I recently attended the funeral of a young man I'd known for all of his life. As with most funerals, it was a somber experience marked by the outward display of sadness.

Funeral services can be as formal or as informal as the family allows them to be. This particular funeral service was very informal. Family members, friends, and coworkers were allowed to speak in remembrance of the deceased.

This is where this article found its inspiration.

Each person took the podium with a sense of awkwardness and obligation. Some successfully held back tears as they recalled stories about a young man who apparently was driven, and possessed a radiant personality that brought a daily dose of sunshine to the lives of his coworkers.

Members of his immediate family were highly attentive to the eulogies. The description of this scene is not uncommon or unfamiliar. The information that I have yet to reveal is that this young man committed suicide, and he was also my cousin.

Because I've always been a part of his life, I knew him very well - the real him - not the presentation of himself that everyone was enamored with and deceived by. It's this presentation that concealed the inner turmoil that created the deep strife which ultimately drove him to suicide.

And yet, his coworkers and friends failed to see it.

Not through any fault of their own; we are most comfortable when we allow people to see the aspect of ourselves that we feel will be received most favorably by others. This presentation is what Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, referred to as the persona.

The persona is a complicated system of relations between individual consciousness and society, fittingly enough a kind of mask, designed on the one hand to make a definite impression upon others, and, on the other, to conceal the true nature of the individual.

As long as we fear rejection by others and have concerns about finding acceptance, the well-crafted persona will hold significance in our lives. In PR there's a saying that the appearance of the truth is more importance than the truth itself. Personas operate under the same premise.

My cousin was not a happy individual. He suffered from depression, schizophrenia, and battled with psychosocial issues related to homosexuality. It was incredibly difficult for me to recognize the persona described by his coworkers, and the little boy that I watched grow into a troubled young man.

Perhaps if his coworkers knew the real him, they could have thrown him a lifeline. But that would have blown his cover and created inconsistencies with the behaviors that won them over in the first place. The benefits afforded to the persona win out; often at the expense of the person making an honest connection with caring individuals who can help heal them.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul, but most people don't take the time or energy to look deeply enough into the eyes of those who they see everyday to notice the clues of a troubled soul.

It all starts by doing something that we all do everyday: asking "How are you?" The second part is actually listening and paying attention to what is communicated. The answers are found not just in the tone of the verbal response, but the body language and facial expressions - which can be observed when they aren't engaged in conversation.

Only when we are not fooled by the persona can we look beyond it to get to know the real person that will appreciate our concern, and utilize our help.

Author's Bio: 

Gian Fiero is a speaker and author who lectures throughout the country.