Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Syndrome

Are there times we step out of our “regular personality”?

Good heart and a bad heart, both vying for a person's soul.

Are you one of those people that can stay true to yourself no matter if you’re all by yourself or in a group of people? Or do you find yourself adjusting your personality to fit the mold of others?

Have you ever changed your personality to deliberately goad others? Some people change their personality to try and please others. The “people pleaser”. And then others change from a relatively shy person to an outgoing one if the need arises. Once the particular event is over, they revert back to their withdrawn, quiet persona. The same can be said with a person who’s normally outgoing, but shows a timid, quiet side depending on the situation.

Is this simply attributed to the mood we’re in? Perhaps it is still our natural personality, and the mood we’re in dictates what kind of personality trait we’re experiencing at the time. It doesn’t mean our personality is different or has changed, right?

I think there are different factors we have to consider when going into this subject. After all, are any of us truly ourselves at all times? And what does this particular question mean? How do we know our “true personality” to begin with?

Most of the times I like to consider myself a sweet, caring person. Am I like that all the time? Certainly not! I wish I was, but the fact of the matter is that I (as do us all) have a darker, more cynical side that once in awhile comes out. I try to learn after I have these outbursts or thoughts that I’d rather not have, and I think that’s the key. Knowing that we’re not “perfect” but striving to do better each time anyway. Own up to the mishaps, learn from them, but don’t dwell on them. Forgive yourself, and work towards a kinder, more compassionate response next time.

Now, the real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome is deeper than our personalities just not jiving with how we “normally” are. People will have their good days and their bad days. That doesn’t make them a “bad person” or a “good person”. And it certainly doesn’t mean that they have a dissociative identity disorder.

Mr. Nice Guy Turned Bad Boy

My sister has seen the kindest customer day in and day out (a regular) turn into a rude, frustrated individual. She never would have expected this behavior from him, but can she hold it against him? “Normally” he’s kind and sweet, but after one too many orders being wrong and having to wait all the time because he’s the “nice customer”, and a company would rather a nice customer wait than an angry, bitter one, it must have finally crossed his threshold and he let it be known. Even my sister felt bad for him that he had to reach this limit. She didn’t hold it against him, and she even sympathized with him and understood his frustration.

Why do we take advantage of “nice people” in this way? Is it because we “know” that we won’t get retaliated against? That they would just put up with the bad behavior and we’d still have a nice person on our hands? Do people consider these nice, kind people as pushovers that we can just step all over?

Well, in this case, the unintentional neglect went too far and the normally nice customer finally unleashed his suppressed frustration that has undoubtedly accumulated for who knows how many months or even years.

My sister related to me how they were knowingly setting him aside so they could take care of other, more impatient customers. So his eventual outburst was sadly not so surprising. And she felt bad about being an unsuspecting catalyst to his brief transformation.

After his irritated display, he still remained a regular customer and was treated much better after his recent outburst. Sad that it had to come to that, but for some reason, this whole dichotomy of treating angry, bitter people better than polite, respectful ones still remains persistent. Sure some don’t give in to this “rule”, but the amount of “nice” people getting the short end of the stick can unfortunately still be seen in abundance in today’s society.

Has this happened to you? Have you seen a case of someone who is normally considered nice and respectful all of a sudden fly off the handle and tell people what they really think? It is a sight to behold, that is for sure, because one wouldn’t expect it coming from them. And that’s exactly why this situation comes as more of a shock than from someone we already know is rude and condescending.

Angel vs. Devil

Although the real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome deals with the dissociative or split personality disorder, sometimes I feel as if everyone has days where they are not their “normal” selves. The allegory of the devil/angel on the shoulder has been depicted as one’s conscience being split into two parts. The devil, of course, trying to tempt the host to choose the wrong path. And the angel, trying to steer the host into doing the right thing.

Angel and devil depicted on Kronk's shoulders.

Disney’s Kronk’s New Groove

Angel and devil depicted on Ash's shoulders from Army of Darkness.

   Army of Darkness

Angel and devil depicted on a My Little Pony character.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Choosing between the angel and devil has been a running joke in and out of the media, from Disney movies to horror/comedy films to children’s TV shows, etc. But the message is a relatable recurring battle between choosing to do the right thing, or being tempted to do the wrong thing. The scary thing is, both of these urging seems to come from within.

An interesting thing to note, is certain religions believe that there is an evil spirit residing within, and a good one, who is always with the person and prompts them to do evil or good.

Take Islam, for example. Muslims believe that each person has two companions that are constantly with them, the evil jinn (qareen) and the good angel. Both of these beings are simultaneously working on each person to either lead them into sin (the qareen’s work) or lead them to follow Allah (the God of Muslims) which is the angel’s work. These are quite literally the “devil and angel” on one’s shoulder.

