I’ve been quiet for a while as I’m in the midst of co-leading a five week series: 5 Reviving Play Moves to Reinvigorate Relating. We’ve been exploring some of our most gnarly characters. Characters who help us get through or get in our way… I’ve got a bunch of ’em! My Angry Cleaner gets the house sparkling when she doesn’t want to face her anger. My Broken Record is really good at telling my son the same thing over and over again without getting heard. My Unlovable showed up the other night and she really just wants to FEEL. And then there is my Open Arms character who enjoys welcoming new people and appreciates new playmates.
None of these characters are bad. They all have a direct line to our essence, who we truly are, but some of them got attention in the form of approval and some of them got attention in the form of disapproval. Another name for them is persona (you might know them by other names), which literally means ‘mask’. We learned to put on these masks as we grew up discovering what gets us the attention we need and what doesn’t. Because we all require attention to survive.
They all worked at some point in our lives or we wouldn’t still be playing them out. But now that I’m an adult, seeking out approval and trying to avoid disapproval through these personas feels unfulfilling. I never truly get what I really want. So I try NOT to put on these masks and I wish they would just go away. That doesn’t work, at all. I might end up thinking I’ve replaced them with something better, like the Mindful Mother who “never” gets angry, but inevitably they come back around. That’s because each of these characters have a message for me. They are here to invite me to discover, “what do I really want?” What part of me have I yet to welcome. What feeling am I keeping myself from feeling by wearing this mask?
We can’t answer those questions when we look at ourselves and our personas through a critical lens because again, we are looking at ourselves with approval or disapproval, the same environment in which they were created.
“Approval/disapproval is keeping you from a direct experience.” – Viola Spolin, the mother of modern improv. It keeps me from a direct experience of myself, of others and of the world around me.
But we can invite our personas out to play. We can give them a curious attention. When we step into authentically playing with our personas, we dissolve our self-criticizer and step into the field beyond right and wrong. This is sometimes so “far out there” it can be difficult to even imagine. And that’s why improv is a magnificent place for us to start practicing. The field of improv that I intend to create is beyond right and wrong. It’s a place of pure creativity and we get there in incremental steps. We make a few agreements beforehand between players to set the context of the game and give us a foundation on which to play and then we let our creativity stretch and run.
If you’re ready to let your creativity loose in a full-body play experience, then I invite you to one of the follow events:
Sunday, March 31st, I’m leading a half day playshop where you will learn to melt your fear, engage your body’s intelligence and improvise your way to creating what you really want in life. I bet a persona or two will come out to play and we can discover what you really want together. I’ve extended the early bird deadline until March 28th so sign up today for Play It Out! Intro to Manifesting Through Improv. $37/person.
Monday, April 22nd, you can experience a free improv class with me! This will be a laid back, all-are-welcome, improv play session focused on creating fun in that field beyond right and wrong. Free Improv Class in West Seattle.
So, will you come out to play?
Dhira and Open Arms