Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Inner Ensemble Theater

True enough, you have on occasion found a particular individual of your acquaintance to be so outstanding in his or her behavior that you go out of your way to co-opt that individual for inclusion in some project at hand. 

Two publishers of wildly differing traits come to mind; they  have appeared in stories, one of them conflated with a department chair at one of the universities where you taught, a memorable twofer each time you brought the results on stage. Their appearances reminded you of your purpose to topple egotism and despotic systems, but also to cause you to beware of such traits in your own self.

No doubt, there will be other characters inspired by individuals you meet during your prowling and reconnaissance among the battlements of Reality, but, egotism or its approximations aside for the moment, you've had for some time the sense that your best characters are aspects of you because of the longterm relationships you've had with each, whether you're aware of the familiarity or not.

Early in the years of your teaching of writing techniques, you had the awareness of the multiple personality nature you and others had, one small, example being a time when you were engaging in a sincere apology and as part of your contrition allowed that you weren't yourself at the time of the tort you'd committed. 

This led you to a growing recognition of your component parts and, indeed, the aspect of you guilty for the acting out behavior leading to the apology. In time, you began compiling names for some of them, including The Panic Button, named for the aspect of you responding to an occasional surge of dread and fear that came thanks to a lifelong postnasal drip.  On rare occasion, when you're in that intermediary place between wakefulness and sleep, the drip activates, causes one or both sinuses to fill, blocking much or all nasal breathing. Bingo, Panic Button.

Another aspect of you is the interior copyeditor, well aware of your past history as an abysmal speller and your need, in your early thirties, to come to terms with spelling. There is the Cynic, the Vaudeville Performer, the PA (for passive/aggressive), the SD (for Self-deprecation) and the OC (for Over-compensator).

There are others, to be sure, including The Critic. By more or less of a working agreement, you're careful about which of these you give the equivalent of the keys to the family auto, nevertheless recognizing these and other components as necessary aspects rather than parts of your personality to be purged or excised. In short, they are all components of the complexity that is you.

Along comes a stint at a writers' conference owned and operated by one of your dearest friends and his wife, where you come in contact with a wannabe writer boastful of the fact that she has been certified as an individual with thirteen multiple personalities. 

You took this to mean, and confirmed your assumption with psychiatrists and psychologists, that an individual afflicted with multiple personality disorder is not always aware of which personality is dominant and, in many cases, when. Your dealings with this individual were not pleasant, but they were informative.

You proceed on the theory of the rest of us being multiple personality, yet aware who is in charge. Each of us is in effect an ensemble cast of selves. For a writer, this is a valuable tool that wants study, contemplation, and observation. One particular side benefit is a growing sense of this ensemble you being a happy family rather than a contentious one.

You owe great loyalty to all of these and other differentiated aspects of self because they contribute to the total effect of you, suggesting possibilities to you when the occasion for a new character presents itself.

When, for instance, you have a character in a situation of panic, no need to chew the scenery or pause for time-consuming research. Instead, calling Panic Button for a consultation; he'll suggest a menu of responses. When you need an Egotist or a control freak, call in the Egotist and the Inner Editor.

At one time, your relationship with these aspects of you had the effect of setting you at odds with yourself, with an uncomfortable tendency to compartmentalize. Not that you are completely comfortable and absolutely free of compartmentalization now, but the progress is tangible.

You get along pretty well with your ensemble now; they work cheap and arrive eager to help. An occasional family dinner at Via Maestra or Trattoria Victoria with a decent salad, a bowl of linguini and vongole, a glass or two of pinot noir, some zabaglione or panne cota, and a dash of espresso, and we're ready for work again. Happy families all like linguini and clams.

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