What is it like to be Queen?
- Inner freedom in action
- Role self-analysis
- Seven basic techniques of Role-Training
- In search of an Integrated Role
- Life experiment
That is the theory and now we can begin Role-Training itself which you may recognise like a long-lost childhood friend. As in Auto-Training, it is important right from the start to be quite clear what you want to get out of it.
The following are a few simple techniques of role analysis that I have found effective. They will not give us an exhaustive or deep understanding of the huge complexity of our inner world, but they will enable us to be clearer about situations we find difficult. Although we can often define what our particular problems are, as you have no doubt discovered, it is very difficult to be objective about them. Here, therefore, are a few basic techniques of role self-analysis which I have found effective.
1. The Black and White Method
This is a simple technique which is nonetheless very demanding. It can be used to help us identify and eliminate negative roles in which we are stuck.
To do this, try to imagine the problem or whatever you find difficult as part of your Negative Role. Give it any name you feel sufficiently expressive. Jot down at least five defining external and internal characteristics. Consider, for example, the following taken from the notes of one of my patients, a young man of twenty-three:
My Negative Role
A Pain in the Neck
1. Constantly concentrates on difficulties and annoyances.
2. Insists on wearing a martyred expression and on speaking in a boring monotone.
3. At the slightest opportunity attempts to speak in detail about his personal problems; always has something to moan about.
4. Never ceases to seek sympathy and support.
5. Has no scruples at exploiting his “weak health” to avoid having to do something; basically work-shy.
6. Self-pitying, though unempathic to others since he has little time for them.
7. Unable to laugh at himself.
Now describe your ideal (that is, the person you would like to be and/or the person you actually are in your best moments) as your Positive Role. For example, from the same young man’s notes.
My Positive Role
Reliable and strong
1. Has an untiring interest in the positive side of life.
2. Has confidence in his own inner strength. Is ashamed of showing negative emotions. Vetoes any attempt to play for sympathy or gratitude.
3. Is empathic and attentive to others, especially if someone is ill or in trouble.
4. Constantly tries to cheer people up, to improve the general mood even if it means making fun of himself.
5. Is self-sufficient thanks to various interests and hobbies.
6. Works without sparing himself; rests with pleasure.
7. Has an expressive manner of speech and an indestructible sense of humour.
As you can see, there is probably little here that we do not do anyway when taking a critical look at ourselves. However, seeing everything in the terms of roles makes it easier to be objective. In the example given, both the Negative and Positive Roles are described in fairly general terms. However, the same approach can be used to analyse much more specific roles, for example, your role at work, or in a relationship with one person, or in one particular situation. (See Role-Training rehearsal to follow). If you come to the conclusion that you cannot cope with the role of, say, Manager, or Husband, or Mother, then defining your Negative Role in this particular area may help. By describing it objectively and clearly you can distance yourself from it sufficiently to see your mistakes and where you may be defining the role too narrowly. Conversely, drawing up your Positive Role may reveal new possibilities and strengths, the role opportunities you have not yet taken advantage of. A detailed picture of your Positive Role is important as the model for your New Self, if you want one, of course.
You can develop the interpretation of your Negative Role by serious introspection and of your Positive Role by using your imagination. It is important, however, that both roles remain close to reality: the former to the present and the latter to the potential. (That our ideals and dreams may not be realisable should not be a reason for despair. The mere fact of their existence is a tribute to our humanity.)
2. Evaluative Self –Analysis
This method is primarily aimed at revealing possible ways of eliminating role conflicts. It can help us define our self-image and also, perhaps, to create meaning in our lives.
1. Survey your usual roles. For example:
2. Try to arrange the roles in descending order of importance with a ten-point maximum. It is quite likely that several roles (for example, son, husband, father) all receive maximum points. This is no cause for anxiety although it may indeed be the source of your role conflicts. Mark the roles you like and enjoy with a “+” and those you dislike with a “-“. Also distinguish the roles you feel you cope with we11, more or less adequately, badly or not at all. You may find that there are some roles you value little or even dislike but which you fulfill well whereas you feel inadequate in others you value highly. Think about the reasons for this, remembering the paradox of Super Significance (chapter 3).
3. Ask yourself which roles you could do without and which you would never consider giving up.
4. Try to decide which of your roles are compatible and complementary and which are inharmonious or totally incompatible. Try to understand why (The Positive-Negative Method and the Analysis of Personal Expectations described subsequently may be of use in this.)
5. Do you make good use of the ways in which your roles could combine?
6. Decide which other roles you would like in addition to those you
already have. Why cannot you play them? Which circumstances or which present roles prevent you from doing so? Is there really no way of overcoming the obstacles. Are you looking at all the roles pragmatically enough
7. What advice would you give someone else if he or she were in your position?
How to Analyse Conflicting Roles
Regarding my wife:
a) "I want to be the man who loves and is loved by my wife but this forces me, while our children are young, to take on the undesirable and uncharacteristic role of Breadwinner..."
Regarding my mother:
b) "I want to remain in the role of a Loved and Loving Son; but by doing so I keep finding myself in that of Junior Obliged to Listen to Good Advice, a role I detest. I either have to do what I am told or pretend to be doing so..."
3. Analysis of Personal Expectations
This method is useful for analysing any difficulties you may have in getting on with people. It helps us examine the reasons for mutual lack of understanding and or mutual dislike. It is fairly complex, but so are we and our relationships.
If you want to analyse your relationship with someone then it may help to fill out the following table:
(This was filled out by a heterosexual man.)
Of course, the table only includes our hypotheses which may not correspond to reality. (In square brackets I give a concrete example). However, the act of expressing these hypotheses will bring into the light of our conscious mind much that had previously hidden itself away in the darkness of our subconscious and had prevented us from thinking rationally. You may well suddenly understand something for the first time. Some things may become more complicated as a result of this exercise but only if the situation was deceptively simple before. Strictly speaking, this type of analysis is itself a simplification of reality and it can be infinitely extended in the way our reflection is if we stand between two mirrors: “I think that he/she thinks that I think that she/he thinks…” In practice, however, it is sufficient to understand what is going on only two or three steps removed.
Here is a simplified version of the method.
4. Analysis of counter roles
Try to answer the following questions:
A. What does X suggest to me?
1. What does X suggest to me by her behaviour concerning such and such?
2. Does X really suggest this role or do I accept it myself by misinterpreting her behaviour?
3. Can I reject the suggested (or apparently suggested) role and take a different one that I prefer? (This is always possible.)
B. What roles do I suggest to X?
1. What role do I suggest to X by my behaviour concerning such and such?
2. Do I really want to suggest this role or does X accept it because of her attitude and/or because she misinterprets my behaviour?
3. How can I change my behaviour ie. what role can I take in order to suggest in X a role more desirable for us both?
(X can represent one or a group of people, society as a whole, etc.)
Once you start thinking along these lines you will quite likely make a few surprising discoveries. Indeed, even without Role-Training, role analysis in
itself can be of great benefit. However, I would like to stress that there is no point in hoping for the impossible.
Once you try analysing things you will not suddenly find you will be able to understand other people and sort out all your personal problems overnight. Even some of the greatest psychologists well versed in human nature (for example, my compatriots Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) were unable to sort out the complex tangle of their own personal relationships. They did not understand people close to them and were not understood themselves. It is always, of course, harder to see where we go wrong ourselves than it is to spot other people’s mistakes.
However, it is still better to see things partially than not at all or to see something which does not exist. In general, constructive thinking is both undervalued and poorly developed and levels of emotional literacy still leave a lot to be desired.
The Stage and Life
Experienced actors maintain that although individuals in the audience may be discerning the audience en masse is fairly blind, and there certainly seems to be some truth in this. For example, the following incident took place during a premiere in a Moscow theatre. The hero lit a candelabra and settled down with the heroine to a romantic love scene. They were so involved in this that neither noticed one of the candles fall out of the holder and set the scenery alight. The flames and smoke were, however, quite visible to the audience who began shuffling anxiously while the two lovers continued their embrace. At this point a figure jumped onto the stage and began wielding a fire extinguisher with gusto. In his agitation he missed the flames completely and the stream of foam hit the two lovers who sprang up screaming in alarm. The curtain fell to shouts of laughter and enthusiastic applause from the audience who were convinced the play had gone according to the script. The Health and Safety Rep, Vasya, had swiftly stepped into the role of Firefighter, thereby unwittingly turning the drama into a comedy and averting a tragedy.
