I recently had a pretty wild thought that has been staring me in the face for years on end, only I never knew what it meant. I’ll give you some context before I explain this crazy – but perhaps not so crazy notion.
I’ve always loved drama, theatre, music – any kind of performance or public demonstration and I’ve always wanted to perform. I applied to go to acting school back in 2016 and I didn’t get in – which was upsetting at the time because in my mind it was all I wanted. I think part of the reason I didn’t make it through is because I’m not actually very good at acting when it is my intention to act, because I’m constantly thinking: ok Sean, don’t think like you – be someone else. Immediately, I’m unconvincing. The best ‘performances’ I’ve ever done are when I’ve been totally myself , but joking around and assuming that people will know that I’m not serious – but I so frequently do get taken seriously. It’s almost like it’s easier to believe what’s false than what isn’t.
I’ve thought a lot about why I seem to have this ability to reverse-act and never managed to come to any tangible conclusion about it…until now. I’ve always wanted to be myself – to live and breathe as an individual and to have my own thoughts and opinions. As a child this caused me some trouble at times because I never understood why I felt that people didn’t value me. As I’ve grown up I’ve learnt how to better be myself, and also how to have a more relevant opinion – essentially one that isn’t just directly quoted from a book or parent or other role model. Something I’ve actually thought about.
Why is this relevant? Well I believe that people who spend a lot of time and effort trying to be an individual often become repressed by the social roof that we live under – in other words it becomes a lot easier to share the opinions and beliefs of the masses than to have our own genuine understanding of things. Through this repression we manufacture an identity – one that fits in with current social regimes and from a very young age we are all ‘acting’. There’s an incredibly big difference between wanting to help someone clean up their house after a party – because you want to – than to do so because you feel obligated. This is one of many examples where even though the act is the same – the emotion behind it and the emotional response you receive in return is totally different. We have simply been taught by society to feel obligated to behave in certain ways rather than to respond genuinely.
If you look at children, younger children especially, you so often see such a strong desire to give, participate and to be present in the moment. That’s not something they learn, it’s something they want – a reflection of how we are naturally, without large amounts of external influence pounded into us over the years. The older we get, the more we learn about how we are supposed to behave. It’s with this logic that I can only conclude that we are all acting, every day. And the best actors are the ones whose behaviour is impeccable…exemplary…
So perhaps many of the authentic actors that we love in Hollywood and Broadway are actually just very well-practiced at being themselves. They’re not trying to be anyone that they are not, they simply display themselves disingenuously – how they have learnt to display themselves for the role. They are so convincing because we seem to believe what is false more easily than we see the truth. We want to be fooled. If you create a false image on top of a false image – like if you were literally trying to embody a different person for a performance – this is where you become unconvincing. People don’t want to be lied to about lies – they see through it. They want to be lied to about the truth.
This is certainly something worth thinking about. Just how much of our personality is manufactured and how much of it is who we really are on the inside.
Thanks for reading!
I reckon that we’re all going to meet a few (if not many) people who make us angry. Like irrationally angry. It’s these people who bring out a side of us that we very rarely see, and even more rarely acknowledge. I believe that the reason these people bring such strong emotion out of us is not at all because they’re mean, selfish or just all-round bad people (though they may well be some of those things) – but because they reflect a part of our own personality that we simply cannot accept. The result is often angry rants to friends, defensive comments, going out of our way to prove that they’re the ‘bad guy’. If you haven’t caught yourself at this, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this kind of behaviour in others. It’s when we’re exhibiting this kind of behaviour that we’re right on the edge of dealing with an emotional issue that we haven’t quite been able to get to grips with yet – only it’s so easy to turn what could be an experience of emotional growth and development, into a raging emotional battle. A battle almost entirely fought with ourselves, I might add – though it probably doesn’t feel that way at the time. The way I see it, this is a large part of the reason people say that there’s a fine line between hate and love. In fact it’s often the people we do love who bring out those irrational feelings of anger. I think this should be viewed as a positive thing – an opportunity to acknowledge a part of your life that you haven’t been able to accept, one that doesn’t have to be negative either. It could well be that we need to admit to ourselves that ‘I am good enough’ or ‘I do deserve to be treated better’ just as easily as it could be ‘I’ve always been selfish in this area of my life’. The only way to understand and accept what’s really going on in these situations is to be mindful and to take responsibility for our own feelings. I think we generally know the truth to some degree – it’s more just a matter of unlocking it through understanding. Sometimes we don’t manage to uncover the truth and it stays buried, ready to emerge at a moments notice when the next ’emotional opportunity’ arrises. (I think this is why some people avoid certain situations like the plague – they know what’s coming and they’re trying to run away from the feelings.) Sometimes we achieve truth by yelling and screaming until it eventually comes out – but it’s often easier than that if we’re consciously looking for a solution and not attempting to run or blame others for our feelings.
Being mindful of your feelings is not all that different to being mindful of your surroundings – like making sure to be consciously aware of traffic when walking near busy roads. Much like learning to look out for traffic, you also have to learn how to calm your mind and take a moment to understand what’s going on inside your head before ‘blindly walking out into the road’ – so to speak. I actually find thinking of traffic very helpful for this. Imagine your feelings are big cars and trucks driving loudly around you – then turn off the sound, place yourself in a protective bubble and watch your feelings drive past you and back the other way without the stress of all that noise. This way you can observe the chaos of your emotional state without feeling like a direct part of it.
You’re also going to meet people (younger and older) – who are more ’emotionally experienced’ in certain aspects of their life than you are. These people can make you irrationally angry too, only in my experience they are the people who are easier to learn from – because they generally don’t throw your feelings back in your face. This can be a really positive experience if you see past the potential feelings of jealousy or inferiority you might experience in the presence of someone seemingly more confident or composed than you are. The phrase ’emotionally experienced’ could easily be replaced with ‘tolerant’ or ’empathetic’. So if you meet someone who’s emotional experience is much greater than yours in a given situation that you’re not coping with well – you’re much more likely to receive kindness, care, or at the very least a neutral response from them because they understand what you’re dealing with – and likely have no care to indulge your irrational behaviour.
Try to think of a time that you’ve been treated kindly when you know you didn’t deserve it. It’s one of the most humbling experiences you can have in life – to have someone take all of that anger and pain you’re throwing at them and rather than getting emotionally involved themselves, they give little attention to how rude you’re being and simply acknowledge what you’re really saying to them – that you’re upset – quite likely not because of them and that perhaps you need some help. I’ve experienced kindness like this several times in my life and it’s these experiences that make me want to be a better person more than anything – that make me want to be as good to other people as this person was to me, even though I didn’t deserve it.
My message here is to embrace all interactions, perhaps even try to enjoy the raging battle of emotions life can throw at you – just try not to take it out on other people. Take responsibility for your own feelings – believe in yourself and your values enough to know that you’re not directly responsible for the way others feel. If you find yourself in a situation with someone who is equally emotionally inexperienced as you, take a minute to be mindful of your feelings before you say or do something regrettable. If you’re confronted by someone less emotionally experienced in a particular area than you are, and they’re taking it out on you, don’t bite back or antagonise them – be the bigger person and imagine what kind of an impact you might have on them. Consider how much they might seriously benefit, learn and grow from not being chewed out for being an asshole, and simply being understood – or at least listened to.
Thanks for reading!