The alter ego has been used to escape from a person’s personality or identity often and for many different reasons throughout history. Whether you are hiding from someone or hiding from yourself, an excellent first step is a new name. A new name can feel like putting on a costume. With a new name, your idea of who you are creates space for a new personality. In today’s world of avatars and animated online personas, everyone seems to have an alter ego. I am currently playing an online chess game with a player going by “alter ego chess.” He’s really good, and I’ll bet he is a nice guy, as long as he is not trying to kill your king. Some believe that William Shakespeare was Thomas Bacon’s alter ego. Beware foreshadowing on the Ides of March.
It can be very useful to find a way to be someone other than yourself if you perform in front of an audience. The months spent preparing for a performance seem wasted when you get on stage and can’t play as you do when you’re alone. Performance anxiety and stage fright are crippling afflictions, and they are all mental. The audience can only make you nervous if you let them. Change your name and become a character who likes to perform and thrives on it. Someone who wants to be up there, singing without insecurity and letting the music and the moment carry them to perform without nerves. What’s in a name? Your chance for freedom from yourself and a way to be the best performer you can imagine while you’re on stage performing.
Neil and Marie, Simple and Free
As promised in our last episode, “Fearless and Therefore Powerful,” where we found the cure for fear was fun, let’s start the party by introducing you lovely and faithful readers to Neil and Marie. These two crazy kids radiate joy and have fun in any environment. At the library or the dentist, they can even put the fun in funerals. Comfortable in any crowd, their energy is infectious, making everyone around them feel at ease. You’ll feel like you have been friends for years the first time you meet Neil and Marie, and you’ll leave with that feeling you get when you’ve been smiling all night, and your face needs a rest.
They thrive on the unknown and love trying new things. Likes and dislikes are ideas of the past, so they are free to experience new things without reservations. They savor each moment as the unique gem it is and then move effortlessly to the next with no longing or remorse. Without any strong opinions or the need to fight to be right, everyone they meet is a friend, and they agree with all their friends. Always cheerful and carefree, they never let their personalities get in the way of the fun. Neil and Marie are free to enjoy their evenings out without any of the cares, desires, or preconceived notions you, me, or my wife Becky might have. How can they stay clear of the worldly worries of the everyday world? They simply refuse to live in the real world, at least until they get home.
What’s Your Middle Name?
Neil and Marie are my wife’s and my middle names, and we often embrace the idea of allowing ourselves a break from ourselves with this little trick of the mind. We become Neil and Marie, and this dynamic duo alter-ego gives new life to our attitude about everything we see and experience. We don’t have to think about anything Becky or Jeff have going on back at the house. They’ll be there waiting with all of their past heartaches, headaches, or backaches, plus any memories of stormy evenings long past. We can return to them after Neil and Marie eat dinner in peace. So while Jeff and Becky stay home to think about the taxes and the laundry, Neil and Marie can enjoy the present moment without these cares. Free to experience life without all the baggage Becky and Jeff carry around.
If you’ve never been called by your middle name, and you have one, it can be a funny feeling thinking about who that person is. You’ve had the name all your life, and so it seems like you, but a you that remains unexplored. Neil is my Dad’s middle name, too. His father, Cornelius, didn’t want to burden his son with being a Jr, so the middle name Neil was his answer. The name got passed on to me, and if my daughter Jubilee had been a boy, the plan was to go back to Cornelius and call that boy Casey. My grandfather went by Case Leenhouts. I always thought that sounded neat. We will never know how Jubilee would have felt about having Cornelius as a first name. Do you like your name?
What Did You Call Me?
I have been called many names during the different phases of my life. Friends I grew up with in Louisiana called me Leenie. The swim team called me Gilligan, then coach Jeff. The music majors from my freshmen year at LSU called me Dutch. In Ashville, North Carolina, many friends knew me as Sebastian. One of my best friends from those days was Holiday. Sebastian and Holiday had many adventures together before the day Holiday confessed his name was Steve. Busting into laughter, I admitted that I was Jeff. Holiday named his son Sebastian, and I assume it was due to meeting his friend Sebastian who read poetry and played horn with his band, The Goodies.
Leenhorn was the name I came up with when I got my first email address in the 90s. My last name is Leenhouts, and I play the horn. It seems the perfect relationship name. I was the first in my family to enter the web, and with my AOL account, I created the Leenhorns. Mom was LLeenhorn, Dad DLeenhorn, my brother Al and sister Mel were MLeenhorn and ALeenhorn, and I was JLeenhorn. My parents even had this virtual last name bleed into the real world accidentally as president and treasurer of their rowing club. When I started singing and playing Jazz in St. Louis, Leenhorn came to life in the real world, just like Sting, Prince, Madonna, or Lady Gaga.