We are not, of course, concerned with the acting profession as such here. However, whatever roles they may play on the stage, in real life actors must inevitably take the role of Actor as well as that of Themselves. The theatre is both a model for life and life itself since every day we find ourselves “on stage” to some extent or other. Consequently, before starting the exercises for Role-Training it may be useful to analyse how theatrical roles differ from those we play in real life. Here is a brief resume.
To what degree actors should “live” their roles is perhaps the oldest argument in the theatre and one Shakespeare seems to have been no less conscious of than Stanislavsky. The latter maintained that actors could only achieve their aim by showing “real life” on the stage, that is, only by experiencing genuine emotion, thereby relying on the support of their subconscious. They could not convince the audience without being genuine themselves.
Other directors, for example, Meyerhold*; held that this was an unnecessary abuse of an actor’s subconscious and that all that was needed to win over the public was a convincing technique for demonstrating real life. He agreed with Stanislavsky, however, on the point that the performance should attempt to influence the audience and that the theatre’s ultimate aim was to give the audience an emotional experience. I always prefer to see convincing emotion in the theatre although it makes no difference to me whatsoever how this is achieved, whether by an actor’s genuine emotion or by skilful acting.
An audience in fact takes the same role in the theatre as we do in life when we long for an illusion subtle and convincing enough to deceive us. Many of us unconsciously seek this. However, life differs from the theatre in that it catches up with us if we are too keen to bury our heads in the sand and live entirely in a world of illusion. Consequently, it is useful to know both as far as our own roles and those of others are concerned just where genuineness ends and acting begins. This is difficult to ascertain, all the more so since Sincerity and Play merge into one another freely. Thus we both “live” and “act” in real life just as actors do on the stage. Some of us act more for the benefit of others than for ourselves, and others the reverse. Nevertheless, none of us can avoid acting to some extent.
Seven Steps to Developing Limitless Potential
Here is a brief list of the basic techniques of individual Role-Training.
1. Role gymnastics.
2. Reincarnation exercises (the development of an empathic imagination).
3. Imaginative imitation (Situational Role-Training).
4. Auto-Training rehearsal (Situational Role-Training and learning to live a Positive role).
5. Personality to Rent or the Tactical Double.
6. Synthesis of the Personality. An Integrated Role or the Strategic Double.
7. Reidentification of the Personality. Life Experiment.
As you will soon discover the division of these techniques is fairly arbitrary and, in fact, they are all interdependent. Many elements overlap and are all designed to help us get in touch with and harness our inner potential, thus enabling us to shape our personalities.
Just the little word “yes” can be said in a variety of ways. For example:
in a whisper;
with a drawl;
with a stammer;
with an air of assurance;
as a challenge;
abruptly and efficiently;
and so on, the possibilities are endless.
The same goes for “no” or any other word, sentence, rejoinder or monologue.
Any movement or gesture (a shrug of the shoulders/ a smile, a hand shake) can similarly have thousands of different shades of meaning.
Question: how much of this infinity of meaning do we actually use every day?
Answer: only a miserable fraction.
Answer: Because we are limited by the role of Ourselves partly, of course, because others demand or expect this from us but primarily because we expect it of ourselves. We are our number one jailer.
Thus the way to start getting rid of inhibitions is at first simply to become a different You.
• Say “I” in at least twenty different ways, investing it each time with a new meaning, subtext, timbre, intonation, colour, spirit.
• Do the same with “yes”, “no”, “you”, your own name, someone else's name.
• Say any word or sentence you like in as many different ways as you can and with as much expression as possible.
Can you feel yourself beginning to get a little more relaxed and less inhibited? The way you feel is beginning to depend on how you say "I".... Keep on over and over again.
Read out loud any text or poem you like:
in a whisper;
as loud as you can;
switching from one register to another at random;
like an old, stretched audiocassette;
as though you are frozen;
as though you are going to be shot in 10 minutes;
like a martian;
like a horse that has learnt to speak;
like a robot
like a five-year-old little girl;
as though the whole world is listening to you and, using this text alone, you must convince everyone that universal kindness is the only way to save humanity;
as though, with this text alone, you are trying to tell someone you love them;
and so on. There is no limit to what you can do.
Tape yourself and you will be surprised when you hear your efforts. Take note of what is most interesting. Repeat with variations. Invent any situation you like. And do it all again, differently. (All these instructions are arbitrary and are principally designed to trigger your own imagination).
Without standing, try to sit as though you were:
the director of a highly successful multi-national company;
a bee in a flower;
a philosophy professor in his or her study;
a monkey imitating a philosophy professor;
a dog that has just been beaten;
a dog that has just won a fight;
a cat on its way out for a night on the tiles;
a pig on a cactus;
Hamlet reciting “To be or not to be”;
a young woman riding a horse;
a pregnant woman;
a murderer in the electric chair;
an astronaut ready for take off.
Improvise. Note how you feel and carry on improvising freely.
Walk as though you were:
a toddler who has only just started walking;
an old man;
an old woman;
a ballet dancer at rehearsal;
Hamlet reciting “to be or not to be”;
Hamlet with bad lumbago;
a private detective impatiently waiting for the person he or she is trailing.
Imagine you have just been caught in a sudden, heavy shower. Feel the rain, cool and fresh. Walk in the rain.
Smile as if you were:
a polite shop assistant;
a dog looking at its master;
a cat lying in the sun;
someone in a state of bliss;
a mother looking at her baby;
a father looking at his baby;
a baby looking up at its mother/father.
Frown as if you were:
a child who has just had his or her favorite toy taken away;
someone trying to hide a smile;
an angry baboon.
Hop as if you were:
a philosophy professor imitating a monkey;
Sing as if you were a…
Write as if you were a…
Think as if you were a…
You may be wondering what the point of all this is.
It is simply to enable you to CHOOSE yourself. For this you need to be able to be everything and everyone. Try being lots of different things and people employing the range of your feelings and moods. It is impossible to encompass everything, of course, but there is no harm in aiming for the maximum possible. This demands both psychological and physical control. Apart from life itself only our imagination can make these demands. Your imagination will never fail you, so you can be bold. Be as different as possible. Enrich yourself!
Now try not just to be Yourself imitating someone or something else but actually become that someone or something else, even if only partially.
Relax for a few minutes and concentrate. Imagine that you are one of the following, or anyone else you prefer:
• a fairy princess preparing to meet her suitors;
• Socrates in prison awaiting his farewell visit from his friends;
• Sir Winston Churchill before one of his famous speeches of Word War II.
Have you a clear picture of it all: the surroundings and your mood, thoughts and wishes (that is to say, the mood, thoughts and wishes of the NEW YOU)? Stand up and start to act. You are now in a training role and have carte blanche. Improvise. Do not be put off by any of the things around you which seem incompatible with the scene you are imagining. Adapt them to your present world and use them as your imagination dictates.
Churchill picks up a book slowly, looks at it thoughtfully, a little absentmindedly, and puts it on one side, picks it up again and decides it might be worth reading, even if only in spare moments in the toilet. (I hope this book was not to hand.) The fairy princess goes up to her wardrobe and chooses a magnificent dress of dewdrops and cobwebs and tries it on. The phone rings and Agamemnon in the guise of Mr. C. or Paris in the character or Ms Y addresses you...
The basic characteristics of these training roles are:
1. each role is a mixture of reality and theatre
2. your state of mind is similar to that of a child at play
3. improvise freely
4. the opportunities to move from one role to another are infinite
5. how seriously you get into role depends on what you want to get out of it; you may feel more genuine in your training role than you do in real life
6. be as free and uninhibited as possible
Remember how easy it was to play as a child, how you were able to add imagination to the mundane and to accept life in your imagined world. Remember how everyday tasks were made exciting as they became part of this fantastic world. You have not lost the magic of imagination. You have simply forgotten about it as Mr. B. or Ms X, that is, you in your present role.
