Welcome to Art and Healing Wednesday!!
Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” Are you constantly performing in life? When we get out of bed every day are acting or are you authentic? Does it even matter? I ask these questions because as I was tooling around the internet I was looking for one of my television programs on Lifetime and on Lifetime’s website was the following quote, “Life is Your Stage…Perform.” It made me start thinking about the different ways we can live our lives, especially after being diagnosed with a chronic or other life-altering illness.
One of the great things I remember about acting in high school is that you get to be someone else, sometimes from exotic places or a different period in history, for a short period of time. You get to try on a role and see if it fits. Unfortunately, that’s not the case after an illness diagnosis, you only get to play a well person; and even sometimes that’s difficult.
I remember people who were quite ill who were waiting for a particular event that had meaning in their lives, holding off death so they be part of the celebration or occasion. I wonder now if they had slipped into the role of the warrior to keep themselves strong enough to be part of the momentous occasion. There are those who take on the roles to gain sympathy or support. I believe when you take on that role, unless your performance is flawless (don’t think even Meryl Streep can do that) your true self comes through and you are found out.
Now let’s look at the health benefits to “performing”. There are times when taking on a role you forget your cares and woes. You can transport yourself to another place and time, or simply perform as your “well” self. I believe that when we do that we remind the body, mind, and spirit of what it was like when we held that authentic place. It gives our physical, mental, and spiritual essence the ability to reflect on what it was like before the diagnosis so we can strive to get back to that place, or as close as we can given our circumstances.
There are lots of arenas where “performing” is a part of the culture. The 12-Step programs have a slogan, “Fake it till you make it” and the Mental Research Institute ( one of the nation’s premier and forward thinking psychological treatment groups) used to train psychotherapists in the idea of acting “As If”. These “performances” spark possibility. They allow you to try on the role to see how it fits. I don’t know anyone who would encourage you to put on your pajamas and robe, sit in bed, and cry to try on the role of the sick person. However, what about trying to get dressed and sit with the family for a meal and try on the role of the well person, or as well as you can be.
We have a well of energy and possibility in our soul. I hope that you try on different roles, who knows maybe you’ll find the real you and will allow it to shine for the world.