Personality Crisis..


When I was about 18 I had a cassette called New Wave – since gifted to Christian Payne but fondly remembered – and one of the tracks was Personality Crisis by the New York Dolls. The songs on the tape had a massive influence on me and I wonder if I carried them forward into my studies for Part II Psychology at Cambridge a couple of years later.

Because at some point I realised that I didn’t believe in the idea of ‘personality’ as a coherent set of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that a living human being carried forward from moment to moment or day to day, but rather that personality was a post hoc construct, an attempt by each of us to retell the story of the day to make it make sense and seem coherent.

After all, each of us comes into to the day after a hallucinogenic coma (sleep) and has to reconstruct the person we are, looking for reassurance from which side of your bed you wake up, who else is there (in anyone), where the bathroom is, what sort of coffee is in the kitchen (if any, but we’re not judging you) and eventually deciding who we are today -and then adapting the person we present as until we fall into another coma.

We are the space between other people. We are not one person, but many attributes that hold together more or less, and the individual we present ourselve as shifts and changes. We have predispostions, from genes and culture, and they give us preferred paths to walk down but they do not commit us to any course of action or person to be.

This gives us the power to choose. Choose to be kind.

(and thank you to AF, a first year undergraduate at Magdelene, for prompting me to write this down. Feel free to reference it in your essay).