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Levi Street / / / Michelle MacGrath / In Touch & In Tune, Chapter XIII, A Rest from Auto-Training, or One Day in the Life of Mr. Luckless


In Touch & In Tune, Chapter XIII, A Rest from Auto-Training, or One Day in the Life of Mr. Luckless

A rest from Auto-Training


One day in the life of Mr. Luckless

- Introduction to role-psychology

- Giving and getting the picture

- Games of destruction and salvation

- Personality and role

- Inner freedom

      I began the following story one day in a lull between patients, although I unfortunately did not have time to finish it. The hero is not any one person in particular, more an amalgamation of lots of people. And so:

      Mr. Lucklesss day began as usual with ten minutes keep-fit and relaxation. He was well into his customary role of Imperturbable Yogi and was just about to assume the pose of a corpse when the telephone rang. Quickly turning into a Speaker On the Telephone, he picked up the receiver.



S-speaking. He recognised the voice immediately.

Where is file B256?

I I...

I want it on my desk in 5 minutes and no buts. Why arent you in the office?

I Im sorry Mr. Scourge, I had nothing to do with it. Grabbit was working on that file, and I thought the office only opened at...

You should be at your desk whenever Im in the office, if not before.

Ill leave straight away...

      Mr. Lucklesss boss only lost his temper every 2-3 months, but the relative infrequency of the event did nothing to lessen its elemental fury.

      Skipping his role as Loving Husband, Mr. Luckless was instantaneously transformed into Someone Rushing to Work and, without a word to his wife, he dashed out of the front door and up the drive still clutching his half-eaten roll. He climbed into the car with a sigh of relief that now only the rush-hour traffic stood between him and his duty. The ominously strangled groan of the engine, however, was like a punch in the stomach. A few more attempts confirmed his disturbing suspicion that there was no way the car was going to start without some nurturing. In short, Mr. Luckless walked into the office an hour later after the joys experienced by a Driver Stuck in a Traffic Jam, a Driver Narrowly Missing an Absent-Minded Pedestrian and a Driver Stopped and Breathalysed by the Police. He knew the exact expression that would greet him on the bosss face: that of Judge to the Accused Found Guilty without Appeal. Or, perhaps even more serious: that of Employer of an Employee He is about to Sack. Three or four times over the past month Mr. Scourge had hinted about imminent cuts although he had not made it clear in what area they were be to made. Now, however, it was obvious to Mr. Luckless that he was just awaiting an excuse to fire someone and that Grabbit was far too smooth not to be able to talk his way out of any difficult situation.

      However, a rather disconcerted Grabbit met Luckless with a far from friendly look when the latter entered Mr. Scourges office.

Im very sorry, Mr. Scourge, the traffic was unbelievably slow.
Just like the brain of some of the people in this officee, Mr. Scourge hissed icily. Grabbit, give this case to Luckless. Thatll be all for now. Just one thing, I if I were you, I would bear in mind that the firms looking for areas to make cuts... Right, Luckless, this is very urgent. Have it all ready by five tonight at the latest. You can go.

      There was no hope of completing the work by that time. Clearly reluctant to assume the role of Ex-Employee or perhaps simply out of spite, Grabbit had withheld some vital information. He had handed the papers over to Luckless with an inscrutable smile and vanished. At five sharp Mr. Luckless entered Mr. Scourges office in the all too familiar role of Employee Failing to Meet a Deadline.

Scourge: The file?.
Luckless: Well... hmm... you see, Mr. S-scourge....
Scourge: Would you leave us for a minute, please, Miss Pell. (Settling back in his chair and lowering his voice). You know, its a long time since Ive come across anyone quite as incompetent as you.
Luckless: I I beg your pa-ardon, Mr. Scourge.
Scourge: What youve just handed me has absolutly nothing to do with this case.
Luckless: I dont understand. You....
Scourge: Its perfectly simple. Just a little test. Grabbit in fact had the presence of mind to delegate responsibility for the matter over a week ago to Witless in S.O.T.S. He naturally passed it on to Mindless, who gave it to Senseless, who handed it over to Spineless, who finally sent it off to the court in good time.
Luckless: In that case I should like to apologise.
Scourge: Apologies not accepted. Theres no excuse for not having the slightest idea of whats going on in the office. At one time I had hopes for you, Useless. High hopes, do you hear? Only now I see they were totally unjustified. Do you understand, Hopeless?
Luckless: But, Id just like to point out...
Scourge: And just what do you think you can point out, Superfluous? You can go.

      Arriving home deep in the unenviable role of Employee Unjustly Reprimanded and Languishing under a Veiled Threat, Mr. Blameless noticed that, instead of dutifully fulfilling her role of Caring Wife, Mrs. Luckless was nowhere to be seen. Not surprisingly, his evening meal was being equally elusive. After an hours fruitless wait Mr. Joyless was just about to go to the Sui-Side Garden local Chinese take-away, when his wife appeared. One eloquent glance convinced him that she was well into the role of Wife Offended by Her Husbands Lack of Attention.

Whats wrong, dear? Mr. Dinnerless asked timidly.
Strange, thats exactly what I was going to ask you. It is customary, you know, for husbands to at least observe the rules of common courtesy and acknowledge their wives in a morning, even if they dont actually go so far as to give them a civil morning kiss.
Its also fairly customary for people to have something to eat when they get home after a hard days work, Mr. Patienceless retorted, feeling he was rapidly slipping into the role of Enraged and Hungry Husband.
Not necessarily: its actually your turn to cook tonight! And I suppose youve completely forgotten that you invited the neighbours round this evening for a meal and nothings ready. I was going to talk to you about it this morning so your could buy something on your way home but since you disappeared without a by-your-leave I had to do everything myself. The stoves not working either so itll have to be something cold.
Have you phoned for someone to come and look at it?
No, I was waiting for you.
I dont believe it! Mr. Restrainless yelled. Why the heck do I have to do every single thing in this blessed house! And why am I always to blame for everything? Ive had just about enough!

      That evening Mr. Soberless, in the role of a Very Miserable Mr. Soberless, could be seen quietly minding his own business in the local bar. He sat in a corner, steadily downing double whiskies with silent resolution, refusing all the attempts of his usual drinking partners to engage him in conversation. At closing time he got shakily to his feet, took a few steps in the direction of the door, staggered and sat down heavily. Mr. Legless never could remember any of the subsequent roles he may have had that day.
Next morning, Mr. Hair-of-The-Dogless woke up in the role of Mr. Luckless with a Terrible Hangover. Predictably unwilling to assume the vertical, he continued to lie there for some time, considering how best he could put a speedy end to his luckless existence. The still fresh memory of his several previous attempts, which had always managed to fail, was a poor source of encouragement.
      He suddenly came to and found someone standing by the bed, a fine figure of a fellow with a toothpaste white smile. He had a somewhat imposing presence and appeared to be transparent. He approached.

What are you doing here? Who are you? Mr. Luckless understandably enquired.

What do you mean, who am I? Cant you see? Im your Ghost, the ghost replied.

I can see that. But I still dont see what youve got to smile about.

But Im so overjoyed that weve met at last. Ive been waiting to have a really good look at you. It really is very fortunate.

Im sorry but I cant find anything to be so pleased about and if youd just like to be getting along...

I know all about you, Mr. Luckless. Very pleased to meet you. Im Mr. Lucky, dont you see! Just take a look at me a picture of prosperity and contentment!

Ah, but its all right for you. You havent got a body, thats probably why everythings so wonderful.

Things arent simply wonderful. Im drowning in happiness the whole time. Youve no idea how uncomfortable it is.

I cant see any reason for being upset about being happy. Anyway, Ill have to get up now, so if youd just...

Oh, no, Im not going anywhere. Not any more. Not now Ive found you at last. I still cant believe my luck. Youre the image of me, only with the inverse sign. Ive noticed that you people generally have plenty of body but very little spirit. Whereas, with me, its the other way round. Now Ive got a very serious proposition to make.

How can you make a proposition? Youre only a Ghost?

Thats it in nutshell Im bursting with happiness the whole time. The only trouble with you is that you lack a bit of spirit. Whereas I, as you can see, am lacking a bit of body. Ive had enough of being a spectre theres really very little to do apart from wandering around frightening people all day. So Im proposing an amalgamation you become my body and I become your spirit, fifty-fifty. Youll be Mr. Lucky from then on, happy and handsome. And Ill be a little more material. Do you agree?

Theres absolutely no chance of success if I have anything to do with it. Im Luckless through and through, Mr. Luckless said despondently.

Oh, goodness! Hes off again! Theres nothing to worry about I tell you. You just have to stop resisting me. Thats all, just let me flow in and from then on its up to me. Give it a try and youll see what happens, the Ghost reasoned persuasively.

Please leave me alone. You scare me.

But I am you, Mr. Lucky said.

Maybe Im scared of myself, then, Mr. Luckless replied.

