The Roles We Play
3rd October 2011
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Only in a limited number of places can we be truly ourselves. In social situations, we generally have to play roles. We all have aspects of ourselves that others would find unacceptable or even disturbing, so we have to play a character which has some aspects of us but not does not entirely reflect who we are.


People have been doing this for as long as there have been people - every social grouping has rules and etiquette, to which we conform to in order to obtain the benefits of belonging to that group. There is nothing wrong with this in itself - in fact it's often a kindness! There is no point inflicting unkind truth unnecessarily on groups or individuals unable to accept that truth.


Problems arise when we lose the distinction between a role or roles and the real person that we are. Playing a character is fine, but when we think we are that character, or try to be that character, we are storing up unhappiness for ourselves. You might play a confident go-getter, but if you try to be that character when you're really a sensitive artist, you are trying to square a circle and as a result will become stressed, unhappy and frustrated.

A common reason why people get trapped in this living lie is because they have had it drummed into them from an early age what a person should be like, and that anyone who isn't is unworthy. Consequently, a paralysing fear of rejection sets in that causes people to deny who they are. A related reason is that people do not like who they really are and will do anything to avoid facing the truth.


In either case, it is a huge relief to accept who you really are and what you're really like. As a therapist, in the safety and and confidentiality of the Consulting Room, I'm very often the first person to whom my clients have ever voiced what's really going on inside them. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being a certain way, mainly because you did not choose it! Your preferences and tendencies are the result of genetics and experience over which you have no control. What matters is what you do next.


If by nature you are violent or abusive, you obviously cannot safely express that. What you can do is, having accepted it, seek help to manage it. For example, I have a severe anger issue that I do not wish to inflict on anyone, but rather than deny being that way, I accept that it's fundamental to who I am, and daily practise a number of techniques, particularly meditation, to manage it.


In a similar way, alcoholics and those with an addictive personality need to accept that's who they are and practise daily disciplines that prevent that part of their nature overwhelming and ruining their lives. It may not be possible for you to admit openly your own issue publicly, but you can still admit it to yourself, and then privately seek out all the help and support you need to keep it under control.


Most quirks and eccentricities are harmless, and are just not acceptable to certain groups or in certain situations. In these cases, the first question you must ask yourself is whether the group you are associating with is worth the necessity of having to play a role. If it is, then it is perfectly acceptable and in fact healthy for you to pursue it discreetly elsewhere, in the company of the like-minded.


To summarise, in most cases it is fine to "be yourself", but not all over everyone else! Play whatever roles you need to, but always accept to yourself who you really are, that it's OK to be who you are, then make wise informed decisions about how to manage that real self.



About the Author


Member since: 26th April 2012

I am a fully qualified and experienced hypnotherapist, Reiki practitioner and Stress Counsellor, based in Undercliffe, Bradford. I am proud to be a volunteer therapist for Bradford Cancer Support

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