The First Domain: The First Impression
Think about the first time you met a significant person in your life. They could be significant because you like or love them, or because they harmed or hurt you in some way.
See if you can take yourself back to the moment you met them or first saw them. How did you see them? How did they feel to you? What did you pick up on in that first encounter? And once you got to know them, how much did your first impression capture that person’s most essential qualities?
The question of who we are when we first meet someone—how we appear to them when we’ve just walked into the room, before we even say hello—is the focus of the first domain of experience: the persona or the mask.
Every person wears a mask; every person has a persona that comes forward as a first impression. Each of us has a front that we show to the world. This is not at all disingenuous or fake; it’s neither bad nor good. The mask is just a way that we filter the world and the world filters us in those first encounters. It is a social strategy that is developed by all human beings at quite an early age, and it is a true source of our strengths and gifts.
Your Assigned Role
In our family of origin, we are each assigned certain roles. Some of us are assigned to be the funny one. Others are designated to be highly responsible; others, to be the superstar performers; others, to be the truth-tellers, willing to name the unnameable; and still others to be seen and not heard. Every one of us can recall the assignment we received in our early years, and we can feel how it became an important part of our identity, sense of belonging, and ways of relating. We carry this role with us throughout our lives, and it translates to the persona or mask we show to the world. With this first domain of experience, which aligns with the first house in astrology, we’re working with the statement “I am.”
So: How do you come across when you first meet others? Are you the bull in the china shop? Do you come in loudly and demand attention? Do you enter reservedly and meekly and test the waters? Are you always looking for ways to be helpful to others? Or are you trying to impress people? So many of us have been raised to believe that looking good is enough, but is it really? Are you one of those very put-together people? Or do you come in with your freak flag flying? Each of these first impressions relates to the balance of elements in your fundamental makeup.
The first impression we make is enormously significant. Research shows that within the first minute or so of meeting someone in a job interview, at a gathering, or on a date, our brains are firing millions of bits of information to put that person in some kind of category of likes and dislikes, and to instruct us to move away or move toward.
A client once said to me that one of her worst fears was being judged when she walked into a room. I said, “Well, that’s an accurate fear, because everyone is judging everyone the minute they show up.” It is not a bad thing! In order for our species to survive, each of us had to develop antennae to see who’s with us, who could be dangerous, who we know to approach with gentleness or caution. Everybody’s judging everyone all the time, and as long as we recognize that this is what we’re doing, it’s okay.
But guess who we’re most preoccupied with judging? That’s right, ourselves. I would say it’s an 80/20 proposition: 80 percent of most people’s attention is on how they’re coming across, and their own self-reflection, while 20 percent goes to how other people are occurring to them. Once we relax with the idea that judging is just an instinctual sorting system, we do not have to try to remove it or shame the judge in our mind. Real maturity comes in when we realize that our prejudgments of people are inherently flawed and unfair, and that we should proceed with actual curiosity and the willingness to learn something entirely different about someone than what we first assume. An awareness of personas and masks gives us many opportunities to question our prejudices and to better understand and forgive the prejudices of others.
The inventories that follow are designed to support you in assessing the balance of elemental energies that creates your default self-presentation and persona. They will give you a clearer picture of the energy you bring when you enter a room, and will reveal to you some of your predispositions and patterns—possibly showing you things you’ve never thought about before, and thus helping expand your repertoire. They will assist you in evaluating the impact of those energies on how you naturally occur to others, and build on the weaker energies in a way that utilizes all your strengths while promoting some of your less developed sides.
Copyright © 2022 by Jennifer Freed, PhD. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.