Be The Audience: Looking at Your Life From the Outside

“It’s difficult to be curious and unhappy at the same time.” – Mark Williams

Much of the change process is about awareness of yourself and others. Consciousness will allow you to take ownership of what is yours so you can change it. I liken personal awareness to a theatrical production. Often, I will ask my clients to imagine themselves in a play. The show will be the play of their own life, where they are the writer, director, producer, set director, stage hands, and actor. They play every single role of the play! And, in life, we do. We write our own lives, set the scene, direct the show, and act out based on the lines we’ve given ourselves. However, there is one part of the play we rarely play – the audience. Rarely do we step away from all parts of the play and examine the play of our own making.

If you’ve ever been to a play while not knowing much about the production of theater, it’s easy to watch the actors on stage without giving much thought to the many other people who help create and deliver the show. In fact, you may not notice that sometimes actors will play multiples roles.

Your life, and my life, is a nothing but a theatrical production!  It is an assembly that you (and I) wrote, down to every witty or horribly-delivered line.

Imagine your life as a performer on the big stage: Everyday, you take the stage, belt out the lines you create, produce the play of your own imagining, and direct every piece of your life just the way you’d like it to be delivered. Every prop is yours to use how you wish – you are the set-designer. And when you don’t like a line, you have the power to change it on the spot, or have a do-over. The play is YOURS!

But besides the theatrical production with all its many parts, big and small, behind the scenes and otherwise, another very important part of your play, is the audience.  After all, if you don’t have an audience, you hardly have a play. The actors perform to entertain, and the entertainment comes from the perfectly choreographed lines while the audience either applauds or walks away, disinterested.  The play could be a hit to many or a failure to all.

In 5th grade I was in a school play – I played an elf in a Christmas play. I had the part of narrator who came out on stage before the curtain opened to read my lines – a monologue of sorts (even typing it out and visualizing that anxiety-ridden evening is making my stomach churn!).

At the time, I was SCARED-TO-DEATH. Of passing out, of forgetting my lines, of being booed off stage, of tripping over my own feet, I was scared for that small, yet monumental part of delivering those lines in front of all of those people who watched on ready to form opinions of my performance. I was so self-absorbed in myself and how I appeared to the audience, I ended up getting through the production without much feeling at all – I had to eventually just “numb out” and spew the lines as quickly as I could to get OFF the stage before I died.  Yes, I thought I would die.

As an adult reflecting on that play, and my life AS a play, I now realize that the only way to change is to put myself in the audience’s position.  To, in essence, BE the audience.

Life is a series of actions, much like a theatrical production. Life is also a series of a emotions in which we can choose to numb-out or be fully present in them. I imagine that actors, and all the other people that make the production possible, know their individual parts of the play so well, their behavior becomes automatic. The play begins, and they just GO. Without much thought at all, they act, direct, improvise, change attire, direct the orchestra, and change sets.  Their actions are habitual.

Once we learn our lines, we say those lines over and over and over again. Our actions become habitual. So habitual, in fact, that we don’t realize we’re even doing them. We don’t realize that the seat we sit in to watch television is the same chair we always grab, or that the handful of chocolate we pop in our mouth when no one is looking, is the same handful we grab each evening. We don’t notice that we follow the same morning routine, from stepping out of bed, into the shower, and into our clothes. We don’t notice, because to NOTICE, is taxing on our brain!  If we had to notice every action we ever performed, we’d be exhausted by lunchtime. Therefore, our brain learns “the program” very quickly. It learns what it needs to learn, and follows in perfect order, until you tell it to do different. We deliver the learned lines of our lives everyday, all day, and without much conscious thought at all.

The actions and emotions of our lives become so habitual, that we forget our impact on our own lives, and when it comes time to change, we don’t even know where to begin. We don’t even know what’s become habitual; so automatic. Our lives have become rote; subconscious. Change, however, requires conscious thought. It requires that we observe the lines of our own play – our own life – and decide if they need to be changed or altered in some way.

By being the audience of our own lives, we slow ourselves down just enough to fully examine every part of our being a different perspective. As an actor, we have the acting perspective. We wrote our life script, but we don’t know how it looks until we’ve taken a step back to decide if the lines we’ve prepared aren’t really as good as we thought, or aren’t serving us in a way that is positive and forward-moving.

 

Photo credit here.

About the Author:

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer has spent over 12 years in private practice working with individuals, couples, and parents who are faced with kid-drama, mamma-drama, and family-drama, and she claims that although some stories make a grown woman cry, she loves it.
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