Theres no need at all to be frightened. Just you let me take over. Why be frightened, youve nothing to lose. Come on, now, relax. Thats it. Just, relax and concentrate on me...

(To be continued)

      It is far from easy to break the chains that limit us in any role. Even on a desert island we would not be totally devoid of roles. Our daily life is so complex that the roles we dislike are tightly interwoven with those we do. Role inertia is strong and the hypnosis of expectations and self-expectations in our roles is so powerful that even when we have resolved to make a new start we often keep returning to our old selves. We are frightened of giving up our habits and prejudices. We are frightened of uncertainty and the undefined, and of have to make new choices. We are frightened of the condemnation of others and of possible loneliness. Finally we are simply frightened of causing pain to those who love us, even if they can never understand us. (But then we may not understand them or ourselves properly either. Even the very best of human relationships are rarely based on understanding but rather on the illusion of understanding or on the unspoken mutual understanding that it is not necessary to understand one another anyway.)
      We are bound hand and foot by our dependences, not only psychological but also emotional, financial, domestic and administrative. There is an inevitable loss of freedom in our roles that is generally as much predetermined by our lot in life as by talent, mediocrity, wealth, poverty, illness or health. It is as difficult to foresee mistakes and conflicts in our roles as it is to predict accidents. It is as impossible to avoid parting with roles we have grown deeply attached to as it is to avert old age and death. This is fact and it is scarcely worth trying to convince ourselves that this is not so. Probably the best that we can do, therefore, is simply to accept reality as it is and to resolutely learn how to create freedom for ourselves within the confines of our non-freedom.

What Role-Training Can Do for You

      I am assuming that by now you understand the principles of Auto-Suggestion and are familiar with the main techniques of Auto-Training even if you have not actually started on any of the exercises yet. I am still concerned here with how to be ourselves, but from a slightly different point of view. Up till now I have concentrated on how to control our internal mechanisms in order to communicate with ourselves. Today, however, we are living in a world in which it is increasingly difficult to be alone and increasingly easy to be lonely. An important part of becoming and being ourselves, therefore, involves our ability to live with other people. This demands a different level of self-knowledge. Thus I would like to introduce you to Role-Training, a technique I have used with my patients for a long time, both as individuals and as part of group therapy. The latter is a separate subject dealt with in another book. Here I am focusing techniques for individuals, although some elements can be practised with a role partner.

      Role-Trainings major use is in the sphere of personal relations. However, this is not all and it can also help us to:

get to know ourselves and consequently others better;
feel more free and self-assured and therefore appear more attractive and interesting to others;
show ourselves to best advantage in our work;
develop our creative talents;
open our eyes to the chance of a totally new life style and help us to achieve it;
master the other Auto-Training exercises in this book.

      Conversely, Role-Training will naturally come more easily if you are already at home with the previous exercises. If Role-Auto-Suggestions are combined with other Auto-Suggestions they can intensify their effect.

      Role-Training may be used either independently or as an aid to general Auto-Training. In any case, it requires at least an elementary understanding of role psychology and the ability to analyse personal roles.

When We Cannot Walk on Stage

      Although there is little point in discussing questions already adequately covered in popular books on social psychology and the psychology of human relations, I would nevertheless like to review a few aspects, possibly in a new light. It may be easy enough to accept the abstract concept that life is a game or a play we all take part in, that each role is made up of a number of set expectations of behaviour, and that our personality is composed of the roles we play. However, it is far from easy to apply this when we are trying to understand the people around us and even more difficult when we look at ourselves. It is also hard not to feel that playing a role presupposes at least some degree of artificiality and that it might be better if we could simply live without roles. However, without them we simply would not exist.

      Our first role, that of Son or Daughter, begins even before we are born, just as soon as our parents start to anticipate our arrival, preparing to care for and bring us up and looking forward to the way we will respond to them. Later, at school, we often reluctantly play the role of Pupil and with the other children (and usually more willingly) that of Classmate, plus a great many other roles, some to our liking and some the reverse.

      In time, we assume the role of Man or Woman, Member of Society, Husband or Wife, Parent, perhaps, Passenger, Worker, Colleague, Customer, Reader, Writer, etc., etc. Some roles we simply accept with indifference, others we try to avoid and still others we fight to gain and to hang on to.

