Split: Multiple Identities or Multiple Social Roles?

I’ve recently watched Split, the movie by M. Night. Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Signs), and read plenty of positive and negative reviews already, as I believe you may have done. Therefore, I am not going to write another review on this movie here, as this is not what my blog is about. I would just say that I found this film interesting, and I will try to explain why. This movie gave me a chance to revise the key ideas behind such desirable skills on the contemporary job market – multitasking.

In my previous blog “Life Balance, Anxiety, and Multitasking” (January 2017), I discussed some tips on how to manage to stay happy every day and at the same time progress in your career. Using myself as an example I demonstrated how to split your life energy, attention, and efforts, among several key areas of life; each of those are highly and equally important for your overall life aims and happiness. This method is called “The wheel of life balance”, however, one of the most challenging parts of it is not to set priorities, but to maintain this balance. In this blog, I would like to share extra ideas that might be helpful for you in this process.

I was inspired by the Split movie, where the main character has 24 different identities due to their Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). Without getting too in-depth with this psychological term, we can simply search the definition of it on Wikipedia, where DID is defined as “a mental disorder characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities or dissociated personality states that alternately show in a person’s behaviour, accompanied by memory impairment for important information not explained by ordinary forgetfulness”. Thus whilst 1 out of the 24 identities is occupying the consciousness of the body of the main character, or occupying “the light” as they call it in the movie, the others await their turn sitting in a “circle of chairs”. The way how in one moment one identity can be replaced by another, in my opinion is such a beautiful and powerful metaphor of how every single individuum of society can change their social roles.

Indeed, keeping aside all the fantasy and medical inaccuracies and issues raised in this movie, we can just simply relate it to the fact, that to successfully perform in different areas of life, i.e. career, family, love, sport etc., we need to develop the skill of switching from one social role to another. Furthermore, even within one social role it is an extremely important task to change your focus from one task/objective to another. Therefore, the diagram that I drew in my previous post is not static – it is dynamic. This wheel of life energy, or the wheel of life balance, is called “wheel” not only because of its shape, but because it is actually turning, and at one moment in time just one sector is on your primary focus.



Therefore, the level of development of your multitasking skills will pretty much depend on how fast and efficiently you can “turn” your wheel to move from one sector to another. The speed of this process is critically important. For example, my colleagues, all of whom are university lecturers, regularly complain that they can’t focus on their research due to high teaching commitments. Even when teaching is done, and all daily admin paper work is completed before the end of working day, they struggle to keep up with research work, which obviously requires a high level of focus and mindfulness. Therefore, lots of academics choose to do research on weekends when their mind is free from other responsibilities, which in the long term affects their life balance due to the lack of attention to other equally important areas of life as social, health and spiritual. Another option available is to apply for a sabbatical, so-called research holidays, when you are free from other academic responsibilities for 6-12 months and can focus entirely on research work.

This option sounds appealing, but similarly to working in industry, academia has become extremely competitive, and consequently highly demanding.  If sabbaticals will work well for mature academics, with years of work experience and developed research profiles, for early career researchers it simply won’t work, since we need to gain a wide variety of skills and experience to improve our CV. The contemporary reality of this profession forces young academics to develop ADVANCED multitasking skills. You are lecturing at the morning – you are doing research in the afternoon, and having meetings and admin work in between. It is what it is. Besides, to diversify your risks and maximise the chances of getting published as a researcher, you must work simultaneously on several projects, which is highly possible in multidisciplinary areas. You constantly need to learn something new, update your knowledge, and get ready to get out from your area of expertise, from your comfort zone, to make a real contribution to knowledge.

Therefore, returning to the Split story, if you want to maintain your life balance and stay physically and mentally healthy, you must work on the speed and efficiency of your social transformation. I will elaborate on this topic in my future blogs.







2 responses to “Split: Multiple Identities or Multiple Social Roles?

  1. Well explained in terms of how to be able to imagine the ”switching” of focus to different areas of life, the similarity to the Split movie helps to be able to visualize how this process can be performed. Very helpful for a person who lacks the ability to focus on specific tasks regardless whether for work or entertainment or fitness, like me.

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