“don’t chew your moustache (or anyone else’s)”
that’s part of what robert c. carson call’s the “pleasant person’s act”. in my last post i mentioned his book, taming your gremlin and you may remember how he talked about the discomfort, even pain, that can come from following your self-concept rather than just being yourself.
in the same vein, he also talks about “acts”, or roles, that we habitually play out, with the same dissatisfying results. acting, he says, can be fun and useful, but it gets pretty uncomfortable when our act turns into a habitual way of being and we even forget that we are acting. the act and the self-concept meld.
an act i used to play as a teenager was “the cool hippie”. acting cool was very important to me, and i’d gladly suffer for it, for example, when i smoked cigars or walked barefoot through the snow.
a client of mine, let’s call her francine, used to play the act of “the PTSD victim”. whenever something got even slightly uncomfortable for her, she would explain that because of her post-traumatic stress disorder, she could not do this/go there/wait for that. (i’m happy to report that both francine and i are over these acts! and please don’t get me wrong, PTSD or any other mental health problem are not an act – but defining your self identity through them is not useful).
but as long as we know we’re doing an act, and we’re doing it from choice rather than out of habit or fear, both we and the world around us can get quite a bit of enjoyment out of it.
that’s where the “pleasant person’s act” comes in. that’s when we happily and consciously act as a pleasant person. apart from not chewing anyone’s moustache, here are a few things robert c. carson suggests as part of such an act:
- ask questions and marvel at the answers
- don’t expect children to act like adults
- take responsibility for being clearly understood
- give up trying to be something special
- don’t be anxious to always verbalize a parallel from your own experience
- don’t let your sadness turn you into the kind of grump who is a pain in the ass to be with
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(i’d like to gratefully acknowledge that this post was included in the AgG carnival)