I usually spend a lot of time just thinking. It sounds legit as well as weird at the same time. So the other day, while reading a poem by Walt Whitman, I remembered a friend of mine who had a problem. He used to play imaginary scenarios in his mind most of the times, out of his unfulfilled desires. Now that doesn't really sound odd to introverts like me. We have a habit of travelling inside our minds to multiple worlds that don't exist. But his problem was more than this. He used to try and act like that in the real world. Not a problem, if done alone. But a huge problem, if practised publicly. However, there are numerous people who do this. Perhaps, we all do, at some point. This made me spend a few more days thinking about why we do so. The result-- this post.
Shakespeare has quoted it right:
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts."
Remember when you were a kid and used to dress up for Fancy Dress competitions, all covered with props? I remember I had to play the role of Mother Teresa once in my school days and I really enjoyed doing it. At the end of the play, several people remarked on how well I had played my part and I liked it. You dress up for the audience, go ahead, gain applauds and appreciation and it makes you feel great. Yes? So sometimes, we humans grow up enjoying this role playing so much that we forget the real character and continue to play different roles that the world invites us to play.
Well, I hadn’t really thought about it that day, but looking back I feel that most of the people in the world are helpless victims of this phenomenon. No, I am not speaking from the point of view of that 7 year old girl who loved playing Mother Teresa. I say this, 20 years later, with complete consciousness and observations over these years. It is a gripping weed that has its roots deep inside our upbringing in the society.
If you look up in the dictionary, you get to know this:
unconsciously act out or perform a particular role in accordance with the perceived expectations of society.
That's pretty simple. As kids, you were taught to behave well when elders came to visit you, or vice versa. For a young kid, it is difficult to understand why different behavioural procedures have to be followed when in public, contrary to when all by yourself. As adults, your parents tried your best to make you understand (like their parents did to them) that there are certain norms that you have to follow if you live in the world. Fair enough!
So where’s the problem? Well, a human mind might grow with age, with well distributed sections of logic, emotions and illusions, but the point is it is not easy for the mind to switch between these sections within a defined timeline. So when your instincts tell your brain to behave in a particular way, it does so. But then you realize you have to behave in another way, and your instincts send a completely different message to your brain. While your brain is good at responding to your instinct, over a period of time, it is your instinct which might deceive you from being yourself at times.
This pertains to observations within your spheres in the society. If you have observed someone in a particular position in the society, you succumb to the idea of playing your role towards that person. Now, the idea of societal hierarchies is developed by none other than humans, in the course of evolution. This explains why certain people tend to act feeling inferior to others.
Let's say, there is a social gathering, where people from all possible walks of life are invited to have freely flowing conversations, irrespective of their social status. You happen to meet your ex-colleague who had once been through a traumatic personal relationship, and you had once been an emotional support to this person. When you two meet now, your conversation will take a turn depending on the impressions that both of you still have in your mind regarding each other. While your ex-colleague will try to act as a learner, you might behave like an adviser, subconsciously. The fact is none of you will realize it at that point.
Based on numerous such scenarios, we can roughly classify the concept of role playing into a few categories that I could think of. You could add more, if you can. Like Shakespeare had said about the world being a stage and all men and women playing their parts, I concluded this. Primarily, there can be two major categories:
1. Solo Role Play:
This is the category which we often come across in our lives. To be honest, all the humans have been doing this at some point of our lives. There could be multiple reasons tracing back to our childhood, adolescence or experiences in the real world. You might have a fantasy about your life, or about the character you should play. You might have an expectation from yourself that you are unable to fulfill. Hence, you tend to play the role of this framed character in the world, among people you know.
Let's say you meet a person and though you are your authentic self, you tend to portray the best version of yourself to them. Not really a problem. While, it is fair enough to pick out the best parts of your traits when you want to leave first impressions(because admit it, we all do it), the problem arises when you never step out of this role and get acquainted to others hiding behind the veil of someone who you are not in reality. This is not only alarming for those who are connected with you, but for yourself as well, in the long run.
The common examples that we see these days are people all over the world who try to make themselves look cool, rebellious and outspoken, when they are not. This is not applicable to those who are really of this kind. But the majority of people are not, and portray this version of themselves to live up to their expectations of an inflated image of themselves-- better and different from others. And they think, it is necessary to be mean and fake in order to prove this.
If you look around, these people can be found in your common places of work or leisure, or even on social media, where image crafting looks cool. While these people tend to feel good about putting others down and basking in the glory of being rebellious or rational, a few of them can grow up to be the mean superiors or leaders we see around. However, this category is harmless as compared to the second one, because people can choose to ignore and stay at peace with such actors. People who play these kind of roles know that they have a problem, and tend to realize to work upon it, leaning towards the optimistic view of the world.
This brings me to the second, but the harmful category(This is the one to which that friend of mine belongs).
2. Scripted Role Play:
This category of role play is similar to the above solo role play, only higher in intensity, and more brutal. People who tend to have a whole universe of unreal expectations, and are not contented with their own portrayals of characters. They have some serious problems with their own personalities and refuse to acknowledge the same. For them, the world is composed of negativity every where. All people whom they have met are mean and have issues.
They are not willing to look at the brighter side of the world, and tend to keep a record of everybody's shortcomings. Moreover, they have a highly negative feeling of superiority as compared to those around them. As a result, they feel that their surroundings are meant to be a part in their play.
This kind of role play is dangerous for everyone. These people will have a complete script in their minds, and because they are not content with themselves playing it, they will roll the script in a crowd, inviting others to play roles in the same. Now one can say, people are fools to play their roles in someone else's script, but the reality is that majority of humans look at everyone with a transparent frame and would believe a stranger.
Let's say, a person X with a script, meets acquaintances. Now X is discontent with his life(or he wants people to think so), finds people mean and brutal(hence, the reflection in his own character), and is always looking for a reason to argue, to prove his point and to bring others down. But he is tired of doing this alone. So, he brings forward a story, concerning characters or ideas that seem interesting, or depressing. He puts out a point and invites others. Unknowingly, most of the humans fall for this trap and behave exactly like X would expect them to.
Either they would reject his ideas, support them, or bring along new arguments. While none of them realizes why this happens, this is satisfactory for the inflated ego of X, who does not even acknowledge the serious narcissistic behaviour of his own. If I take the example of social media or of global leaders, we find many people behaving like X. Someone said something, someone did something, why not look at the phenomenon with scepticism and pull out swords in the war, like the world would end with it, and react impulsively, out of prejudices, just because you cannot deal with your own shortcomings. They have an affinity for any negative vibration, just like bats can smell blood. Worse, they enjoy it, without resentment.
This is where the problem lies. We have started witnessing the world as a place full of murders, rapes, deceit, bloodshed, betrayals and lies. No, I do not mean that there is light all around, but certainly there is a need to build trust and faith among the people we live with, among strangers. We need to understand and concentrate on issues that are really important. We need to ensure that we believe there can be a world where we do not look at everything with scepticism.
You see role play is a natural human tendency, but it is not difficult to control it. Start believing in your own tendency to reach out to others, and help people. Acknowledge when you find kindness. And what you practise, shall come to you. The world is not a place to be caught in traps and be victims of the same, by propagating negativity. You need to shed light on the hope that struggles to breathe, to make this world a better place to live in. :)