If you devote up to 10 minutes three times a week to improvised role gymnastics (you can always use your imagination to do ordinary keep-fit exercises in different roles too), you will notice a marked improvement in the way you feel, your mental alertness and your capacity for work. You will also find it easier to mix with people.
In your training role you will become a different person in part at least. For example, even slight changes in the way you move and express yourself will open up new perceptions of the world and different experiences.
Even just by saying “yes” like “no” you are becoming like one of your acquaintances who invariably answers in this way on the phone. (I do not know about you but I have at least three acquaintances who do this kind of thing). When Russians read as though they have a hot potato in their mouth they become a little more like the English. In order to become more like Russians, the English need to suck a handful of snow. When you smiled like a polite shop assistant you accepted a little of that shop assistant’s mentality into your personality. Each diversion from your usual self, however small, is a partial reincarnation as another person or in a role we may not have known previously. When we develop and mature during the course of our lives we are constantly being reincarnated, although this process is so slow as to be scarcely perceptible other than in retrospect. The roles we play in life determine our appearance and the way we feel, although we never know what is truly “ours” and what we have simply adopted from other people.
Since that happens anyway, why not add a few consciously fostered roles to our everyday repertoire? At least then we will be more certain with whom we are dealing. (See subsequently: Personality to rent; Synthesis of personality; Reidentification of personality).
Home Theatre – Entertainment for All
Role gymnastics massages our subconscious mind. It returns the inner freedom we lose in rigidly living out the everyday Role of Ourselves and develops our spontaneity.
The states we experience can be used in various ways and combined with any other techniques of role training. Role gymnastics is beneficial for us all especially, as you might expect, for anyone suffering from shyness or a speech defect. (See also Chapter 10). It is also useful for those who suffer from bad temper and irritability. It is very helpful to find a few people (or just one other person) with whom you can exchange the roles of actor and audience, and ideal if the partner happens to be a member of your family. I can assure you the support of your children at least, as long, of course, as you are not afraid to leave the role of Grown Up for a few minutes. It can be a great support to any relationship if a husband and wife or partners can take part in this together.
There is certainly no chance of being bored in families that go in for role gymnastics and the TV stands neglected. This can easily develop from a beneficial game into a fascinating hobby, a home theatre staging sketches or plays, perhaps even of your own composition. Any visitors will be assured an entertaining time. Some people may refuse to have anything to do with role exercises, preferring to remain in the habitual role of Themselves, and trying to keep you in the familiar role of the You they interpret in their own way. There is no reason to be particularly upset by this since, once you have understood the essence of role psychology, no one can prevent you from carrying on your role training independently. Remaining in your secret role you can go about your daily chores, working, answering the phone, enjoying yourself, etc. And the people you meet will not be able to guess you are living in a new role if you do not want them to know, although, if you choose, they will be able to see the results of this change. In other words, you can influence them as your New Self.
Relax and take a Role. Auto-Training with Role-Training
I would like to remind you once again that there are no hard and fast rules in Auto-Training and that the way you go about things is entirely up to you. The right role may help you relax and even fall asleep. (The role of a Baby Rocked in a Cradle, say. You can even rock yourself gently backwards and forwards; this works well for some people, myself included). Developing autogenous relaxation in advance is an excellent aid for assuming any role, both in real life and in training. Assuming you are already familiar with the techniques of Auto-Training I will not go into detail here. Having reached a state of autogenous relaxation, suggest a role to yourself (so and so in such and such a situation) and start to live it, that is, enter into the role mentally. When you come out of the relaxation you should then enter the role fully, and that is exactly what will happen if you are sufficiently conversant with the techniques of Auto-Suggestion. This can be done in role gymnastics and in the Auto-Training rehearsal described subsequently. Autogenous relaxation will also help you in other techniques of Role-Training. The main thing is to imagine the role as clearly as possible before the Auto-Suggestion.
Pragmatism is, of course, of the essence. Preliminary relaxation is by no means obligatory for assuming a role. Some people find it easier to go into a role straight from some action or movement (which itself can to some extent be relaxed), starting from characteristic gestures or poses. They start by living the role physically in order to develop the mental state it involves, rather than the other way round.
It is important to experiment to see which approach suits you best. Basic Auto-Training techniques and Role-Training can both complement and supplement each other. If, for example, you find it beneficial to relax your eyes (it helps you fall asleep, clears a headache, or helps you to be more relaxed in company) then, in addition to local relaxation try out various roles which presuppose relaxed eyes. The choice is yours, for example, a Yogi, Impassive Aristotle, a Naïve Child, Someone on Holiday at the Seaside, etc.
Be imaginative and see what is most effective for you.
Now you, too, can be a …
Reincarnation exercises or the Auto-Suggestion of transformation.
Developing an empathic imagination.
The following exercises have a lot in common with the role gymnastics just described, the only difference being that they require deeper concentration and more imagination. A more meditative approach is useful. Reincarnation is simply a different way of attaining personal infinity by tapping into the infinite potential contained in objects and creatures in the world around us. This also massages our subconscious mind both gently and deeply.
Have you ever wondered which diseases can be contracted purely by imitation? If not then I can tell you that almost any can, except perhaps, those which have now been virtually eradicated. Not all illnesses, of course, are infectious. However, they can all be transmitted psychologically and can be imitated so efficiently as to be indistinguishable from the real ailment. Suggestion through imitation is the oldest and most powerful form of suggestion and it is quite easy to see why children and young people are particularly susceptible.
I have come across numerous types of psychoses and neuroses as well as various psychosomatic disorders and fundamental physical changes in the organism caused exclusively by unconscious imitation. One six-year-old girl, for example, developed scoliosis (a lateral curvature of the spine) after six month’s contact with a close friend in whom the disorder had a tubercular nature. Although the six-year-old in question showed no signs of tuberculosis herself, as a result of her excessive impressionability and capacity to imitate she developed a marked and in part irreversible curvature of the spine. Another slightly older girl of fourteen appeared to be six or seven months pregnant purely as a result of being with her prematurely developed friend who was indeed pregnant. The former girl’s pregnancy was false and an hour and a half after I had conducted a session of suggestion with her under hypnoses her stomach returned to its normal size.
But if illnesses can be contracted by using imitation, how many might be cured by it? I would suggest a number; neuroses can also be alleviated. Physical ailments can be helped by imitating someone healthy, that is, by suggestion and Auto-Suggestion assuming the role of Someone Healthy. The question, therefore, is simply WHOM and WHAT to imitate, which model to choose and how to use it.
Humans can be defined as creatures that begin by imitating everyone and end up by imitating themselves. Unconscious imitation is part of the nature we share with our ape predecessors. Conscious imitation manages to more or less preserve civilization. Imaginative imitation, however, which is responsible for creating civilization in the first place, is a skill few possess to perfection other than geniuses of the calibre of Leonardo da Vinci.
You know better then anyone whom or what you would like to imitate, though wanting and being able to are quite different things.
In order to use imaginative imitation effectively you need a clear intention.
If you consider imitative creatures, for example parrots and monkeys, it is easy to see that basic forms of imitation require neither particular purpose, nor determination. Small children copy everything and everyone for imitation’s sake. This is a perfectly natural way for us to learn how to live when young. Unfortunately, however, it remains the main method employed by many of us for the rest of our lives although, as adults, imitation is at times guided by intention. If, for instance, you want to become a gardener but know nothing about gardening it is very reasonable to imitate someone who has the relevant experience and knowledge. Very often, however, we tend to imitate others unconsciously rather than consciously deciding whom to imitate and why. As a result, we are often very unimaginative in the way we use our imagination.
If you have consciously chosen what you want to do in life and it is compatible with who you are then it is likely that your imitation will be focused and productive. An original aim will itself indicate whom you should imitate and in what ways. Absolute originality, does not, of course, exist. Even an unusual aim (for example, to be the Laziest Person in the World) can be broken down into a number of sub-goals which, taken by themselves, are far from original (to do nothing today, to do nothing tomorrow, etc.). The only way of finding out whether our aim is compatible with our nature is by trying it out.
Imaginative imitation requires a capacity to love.
Strong positive feelings, love, admiration and gratitude are powerful stimuli for imitation.
Imaginative imitation requires a sense of discrimination.
