In my family we subscribe to the "ignore it and it goes away" philosophy. When my father struggled with lymphoma, I didn't react. When my mother nearly died due to a flesh eating virus, nothing. When my uncle died, nothing. When my sister lost her ability to have children, nothing. I struggled for years due to my lack of feelings. I "lived" day in day out with a fear that I might have been a sociopath. What the hell was wrong with me? Was I a monster?
Turns out, I wasn't completely right.
You see, I've never played a Persona
(let alone an JRPG with a sizeable time investment other than Pokemon) game until a few weeks back when I finally experienced Persona 4 Golden.
And...I'm so glad I took the plunge.
Persona 4 Golden
introduced me to Shadows and Personas, or otherwise known as the Id and the Ego. A shadow is a physical manifestation of a person's inner struggles and desires. Their doubts, envy, rage, insecurity, every feeling that was cast aside and ignored. A Persona forms when all of those hidden struggles are subdued by the Ego, and that Persona becomes an entity that helps fight against the further development of those desires.
As I slogged through more and more dungeons, the very definition of those two entities swirled through my mind. As far as I've known, personas are guises. When someone adapts a persona, they are hiding themselves from others as they become someone else. I can go as far to say that every time I play a videogame, I am taking the life of another person for my own. That's especially true in Persona 4
when you become the super popular main character who every guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with. As much as I began enjoying Persona 4
's story, I was scared to continue. Scared that the deeper I threw myself into the story and its main character, the more I would lose aspects of myself.
makes developing relationships with others the most important facet of the story. As the caricatures of the story slowly became fully fleshed out characters, I couldn't help but wish that life's relationships were that easy to develop. I wish there were a set amount of conversation options to choose from in order to fully develop a relationship. I wish there was an easier way to get closer to people. I wished I could ignore those relationships for days on end, yet start each conversation like I never left...and then I met Kanji
Kanji was a scared, confused child who threw himself wholeheartedly into his manhood. In order to avoid looking feminine, he performed his masculinity in a grandiose matter. His "persona" was of the tough punk who took no guff from nobody. Yet...it wasn't enough to hide himself from everyone. As I formed a bond with him, I found out his "true self" was nothing more than a Shadows, an Id. Kanji was a bundle of confused sexuality, yet I couldn't save him. I merely helped him change his mask (as his Shadow "evolved" into a Persona). I was disappointed I couldn't help him more, I was ashamed of myself. I just couldn't figure out why.
And then it hit me. Kanji was just a version of myself. He was one of my personas. The more I spoke to Kanji, the more the sudden realization made sense. I've had problems with my sexuality in the past also. There was a time where I thought I was a homosexual, but soon discovered I was mistaken. I just grew up in an environment so damn obtuse that the things I loved could only be loved by a gay man. What made matters worse was that I had crippling self esteem issues. I'm not the most attractive of men, and it bothered the utter crap out of me. It was a terrible life experience. I had trouble talking to others, making friends, I thought I was gay and ugly, and I couldn't pull myself out of it. That's when I decided to fake it.
I created a new me and donned a persona that was like everyone else. I pretended to laugh at jokes that weren't funny, pretended to enjoy the things I despised, and ultimately pretended I didn't hate myself all the while. I wasn't happy, and it was hard faking happiness. Through the mutilation of my personality, I died on the inside. I was no longer able to process the right emotions at the right time. It was almost as if my heart died. This carried on for years until I eventually forgot about it. I guess that my guise became the real me. Then this magical, yet simple game forced me to look inside myself.
Immersing myself completely into the main character, meeting the children of Inaba and their struggles, and watching Kanji remove his false persona all brought those memories rushing back to me. I was forced to relive my past for a few brief moments. I had to accept my false guise, my Shadow, my true feelings. Except...I still don't know what those are. I've been away from them for so long, I have no idea where to even look for them. But I have a support system now. Through the years I had some friends see through my false guise and accept me for the confused individual I am.
Though I still have a ways to go on my journey, I have at least accepted the darker parts of myself. Does that mean I get a Persona also? Do I get that special guardian that helps keep my heart safe from the darker desires? If I do get a Persona, and it is a reflection of myself, what does it look like?
I hope it looks great.