like.  Has it occurred to you that this might stem from an underlying need for attention and validation?  Like a child who acts up and  makes a mess in order to compensate for feelings of rejection by one’s mother.

Manson:  Now you’re just talkin’ nonsenses, man.  What’s my mother got to do with it?

Dr.:  Well, lets delve into your feelings towards your mother, Charles.

Manson:  My mother was a ho’ and a bitch, you understand?  When I was 12 she had me arrested and locked up in the reformatory because she didn’t want me livin’ at home.  I was gettin’ in the way of her boyfriends.  You dig?  So the bitch had me set up on a phony bike-stealin’ rap?  What kinda’ goddamn mother is that?  The cunt!!

Dr.:  I sense you have conflicted feelings towards your mother, Charles. . . .  Has it ever occurred to you that you have may have been projecting some of your feelings about your mother onto the young women in your circle, the so-called “Manson Girls”?

Manson:  What are you drivin’ at, man?

Dr.:  That perhaps it was your mother that you wished to have locked up in prison.  To pay her back for locking you up.  You couldn’t do that.  So instead you set up those women to be arrested and locked up.  Symbolically  imprisoning your mother.

Manson: Hmm . . . (Manson gazes off at the ceiling, lost in thought).  Is that what they call transference?

Dr.:   Exactly.  Its important you become aware of how these psychological issues can manifest themselves in socially inappropriate behavior.  Such as satanic rituals and blood-baths and senseless killings.   Things of that nature.

Manson:  I can dig it.  (Manson grabs the side of the couch with his fists and starts violently kicking on the ground with his feet, eyes wide-open and bug-eyed)  COMING DOWN FAST!!  COMING DOWN FAST!!  COMING DOWN FAST!!

Dr.:  The other thing I’ve concluded, Charles is that you may be suffering from some kind of chemical imbalance.  Like your LSD consumption in the late ’60s.  That was an attempt to self-medicate yourself, chemically.  And a way to deal with your mood swings.  After looking at the results of your physical and your blood tests, I recommend  prescribing Prozac to deal with this.  In my opinion, you suffer from clinical manic-depression.  And you may also be bi-polar.

Manson:  Hey, I always copped to diggin’ both cock and pussy.

Dr.:   No.  What I’m getting at, Charles, is that you used the drugs like LSD as a way to compensate for your bi-polar mood swings.  You’d go from one extreme experiencing yourself as Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind.  And then you’d go the other direction and experience yourself as Satan, the dark lord.  Prozac will help you smooth out those mood swings, those highs and lows.  And you’ll mostly stay in the middle and experience yourself as a normal, mortal human being.

Manson:  Doesn’t sound like much of a buzz to me, man.  No highs, no lows.  This Prozac sounds like some bunk shit.  How much does that stuff go for on the streets, anyways?

Dr..: Ha ha. (the psychiatrist chuckles at Manson’s naivete)   Oh, it would probably go for around 2 or 3 dollars a pill.

Manson:  Shee-it!  Nobody’s gonna’ get rich slinging that shit.

Dr.:  Now I’d like to do a little word association, Charles.  Tell me the first things that come to your mind when I say these words.

Manson:  OK.

Dr.:  Love.

Manson: Hate.

Dr.:  Fear.

Manson:  Awareness.

Dr.:  Mass murder

Manson:  Savin’ the environment and clean water and air and trees and healin’ mother nature.

Dr.:  Helter Skelter

Manson:   Even I thought that that was a John song!!  Can you believe Paul actually wrote that one?  Shit!

Dr.:  Hollywood celebrities.

Manson:   Now that was the biggest bum rap they laid on me.  That I wanted to kill all them Hollywood stars because I couldn’t get a recording contract.  That was the biggest load of bull!  What did I want with a career in show business?  I was free, man.  I was out there doin’ my thing with 20 chicks and all the bread in the world.  But you society makes up this whole lie that I was a hippie guru who was a frustrated rocknroll singer.  Hell, they even made up this bull crap rumor that I auditioned for the Monkees.  That’s a LIE, man!  Even as its a proven fact that I would have been perfectly cast as the small one,  the role they gave to that English guy,  Davey Jones.  Shit.  The producers said I lacked ‘cuteness.’  Its a wonder I didn’t kill all them evil motherfuckers.  Goddamn!

Dr.:  Um, well yes.  Go with that thought, Charles.  . . . There’s one last issue I’d like to delve in before we wrap up this session.  Have you given any thought to what we talked about last week regarding your lack of empathy for others.

Manson: Lack of empathy my ass.  I love everybody!  We’re all one, man.  How could I kill  you and hack off your ear and disembowel your organs?  That would be like killin’ a part of myself.  I love you like a brother, doc!  (Manson throws himself to his knees in a submissive posture, starts stabbing at the ground with his fist)  Death is just an illusion, man.  I’d DIE for you, brother!  Go ahead and kill me!  CEASE TO EXIST!!  CEASE TO EXIST!!

Dr.:  In clinical terms, Charles, you seem to be suffering from what we call a lack of a conscience.  Its a trait common in the sociopathic personality.  You have no concept of other people’s feelings or well-being.  You have no concept of right and wrong.   In other words, you can kill indiscriminately without feelings of guilt or shame.

Manson:  And what’s wrong with that?

Dr.:  Well, a conscience acts as a form of checks and balances.  Having a conscience is what prevents a person from acting out his anti-social impulses and hostilities.  For example, I might feel the impulse to jump up and grab you around the throat and bash your fucking head in and throttle you until you’re dead.  And then justify the murder as a means to start a race war and  bring about the great global Apocalypse.  But my conscience sends me a clear-cut message that that would be wrong.

Manson:  Interesting, doc.  I never quite thought about it like that.

Dr.:  Well, I see our time is just about up for today.  Give some thought to the issues we discussed today, Chuck.  Particularly the concept that other people  have feelings and actually have just as much right to exist as you do.  And we’ll pick it up again next week.

Manson:  All right, doc.  You be cool.  Peace.