It is worth remembering when imitating someone we like and admire that blanket imitation can be dangerous, as in the case of scoliosis described earlier. Simply aiming to be an exact copy of our idol may indicate immaturity, infatuation and a vulnerability to extreme influences in the future. If we really know how to perceive we can learn something of value from anyone. It is even possible to imitate some of the positive characteristics of people we dislike.
Imaginative imitation requires a perceptive eye.
Everyday we come across hundreds of excellent examples of behaviour we could choose to imitate. If we were just to take a little from everyone we could be perfect though, unfortunately, we rarely notice many of these qualities. Yet if we learn to find something worth imitating, however small it may be, in everyone we would have a constant source of enrichment at our fingertips. The more flowers pollen is taken from the better the honey. Consequently, the more mentors we have the better for us. It is most effective if we imitate neither mechanically nor superficially and this will be avoided if we are clear from the start what we are attempting to achieve.
Imaginative imitation requires creativity.
Some people have a talent for copying that is fairly rare and powerful and can sometimes be counter-productive. In some fields, however, it can be surprisingly useful, for example, in restoring works of art. A copy can never be an exact replica, and it can run the risk of becoming a parody of the original. It is a totally different matter when imitation is looked on as an interpretation or a variation on a theme. In this case there is no attempt to aim at an exact copy and this gives a free rein to improvisation. If we follow a pattern blindly we are likely to distort things, whereas a more creative approach promises more genuine continuity and development. Ideally, neither copying exactly nor improvising on a theme is an aim in itself but simply a means to an end.
Over time, individual interpretations result in qualitative changes. These are generally considered to be completely “new”, however, since we are unable to appreciate the continuity between the “old” and the “new,” that is to say, to recognise the fundamental unity of matter.
Imaginative imitation requires an ability to perceive the essence of things. The wing of an aeroplane and that of a bird have basic similarities and differences. For example, great writers, actors and political figures have great personal differences while at the same time sharing something that enables them to be what they are, the essence of the art of writing, acting or politics. In a similar way, there are defining characteristics for things, the essence of a wing, for example, which once discovered provides us with the key to invention. This is, essentially, a different name for imaginative imitation. In order to imitate someone who is successful, we first need to detect the nature of success and to understand exactly what it was that enabled Caesar, Napoleon, Churchill, Washington, Picasso and our old school friend now the director of a large company to become successful. Suppose you want to acquire a sparkling wit. First you need to divine the essence of the wit of people like Shaw and Wilde if your attempts are to be successful. Once you have understood the nature of wit then you will have already assimilated it to some degree and will be witty in your own way.
In brief, therefore, imaginative imitation requires us to be fully aware of just whom, what and why we are imitating and to imitate the essence and not the form. If we observe these guidelines our imitation can be of great use in Role-Training. Here, then is a technique for using imaginative imitation.
How to use Imaginative imitation.
1. Preliminary overview of our chosen model and aim.
“I want to be self-assured in any situation, optimistic, resourceful and attractive. I want to be able to think clearly and to give orders. N. possesses all these qualities but he is also a bit too condescending and cynical, characteristics I do not want to acquire.
2. Detailed Analysis of the model.
N. is obviously a born leader. His assurance and efficiency combined with his quick reactions and ready wit make him the leading figure in any group and in any undertaking he happens to be involved in.
The greater the responsibility and the more tense the situation the calmer and more self assured he is. He clearly likes a challenge and seeks intense situations. His optimism even seems to be linked to an underlying disregard for himself since he appears innately altruistic. He is an amateur sportsman as good as and even better than many professionals. His apparent inner freedom, flexibility and independence lend him an attractive air of mystery. He never appears to worry about the impression he is making on others, although he always has a clear idea of what people are expecting from him and of their possible reaction to whatever he does or says. He usually gives other people his full attention. He remembers everything right down to tiny details about them, even if he has only met them for a few minutes and seems to get satisfaction from knowing all about people’s interests. However, he shows little empathy and will manipulate anyone without a qualm. He can probably think with such speed and clarity because he can empty his mind of unnecessary details; concentrating fully on the matter in hand seems to be second nature to him. In fact, his mind is always more active than others people’s in some ways, and less active in others. He never raises his voice and, in spite of his excellent sense of humour, he never laughs and rarely smiles. There is always an underlying hint of firmness in his tone and a kind of enigmatic wit that gives particular significance to everything he says. He also tends to change the speed of his speech unexpectedly from time to time, thus forcing his listener to follow carefully. The effect is almost hypnotic. He emphasises certain words and sometimes whole sentences with such force (though never actually raising his voice) that they seem to imprint themselves in the listener’s mind. He is never overbearing and never gives outright orders. However, he behaves as though everyone will acknowledge and accept his natural superiority. His expression is honest, and open and optimistic. He looks you straight in the eye with an expression as if you have already agreed with him. He makes a very characteristic gesture with his right hand: he looks as though he is just about to pick up a conductor’s baton and then lowers his hand again. This attracts the attention of anyone he is talking to and adds to his air of importance.
3. Select what to imitate.
“So, I’ll take from N:
- a secret freedom and independence from my own personality
- an indifference to the impression I make on others
- a constant and active interest in other people.
- a restrained yet natural manner
- his manner of speech
- his expression.
I will try to devise my own gesture of importance analogous to N’s. Since I always lift my head slightly whenever I am feeling particularly independent and relaxed, I could make it this.
4. This is now mine. Auto-Suggestion for assimilating imitated characteristics.
In a state of Auto-Training relaxation or using Coue’s method (chapter 12) concentrate every day on the characteristics you have decided to adopt from your model. Try imagining them expressed in a few words, as a sound, as an image, in a movement or as a combination of these. The essence of any Auto-Suggestion should be based on the formula:
This is now mine
This is mine
There is not a shadow of doubt that the characteristic is now YOURS!
5. Integrate it into your life.
Consequently, all that remains for you to do is to make the characteristic a part of your everyday life. The Auto-Suggestion will support your subconscious and help the imitation become automatic. Just how successful you are at assimilating imitated characteristics will naturally depend on the frequency and determination with which you follow your model. Imaginative imitation can, for example, return your lost health, strengthen your personality and develop professional and other skills. Remember that you already possess the characteristics you are imitating but at present they are still latent. The model simply helps you identify and activate them. Essentially, the same technique is used in other methods of Role-Training (see A Personality to Rent).
6. Auto-Training, or how to prepare for the unexpected. From the life of a hypnotist.
Training is so much a part of our lives that it scarcely needs any recommendations. Actors, soldiers, athletes and diplomats, for example, all train in their roles, and even animals at play are rehearsing the vital roles of hunting and defense. Many situations are repeated in our lives, thus forcing us to practice how we react to them and, whether we like it or not, this very often teaches us to imitate what we did earlier. Unfortunately, however, life as a whole is not repeated, nor are those critical moments in it that are decisive for our future. Thus, although we may prepare ourselves for the Expected, few of us are ready for the Unexpected. Both of these, of course, appear in varying proportions every day and any rehearsal, whether theatrical, military or sporting, should make allowances for this. When training we reproduce the foreseeable moments of future situations as well as preparing ourselves for the unforeseeable. When revising for an exam, for example, it is advisable not just to revise the material we expect to be questioned on but also to be prepared to answer unexpected questions, since one aim of exams is often not to test our assimilation of set material but our mental capabilities in general. However, the more specialised our preparation, the less possibility there is that we shall be able to prepare for the unexpected. The narrower an expert’s field of interest, the harder it is for him or her to adapt if suddenly forced to seek new employment: if programming is too narrow it can be counter-productive. (An example of this from my own life follows shortly).
This applies to Role Training too. As we have established, anything we do in any situation is a role of some kind or other. Rehearsal can be extremely helpful whatever we are preparing to do, whether it is giving a lecture (the role of a Brilliant Speaker), taking an exam (the Role of Knowledgeable Student), going on TV (the role of an Excellent Communicator), having a fight (the role of a terrifying opponent) or meeting someone very important to us (the role of Charming Company). Naturally, the more often and the more exhaustively we rehearse the better since, ultimately, the aim of rehearsing is to provide ourselves with our best ever performance as a reliable model for the future. However, over rehearsal can result in a loss of spontaneity and flexibility and an inability to improvise. It is perhaps worth remembering that the main aim in practicing is not to learn the actions and words we will subsequently need by heart but to get in touch with the spirit of the role so that we can recreate it later when necessary. In other words, we need to assimilate and create a Positive Role for ourselves in advance.