      All that we put into this drama adds up to the unique role of Who We Are, played for ourselves and, inevitably, also for other people. Even when we have died (not the most cheerful of examples, it is true, but one of the roles none of us can avoid!) we are not simply dead. For the undertaker and the mourners, for example, we are playing the role of the Deceased not, of course, a role demanding a great deal of imagination. The whole point is that we are living in a world where there are other people and our roles must inevitably affect not just us but also Ourselves-in-Others. Even death cannot change this since we continue to play a role both in the memories of those who knew us and, ultimately, if only anonymously, in Human History.
Life and the laws of nature dispense our roles dispassionately. However, it is helpful to remember that:
there is an infinite number and variety of roles in life and we alone limit our scope;
we have the right to choose, reject or accept roles;
we can create roles for ourselves and, similarly, for other people.

      I am not suggesting any of this is easy, simply that it is possible.

Let Go of the Old

Not everyone may agree that a manual on psychotherapy is the place for auto-biological detail. However, I think that my own experiences may well add weight to some of the recommendations I make.
       Like many children, I lived in my own fairytale world. I liked to pretend that I could turn myself into anything I chose whether animal, vegetable or mineral. And I managed to be a mass of different people and things at various times. When I was four, for example, I was particularly fond of being a Horse, a Cat and, best of all, a Prickly Cactus because then everyone would leave me well alone. Later, as often happens, I preferred to become people I knew or some of my favourite characters in books. I did not just imitate their characteristics: I really believed the people were hidden inside me and, therefore, I felt I was them. I was pleased whenever a new character I had chosen was similar to an earlier one and I made no particular distinction between reality and make-believe. For example, I can remember walking around with catlike stealth for weeks after reading the Gadfly by Voinich and I really lived the part. When I was eight I read Tom Sawyer and immediately fell in love, quite seriously too, with a little girl who seemed to me to be like Toms girlfriend, Becky Thatcher.

       I continued jumping from one existence to another for some time and simply did not understand who I really was: I only knew that I wanted to be as many people as possible. All the different people and things I had been at some time were mixed up inside me, reluctant to forfeit their existence in me and I had no idea of how to control them. Of course, I also fulfilled all the roles imposed on me by everyday life (that of Little Boy, Son, Pupil in Form X , and so on) although I considered them to be only temporary and incidental. I later discovered that lots of children live in a world of their own.

       However, Real Life took its toll and kept driving me further and further into the narrow limits of Myself. Unaware of what was happening, I gradually started to lose the priceless treasure of the Make-Believe. It was not, of course, being a Cactus, the Cat or Tom Sawyer in itself that was so important (although there is nothing wrong with this), but the ability to feel I was different, that I was able to become a New Me whenever I wanted.

       My childhood started to slip away only to return in waves. There was one fairly long period when I was sure that I was just me and no one else, a realisation which at that time brought me close to suicide. The indefatigable strength of childhood nonetheless saved me.

      There were numerous amusing incidents connected with this preoccupation. When I was still at school and before I had even heard of Auto-Suggestion I made all kinds of attempts to overcome my paralysing exam nerves. I tried forcing myself to take a firm grip, shaming myself into being calm, and convincing myself that I did not care a damn anyway, but all in vain. I was the stumbling block the whole time because I could not stop caring about what happened. But then something told me I had to get rid of this I. After a few unsuccessful experiments I began to feel that, all things being equal, the surest way of doing well in an exam was to make it into a game, that is, to treat it like a game while I was actually taking it. That is all you need do, even though you really consider it to be very important!
      You have to take the pretending seriously, of course. That is, even to IMAGINE you are feeling nervous. There is nothing easier than imagining something that already exists. If we imagine an emotion we are already experiencing strongly, then it is inevitably weakened. Conversely, if our feelings are uncertain, then by imagining emotion they are strengthened. This holds true whether we are happy, sad, in love, and so on. Consequently, all my ham-fisted attempts to take a firm grip or not to care a damn were utterly useless and all I needed to do was to discover a very subtle game, to find a way of making the important unimportant.

      After some time I finally hit on the game I was looking for. Whenever I was sitting an exam I would play the role of Vasya, a boy who was secretly standing in for another boy,Volodya Levi. Vasya had made sure that Levi agreed not to be annoyed if the results were poor and to trust Vasyas luck. Consequently, although Levi might still feel a bit worried, Vasya had no reason at all to feel nervous. Indeed, he even imagined a few nerves so as not to appear unnaturally confident to the teachers. Dividing the load in this way helped considerably.

