Taming the Voices in the Personality Zoo

  • Someday Lesson: By separating out our feelings into distinct personalities we can look at them objectively as well as have a bit of fun with them.

The United States of TaraOne of my favourite new shows is The United States of Tara with Toni Colette. It features a woman with multiple personalities and how she and her family deal with them.

Throughout the show they repeat the idea that everyone at times is a bit split up, often with different parts of our personalities warring with each other, which pretty much sums up my life. The characters in my inner Personality Zoo break out of their cages and run amok through my brain. It’s not a pretty sight.

This especially happens during periods of change — when I’m adopting new habits or going through some out sort of transformation. After the initial rush of excited progress, I hit resistance and I start coming up with reasons why I couldn’t possibly continue.

By assigning each piece of resistance a personality, I can diffuse the internal argument by recognizing the emotion attached to the thought and therefore come up with effective ways to work around or dismantle the particular excuse for not continuing.

(It’s also a whole lot of fun!)

So, this week I got the Lab Rats exploring their own inner Personality Zoos and looking at their results, it’s obvious they had a good time as well.

More importantly though, the Lab Rats pulled out some pretty strong lessons from the exercise. Cat didn’t realize she had so many personalities working against her dreams but having explored them, she’s recommitted herself to the next step in achieving her goals.

Jim also discovered a whole bunch of negative personalities lurking behind mental and emotional corners waiting to ambush him, plus he identified two personalities that may feel positive (Distraction Jim and Perfectionist Jim) but in reality actually derail him from actively pursuing his current goals.

Like Cat and Jim, Brett discovered some negative personalities, but he also discovered that he doesn’t have to pay attention to them all. Normally when working on something that isn’t perfect, Brett will get frustrated and angry then lash out at people but this past weekend while working on organizing the laundry room he kept Perfectionist Brett and OCD Brett firmly locked in their cages and the project went off without a single snarky word.

Here in detail are the various characters in the Lab Rats’ Personality Zoos:


  • Insecure Cat takes aim at my confidence and tells me that I’m not good enough to be accepted anywhere else, that my current position was obtained because I knew my boss and no one else was applying for the job.
  • Impostor Cat teams up with Insecure Cat to remind me that I’m really not as smart as everyone seems to think I am (Insecure Cat snidely remarks here that she’s not even sure how they might have gotten that confused idea into their heads) and that applying for anything will only expose the truth to everyone.
  • Confused Cat mumbles that I’m really not 100% sure that I want to leave in the first place. There are so many choices, and the path I think I want to go down looks particularly dark and dreary, with lots of scary obstacles.
  • Lazy Cat doesn’t bat an eyelid at them, but yawns sleepily and suggests I just tackle the applications tomorrow. She’s heard this argument over and over again and is not impressed.
  • Impatient Cat taps her foot impatiently and points to a lengthy to-do list. If the application process is going to take this much time to even get started, then there are better ways we can use our time. Skip this one and come back to it later. There are other things that I just HAVE to do.
  • Hedonistic Cat rolls her eyes. Why do boring, productive stuff when you can do something fun, she reasons.
  • Self-Congratulating Cat agrees. I’ve already worked REALLY, REALLY hard today. Why not take it easy and think about this stuff tomorrow? I’ve earned a break, she reasons.
  • Fed-Up Cat bursts in to the scene. She’s sick and tired of the current pace of things and doesn’t want to be stuck in this rut for another two years. She attempts to go around kick the other Cats’ butts into gear. Unfortunately, her attendance is erratic at best, and I’m usually left to deal with the other Cats on my own.


  • Fortune-Teller Jim knows that things are going to turn out in a negative way.
  • Protective Jim thinks he shouldn’t risk if there might be a downside. It’s better to deal with the “comfort” of the known.
  • Distraction Jim is always looking for something better to do and then trying to sell it as “more important right now”.
  • Mind-Reader Jim knows that people laugh at his efforts and that no one thinks it’s worth doing.
  • Lazy Jim is tired and just wants to rest. Maybe success will just happen.
  • Perfectionist Jim is sure he’s not ready to act yet. More information is required. More practice. More… everything.
  • Angry Jim is frustrated with the stalemate, but feels impotent. Instead of enabling action, the anger increases the paralysis.
  • Brave Jim isn’t afraid of realistic risks and knows that you have to leave your comfort zone to grow.
  • Confident Jim knows that no matter what happens, expected or unexpected, he’ll land on his feet.


  • Unsure Brett hesitates and the moment of action… and he who hesitates..
  • Insecure Brett is sure that he is not good enough to get it done
  • Fugitive Brett knows that sooner or later, he’ll get caught out and everyone will see what a fraud he is
  • Overwhelmed Brett sees the list of things that need to be done and then goes and hangs out with Tired Brett and/or Distracted Brett
  • Tired Brett just wants to sleep
  • Distracted Brett looks at brightly-coloured objects and flashy movement, like TV and Xbox gaming and the Internet
  • Perfectionist Brett tells himself that it has to be perfect or it isn’t worth doing
  • Arrogant Brett knows best, what would anyone else know?
  • Frustrated Brett is frustrated at all the other Bretts
  • Angry Brett looms large, usually released by Frustrated Brett
  • OCD Brett concentrates on making sure every detail is right, everything is planned to the nth degree. He often calls Frustrated Brett out to play
  • Romantic Brett is buried in there somewhere and occasionally surfaces
  • Happy Brett is lost and desperately wants to come home…

Your turn. Who’s clamouring for attention in your own Personality Zoo?

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6 thoughts on “Taming the Voices in the Personality Zoo

  1. […] Fayle has a really interesting post today, Taming the Voices in the Personality Zoo. It describes a fun and really useful way to sort out what stops us from achieving what we want. By […]

  2. Andy Hayes says:

    I was waiting for ‘scaredy Cat’ but didn’t see it in the list ๐Ÿ™‚

    Fun exercise – let me go get some extra paper and pencils, this is gonna be a long list… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Andy Hayes´s last blog post..Whatโ€™s Wrong with Belgium?

  3. This is really interesting! I haven’t see the show yet, but I’ve heard good things about it. I’m looking forward to trying out this exercise. Thanks!

    Positively Present´s last blog post..5 things happy people do

  4. Hi Alex,

    I’ve never thought of myself with multiple personalities, but after reading this post and how the Lab Rats described theirs, I realize I do too. I’d have to say my “Ambitious Barb” personality surfaces the most as I’m always adding more to my plate. Fortunately “Give Me A Break Barb” shows up and I get to catch my breath.

    Barbara Swafford´s last blog post..For The Sake Of The Children – Blog Smart

  5. Certainly an awareness that many won’t think of unless they read something like this. For me, it’s mostly voices rather than personalities. I know who I am. The voices can be very strong, depending, but don’t develop into personalities.

    We all have these inner conversations. I think if you are involved even in a modicum of self-awareness & personal growth, you notice a voice, note it as such & return to your essential self. And there’s peace.

    Pamir | Reiki Help Blog´s last blog post..The Sainthood Of Sequoias

  6. Alex Fayle says:

    Scaredy Cat hadn’t occurred to me, but yes! I’m sure she’s in there somewhere but was too scared to come up when Cat as writing the list down.

    @Positively Present
    I do it quite regularly just as a kind of check-in but especially when I’m feeling disconnected or frazzled.

    Yesterday “Give Me a Break Alex” insisted that I take the day off and relax. Feel totally recharged today. That’s an important aspect of our personalities to listen to.

    I would say that for me they are voices as well. However taking them to the level of personality allows me to be more objective because they aren’t me – they’re another Alex – leaving me to be my essential self.

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