in the Shadow of Greatness


March 12, 2003

Who Am I?

Who Am I?

No Longer Strangers "All these series have a common theme - the main character often feeling lost and confused by ordinary problems or relationships and having some kind of 'superpower' whilst at the same time making great personal sacrifices and being first-class heroes who mostly go unrecognized by the general public. Are these series so popular because they touch a deep-seated feeling in the people who watch them?"
It is also a theme that touched me deeply in "Nine Princes in Amber." The idea that something intrinsic about you is worth creating havoc or destroying things to make sure you don't reach your potential.

The idea that you may be bigger than you know or can imagine. The idea that you are safe unless you try to get out of your "assigned persona." It seems to be true that the world will define you even as you wish to define yourself.

Sometimes forces around you are stronger than your own insight into yourself.

There is another side to this that I learned as I got older and received promotions in business. You will be treated as your persona, not your self. People assign roles to co-workers and bosses. All of us are somewhat familiar with assuming a pleasant identity to work with others; our social masque. Teamwork. Cooperation. Social ease. But imagine if someone alters your masque and everyone then treats you differently. If someone writes "kick me" on your back, there is a classic response to this. If the majority of a work group decides you are the nicest person at the job, they treat you differently, even if you know you aren't the nicest person there by a long shot. If the organization writes "boss" on your masque, the work group will begin to treat you differently again. Same person, but now you are likely to be lumped in with "all bosses." And we know what bosses are like.

This is a classic friction of promotion of status. Likewise there are the comparisons. Someone at the office has to be the bad guy, even if that person is hardly as difficult to deal with as a real "bad guy". Someone will be "everyone's friend," someone will be the "ditz," and someone might be the "cypher." We like these archetypes and we use them as a shortcut to confirm our expectations of others. We map the world around us and part of that is the "consensus map" and that can be a cruel tyranny. This loss of individuality is often unfair and unwarranted. As someone involved with Human Resource issues every week, I've seen lots of mental stress generated when the group suddenly alters (often by gossip) your social masque and assigns you a change. It disturbs and appalls people. It can be a motive for leaving an otherwise wonderful job.

Safety within the social role, danger outside of it.

Filed under : Aha!, Amber at 12.03.2003