Another example within religion that believes that everyone has two beings (one good/one evil) that resides within each of us is Judaism. The yetzer hatov, an angel whose influence is toward the good and is depicted on the right side, and the yetzer hara, an angel whose influence is toward sin and wickedness and who is depicted on the left side.

And that’s another thing to take into account. In a lot of religions and in the media examples I gave above, these angel and devil placements are usually always with the good inclination being on the “right side”, and the bad inclination on the “left side”.

Personal Battle with my Conscience and Inner Demon

A spooky and real tale that I’d like to relate to you all, is when I had my own inner battle with two opposing forces trying to lead me into making specific choices. I was very aware of this moment, which is why I can tell it pretty clearly.

I was at a gas station and going to withdraw some cash from the ATM. I had my 3 year old son with me at the time. As I reached the machine, before I even put my card in, I noticed 60 dollars sticking out of it that someone forgot to take.

Instantly I heard a voice inside my head say, “Woah, nice! Free 60 bucks.”

I kid you not when I say that this voice was coming from my left side.

Then, in a much quieter voice, and not condemning at all but just politely saying, I heard coming from my right side, “But it doesn’t belong to you.”

Sure enough, the voice on the left piped up and said, “Yeah, but imagine what you could do with that 60 bucks.”

I was literally listening to these two inner voices having a debate on why I should or should not take the money. I already knew what decision I was going to make, but it was fascinating to me that I could literally stand there while this inner dialogue was going on inside my head. And, to be honest, even though I knew I was going to turn the money in, I was tempted to keep it.

The “good voice” spoke up in opposition to the “bad voice”, “What if it was the last 60 dollars that the person has?”

The bad voice argued, “They couldn’t have needed it that much if they left it. Just take it. No one’s going to know.”

And again the good voice would chime in with a reason why I shouldn’t, “It’s wrong.”

I have to say, the good voice did not tell me outright to “not take it”. The good voice always came back with a reason or a statement why I shouldn’t. They did not command me to do anything. The bad voice, however, told me straight up to take the money.

Making the Right Choice

While the debate was raging on, again, I had already made up my mind to turn the money in. And I used this event as a teachable moment for my son and told him, “Uh oh. Someone left 60 dollars in the ATM machine. We need to turn this in.” So I went to the teller and turned in the 60 dollars and let them know that someone left it in the machine, so hopefully they come back for it.

Now, I knew the teller could have just pocketed the money. But I wanted to do the right thing and hoped for the benefit of the doubt that the teller would do the right thing as well. After all, they probably had security cameras around so it might be tough for them to just pocket it without getting caught. I really don’t know. But my conscience was clear and after I turned the money in, the voices went away.

It was the only clear moment I had where I could literally hear the good (right) side and the bad (left) side battle for what I should do. I found it incredible and have never forgotten that moment. And I have to remind you, the good voice was quiet. Almost inaudible. So imagine since the bad voice was so dominant, if people just don’t normally hear the good voice and so they are more prone to listening to the only voice they can hear. “Oh yeah! Taking the money does sound like a great idea! It’s a gift for being such a good person. Sweet!”

Different Online Personalities

Being behind a screen seems to offer some semblance of safety and anonymity. This relaxed, carefree attitude allows one to let go a bit of their personality, and delve into a persona that’s quite different than the one they would normally display in real life.

Take this website for instance.

On some posts, I advocate love, forgiveness, compassion, kindness, and so on. The “good” personality. The Dr. Jekyll. Polite, courteous, kind.

Then, on the other hand, while not completely off the rails as a Mr. Hyde personality, there is the cynic, sarcastic, not-so-polite trait that I sometimes embody to get certain points across in my posts. Am I cynical, sarcastic and impolite in real life? (sometimes…) But most of the time I’m learning and growing just like everybody else and trying to spread love and awareness wherever I go.

Certain posts that I make are a stark contrast to what I would like to represent in real life. (And make no mistake, once in a while I let a Mr. Hyde loose in real life as well, once I reach my certain limit. Again, of course not as drastic as the Mr. Hyde depicted in the novel.) Is this a one-off?

Nope. I make no bones about willingly continuing to showcase this other side of me. After all, I know this is not my “evil side”. It is simply a different point of view that I have that might not align perfectly with my “holy side”. And while our time here on Earth should lead us to make fewer and fewer mistakes, allowing ourselves to be human and show emotions is part and parcel to our life here as well. And I know I’m trying my best in most cases to take the high road and learn from my mistakes.

Also, these two different personalities I delve into on this website is a far cry from the characters that I used to partake in when I was younger.