In preparation you need to decide what you want to experience and what your Positive Role should be. During the rehearsal itself you can then live through it all and assimilate it for future use. It is probably fairly safe to assume that in most situations most of us would like to be relaxed, self-assured and ready to cope with a change of events. Thus creating a universal model for ourselves to use in any situation could be of considerable benefit.
Have you already made the necessary preliminary self-analysis? Have you studied yourself in your Negative role as objectively as you can and carefully devised your Positive one? If so, then I would like to propose a plan for rehearsing for any important situation or any role (for example, that of a Student taking an Exam, a Student Defending his or her Dissertation, an Actor, a Man, a Woman, etc.). This strategy has already been used to good effect by many, including myself. It combines goal-oriented Auto-Suggestion with autogenous relaxation which, if you have already read this book a couple of times, you may well be able to use with complete ease.
Stage 1. Preliminary concentration.
1. Clearly imagine the basic situation and the part you are to take in it, that is, your external tasks.
“A large auditorium, the audience being mostly unprepared and fairly unruly. I am to give a two-hour introductory lecture, the first in a series of six. This lecture should fire everyone with an interest into the subject. I must be relaxed and confident. I must speak clearly with wit and enthusiasm”.
2. Formulate the essence of the role and what your Positive Role will be, that is, your internal task.
“Mild excitement, a few nerves combined with an underlying confidence and enthusiasm. To keep the overall structure of the lecture in my head the whole time whilst also being ready to joke, digress and improvise”.
You can formulate this verbally or only in images or sensations; ideally all three together.
Stage 2. Relaxation.
Immediately relax for 6-7 minutes. Any degree of relaxation from superficial to deep. If you can master it, the latter is most effective. Feel totally free, experience “emptiness” as in the “Echo Magnet”.
Stage 3. Imagining the situation and the start of role Auto-Suggestion.
Still relaxed, imagine that the particular situation is already beginning, go through what will happen as clearly as possible in your mind, at the same time suggesting the appropriate spirit of the role.
“I am in the hall waiting to go out on stage. I open my notes and have a quick look at them. I am calm, organised, concentrating totally”. Gradually enter the next stage.
Stage 3. Role Auto-Suggestion: toning up.
Prepare to come out of your relaxation already in your Positive Role.
“My body and head are light and active. My thoughts are clear and precise. I am alert and pleasantly excited. I can see and speak clearly. I am ready for action!”
Now, quickly, stand up and move in role.
Stage 4. The role itself, the rehearsal proper.
Repeat or improvise the text and gestures exactly as though you were in the real situation. Maintain the spirit of the role throughout and do not skip any part of what you intend to do or say because it seems artificial practising it. Be demanding to make the most of the rehearsal.
If you feel the event you are practising is extremely important it is sometimes useful to recall the super significance paradox in order to reduce its importance.
I chose the example of giving a lecture at random. The techniques can be used for any situation.
Success despite disaster
Imagine the worst that could possibly happen. For example, if we take the situation above, imagine you discover just before you are about to start the lecture that you left your notes at home, or that on the way you trip and get covered in mud or someone coughs loudly throughout the lecture, or that you have an unbearable irritation between your shoulder blades, just out of reach, etc. Continue your rehearsal despite everything. The idea is that after this exercise the actual circumstances in which you have to perform may well seem pleasantly straightforward.
Rehearse in the role of someone else, using role gymnastics and imaginative imitation and any other techniques of role training you like. All this will help you to free up your spontaneity and to follow the essence of the role. Remember that you are never obliged to remain in the role of Yourself.
But what if events take a quite unexpected turn and throw you completely? What happens if you suddenly have to switch to a totally different role, say from that of Lecturer to Firefighter (a fire breaks out in the auditorium)?
Of course, we can never be certain of anything: “Man proposes and God disposes”. All we can do is to accept the inevitable and stay positive; maintain your presence of mind. Sometimes it is useful to see how things are going and to slip into a different role but it can also be worth sticking firmly to your original one for a while in the hope that events will eventually fit in with your plans. It all depends on the circumstances at the time. I have a particularly vivid recollection of one occasion when an apparently hopeless situation was saved simply because I was unwilling to forfeit my role.
I was appearing in the role of Lecturer and Psychotherapist, speaking on a subject closely related to this chapter to a large hall packed with students. However, since I was then young and inexperienced I had decided to hold my first session of mass hypnotism, that is, to appear as Hypnotist, a role I then dreamed of playing although one I now only reluctantly take up when work demands. Up till this time I had limited experience with individual subjects and had only read about the techniques of mass hypnosis. I knew that a hypnotist usually begins in such cases by telling all those present to raise their arms and to lock their fingers. He or she then goes on to announce, with conviction, that while he or she counts up to twenty their fingers will fuse together increasingly tightly so that by 20 it will be impossible to pull them apart… The hypnotist then counts up to twenty very slowly and asks everyone to pull their hands apart and lower their arms. Some do so immediately but others are unable to and remain with their hands raised. The latter are the best subjects and it is, therefore, on them that the hypnotist concentrates for the rest of the session.
This is exactly what I decided to do and rehearsed diligently at home. On the evening of the performance, I conscientiously repeated my prepared words clearly, even though a number of students thought I was joking... However, I repeated my intention with as much determination as possible and asked the audience to quieten down if they really wanted to witness something out of the ordinary. An uneasy hush fell over the auditorium.
My heart was beating so hard that I was sure it could be heard in the front two or - three rows. And so, after announcing that in a few minutes a number of the audience would be in a hypnotic sleep and would obey me completely, I told everyone in an ‘iron’ voice (as the literature I had read recommended) to put their hands up and lock their fingers together. All did so and a forest of hands appeared. Dead silence. I slowly counted up to twenty: "Five….. your fingers are fusing together… nine… your fingers are tighter together. .. .you cannot pull them apart… fourteen… eighteen... your fingers are fused together and nothing will separate them... twenty. Try to undo your fingers. Try to lower your arms".
And suddenly, horror of horrors, the whole audience unlocked their fingers and lowered their arms. All of them at once! A total failure! Not one good subject in the whole hall! Good God! What do I do now?
For two or three seconds, an entire eternity to me, I stood in shocked silence staring at the audience. (As someone in the front row later told me, I had gone completely white and was staring around rather wildly.) I could feel beads of cold sweat on my forehead. What I could not understand was why the audience was still sitting in silence. No one laughed or fidgeted. And then it suddenly struck me: they had not understood! After all, they did not know what was supposed to happen and thought that everything was going according to plan! So I could go on! I could do anything I liked!
And I did just that, even though the shock of the Unexpected had driven all my hypnotic words right out of my mind. Swallowing convulsively, I counted to fifty in a hoarse voice saying anything that came into my head instead of the formulae I had prepared. However, by the end of the count almost half the auditorium was asleep, and the others were in a state of shocked surprise. I did not believe my eyes either, but continued in role. I brought a number of students up onto the stage and turned some of them into elephants and tigers, etc. In a word, everything went perfectly and only later I realised that I had been in the role of Svengali from the well-known book Trilby, the whole time. I had, in fact, felt in a hypnotic trance myself: I saw everything through a mist. However, the exercise had instilled me with confidence. I understood that in hypnosis, as in many other forms of communication and interaction with people (hypnotism itself being just one of them), the most important ingredient for success is role initiative. That is, to say, the ability to create and sustain the essence of the role, firmly and yet flexibly keeping your own role and thereby instilling in others theirs. How exactly you attain this is not important. Whoever takes the Role Initiative will call the tune and command the situation. The major lesson I learnt from that episode was to always rely on my own experience and never to be blindly dependent on that of other people, however convincing they might appear. I also learnt to remain very flexible towards the Unforeseeable.
