People are not consistent. Characters in stories are consistent, but only because if a character was as inconsistent as a real person, the audience would complain that the character was not well developed.
The annoyance to come from this is that a lot of our influence, our social information on how we should act, comes from media. And by media I don’t just mean movies and TV, I mean books, music, comics, YouTube and every way in which a story can be told.
Because of this, we develop a persona. We ‘create’ our own character, and then we strive to portray this character in our day-to-day lives.
I have recently had the challenge (and the pleasure) of getting to know new people, and the question that has risen numerous times is “Is this person getting to know the real me?”
At first, I had decided that there were certain mitigating circumstances that meant that my personality was different to usual at the time, I had just finished a large creative project which left me emotionally and creatively drained, and with very little energy, and I was about to leave on an overseas trip, which made me feel unstable and unsure.
So I was certain that I was not my real self at that time.
During my overseas trip (due in large part to conversations with my sister), I realised that the persona I had been using during the previous weeks had been just as much the real me as any characteristics I might display otherwise.
After all, what is a personality besides the way a person reacts to situations? I had been reacting to a situation in a certain way; it was my reactions I had been displaying.
This triggered more thoughts. I started to think about what changes a person.
Situations change people
Let’s create a character. His name shall be Gregory.
The character he portrays to the outside world is usually one of kind consideration. He holds the door open for people following him; He replies to emails as soon as he gets them; He says ‘bless you’ whenever someone sneezes.
Gregory gets fired. You would imagine that this would change his character. Perhaps, for example, he becomes nervous and fidgety, as the certainty of his livelihood has been removed. Is this no longer Gregory? Is he ‘not himself’?
Gregory is still Gregory.
Now let’s say that Gregory is a minor character in a story (of any medium). He is the ‘supporting friend’, who plays an important role in three different scenes. The movie is not about him, so being fired is not mentioned. He is, however, strikingly different in his third scene.
This would be counted as an inconsistent character, unless of course he mentioned at some point that he had been fired.
But what if the situation changing him was something much smaller and less important (it is possible to be effected by much smaller things. Perhaps he had missed breakfast that morning. Perhaps he had eaten something that didn’t agree with him. These would change his character quite a bit, but would not be worth mentioning in the story if he was not the main character.
People change people
We shall continue with our man Gregory, but return him to his previous, employed state. It would, after all, be cruel to deprive him of his livelihood for the purposes of a mental exercise!
One of Gregory’s friends is generally quiet, and keeps to himself for the most part when they are together. Because of this, Gregory takes the role of ‘noise-maker.’ He is not usually any louder than anyone else, but in this context, he is.
Another friend of Gregory’s acts louder. In the context of their relationship, Gregory is quiet and thoughtful.
When Gregory meets a new person, it isn’t so much about each of them discovering who the other person is, it’s about them figuring out the dynamic of their relationship. Which roles are they going to play to bounce off each other? Which persona will each of them take?
To this extent, the person Gregory meets will not see ‘the real Gregory,’ they will see a constantly changing Gregory, as he attempts to find a dynamic that suits both him and his new friend.
Have we just met three different versions of Gregory?
Other people’s observations change people
This one, so far as I can tell, works in two different ways, which I shall mark as positive and negative (although they are essentially two sides of the same coin.)
Firstly, let’s say Gregory’s quiet friend says to him “Gee Gregory, you’re always so loud and sure of yourself,” while chewing on his fingernail and smiling nervously.
Gregory says to himself “Wow, I guess you’re right. I am always loud and sure of myself.”
He then meets a new person, and acts on what has been observed of his persona. At a business meeting, say, he meets a new co-worker, and while he normally would have been quiet and kept to himself in a business context, he acts confidently this time. Is this a different Gregory from the one that would have been there, had his friend not pointed this out?
Of course, this happens more often with people who are less sure of their own personas. I guess that’s true of any of this. Oh well, moving on.
The second (‘negative’) version of this type of change is when, say, a person points out that Gregory always taps his fingers on his desk when he’s bored, and it annoys them. He becomes aware of this action, and changes it.
Hmm, bad example. I will try another.
Somebody points out that Gregory never expresses his appreciation for people and their actions. This leads to him thinking about it and changing his actions.
I theorise that a person is only able to change their reactions if they are aware of them. Someone might not be aware of the way they act, and continue to act that way, despite it going against their ‘morals.’
But either way, if you are made aware of an aspect of your personality, you are then able to change it (in theory.)
The Conclusion Part
The long and the short of it is: People are inconsistent. It should be acceptable for us to (sometimes) act outside our personas, whether we are trying out new behaviours or escaping the persona we have created for ourselves.
So nyah. I hope this blog post is fairly linear and makes sense. It may not, however, as it was written by numerous different Maddened Mans.
At this point, the Maddened Man does something that goes against his current persona, just to spite the universe.