The Performance Bug

gets in early. You see young tots trying out things, in some cases testing their audiences–siblings, parents, other kids–to see how they respond. And one learns early on that one can draw responses from others by one’s behavior or actions. Sometimes it is to draw a smile or laugh; other times, to get attention (e.g., of screen-distracted, deficit-attentioned parents who ignore their kids) or to ‘get the goat of’ someone–usually an adult or sibling.

Early on then, one becomes aware that play and behaviors are basic ways of relating to others and ways in which one can assert one’s self and satisfy unknown inner drives. We also grow used to positive reinforcement, applause, and ‘apples’. The performance bug and Shakespeare’s metaphor of life as play and as a play is hard-wired. For some–actors, writers, musical entertainers–this becomes the dominant, prevailing mode–constantly expressing and playing for the pleasure of others and to satisfy an ongoing developing inner need. A career or ‘calling’.

But I will say this. That, as the previous entry’s aphoristic quote points out–one can be “everywhere, but nowhere” at the same time. One can be very busy or fully into this mode, but it may not work best or better for the overly-committed. Take the teacher, athlete, or doctor who goes flat-out with their roles and performances. ‘Burn-out’ is a concept that has been with us for a long time. Life is best-lived with some moderation and balances.

Can one just give and give and do for others, largely unappreciated or getting little back (other than $$$), till the inner well is drained dry? Always, one has to take a realistic view of one’s own process and what price performance has in terms of personal freedom, autonomy, happiness, deep inner satisfaction, and whatever missing pieces.
So whatever performances we give in our daily lives should bear the periodic scrutiny of ‘gut-checks’. For too often, the persons we most kid or deceive are ourselves. And so it may be necessary to stop performing for a living or doing a role which no longer satisfies one’s neglected inner self.

A withdrawal from the arena, a removal of many unnecessary, unpleasant conflicts, and an escape from people one would not freely choose to spend time with. In short, the possibility of a quieter, less stressful life–one more on one’s own terms, in accord with whatever desired inner freedom and one’s truest, less compromised, more honest self.

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