New Name = New Attitude
When we get depressed, it can seem like we need a deep rest from ourselves. If you find yourself in a funk and need to stir things up, try changing your attitude. Changing your attitude about your identity can be easier when you drop the old name. Who are we, after all? Why would we insist on being one way?
With a new look at yourself, new ideas will emerge. You won’t only see yourself differently but the people around you also. This name-changing game can unlock your creativity and push you out of the ruts your old self might have gotten you into. Whatever you pick for your new name can also be changed. There are no rules. Lots of people are doing it. Give it a try.
Sting Plays the Horn
The first rock star I saw in concert was Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known as Sting, seen above with the Utah Symphony, making the french horn look incredibly cool. When Sting came out and played the final encore in 1987, he came out all alone with a guitar and a microphone. He played “Message In A Bottle” as the crowd got silent, hanging on each moment. Sting is a cool cat with nerves of steel.
A Lady with Many Personas
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta attributes her stage name to the Queen song Radio Gaga. She’s changed from just “Lady” to just “Gaga,” and that’s not to mention Lady Gaga’s various alter-egos or personas over the years, including Yüyi, the fictional mermaid, and Jo Calderone, her fictional male alter-ego.
It’s Revealed, She’s H.E.R
American singer, songwriter, and musician Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson goes by H.E.R. pronounced her. An acronym for Having Everything Revealed, the moniker came to her while recovering from a breakup. “I remember saying I’ll never be that girl, I’ll never be that girl that falls for the wrong guy. I was constantly criticizing that girl, and eventually I found myself being that girl, being her,”. The realization that she is “that girl” inspired the alter ego worn as a badge of understanding. She is H.E.R.
Major Tom and His Crew
David Bowie made a big hit in 1972 with the introduction of Ziggy Stardust, followed by Aladdin Sane in 1974. The experiences these characters had seem to have been a tremendous creative influence on the songs written for each album, and the alter ego’s personality shines through in the songs.
To Be or Not To Be Prince
Madonna, born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, and Prince, born Prince Rogers Nelson, were given their stage names at birth. Prince gave up his name for The Love Symbol #2 as a protest against his record company, going back to Prince when his contract expired. He also recorded an album that he never released under the pseudonym Camille, a feminine alter ego with Prince shifting his vocals up to an androgynous register to complete the character. He planned to release the album without any acknowledgment of his identity.
Say my Name
Like Prince and Madonna, the fabulous singer-songwriter Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born to be Beyoncé, but when she is on stage, she is Sasha Fierce. She created Sasha Fierce to separate her persona from who she really is, saying, “I’m not like her in real life at all.” This allows her to be free of one personality and channel one that will be fearless on stage.
The Power of A Name
The names we are given at birth grow to encompass a strong idea of who we are or our personality. Identification with this personality can be strong and not always positive. A strong sense of personality can cause us to be easily offended and insecure. Taking yourself and what others think of you less seriously or making a new self that can and has the characteristics you desire will help you get over those personal insecurities.
Some alter egos in literature are so strong that they take over. Through insanity, with secret scientific formulas, or gamma rays, the alter ego becomes the one in control without the knowledge of the original ego.
The Monster Alter Ego Fighting for Control
The names “Jekyll and Hyde” have become synonymous with a split personality or an alter ego capable of overpowering the original self. Bruce Banner loses control of the Hyde-like Hulk whenever he becomes angry, yet also depends upon the Hulk’s superpowers to combat villains.
Rich Playboys Saving The Day
Scarlet Pimpernel is a different kind of hero with a secret identity. Sir Percy Blakeney leads a double life as a wealthy “man about town,” but in reality, he is the Scarlet Pimpernel, a formidable swordsman, and a quick-thinking master of disguise. Bruce Wayne and Batman are the modern-day superhero version. By drawing attention to wealthy, carefree playboy alters egos, these two fight evil and help the victims of villainy.
Super Heros and Super Villians
Some alter egos are worn to hide powers. Superman has to hide with his alter ego Clark Kent and Wonder Woman walks around as Diana Prince. Anakin Skywalker hides in the mask of his alter ego Darth Vader after the search for more power turns him to the dark side of the force. Darth Vader’s alter ego is made to help him hide from himself.
