Tom throws himself face-down on the shop floor. He is three. The right age for a tantrum. He screws up his eyes and wrings out hot tears. Everybody else is acting out too. Only they call it life.
When a child like Tom cries for attention his parents sigh. “What a performance,” they say. “He’s overtired.” “He had a hard day.”
As Tom grows, it becomes less acceptable for him to carry out overt emotional demonstrations. He stops explicit performances in favor of subduing his feelings. At least, he thinks he hides his angst. But it slips out each time he does something. Anything. In short, Tom still acts out his deepest emotional dramas.
Much like the rest of us.
From the moment we grapple our way out of a tunnel to the time we head into a portal closer to the stars, we project our inner state onto the outer world.
We show what we go through by what we do. When we’re hurt, we act hurt. When we’re happy, we act happy. Yet, we imagine acting is disingenuous. Inauthentic. But every actor on stage does his best to project the truth. And it’s the same in everyday life.
It’s useful to recall individual’s actions are reflections of what’s inside them. Or perhaps it’s disturbing? You can’t get hazelnuts from mangoes, and you can’t get kindness from someone who hasn’t been privy to it first and made it grow inside them.
So, when someone gives a frightening performance, that’s something frightening inside them leaking out. Being acted out. Oozing through the psyche to call for attention from onlookers. After all, why act out anything unless someone’s watching?
We instinctively act out because we want healing. To bring attention to our wounds. But when we are hurt, we pass that hurt on by causing other people’s pain. Sometimes we don’t recognize what’s happening. We disappear beneath a hard veneer. At others, maybe we know.
The practice of self-mastery is the only way to take charge of our performance.
Tom can’t do it yet. Remember, he’s three. Sometimes I recognize I can do it, though. Some unsolved drama rises up the spine and threatens to stimulate the body into uncontrolled action. I understand that’s the time to stop and look at what’s up — another term we use without realizing its significance.
When we examine what’s up with us, we no longer need to act it out. Rather, we can turn it over like a pebble and check for sharp edges to sand.
We act out. It’s part of human nature. But instead of being puppets for unruly emotions, at least we have a choice. We can assume control, as long as we remember we’ve the power to act on behalf of our higher selves rather than our primitive, childlike base.
Copyright © 2020 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved