"I'm going to ask you to think about roles for a second. I'm sure you've probably recognized, or had it pointed to you, that while you think of yourself as a coherent entity, you in fact play a number of different roles, in a number of different contexts, and they may be radically different. Even contradictory.
You probably know this already, but you probably don't think about it very much. Part of the reason is we tend to have one or two core roles that we think of as us, and the rest are deliberate 'acting', to fit into a certain situation.
What I mean is, when you're with your parents, that probably is still 'you', just a you that maybe you don't identify with very much anymore, but you slip into when you're with your folks because you have so much practice with that role. It's no more or less 'real' than the persona you assume with your significant other, or your best friends. They may all be very different, but you recognize them all as authentic or true reflections of you as a person, whereas in work or school or public places, there is more of an impetus to present a contrived or forced appearance that is so antithetical to your usual set of references that it's impossible to lose your self-consciousness in those contexts. You always are aware of acting. You're always holding an aspect of yourself outside the experience.
...if you were to participate in the theatre for instance, that creates a context where you can theoretically lose yourself in a role that has nothing whatsoever to do with your inner compass, and not feel threatened. You adopt another identity, sometimes profoundly, and then you drop it.
So then, isn't it possible to transplant that focus, that ability to adopt different persona, and bring it into everyday life? To craft a new identity, and inhabit it fully?
And why exactly would we want to do that you might ask? Well, regardless of how different your various personal roles might be, they share certain common traits, and more importantly, a common range of experience. If you think of joy on a scale for instance, you may have a bunch of roles that go to 5 or 6 on the joy scale, and one that goes to ten occasionally, but none of them go past ten. That 1-10 scale itself is one of those core principles, one of those unifying modalities like we discussed last time, that your roles cluster around. You can push against that ceiling really hard, and you may well get to a new place from time to time, but all that does is establish a new ceiling to bang up against. That ceiling is a reference point for all your various personality roles.
So what happens if you want to totally step outside of that old scale. What if you don't want to bust your ass to reach 11, you want 20 or 30 or 100 instead? How the hell do you do that, with no roles of your own that use a completely different range of experience?
The short answer is you steal them. Some cultures call this possession, in ritual magick this is known as invocation.
Now, ancient practitioners understood this concept, but to conceptualize entirely different orders of experience and understanding they felt the need to attribute them to autonomous complexes of energy and intentionality, ie; spirits, demons, gods whathaveyou. You needn't bother with that unless you want to. It will probably help, but there can be side effects. More on that another time.
...The reason this works is that you already have a whole bunch of different scales for experience in your head, but you divide them into two types: ones that are possible for you, and ones that are not. In order to keep your internal continuity you sort experiences and sensations you have no persona structure to support into the category of 'other' and save them for fantasy, fiction and entertainment.
...To adopt a whole new view of the world requires letting go of your prior investment, at least temporarily, in what you think you already see and know about the world.
It's tempting to think of ego or self as some kind of object or indwelling essence that needs to be dropped or exorcised, but it's nothing of the sort. We go into tailspins of confusion and dismay when we think of what might happen if we lost our egos. So lets be clear about what it is, and then we can start making it work for us. First off, ego is not a thing. It is a process. It is the process of referencing one's self through thoughts, speech and behavior. The problem with this is that you don't have a self. So it would be better to say that ego is the whole complex of mental programs chasing it's own tail in the effort to affirm the existence of a non existent thing, ie; this hypothetical 'self'. All the problems arise from trying to make a dynamic process into a static object.
'You' are a plurality, a complex of interchangeable modules. The only thing holding you back is the ignorant assertion of a core identity. Treat that core identity as what it is: a stepping stone. A set of markers for your next reconstruction. It'll always be there if you want to play with it again.
To the extent the self can be considered an object at all, it is a designed object, and you are the designer."
Friday, December 09, 2005
Role playing, personas, fiction-suits, etc... "'You' are a plurality"
Posted by Rob Pugh at 12/09/2005 09:51:00 PM