Posted by: jruthkelly | September 2, 2010

Role-Play Everyday

     “Anyone who becomes conscious of role-playing will swiftly discover that just about all his attitudes are roles, that he cannot find out what he is genuinely, and is therefore at a loss what to do to express himself sincerely. Thereupon he is self-conscious and blocked in his relationships, finding himself in the double-bind predicament where every road is closed. This leaves him in a state of complete paralysis if he persists in thinking that there is some ‘right’ course of action and some particular set of feelings which constitute his real self. Where he expected to find the specific truth about himself he found freedom, but he mistook it for mere nothingness. For human freedom does indeed comprise an order, yet because it is the nonlinear order of li and of the Tao, it cannot be classified; it cannot be identified with any particular role. Therefore at this point of the double bind he must wait, and see what happens of itself, spontaneously. He will find that the sensation that every road is barred abruptly switches into the sensation that every road is open. He can play all roles, just as in Hindu mythology the true self is pictured as the godhead acting all the parts of the multitude of finite creatures.

      Strictly speaking, it is not quite true that one must wait for something to happen spontaneously. For the heart is beating, the breath is moving, and all the senses are perceiving. A whole world of experience is coming to the organism of itself, without the slightest forcing…” Alan Watts – Nature, Man and Woman

My blog(s) and website have much to say of authenticity and I cringe every time I read some of the bits of expression, not because they are not genuine but because authenticity is a confusing reality, beautifully articulated above in Watts wonderful book. There is such release in allowing it all to flow, watching the roles, watching the people with whom we interact and relate, watching the self’s reaction, learning and just unfolding. In these watchful times we can note whether we are instantly motivated by a fear of how we’ll be perceived (and this is not always a bad fear!), whether we are hoping to be accepted and if that hope comes from a place of restful acceptance of self or semi-desperate alienation from the beauty of one’s own soul and life.

It’s a powerful work, requiring the patience to just watch, to turn up the volume of sensitivity and find that place of freedom. Eventually, the watching is lessened, the unfolding is more instinctual and the unhindered, less inhibited life blooms brightly. What creates a truly rich flow? Times of contemplative growth, where we face issues in life, big and small, and we determine what matters to our own unique unfolding, what we want, what we value, what we will protect, what we will never compromise and what we’ll fight for (of course, it requires we get out and get our hands in the dirt of life).

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Responses

  1. For decades I felt that I was always role-playing. I never really knew who I was, and because of that I began to dislike myself. But when my wife was diagnosed with cancer I finally found ME – and I wasn’t such a bad guy afterall. Now I have two jobs – both of which brings me into contact with strangers everyday: I don’t pretend to be something or someone else anymore. And judging from people’s reactions they (generally) like what they see. It’s certainly helped with my tendency to slight bi-polarity.

    • sometimes when life backs us to the wall we discover far more authentic beingness than when we’re scrambling and scrounging around for “self.” sounds like this is what you’ve been experiencing, in the midst of weighty hardship. i think the tendency to slight bi-polarity in some of us is more normal than we might suspect.
      paul, i appreciate you sharing your world and i hope you can feel the support i’m sending…(oh, and i’m not at all surprised people like what they see…)

  2. I’m really intrigued by this Alan Watts guy.
    I like his philosophy

    • his spirit and intelligence comes through his expression and enables me to put the some of the puzzle pieces together more confidently. amazing gift his life continues to be…

  3. It’s the “what we’ll fight for” that gets me. I am constantly torn between just flitting away from a debate and shoving my foot in that door, often times at my own peril. It seems that today nobody knows how to have a civil discussion any longer. Our roles have somehow switched to ‘adversary’ no matter what the issue. It happens to be what I’m burying my hands in the dirt for, at this particular moment in time. I search madly for balance between fading to apathy and finding a way to get my point across without painting a big red target on my chest inviting cruel attacks. It’s the American Way at this point in time. How does one deal with it without going mad…?

    • Funny you bring this up. For weeks now I’ve been hearing a verse from Proverbs pop into my mind like a line from an old worn-out movie or song, randomly interjecting the message: When a man is at peace with himself, it makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

      I had to face a teacher I’d criticized without apology for intimidating my daughter 4 years ago. I knew she didn’t mean to initimidate my child but I also didn’t get any sense that she meant NOT to intimidate her. That was plenty for me. She just wasn’t flourishing (to put it mildly) in this particular math class. I told this teacher I didn’t appreciate her fear-based teaching style (after trying to convey it without being direct, actually and meeting with resistance and defensiveness and criticism). But when I realized we were getting nowhere, I didn’t back down. One of the teachers suggested I teach my daughter breathing exercises to relax before her daily pop quiz. My response? If you have to practice breathing exercises in the 6th grade because the classroom is that demanding, something’s wrong with the learning environment, not the kid. I’ve had times of really hating myself for being so direct. But not for a while now. Until. This year my oldest son is in there. I’m sitting in her class with a bunch of other parents and she’s standing there having her school year introduction. She was different. Her message completely changed from four years previous and I started to feel guilty for having said anything to her at all. But I reminded myself that it was appropriate at the time. That it was needful. That I didn’t have to assume she was all that different and I didn’t need to war at myself over the whole episode. I did say to a friend after bemoaning the class: “maybe I need to give her a chance….” The following week a series of accidents caused our paths to cross and this teacher poured out her heart on levels that revealed a woman sensitive to life’s messages, to what she needs to change and to how important it is to stand up for things, to really get in there and rock the boat. We found common ground and were encouraging each other. What a surprising and satisfying encounter. It felt like life was tossing me a truth -peace with self in the most challenging moments- and then challenging me to maintain it and then rewarding me for doing that very thing. I wish it were always that obvious!

      Can’t tell you how many skirmishes I’ve been in and how often that very fact can elicit shame and all that does is attract more shame in the cruelty and disgust that comes at you for making a stand, gee, sometimes even if you’re doing it very quietly. And. It’s an intrinsic knee-jerk element in “conflict” for some of us to just feel the crosshairs and invite them by that very fact, and the shame, like “how DARE you?!” and so it comes at us. If you got the Thou Shalt Not Do Anything But Conform upbringing I got, you may have the same big invitation sign for punitive results for simply stating your views. It’s something to take concentrated and protracted time to consciously heal. On the other hand, I’ve been convinced that only some of my tendency to attract conflict is a reflection of my own war with myself. Some of us are meant to remind the world that some things must be fought for, some “subtleties” are too destructive to allow and some agendas posing “Rightness” kill the very heart of love. We just need to decide what those battles are and let the others go. (And discern the right timing) When we believe in that call on our lives, we find a well-spring of peace for the stand. I see that in you…
      Here’s to the dirt that grows us up strong… oxo…

  4. I love that requirement of getting out and getting our hands in the dirt of life. Just when I think I’m at a comfortable spot, well….I end up in a mud puddle. Good post.

    • :) gotta just sit and smile in the mucky mud sometimes, eh? or make mud pie. god, how i once loved to do such messy play/work! many moons ago. here’s to dirt…


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