I was recently reading “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle and he was touching on the subject of the roles we play in life. The topic that really struck me was the idea of temporary roles. These are roles and personality shifts we do when in situations that we don’t feel completely comfortable being ourselves in. Here is a passage from that chapter
“If you are awake enough, aware enough, to be able to observe how you interact with other people, you may detect subtle changes in your speech, attitude, and behavior depending on the person you are interacting with. At first, it may be easier to observe this in others; then, you may also detect it in yourself.
The way in which you speak to the chairman of the company may be different in subtle ways from how you speak to the janitor. How you speak to a child may be different from how you speak to an adult. Why is that? You are playing roles. You are not yourself, neither with the chairman nor with the janitor or the child. When you walk into a store to buy something, when you go to a restaurant, the bank, the post office, you may find yourself slipping into pre-established social roles. You become a customer and speak and act as such. And you may be treated by the salesperson or waiter, who is also playing a role, as a customer.
A range of conditioned patterns of behavior come into effect between two human beings that determine the nature of the interaction. Instead of human beings, conceptual mental images are interacting with each other. The more identified people are with their respective roles, the more inauthentic the relationships become.
You have a mental image not only of who the other person is, but also of who you are, especially in relation to the person you are interacting with. So you are not relating with that person at all, but who you think you are is relating to who you think the other person is and vice versa. The conceptual image your mind has made of yourself is relating to its own creation, which is the conceptual image it has made of the other person. The other person’s mind has probably done the same, so every egoic interaction between two people is in reality the interaction between four conceptual mind-made identities that are ultimately fictions. It is therefore not surprising there is so much conflict in relationships. There is no true relationship.”
This made me think beyond how we create these roles with other people but how we create the roles in how we interact with ourselves. How often do we live our lives based on the age we are, what is appropriate for this age and how we see ourselves at this age? How about when money isn’t coming in as fast as the bills are piling up? We don’t feel good about these situations and feel unsuccessful which then correlates to how we value ourselves. The same can happen when a relationship is deteriorating and without that love the love for ourselves is lacking.
All of these situations are temporary situations that create temporary roles and temporary views of ourselves. Yet we let it define and steer us on our current path. How can you expect someone to treat you a certain way when you can’t do that for yourself? How can you attract a more abundant life, a happy relationship, a feeling of confidence when the role you have chosen is not in alignment with the role you want to play?
This concept goes back to what Eckhart discussed in how we interact with others. If you treat the bank teller like a person who is there just to serve you, that you cannot relate to or interact with except for transactions, how can you be your true self if you temporarily leave your true self? Your true self should always be present in the present moment. Just as easy as it is to say something nice or crack a joke to the teller its just as easy to shift the view of yourself in situations you feel you can’t be your true self in. Your true self doesn’t feel anger, sadness, disappointment in yourself so, why should you be temporarily blinded to how you should be interacting with yourself.
Temporary Role Play Exercise
An easy exercise to do when you are feeling less than adequate or not treating yourself kindly is to put what is bothering you into a role, give it a sex possibly a name and interact with it on a temporary basis. Let’s say you are broke and overwhelmed with debt, let’s name the debt Bob. You probably don’t feel too good about yourself because of the situation you are in with Bob. To help guide you out of that situation you need to feel better about yourself to then be able to find a solution to Bob. Let’s put Bob into a role as a person you are interacting with. When faced with Bob you probably wouldn’t want to be best friends with him, take him out for a drink or even tell him your deepest secrets. You probably feel threatened by Bob, resentful and intimidated.
This is where you can shift your attitude towards this debt role. See him as an equal, see him as someone you could interact with that isn’t defined as having sway over you. When you see Bob as equal as someone that can’t harm you, someone that values your opinion Bob isn’t so hard to talk to and interact with anymore. You can then begin to see Bob as a temporary situation that you have control in changing. You can shift your attitude towards Bob to something more productive and less damaging. In that moment you are being your true self and able to attract a more positive manifestation which will help you resolve what you felt was self limiting. You can then say thanks Bob for the chat time for me to go and shift your attention away from his presence.