      This is no great discovery but it can be very effective. Although I was often unsure of the actual material and had formerly suffered from incapacitating nerves, I did well on numerous occasions simply because I had perfected this exam technique, and I even started giving free consultations on the matter. It was only much later that I realised my Vasya was a typical working I, one of the many Inner Doubles I subsequently devised for myself and my patients. After this I had plenty of opportunities to rediscover that there is not just one I but many...
      When you come to think about it, here am I born in a certain place in a certain year and given a certain name. I have a birth certificate establishing that I am myself and no one else. Essentially, this is no more than legal necessity so I can be identified if need be, named, accepted into school, granted a driving licence, given a bank account, married, held responsible for my actions, paid debts, buried, etc. This is a necessary part of my external existence and I accept it as such, but there is no reason why I should follow it blindly when thinking about who I am!

      When I have seen myself in the role of my legal SELF I have often had the feeling that I am a miserable product of a bureaucratic imagination. Is there any great difference between being left to the mercy of such an imagination or the mercy of fate? Considering the mass of variables that needed to coincide before I was conceived and born, my appearance in the world as MYSELF appears a matter of absurd chance. My first name is totally arbitrary too (I was very nearly called Ivan), as is my surname, since my grandfather was illegitimate.

       I in fact feel at home with my surname but this is just personal whim, a coincidence of taste and fate. In legal terms, I am Myself, a constant number of identification markers that equal me. In emotional, psychological and spiritual terms, however, this set of identifications that equal me is merely an illusion, a deception, since I can never be reduced to just this since I am also the awareness that recognises and accepts this set of identifications as myself.

       During our lifetime, we can change our names, teeth, the shape of our noses, our skin, hair, bones, the composition of our blood, even certain organs, and it is only a question of time before gene transplants are possible. So who or what am I? Am I the pain or the hunger I feel? Or the hair I have just cut off? I am certainly not the latter, since once separated from me, it ceases to be animate. I am not the hunger I feel, either, this is simply a call from my stomach. And the pain is just the ulcer I do not want to identify with at all. It is not that I am pain but that something in me is hurting. It is causing pain and I only partially depend on it.

      Essentially I am nothing more than self-identification. That is to say, we define ourselves by identifying with the aspects of our personalities which are, or appear to be, most constant: our gender, date of birth, nationality, etc.; perhaps, also, where we live and our occupation (although this is not always the case).

       Nevertheless, it is impossible to discount our bodies entirely. Every day I wash the same pair of hands and see the familiar face looking at me in the mirror: we inevitably become accustomed to our physical presence. However, taken as a whole, our bodies are far from being constant either. If a beautiful young woman were presented with the portrait of how she will appear in old age, she would mostly likely be horrified. Transformed by the years, she will show you pictures of herself in her glamorous youth with a wistful pride, There you are, thats me at twenty. Who is she then, this old woman once so beautiful? Which is the real her?

      Today she is one person, tomorrow another, while the day after that different again, and so on. In other words, who we are is part of the Unfathomable, an aspect of the Unknowable.

      Why do many of us like wearing new clothes? To keep up with fashions, to be attractive, or to impress? All these are probably true in part, but there is something else, too. To feel at ease. To be able to say: This is me, a new me. Trying on new clothes, we try on a NEW SELF.

      Although we may move on to a new appearance, a new social position and new objects of self-identification , we always retain an independent essence that enables us to identify with everything yet remains totally free. This is a kind of persistent question mark refusing to become just a legal convenience. This is our INNER FREEDOM, the mysterious chaos of our many personalities both past, present and future. This is our soul, the integral of all our possible personalities. This is our childhood and our dreams; our private inner world peopled by parents, friends, teachers, idols from screen and literature, and countless other people of all kinds, all part of our History. Even if we never consciously create a new Inner Double, our Inner Doubles help create us. However, people from the future also seek a place in our world, characters as yet unknown to anyone, and we have the power to grant or refuse them physical shelter within our repertoire of Inner Doubles as an hotelier can welcome travellers or turn them away. Why should being ourselves mean being the same the whole time? On the contrary, this is not being who we are at all: it is being only a tiny fraction of ourselves.

      In short, as a child I had simply revived a psychological trick the outline of which was known to early humankind, that is, an INNER GAME that can help us take charge of our hidden potential and establish relationships with the outside world. This game is an ongoing Life Experiment since its results are totally unpredictable and can reveal things to us we did not even know existed. It can be useful in many ways other than for exams. It has enabled me to learn how to talk with patients, how to use hypnotism for medical purposes and, to a certain extent, how to write. Each morning I know that today I am not going to be the same as I was yesterday, and tomorrow I will be different from today; that I have the right to choose myself each day. It is surprising how often we try to live today with yesterdays mood and with the thoughts of the day before that. Of course, it does not necessarily follow that today is better than yesterday per se, but this is more likely if we make our choice consciously.