What’s in Name?
When you name something, you lose some of the power to see it. It becomes impossible to see without preconceived notions. The ideas behind a name can be many and not always positive. Changing the name we call ourselves is a quick way to a new experience and a fresh perspective into the moment we are experiencing. Without the person, we are less likely to be offended and less likely to have the hangups we usually do when meeting new people or having new experiences. Both can be scary if they get too personal unless there is no person to be frightened.
Without a name, you are one step closer to losing the person. Without the person, you have a power you might not be aware of yet. It is hard to take things personally when there is no person and you cannot be offended. You are free to focus on the music and be the performance, be the playing. You are not you anymore but the thing you are doing. There is no middleman, and you are free from the second-guessing that might interrupt the flow of the music.
Romeo Forgets Himself
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, By any other name, would smell as sweet.”
These phrases uttered by Juliet in William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” express the lack of power in a name. Even if a rose had a different name other than “rose,” it would still be the same flower. Juliet makes a profound observation about the nature of names in these lines, and Romeo hears her wisdom and responds to Juliet’s ideas with,
“I take thee at thy word. Call me but love, and I’ll be newly baptized. Henceforth I never will be Romeo.”
Where for art thou Romeo
With the romantic gesture of throwing away his name and being nothing but “love,” Romeo forgets his identity and becomes love. With no Romeo in the picture, he is free to love without any reservations associated with Romeo’s past failed loves or his dreams of future loves. Free from any memory of his parents’ or grandparents’ love life or any other relationships he’s witnessed. He is just love and can love Juliet with excellent efficiency and awareness. Efficient might not be the most romantic way to describe the perfect lover, so let’s move to musical performance.
Finding a way to change your perception of who you are is an effective way of getting yourself out of your way. When you are not a person, you don’t care about what you used to care about. You are not yourself. This persona isn’t your normal one, and you can let go of the hang-ups you usually think you have. Those hangups belong to Romeo, and he no longer exists. He gave up his name to become love back in Act 2 Scene 2.
Romeo Plays the Horn
Let’s give Romeo a new task. Imagine Romeo has a horn and is about to play for an audience. Romeo enters the stage, remembering past performances, good or bad, and even his goals for the future. As he is about to play his horn, he is suddenly filled with the responsibilities of being Romeo. He can’t stop being Romeo because he has always been Romeo. His habit of being Romeo is hard to break. He gets short of breath, which isn’t good when you are about to play a horn! Then Romeo thinks to himself, if I can drop my name and personality and be pure love, I can be the music and not the performer.
Fire starts to brew inside, and “the will” rules the day. Not William Shakespeare, but your strong will and desire to make the sounds in your imagination sour out. With a strong enough will, you can do anything. The will is a fire that starts burning in your belly. Imagine your power coming from there let it burn off any thoughts as they arise. Now your focus remains on the music. Draw on this fire to keep you from being distracted as you perform. You can be the music and the experience and have no name. With no name, you have the most power.
The Man With No Name
In the trilogy of spaghetti westerns by Sergio Leone with outstanding music by Ennio Morricone, Clint Eastwood’s character does indeed have a name and a different one in each film. It’s “Joe,” “Manco,” and “Blondie,” respectively.
The “Man with No Name” was invented by the American distributor United Artists, and it stuck. When Clint Eastwood was honored with the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996, Jim Carrey gave the introductory speech saying, “‘The Man with No Name’ had no name, so we could fill in our own.” I wonder who we are when we become the man with no name. Thinking of the possibility of being a nobody, I get an excellent sense of freedom. When I wonder what I am free from, it all returns to me. It comes back to the idea I have about who I am. If I am nothing, I am powerful.
The first names we could say were likely Mama and Dada, while our parents competed for the first word out of our mouths. At birth, we are given names by our parents. We might be named for a past generation or a famous actor or athlete, but it isn’t one we choose. It doesn’t take long, and you are great at saying your name, so we identify with that nomenclature deeply. We may have a complicated relationship with our name and what people call us. Some people may call us things we don’t like. This won’t bother you when you’re free.
What if you are not your body or your personality but life’s experience and consciousness? With this attitude, you can sing, love, and do anything you do as the experience, performing at ease and with excellent efficiency and awareness. If you fear losing yourself, there’s no need to worry. You can always pick up that old name again, and all of your hangups will be there waiting for you, or maybe you will have gained a new perspective from the experience of being someone else for a while, and you won’t need a name to be Sasha Fearless.