“All the world’s a stage” – said Shakespeare. Perhaps he was among the few who realized how central acting is to our lives.. for we all play 3 roles in alternation throughout the course of our lives. We are either the victim, the fighter, or the artist.
The Victim – I am what I experience.
We are all born victims. As babies, we are powerless to do anything but cry. As we grow up, however, the victim habit is either trained out by parenting, mentoring, and self reflection.. or not.
We play victim when we choose to have no emotional distance between us and our experiences. If something bad happened to us today, we must be bad or unlucky. Why else did this happen to me? Since we’re not strong enough to face reality, we choose to do one of two things as a victim – blame or hide. Blame is the easier option and we take it whenever we see an opportunity. And, if we see no way out, we choose to hide.
As victims, we try very hard to shape reality so we come out on top and are often willing to ignore right and wrong. The coward never discusses right or wrong. The coward doesn’t like logical arguments since he knows that’s not how he will get his way. He languishes in fundamentalism – attempting to propel a belief that things were best in the past. He faces the resistance (that toxic force that gets in the way of us doing anything good) and fails again and again and again.
The resistance is very powerful – which is why we see a Hitler and an Osama Bin Laden rise every generation. Adolf Hitler wanted to study to be an artist but he found it so hard to fight the resistance to discover the best of himself that he waged a world war instead. Hitler and Osama Bin Laden were cowards of the worst kind but it’s important to remember they weren’t different from us. They just succumbed to the resistance and got into the habit of playing victim all their lives.
The victim is like the potato in hot water – he appears strong as he jumps in and comes out in pieces.
The Fighter – I am what I achieve.
At some point, either thanks to tough parenting or self reflection, we realize that we have more power than we give ourselves credit for. We face the realization that “I need to face reality and I can shape it.”
We learn that we can get what we want if we stop crying and start fighting for it. The fighter is all about the “I.” She realizes that our education systems are designed the way they are for a reason – to remind us that it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. It’s important to be fiercely independent, compete, and become the best she can possibly be.
For survival’s sake, she must become the craftsman and set out to achieve glory. It’s war and nobody remembers the loser. This war is about fame, glory, and the sweet taste of victory. She wins because she is incredibly good. And she will work harder, fight longer, and persist to get her way and win. If she’s lucky, she will play fair and not the let the victim cloud her judgment to fight unfair. She’s been trained to view the world with cynicism since she needs a shell to guard her strong exterior. A cynic, after all, is just an extremely passionate person who doesn’t want to get hurt.
The fighter does understand emotional distance from her experiences; while still affected by her experience, her hard cynical shell protects her from it. She realizes she has the power to choose and chooses to focus on what she does in the ‘here and now’.
The fighter is like the egg in hot water – she goes in soft but comes out harder and tougher.
The Artist – I am..well..me.
The artist appears the moment we come to a profound conclusion – “There is no reality, only perception. It’s all invented and I might as well spend my time inventing a reality that makes me happy.”
It’s all invented, isn’t it? Scores, grades, brands, and competitions are just human inventions. The artist realizes that, in her imagination, she has at her beckoning the most powerful ally of them all. She realizes that she needn’t view the world as a race with winners and losers. She can choose to view it as an infinite game where she has been given the privilege to play. There isn’t just one winner – there are as many winners as we like. The pie is abundant and fills up the moment someone takes a piece. It is a world of possibility and she is out to create meaningful art.
The artist believes that the best lies ahead. In fact, she spends her entire life trying to create this reality against all odds. Yes, the artist is a touch deluded. She is deluded enough to ignore the news broadcaster who focuses on all the negative events in the world but aware enough to understand the role she has to play to make this world a better place. To be an artist, she requires a level of wisdom to view the world as a collection of possibilities. The artist’s task is the hardest of the three – she has to succeed first where the victim fails by fighting the resistance and keeping it at bay. She has to then make it a habit to do so by simply being herself, by being vulnerable, and by putting herself out there without any shell to protect her as the artist can’t and won’t tolerate cynicism.
The artist “gets” emotional distance in a way that the fighter can’t really grasp. She realizes that she is not defined by what she does. What she does is a part of her but it’s why and how she does things that makes her unique. This realization comes with a responsibility to use her gifts well and it comes with a humility as she accepts her role in making this world better. And yet, she doesn’t let her grandiose dreams get in the way of singing, dancing, and having fun. She makes ‘being happy’ an art form.
The artist like a coffee bean in hot water – it not only accepts the need to adapt but also changes the nature of the water and adds a beautiful aroma to it. It’s all invented and it invents a possibility that never previously existed.
How does this apply to us?
Look back to the past six months and you will notice that you have been the victim, the fighter, and the artist in alternation. You will also know which one you have been for the majority of the time. There are 3 things we must understand.
1. No one can make this choice for us. Our parents, mentors, and friends and can talk to us about being proactive and happy but we will never get there if we don’t make the choice ourselves. The victim, the fighter, and the artist are parts of us. We must accept them as they are and choose who we want to be most of the time. After a severe setback or disappointment, the victim WILL naturally take over. It’ll just be up to us to choose how long we give ourselves time to “play victim.” It’s okay to blame, wail, and waft in self pity once in a while. We just need to make sure it isn’t habitual.
2. It is all invented. We might as well invent a possibility that makes us happy.
2. It is all invented. We might as well invent a possibility that makes us happy. Repeat this as many times as required.
We are all artists.. our best selves are, at least. And if we aren’t making choices that bring out our best selves, what the hell are we doing on this planet anyway?