Memory and Role
I have always been impressed by how good actors’ memories are. I never could understand how they manage to learn their parts in a short time so they are able to recall long monologues along with all the character's gestures and movements. I was even more amazed after getting to know some actors to find that their memories are far from exceptional and, in some respects, are even worse than those of many other people. For example, in my experience I have found that, when out of role, they recall more abstract conceptions significantly less well than the average non-actor and show only average ability at learning foreign languages.
I discovered why this might be so when I began to understand role psychology. Real actors do not need to expend much effort committing the words and actions of a role to memory. It is all recorded naturally, as though of its own accord, as part of the process of getting into the spirit of the role, that is, as the actors identify themselves with the characters they are playing. The text of the role simply becomes a way of life, a part of themselves. A mass of subconscious associations and images invested with personal significance retain cues and monologues in the actors’ minds. If they happen to forget a few words the general flow of life in that role will help them improvise, often with remarks no worse and sometimes even better than the written text.
I then understood why so many schoolchildren and students have poor memories and why some people are bad at remembering events, dates and names, etc.
It is simply that they have not found a way of linking what they want to remember with their own life, with themselves. It therefore remains out of context and irrelevant. They are simply living in a role which has absolutely nothing to do with the material to be absorbed.
We remember most easily something we can identify with. There is little fear of forgetting aspects of ourselves entirely: even people suffering from memory disorders can usually remember events of vital significance in their lives. It is extremely difficult to forget YOUR OWN ROLE. Indeed, the only way to do so is to take on ANOTHER ROLE.
Hence a practical tip. If you want to be able to recall something (anything whatever, whether it is exam work, complicated technical data, an address, a name, a joke, etc.) then a useful technique is either to:
a) find a personal link between what you want to remember and whatever has significance in your own life, that is, with one of the roles you already play,
b) start to live a new role which will involve the material to be remembered.
Why have some people an endless store of jokes and stories; why can some people sing song after song with ease; and why can others steadily work their way through mastering foreign languages? Simply because, for a long time, the first have been playing the role of Raconteur and Clown, the second have enjoyed their role as Singer and the third have chosen that of Polyglot. All three groups identify themselves with their respective roles and their subconscious, of its own accord, latches onto and assimilates anything relating to this. Above all, they believe that this is what they can and ought to remember because it is their special interest.
If you can learn how to enter different roles and really live them then you will learn how to remember anything relevant to that role. The basic Auto-Training of memory will help you assume the role of Someone Who Can Memorise Anything.
I do not intend to give a list of roles useful for recalling different areas of knowledge. If you think about it you will be able to do this better than anyone else since you can make allowances for your own personality. I will just give a few basic principles. Above all, the role you choose should be compatible with the subject matter. If, for example, you are starting to learn a foreign language you might find it useful to take on the role of a Young Child Learning to Talk. This is, in fact, very close to reality since whenever we start to learn a foreign language we assume this role although we are rarely aware of it. All you need do is forget that you are a Respectable Adult Who Has to Go Back to School. Suggest to yourself and believe that you are a child unable to speak and that you are just beginning to talk in the target language. You cannot understand very much as yet and pick up things mostly by imitation. You make a lot of stupid and often amusing mistakes, but you are allowed to do so and people expect this from you. If anyone laughs it is more with than at you. However, you want to understand more and to improve your pronunciation. You believe you can speak easily as well as your Adult Teacher. You experiment with language the whole time, you live it. And as you ‘grow up’ you learn the language more extensively, gradually entering the role of Adult Able to Think, Speak and Express Him or Herself fully in the target language.
Another important principle is not to be frightened of your memory making mistakes. Enter the role with this attitude and it will help your memory to work accurately since our roles are our memory in action.
A Personality to Rent or the Tactical Double
Nona D., an attractive and highly intelligent young woman suffered from a neurosis which manifested itself by attacks of intolerable tummy-rumbling which demanded rapid visits to the toilet (a disorder called Bear’s Disease in Russia).
These attacks occurred exclusively when Nona was in the company of the opposite sex and the more attracted she was to the young man in question and the more intimate the situation the more severe they were. For some reason, at these important moments her, as far as she was concerned accursed intestines suddenly recalled they had once been independent sea hydras whose only line of defense in awkward situations was to contract and dilate fitfully. At one point she had even considered surgery (“What do we need all these intestines for anyway, Dr? Just why do we have these 20 odd metres of discomfort, treachery and stubbornness that humiliate us continually and make our lives a misery? Why aren’t we made more efficiently?”)
The whole trouble had begun with a chance incident in the theatre when Nona had to dash to the toilet in the middle of a performance…
This was a typical case of the paradox of super significance progressing significantly until it had reached the stage where she felt very bitter about her disability and had a massive inferiority complex. A course of drugs and Auto-Training relaxation had no positive effect. Hypnosis was also useless, the symptoms actually arising during a session. I tried to convince her that, basically, there was nothing unusual about her condition. But she remained unconvinced, “I understand perfectly well there’s nothing unusual about it, and the person I’m with may understand that too, but my stomach certainly doesn’t and makes sure I’m fully aware of its stand on the matter!”
“Yes, but what you need to do is to reduce the significance for yourself. That’s all. Stop giving the whole thing such importance. Stop seeing anything significant in your relationship with these young men when you’re alone with one of them. Consider it of no more importance than if you were in the underground or on a bus together or if you were having a quiet meal in a restaurant somewhere. And you’ll have no trouble at all then.
“I follow the logic perfectly, but how can I actually do that? I can’t deceive myself, can I? I’m young, single and naturally want to meet young men, get a boyfriend, love and be loved, perhaps get married and have children. If I really stop wanting all this, if I eliminate desire as Buddhist teaching recommends then, of course, I’ll get over my neuroses. But by then there won’t be any point in doing so will there!”
She was quite right of course. If she really stopped caring about having a relationship with anyone then it would not matter in the slightest how her intestines behaved. I could at this point have attempted to convince her of the vanity of the world and of the advantages of living as a single person. Instead, I tried to get her to accept something else which was also true but much easier to appreciate, namely, that any man she could not tell about her problem without embarrassment, just as if it were toothache, anyone who would consider it a serious problem in a woman was himself not worth a second thought.
I finally succeeded in convincing her of this which was the first step in reducing the significance of the whole situation. It also helped raise her self-esteem.
But this in itself was insufficient. The second step was to use a role. We spent a long time thinking and finally decided that Nona would try to assume the role of Katya, a semi-fictitious character in some ways similar to her friend R. Katya was an enfant terrible, an irrepressible chatterbox, ingenuous to the point of being embarrassing and quite capable of fairly outrageous remarks irrespective of the company. After a short but painful period of indecision, Nona accepted the role with desperative enthusiasm. After two or three rehearsals, she started attending my group therapy session in her NEW role.
All she had to do was to talk about her problem to a few “neutral” men, who were fellow patients. She had to do all this, of course, as Katya and not as Nona, that is, with charming naivity.
One “neutral” was delighted at the chance of having a heart to heart and immediately told Nona about his own problem, neurotic impotence. Nona, that is Katya, explained, not without some idealism, that any woman who attaches great significance to impotence is emotionally lacking or, at least extremely ignorant.
Wanting to change therapist served as the excuse for starting up another conversation.
“You don’t happen to know of a good therapist, do you?”
“Do not tell Dr. L., but I’m not really getting anywhere with him”.
The “neutral” suggested that whenever Katya/Nona thought things looked as though they were leading to a situation which would aggravate her trouble she should have a double brandy.
He also recommended yoga. Nona, that is, Katya, later went out with him a couple of times to concerts and the theatre and everything was fine. The "neutral" in fact turned out to be anything but neutral and he and Nona married some time later, Katya being quite superfluous by then.
I quote this case to illustrate how role Auto-Suggestion can be used in situations of super significance when self control seems completely hopeless. Nona’s case illustrates the Personality to Rent working in just one particular situation but it can be used for a variety of problems. The Tactical Double, for Nona/Katya, can have any characteristics you care to choose and can play difficult roles you have previously found a burden.
This technique is essentially the same as that of Imaginative imagination and differs only in form. By "Renting" someone's personality for a time you are fitting yourself into a ready-made model, although you are also free to improvise and supplement it at will. Assuming a new role helps us to rearrange our subconscious, while the process of acting out the role in itself relaxes excess tension. The goal is attained when the new role starts playing us, that is, when we actually become our Tactical Double for a time.
