Do You Really Know what Roles You are Playing Lately?

And how these roles impact and influence everyone around you? Being aware requires time and patience in order to see what is really going on.

Subtle or grossly obvious to others or not, the action paths we take are often embedded in our subconscious. After all, being aware requires time and patience in order to see what is really going on. That’s true for everything like politics, parenting, career, self-acceptance, confidence, etc.

However, we are human beings in a clearly human and extremely fragile world. It means we are all evaluated, scrutinised, and interpreted based on how we present and conduct ourselves in private, professional, public and social circles alike. I like to call it role-playing because admittedly or not, we are always playing a role.

We embody these roles more imperceptibly than realised: husband, wife, friend, employee, executive, head of department, political activist, columnist, waiter, talk show guest, business owner, TV host, president, sister, brother, manager, lover, mistress, client, customer, only child, grand father, grand mother, etc.

I’d like to bring to your attention that in order to be valid and be credible, the roles we play need to be fully embodied i.e. acted out. The second and more important point is that often we are forced into roles we don’t particularly like to play in certain situations like an IRS audit, jury duty or being a witness, falsely accused, a victim, etc.

We are always acting based on the roles we understand we play and our perceptions of that role inside the circumstances and the world around us. We also act according to our beliefs, opinions and perceptions. However our perceptions, opinions or beliefs are seldom questioned for their impact on the people around us through role-playing.

I do not see it as a fault. As a matter of fact, what we call the “world” is a perfect reflection of what we collectively believe it to be internally through the roles we play consciously and subconsciously. For instance, the boss of a company who is not very assertive is more visible to others through the role of the “shy individual” than the actual boss of the company. The reverse is true of an employee who is bossy.

Every role we play is actually a focus and the world’s appearance is a function of our focuses. If you are a devoted father or mother, everything that concerns parenting and your children is being absorbed through that focus or filter. The focus on certain values and principles will dominate the way you raise your child. A professional thief does the same thing: all information about the person they plan to rob is being assimilated through the role or focus in the mind of the thief.

In times of crisis all is filter through our survival fears. Show me your focus and I’ll tell you who you are and how you feel. Negative people are focused on negative feelings and thoughts as well as who is to blame. Positive people are focused on more success producing things and don’t have a whole lot of time for blaming, unless it is abusive or oppressive.

Change the focus and you’ll change the person and the experience of the person. It is quite an extraordinary thing to grasp. That’s what acting and therapy are all about! A good actor manipulates his or her focus in order to slip inside that character’s perspectives and feelings about the situation he or she is in. Good therapy should technically bring about a new focus and leave old ones behind.

Perspective rules but perspective is ruled by role-playing and role-playing is an outcome of focus. Therefore, the trick is to always know or acknowledge the focus that owns you because that’s what a focus is for. You cannot blame the focus only the choice you made if you are aware that you made it.

The issue is obvious: who has time or the presence of mind to check their focus at any given moment? We live in an emotional world and emotions erupt, they do not follow any other rule.

We typically respond emotionally not instinctively or through our intuition. We can emotionalise an instinct but at the root it is an instinct not an emotion. Great politicians understand this very well. Bad ones do the reverse they try to bring instinct to an emotion and it spells disaster. In my thirty years as an actor-director we call this latter technique “bad acting”.

Who has time to realise what it is they are focused on? Life happens so fast and we all witness it right now with this unprecedented crisis. The power is in the focus or the object of attention. An investment in developing excellent communication skills is critical to the success of any business or person but what you communicate is not a matter of skills — it is a matter of what the focus is. As an example, bashing is a very alive focus so is blaming and the logic of blaming is that it must be someone’s fault, which is just another focus not necessarily a fact. We are not raised to be with things as they are, for the West that’s Tibetan monk talk.

What roles are you playing or what are you focused on during these times? On social media? At work? Personally? In your close relationships or friendships?

The unspoken focus or subtext of our role-playing attitudes speaks volumes. Mostly they are taken for granted or ignored. Often, others read the surface and react to us based on these behavioural subtleties. Why? We cannot betray what we are focused on and more to the point, the authenticity or inauthenticity of the roles we play. A hypocrite knows that!

On a more mechanical note, I’d like to invite you to consider that we do not have any access to ourselves outside of the roles we play and therefore the focuses that we act from.

A long time ago, I heard a deeply insightful observation from a client and well-known psychiatrist, she said to me: we never leave the people we’re with; we leave the role we played inside that relationship. In other words we started to hate who we became with that person and finally decided to quit the role for a new set of focuses. It felt amazing to stop playing that role though not so obvious at first because we play roles for so long that we forget it is a role — we think that’s who we are. People can influence us greatly, they can invite a certain type of focus we did not know existed until we became involved with them.

Constructive criticism, the fight for human rights, abuse of power or any type of oppression are all strong invitations to check our focuses and respond to all these forms of injustice. It can be life changing.

Role-playing through the focuses we adopt is the quintessential core of who we are. When we are not being true to ourselves, it is the role of our “better self” we are turning down and insulting. A recovered alcoholic is a role and so is a drunk, the difference is the focus not the substance or drug used.

I refer to the power of focus as the Actor Metaphor. Role-playing through focus is the way we learn how to connect to the world. Where would you be without your role models? Good or bad! We don’t call them that in a vacuum. Bad role models are equally destructive and it is the focus we have to suffer, like in the case of an abusive parent or a pedophile.

That something is wrong or that things could be better is very often the focus of public opinion. It is role-embodiment at the socio-cultural levels. We buy into disempowering role-playing much too easily. By being willing to observe behaviour and emotions as consequences of our role-playing choices, we go beyond the surface to discover new focuses to support and empower each other.

Perhaps in a very disturbing way, the crisis we are experiencing with the Coronavirus pandemic can act as a wake-up call to begin an authentic investigation into the roles we cast ourselves in.

Check to see what disempowering roles you cast yourself and others in. Then, fire yourself from those roles and cast yourself in better ones. The choice is ours.

Please remember: everyone is an actor, it is the choice of focus that determines whether you are mediocre or first-rate. Talent is always in the better choice which brings about a better focus. Stay vigilant and safe!

Eric Stone

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Eric Stone

Miles Davis said music is the space between the notes, then the music of your personal success is the space between your everyday behaviours, moods & attitudes.