Monday, July 08, 2019


Persona:  the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others.
Also, "A public persona", a role or character adopted by an author or an actor.
"image, face, public face, character, personality, identity, self, front, facade, mask, guise, exterior, role part.

The idea of the polypersona is opposite to the formerly accepted standard desirable ideology of being "genuine" and "authentic", finding one's true self.  To the unsophisticated and insecure, a human identity must be single, stable, and  complete.  This was shattered by wartime double agents and used car salesmen, but restored by mental health workers.  Nevertheless, distressingly for some folks, we each have many "faces" to use, plus the more private and subtle "frame of mind" version of variations.

The polypersona is a term I invent in order to go around the dogma of split-personality, schizophrenia, and various roles as with Bridey Murphey.  I mean something more like adjusting your demeanor according to the context: speaking to your lover differently than you speak to your boss or your dog.

There are also a few more drastic adjustments of one's operating system, like dissociation, an involuntary state, going into a kind of fugue of a grayed-out world when under extreme trauma.  Porges' research into the brain's ability to move the body among flight/fight/paralysis, and shut down is relevant, not least because he points out these are below conscious control, evolved from states that came with being a little mammal in a dangerous world.  He has not addressed "thrashing" which is something like "spaniel rage" when a normally docile animal goes crazy, mobilizing every exertion at once as a last chance of survival.

I'm interested in mid-level understanding of persona, like the definition at the top of the page and also the derived understanding that as well as unconsciously moving when there is reason, we can consciously move from one system to another.  Say, you're at a party with drugs but the cops arrive.  Or suppose you are waiting for test results, and then they come, and good-or-bad you go from the tenseness of waiting to either joy or despair.  The shift might be minor, like talking to one person when another -- maybe not so well-known to you -- and you become a little more guarded.  

Controlling one's public persona is the stock-in-trade of actors and sexworkers.  Actors using the "Method" reach for memories to alter the most subtle muscles of the face and posture.  Memory is their frame of reference.  Sexworkers are working with their perception of the "trick," what words or touches of their own are calling up reactions from the other.  Salesmen often have a repertoire of personas to persuade customers.   

My totally naive premise is that these different personas are underlain by what are called "circuits" in the brain, networks of connections among neural cells that activate the elements of complex personality.  The study of these circuits, the "connectome", can be traced by a computer image which offers the results in color.  

This is the kind of thing you probably don't need to know:
"There are 4 main types of neural circuits called diverging circuit, converging circuit, reverberating circuit and parallel after-discharge circuit. In a diverging circuit, a nerve fiber forms branching and synapses with several postsynaptic cells. Each postsynaptic cell may further synapse with several other neurons." 

You need to know this:  "According to Wikipedia (Neuron), each of the one hundred billion neurons in the human brain has on average 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons."  When more brain cells are added, they don't come higgletypigeltypop, but form into chains that are the like the rules or operating systems.  They are organic "programs". 

Writer's block and insomnia are both caused by denial of brain access to the effective system that triggers the behavior.  The cause might be interference from a competing system, like worrying, or could be some kind of failure to access the proper system.  Knowing what will trigger writing or sleep -- and being able to actually do that at the point of desire -- is a big part of being a happy human.  Is an article from a reliable professional website (National Center for Biotechnology Information) that could blow you away unless you've got background and vocabulary.  Here's a sample:   "Synapse formation involves pairing of the pre- and postsynaptic partners at a specific neurospatial coordinate. The specificity of synapse formation requires the precise execution of multiple developmental events, including cell fate specification, cell migration, axon guidance, dendritic growth, synaptic target selection, and synaptogenesis."  Synapses are the points of snapping together, if I can be forgiven for thinking of neural cells as legos.  Dendrites are what reach out like extension cords.  What DNA stores is how to make synapses (plug-ins) and dendrites, what makes them connect, how information travels around.

Knowing that above might not help you to control your mental states so that they are appropriate, but it might avoid feeling so much like a pawn in the hands of an inscrutable power.  So simple a thing as nutrition or hydration might help.  Whisky probably will not, though many writers think it will.  In terms of the connectome, alcohol slows, censors, lifts prohibitions, which changes writing but may not make it better.

"Synaptic biology" can be both ghastly and enchanting.  This is one of the developmental processes that can be disrupted to the point of self-destruction if children are exposed to trauma, dislocation, broken attachments. failure of cues or lack of them.  This is the destruction happening at the Mexican border now and in abusive households.  The body is present, but the operating system is failing.  The study of this sort of thing is called "synaptic biology."  But Colon-Ramos, a primary researcher from Puerto Rico now working at Yale, offers this definition: "Synapses, which are points of cellular communication between neurons, were first described by Santiago Ramón y Cajal as 'protoplasmic kisses that appear to constitute the final ecstasy of an epic love story. '"

A startling beginning that attracted the media was cutting the main connectomes of the brain which are between the two halves. "When Sperry and Gazzaniga presented stimuli to the right visual field (processed by the speaking left hemisphere), the patient responded normally. However, when stimuli were presented to the left visual field (processed by the mute right hemisphere), the patient said he saw nothing. Yet his left hand would draw the image shown. When asked why his left hand did that, the patient looked baffled, and responded that he had no idea."

They had created two personas.  Maybe.

"To try to get to the bottom of things, my team at the University of Amsterdam re-visited this fundamental issue by testing two split-brain patients, evaluating whether they could respond accurately to objects in the left visual field (perceived by the right brain) while also responding verbally or with the right hand (controlled by the left brain). Astonishingly, in these two patients, we found something completely different than Sperry and Gazzaniga before us. Both patients showed full awareness of presence and location of stimuli throughout the entire visual field – right and left, both. When stimuli appeared in the left visual field, they virtually never said (or indicated with the right hand) that they saw nothing. Rather, they would accurately indicate that something had appeared, and where."

"Based on these findings, we have proposed a new model of the split-brain syndrome. When you split the brain, you still end up with only one person. However, this person experiences two streams of visual information, one for each visual field. And that person is unable to integrate the two streams. It is as if he watches an out-of-sync movie, but not with the audio and video out of sync. Rather, the two unsynced streams are both video.

"And there’s more. While the previous model provided strong evidence for materialism (split the brain, split the person), the current understanding seems to only deepen the mystery of consciousness. You split the brain into two halves, and yet you still have only one person. How does a brain, consisting of many modules, create just one person? And, how do split-brainers operate as one when these parts are not even talking to each other?"

I predict this puzzle will come back to the complex bazillion connectome, constantly being added to and subtracted from as the body experiences the world.  More about this later, esp. in terms of interference in the child's connectome when the body (embodiment) is used traumatically.

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