If, therefore, you think it is worth trying to rent a personality, then remember:
- In order to choose a suitable Tactical Double it is first necessary to analyse your own roles.
- You can combine the characteristics of real and imagined people in any way when deciding on the personality you want to rent (see the Strategic Double). The important thing, however, is that the double’s characteristics supplement your personality.
- Assume your new role with conviction, by using Auto-Suggestion and, if necessary, preliminary relaxation.
- The new role will not work wonders overnight, and anxiously following its progress from the old role of Yourself will only slow up the process. You need to LIVE the new role and to REALLY BELIEVE that you are now Mr. A or Ms R and not the Mr. S or Ms D you used to be. Nothing else will work!
- Once the role has achieved its goal you do not need the Tactical Double any more. A part of it will nevertheless remain in you and just how much depends on you yourself. If you find your Tactical Double helpful then you can always turn it into a Strategic Double, something we shall be discussing shortly.
(an important technical note)
When asked what you have to do to "act well", a famous Russian actor gave a reply which at first glance may seem a little strange, namely that you simply have to "forget your role". Actually forget your lines but then remember them again when you need to say them exactly as they were. In other words, you simply have to LIVE the play and identify totally with your role.
As we have already mentioned, this certainly does not always happen in everyday life. Many of us have an Observer sitting on our shoulder watching us the whole time and making life very difficult. This often critical self-consciousness is felt particularly keenly if we are unable to forget ourselves and cannot become totally involved in the moment.
The only way of escaping from this tormenting situation is by forgetting about ourselves. In the best case scenarios, this can be attained when we are in love or are immersed in constructive work, and in the worst... but enough of this.
In: Role Training it is important to remember that the moment of identification with a new role, the moment when we get into a role fully, should be imperceptible. This is just the same as when we fail to notice falling asleep since the part of ourselves that has been monitoring up till then is absent. If during Role-Training you think that you are at last in a certain role this, in fact, means that you are only still on the boundary, very close but not quite there. However paradoxical it seems, in order to enter a role totally you have to stop trying to do so: it is sufficient simply to accept the role.
Thus it is important to stop monitoring your progress. Live and act without analysis. Have a naive confidence in yourself and let life take over. Be sure that whatever does happen should have happened and have no doubts. When subsequently leaving that role (perhaps for a different one) you may be able to recall the actual moment when you entered it, but equally you may not.
Synthesis of Personality.
Our Integrated Role or the Strategic Double.
Many actors can easily imagine a play in which they take a “role squared”, that is, their character takes the role of another actor within the play. Indeed, it is not hard to imagine Actor A in the role of director G demonstrating how to play Actor K in the role of Director T suffering from acute indigestion. It all seems very confusing, although we often come across these roles squared in everyday life. If we just think about it we can see plenty of examples of multiple roles, for example, people out of work pretending to be working people pretending to be out of work. I am not recommending this but am simply pointing out that any of our roles can play other roles or even our selves.
In addition to the personality that we recognise as our self, we also possess numerous potential personalities, some of which are partly realised, some not at all. A latent personality can be evoked by suggestion in a state of deep hypnosis. It is roused slightly during role gymnastics and even more so during goal-orientated Auto-Suggestion in Role-Training. However, it can also make itself felt at times without our invitation.
Psychiatric literature sometimes describes cases of multiple split personalities when the personality is split not just into two, but even into three, four and even more parts. There is one case of a young woman having sixteen different personalities: sixteen totally different consciousnesses, characters, self-identifications, names and lives. For a long time none of them suspected the existence of the others since the woman forgot one self as she entered another, just as we forget one dream as we slip into the following one. After some time, however, several of these personalities managed to become acquainted and even entered a platonic erotic relationship (one of the personalities identifying as a man). This is, of course, a pathological case although, as often happens, pathology merely reveals the real complexity of apparently normal behaviour. This is also seen in our dreams and in the experiences of genuine spiritual mediums who can be transformed in trance into both acquaintances and strangers.
Knowing several of these mediums and being able to enter a mediumistic trance myself, I can bear witness to the fact that it is a state closely akin to an actor's transformation induced by deep self-hypnosis.
We all possess a number of different personalities and there is nothing to be frightened of, although it can be inconven¬ient at times. Like our bodies, our spirit is indivisible although this unity lies in aspects of our personality we cannot comprehend and not on the surface of our conscious behaviour. We cannot identify our real self with any "constant" characteristics simply because we do not have any: our most constant feature, for example, may be a speech impediment or a particularly melodious snore. The frightening and incoherent multiplicity of our personality is a consequence of the fact that we are accustomed to interpret our "personality" as only an extremely limited island in the ocean of our spirit, and we readily escape from it into the confines of the pseudo coherence of a habitual role.
I would now like to introduce another technique of Role Training which may help awaken some of our latent qualities, allowing us to integrate them into our behaviour. This technique is similar to the previous one, differing only in the depth and scope of its effect. It is particularly useful for anyone with a number of psychological problems requiring comprehensive treatment and for those suffering from a general sense of dissatisfaction but unsure as to where and what to change about themselves. (See the beginning of Part III, One Day in the Life of Mr. Luckless).
Strictly speaking, in this case it is also basically a question of successfully getting into our Positive Role or, to be more exact, into as many of the positive roles life demands. We can be helped in this by our Strategic Double, a new Integrated role, a personality we ourselves create with the help of concentrated Auto-Suggestion. Unlike a Personality to Rent, this transformation is long-lasting and comprehensive. The aim is to enter as fully as possible into the role of your New Self. Here I shall describe the technique briefly and in general terms. A more concrete variant is supplied in PART IV in my answer to Mr. R's letter (A Hopeless Case of Growing Again).
Re-identification of the Personality. Life Experiment.
For centuries it has been customary for initiation into a number of secret societies to confer on the newcomer a pseudonym, a new name or a supplement to his or her old one. A new name is accepted, for example, when taking holy orders. Among some peoples a new name is given at puberty or on reaching sexual maturity, and sometimes on marriage.
This custom contains a much deeper significance than might at first appear. Its aim is not simply to be a symbol of a change in social status and society’s external acknowledgment of this. The fundamental purpose is to bring about a change in self-awareness, a re-identification of the personality. Our names concentrate both the role expectations of others towards us and our own self-expectations: they are the gateway to suggestion and Auto-Suggestion. A change of name has an effect which, interpreted psychologically, marks the beginning of a new existence, a different kind of living. It is no accident that many peoples have treated names as a magical secret which must be protected from enemies. Many believe that names can both protect us and serve as the target for malicious manipulation. Perhaps this is why even today it is traditional in many places to give a newborn a second, spare name and sometimes an extra two or more. It may also be the case that different traditions concerning names play a part in shaping national consciousness.
There is certainly no doubt that names possess a power of suggestion and Auto-Suggesion. A name’s sound (whether it is particularly attractive, ugly, short, easy to remember or the reverse) plays an important part in the way we treat someone and, most important of all, how we relate to ourselves.
I remember reading about an English goalkeeper, John Hopkinson who although considered a good player was, I thought, unlikely to become famous simply because of his name. I do not know if he ever did make it to the top in the end, or if he took another name in order to do so. However, I have had a number of patients with a variety of problems and symptoms who have nevertheless had one thing in common: namely, an active dislike of either their first and or their family name. Some admitted this openly, while others hid it even from themselves. It is true that some of these names did leave a lot to be desired although others seemed perfectly ordinary and probably just triggered off some unpleasant subconscious associations. Dissatisfaction with one’s name is a common symptom of psychological disturbance, so much so that it can indicate when it may be helpful to focus psychotherapy around re-identification of the personality. This dissatisfaction usually accompanies some serious psychological trouble, emotional dependence on others, constant efforts to compensate for poor self-esteem, or feelings of inferiority. I began taking a serious interest in the effect of names some time ago and found that a change of name can sometimes be of surprising benefit, as in the case of Sasha, formerly Alek. Another example of this was very striking. One of my patients suffered from severe depression, insomnia and anorexia nervosa for two and a half years during which time she lost three and a half stone and became a virtual invalid. The depression had started shortly after her divorce. Nothing seemed to help and electric shock treatment was being considered as a last resort. She was heading for certain suicide, albeit gradual.
