Broken Heart Missing Personality


Devonte Barr

Somewhere along the Sacramento River

A few weeks ago, I went through a breakup resulting in one of the most illuminating cognitive shifts I’ve ever experienced — an epiphany if you will. 

We were together on and kind of off (but not really) for about two years. During which time I grew very distant and mentally distraught. 

Some talk about their mental health as this curable thing. Like somehow those of us who have mental illnesses have some sort of control over our thoughts. 

Thoughts that turn into feelings, that turn into actions.   

So, I’m lying on this grassy patch overlooking some water my phone’s on speaker, and I’m listening to a well-versed dissertation of my personality flaws. Complete with examples and hand gestures. I was standing before, but I suppose the intensity of her words literally brought me down.

And I’m lying there just taking it like some whipping that’s long overdue. 

Her claim was that I’m a selfish person by nature and that I’m incapable of receiving love, or something like that. She says my “toxic personality” gets in the way of us having a successful relationship. 

I resented this statement wholeheartedly. 

There’s a very distinct form of pain that ignites when you’ve been dumped. I’m not sure any pain can compare.

For those that know, heartache can drive people to do things, punch holes in walls, skip meals– things they never thought were in the realm of capability.

And though captivated by the sheer hatred behind her tone, I couldn’t help but lock onto that phrase: “Toxic Personality.”

Specifically, the word “personality.” Essentially this is alluding to the assumption that I’m just born this way. That all my behaviors were predestined by the personality she now claims me to be, to always have been.

My rebuttal comes from a lot of grief and isolation. The term “personality” can be chalked up as a device people use to try and explain someone or something’s behavior.

We all do it. We personify dogs or inanimate objects. Some may even believe animals have strict personalities and are not driven by instinct. 

And I understand. Instead of psychoanalyzing each behavioral aspect of each person we encounter, we make up this concept so we can categorize people more efficiently — ultimately segregating ourselves from each other mentally.

I found that days after the breakup I began to put myself in a box with a myriad of things I’d like to change about myself. Things she had yelled at me or replaced my name with.

I’d think I’m too critical or unaffectionate, or insensitive, etc.

Once these thoughts took root, my brain, being the great emancipator of nonsense that it is, began to find areas in my memories that justify this new definition of self. 

My brain will literally convince me of this lie that whatever toxic trait the roulette wheel lands on I’m just born that way.

During this time, the brain usually finds some way to self-actualize and try to make up a plan to enact better judgment. Judgment represents the better part of myself. To change.

Of course, this doesn’t work, that urge to “change” is an illusion. To change would be to shut down and zombify yourself and act out. None of which aids in making better decisions.

This all makes me consider that there may be no personalities. You can’t call someone an action that they initiated off feeling or impulse. 

We call people who steal “thieves,” but we’re also a species that prides itself on the concept of possession. Doesn’t that make us all greedy or materialistic?

If I were selfish, it’s because at the moment whatever I want is at the forefront of my intentions. I’m selfish when I eat, meaning I only put the fork or spoon in my mouth. 

Before I act, consciously that is, the thoughts come in like a sneeze starting to develop in one’s nose. Then the feelings start flooding in, hands get sweaty, the heart starts racing. 

This is where the magic happens. That moment when that sentence in your head, aka thoughts, brings on a physical revelation in your body, and then that feeling drives you to act. When I feel angry, I lash out. When I feel hurt or betrayed, I cry.

My actions flow innately from the feelings I have at that moment. 

Sigmund Freud argued that personality is created through “conflicts,” three to be exact: id, ego, and superego. 

The id says, “I want” while the superego says “that’s not right.” All the while the ego is trying to compromise between the two. 

My push back to this is that feelings always arise after something happens resulting in the reaction or action of that/another individual. I don’t think growth, and all that came with it would have happened on my part had she not caused the separation. Cause, effect.

Therefore, if personality is created through conflicts, then that means the arguments I’ve gotten into just prove how unclean some personalities are. 

It isn’t fair.

I cannot say for certain whether the breakup has enriched me in a new perspective of thinking, or if I’m so deluded with grief and loss that anything rational sounds like propaganda. Nevertheless, getting dumped sucks.

What I can say is I am personality-free, and I make this vow to always be true to myself and to never ever limit myself to the confines of just one “toxic” personality trait. 

And let this be a lesson for love, there is no one on this planet that will be able to accurately understand you 100% of the time. 

Let go of the labels and categories. Being alone but true to oneself is more than enough, and I know that now.

Devonte Barr can be reached at [email protected]