Confessions of a Teenager

When I see others on the internet taking on the “troll” persona, I completely understand where they’re coming from. Before I changed from a violent, angry person into the person that I am today, I used to partake in all kinds of internet shenanigans. I’m not proud of them, but I know when to admit that I used to be just like the average troll you see today. Perhaps that’s why I can sympathize with them too.

In fact, my internet shenanigans took me from all over the place – that of a sweet, caring, innocent, cute little girl, to a brutal, sailor-mouthed, sarcastic man-hater, to a man that didn’t give two craps about anyone else. I played all kinds of different personalities and definitely let my inner Hyde out on a few unsuspecting internet users. Poor people. What they must have thought of me.

Was this just a way for me to escape realism? Was it a way for me to release steam on people that I couldn’t see and therefore did not care about them as real people with feelings? Perhaps. Perhaps I was a troubled young teen and had no direction. My parents didn’t realize I had retreated into this unusual lifestyle. And I certainly didn’t tell them about it. Was it their fault I was like this? Not in the slightest. I don’t blame them at all. It was my choice to take on this different route, and I was the one pushing others away.

The Inner Hyde Tries to Unleash

Slowly but surely, my inner Hyde was taking over my life. With or without the internet, my real life was taking me on a stroll to the dark side. What was once normal journal entries were turning into rants, rages, wishes for severe violence inflicted upon people I thought deserved it. I was filled with such hatred and vehemence, that I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore. I am not even sure where all this anger and animosity came from. And although I had a relatively loving family, I could feel myself turning on them and withdrawing even further into my hostility towards everyone.

The weird part of it was, I didn’t even realize how dark I was turning until a moment of clarity (divine intervention, I call it) happened while I was at work. I was in my mid-20’s at this point, slowly heading towards a dark and violent spiral. I was working in retail and had a customer that was frustrating me to no end. She kept asking me the same questions over and over and over. She wasn’t remembering anything I was telling her and I was getting so irritated with her that I was just going to simply walk away. I was getting rude, abrupt, talking to her with such condescension, and honestly was just about to leave. I kept thinking to myself, “What the hell is wrong with this lady? I’m telling her over and over again and she’s not listening! Why is she so stupid!?”

Clarification

But then, out of nowhere, certainly not my thoughts because it was so clouded with bitterness and annoyance, I heard in the back of my mind, “She has early Alzheimer’s.”

The voice was not judgemental. It was not condemning. It was not angry. It simply stated it as a matter of fact. Not rude. Not sweet. Just was. Just telling this poor, clueless, lost clerk why this lady couldn’t understand what she was being told.

I was so shocked, and immediately changed my tune, taking care of her fully this time and was patient with her until we figured the situation out. She thanked me for being so kind to her even though I was so rude to her just minutes before, which only made me feel worse, because she was a really nice lady and I couldn’t believe the way I treated her. After she left, I went to the back room, and cried.

I probably cried and sobbed for a good fifteen minutes just wondering what it was that happened to me and how I became the way I was. I was ashamed at the way I treated the lady; I was ashamed that it took a voice from an unknown being telling me the situation because I was too dense to figure it out myself. It shook me to the core. Because even though I’ve had brief experiences before that I couldn’t explain, this was my first encounter with a voice that was not my own helping me to choose the right path.

This was the catalyst that switched me from a bitter, hateful, violent person into the person I am today. Advocating for kindness, love, compassion. Believing in God and Jesus Christ. The Hyde persona was no longer bubbling up, and ever since this event, I have been on the path to try my best to be a kinder, gentler person. (Sometimes, I still fail, and I highly regret it when I do, but I use those failures as learning lessons, and try my best for next time. That’s all we can do. And I believe the best life we can live is one in which we’re just trying to do better. Trying to love each other unconditionally. Trying to not let the dark side win.)

Which Side Will You Choose?

Inside of each person there is bound to be 2 different sides. The question is, do we know this, and do we know when to reign it in? Of course, if it is really the “jinn” or the “yetzer hara”, we won’t want it to even peak it’s way through. This side of us should be addressed as a part of us that we know exists, but that we should consciously learn to seek the good voice above all else. Suppressing these thoughts may be too hard, so I believe the best way to approach these situations is recognizing it when it happens, and knowing the correct path to take (and choosing it, of course).

If we allow ourselves, I think we truly can reach that part that wants the best for ourselves. Call it the Higher Self or the Soul or what have you. Are most of us ignoring this inner voice? Can we determine what’s in our best interest or what’s simply persuading us to make bad choices? When we can learn to be discerning and reign in our darker impulses, the choice to the right path becomes clearer.

All of us have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde inside. The key is acknowledging this and making the conscious decision to let the good one shine.

Featured image by Chetan Dhongade from Pixabay

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