I finally decided on a fairly desperate step. I knew that my patient had kept her husband’s name after the divorce, a perfectly ordinary one and objectively no worse than her maiden name. When I asked her why she had not changed back to her own name she said that the only reason was that she could not face the administrative complications this would entail and that her daughter also had her father's name. I suggested in fairly forceful terms that she change back to her maiden name, stop the tranquilizers and sleeping tablets she was taking and go to stay for a couple of months with an aunt in a different part of the country. The same aunt she had visited a year before. She did not quite understand what the point of all this was but did as advised. When she reappeared ten weeks later she had gained over two and a half stone. She looked happy and had decided to go back to work. Her insomnia remained it is true, for some time to come.
My colleagues were unwilling to accept that such severe depression could be cured by something as trivial as a change of name. “It must have been her getting away from everything, a change of climate and surroundings,” one suggested. “But if so, then why hadn’t this happened a year earlier when she had previously visited her aunt?” I pointed out, destroying my colleague’s argument immediately. “It’s obvious she must have found herself a young man there,” someone else suggested. But she had not at that point, although she did a few months later after which her insomnia vanished. “Spontaneous remission: it had simply come to the time when she was bound to recover,” was a third suggestion.
This may have been so and, ultimately it is the recovery that is important rather than the method used to attain it. However, I have reason to believe that the remission in this case was not that spontaneous. Also, taking into account a few similar cases, I am quite convinced that a change of first or family name, particularly if combined with at least a temporary change of friends and occupation, can work like surgery. It can remove the psychological block, a knot of painful memories and unpleasant associations and, most important of all, the unconscious inertia of our former negative roles with all their expectations and self-expectations which keep us confined within ourselves and prevent us from establishing new and harmonious relations with the world. This ‘surgery’ is, in fact, a re-identification of the personality, a new perception of ourselves, the emergence of a new self-image affecting both our conscious and sub-conscious thinking. Essentially, it is the use of a new self-hypnosis to free us from our former unhelpful one.
“Fine, that’s clear, but what has Auto-Training and Role Training got to do with it?” you may well ask. “After all, here you are suggesting concrete measures connected with the purely external side of life, while paying little attention to our inner world. Do you suggest to all your patients that they just go and change their name?”
Of course, not. Quite the reverse, in fact. I often recommend that they start living their own names anew, that they try to feel their importance, uniqueness and charm, simply that they start liking their name! If John Smith feels his name has a distinguished ring and that being John Smith is basically a good thing then that might be all he needs to get on with life. If, on the other hand, he finds it hard to appreciate his good fortune in being John Smith, than goal-oriented Auto-Suggestion may well help. For example:
John Smith is strength
is style, energy, charm,
confidence and ease
Anything along these lines. This is real Role-Training: John Smith getting into the Positive Role of himself. It is also a re-identification of his personality.
Of course, it is of little real importance whether you are John Smith or Anne Jones. Essentially any name is no more than a pseudonym and it is equally possible to enter into the role of a New Self whilst still using your old name. All that this requires is an internal identification of our name with the model of the New chosen Self. The important thing is simply the significance we attach to our name and other features of our subconscious, that is to say, the roles we adopt through our self-image and the roles we thus suggest to others.
• ANY ROLE AUTO-SUGGESTION IS AT THE SAME TIME A SUGGESTION TO OTHERS;
• BY MAKING CONSCIOUS USE OF THIS AND BY UNDERSTANDING OTHERS PROPERLY WE CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING WE LIKE;
• IF YOU CAN HYPNOTISE YOURSELF YOU CAN HYPNOTISE ANYONE;
• THE ONLY WAY TO GET OTHERS TO TREAT YOU DIFFERENTLY IS TO TREAT YOURSELF DIFFERENTLY;
What happens if you are fairly indifferent to your name and your looks?
If you scarcely notice them and attach little importance to them?
This does not matter in the least since there are numerous other ways of bringing something fundamentally new into your personality. The choice is yours.
In a word you can use or adopt A DIFFERENT ANYTHING YOU LIKE. This should, however, have only one aim: that is, to enable you to feel a DIFFERENT YOU.
You may find more reliable help from changing your:
stance and walk
manner of talking and facial expressions
some of your values
some of your aims
some of your beliefs
Even the ancient Greeks understood that traveling itself cannot bring relief to people suffering from depression since they cannot leave themselves behind.
FOR INTERNAL INNER RENEWAL THERE IS NO NEED FOR EXTERNAL ABUNDANCE AND VARIETY;
Quite the reverse. A shifting kaleidoscope of changing occupations, objects, acquaintances, situations and entertainment threatens to drain our inner resources. A surfeit of external stimuli can dull our imagination and clarity of thought. Great philosophies and works of art are created in an atmosphere of stability and restraint and often strict asceticism. Spirit is easier to find in the desert than on Broadway. A good way to develop a spiritual wasteland is to constantly visit the cinema or theatre, to wander aimlessly round shops, to spend every evening talking in the pub, to read little and unsystematically, to be constantly traveling and, of course, never to leave the TV. The consumer industry is at our service in this, we just have to dig a little deeper into our pockets.
It is not that I have anything against wealth and variety in life. Everyone has different needs and a different saturation point. The thing is, however, that once wealth and variety become an aim in themselves we are inevitably spiritually impoverished.
These things can, of course, be the vehicle for inner enrichment. Anything, a luxurious house, a large circle of friends, an extensive library, an art and antique collection, the possibility of visits to the theatre and travel are excellent if only we have enough room inside to absorb it all.
This depends exclusively on our attitude to things, the world and ourselves. We can develop our inner world by using external stimuli only if our inner aims underlie this and if we listen to our inner self rather than the persuasion of others.
At times during our lives most of us probably feel the desire to shake off our personality and its attributes, including our work, family and friends, etc., to throw it all away like an old coat or if not to get rid of it entirely, then at least to add something new to give it a totally new feel…
Our preoccupation with promotion, rewards and success is not linked exclusively to our vanity and need for self respect but also to the need to increase the control we have over our own personality, that is, at least a partial re-identification of personality.
This explains our fascination for dressing up and masquerade, the attraction of travel, of acting, our longing to change our profession, home and, as far as some people are concerned, our husband or wife.
Any change in our lives opens up the new and the inexperienced. If we make this change consciously then it becomes a LIFE EXPERIMENT, a means of acquiring new experience and a new self-awareness.
The Best Vehicle for Role Training Is Life Itself
But only if we treat it as Role Training, that is to say, as a constant process of education and self-development. By putting ourselves into different situations and starting new relationships we gain the opportunity of playing new roles or of entering old ones in a new way as long, of course, as we do not try to take our old selves with us into the new situations.
In this way, we discover new aspects of our personality which is enriched and developed. However, exactly the same effect can be obtained from inside, simply by developing a new attitude to our former acquaintances and circumstances, and by accepting new roles within the framework of old surroundings. It is quite possible to travel without putting foot outside.
A great many famous people have shown this experimental attitude to life. Some had a passion for traveling and changing occupation, others had very unstable relationships.
Some, like Albert Schweitzer, took one decisive step that changed their whole life; others stayed at home as exemplary family men and women who nevertheless unexpectedly changed their philosophy regarding themselves and their work. All were searching for self-realization, for genuine inner identification with themselves whilst attempting to escape from the captivity of their everyday roles…
But our lives are finite and our experiments are similarly limited. Just as boats seek harbour and travelers shelter, so we look for our own niche in life, a life-style that suits us alone. We all seek an Integrated Self, a completeness that ends any conflicts between our various personal roles, a completeness that can enable us to express as much of our inner wealth as possible. We seek an inner freedom although we do so along different paths and create our Real Selves in our own way.
This closes the course of Auto-Training that has taken us from the basics of physiological self-help to psychological techniques aimed at holistic personal-development. Naturally, this course is not exhaustive, and neither will it cover all your problems or enable you to develop all your potential, but I hope it has at least given you food for thought, a place to start.
* A well-known Soviet director and innovator, a contemporary and rival of Stanislavsky
Role gymnastics (a game to release our infinite potential and massage our subconscious)