Materialism Versus Inner Freedom

       I have just been suggesting that we all possess numerous potential aspects of ourselves, that it is, therefore, impossible to attempt to classify anyone conclusively and that we all have huge resources on which we can draw. These may seem very fine words and it would be wonderful if it were true. But let us take a more cynical view and, excluding geniuses and actors, let us consider for a moment the ordinary man or woman in the street. Most people appear very limited in their outlook, locked up in the trivial worlds of their set routines and their own selfish problems. Their major interest may appear to be the inexhaustible search for new possessions and new pleasures, and they seem to hold nothing sacred. They are fair game for the advertising industry, they show little personal integrity and they talk exclusively in clichés. Infinity can hardly be said to shine through too brightly!

      To an objective observer, this may be how many appear and it may well be how others view you, and me too. But this is just another case of the obvious not necessarily being true. The consequences we see when materialistic values hold sway are a distortion and not a true reflection of human nature. This is not the place to examine the reasons for this. Materialism declared war on spiritual values centuries ago and we are all vulnerable to its multifaceted charms.

      The need to adapt and the desire to find peace of mind whatever our personal circumstances are important aspects of human nature. The former is only possible if we to some extent limit both our internal and external freedom, in other words, our imagination and creativity of thought, and how we choose to appear in the world. Such limitations can, as in the cases Erich Fromm describes, frequently lead to total rigidity of thought and action. Still more often, this can result in a complacency born of a false sense of personal freedom, maybe the lesser of two evils.

      As soon as we begin to question the value of inner freedom we have already to some extent lost it and sold out to materialism. Inner freedom sacrificed for comfort and material ease will take revenge at some point as a niggling sense of unease. But if we can protect our inner freedom and sense of spiritual values, we gain immensely. However, in order to liberate ourselves we first need to know in what sense we are not free.

Protest and Compromise

A colleague of mine, a doctor who often treats patients suffering with hemorrhoids, always makes a point of thanking everyone when he is leaving after an evening with friends:
Well, goodbye and thank you.
Why ever should you thank us? someone usually asks and he explains that he is grateful no one has tried to give him a detailed account of their hemorrhoids that evening. One day a friend could not help remarking, Goodness, I knew Id forgotten something. Wait a minute, you see...
But by this time my colleague was already well down the path, running determinedly from his role.
It is physical or psychological suicide to rebel against the restrictions imposed by our roles in life by rejecting them all outright. To the impartial observer, anyone making a determined protest against his or her roles appears to act in a way that is considered by most people to be typical for a schizophrenic. And as you can see, even this is a role! Many cases of alcoholism, criminal behaviour, vagrancy, depression and some hysterical neuroses are also forms of protest against our roles. In such cases, the protest may be semi-conscious and only results in exchanging one set of roles for another which are usually even more distressing both for the person themselves and those around them.

These cases are, however, relatively rare. Most of us, also only semi-consciously, seek some kind of working compromise between our inner freedom and the need to adapt to the world about us, often giving preference to the latter. In terms of roles, the question can be seen as:
How can I stop playing the roles I dislike?
How can I learn the roles I want to play?

People who are lonely or who have various neuroses or problems at work, unhappy husbands and wives, worried parents and difficult children come to me with essentially this problem. It would be much easier to manage these difficulties if we could only understand that, though expressed very crudely, our basic problem in many cases is that of an inexperienced actor. In other words, we need to learn how to stop playing our roles badly and how to start playing them well, even to enjoy them. Indeed, perhaps the difficulty lies in the fact that problems concerning roles are generally hidden in a mass of subjective perceptions or constructs. For example, a young man claims he cannot live a normal life because everyone laughs at and tries to make fun of him; a woman is convinced her husband is an out-and-out egoist and does not want to understand her; a father thinks his son is the greatest lay-about the world has ever seen, and that he is incapable of doing anything because he lacks willpower and is frightened of everything, etc, etc.

This is, of course, something we have met before, the paradox of super significance which is at the bottom of all our personal problems. A new way of looking at our difficulties in a more specific and, above all, holistic way is to consider them in terms of roles. This in itself is far from easy since most aspects of role-playing take place at a subconscious level.

However, in the following chapter we shall remain with the basics of role psychology a little longer.

Chapter XIV

Michelle MacGrath


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