Updated: Nov 2, 2020
I recall watching a Soap Opera as a teenager entitled As the World Turns. We only had two television channels to choose from, and there's where I landed. I was home from school with the flu. In between sipping on my mother's chicken soup, attitudes were dramatically turning as the world was turning without notice—fictional characters fraught with anger, spite, and much-unresolved resentment were working to capture my attention. Spicy romance, whiskey thrown at faces, it was all there.
For a week of my life, at the age of sixteen, I was a bit taken in by fictional characters whose primary goal it seemed was to get every little inch of their lives to work in their favor.
This show served as my laughable entertainment. I didn't possess the same compelling interest (or was it an obsession?), as some of my friends did to find out whether or not Bo marries Belinda. I didn't see the value of knowing if someone would kill Sheila. I didn't feel drawn to seek out or follow that kind of drama--even if it did bring me a laugh or two. I was too busy trying to untangle my internal struggles to be immersed in others'.
It's funny. I spent a large majority of my childhood on various stages acting in shows. I went on to study the craft of acting in theatre in NYC professionally as a young woman. Offstage, I was long considered the 'dramatic' personality among our group of friends. I may not have wanted to watch or participate in soap operas, and I was also a young woman in need of some emotional taming, according to everyone around me, it seemed.
By the time I was eighteen, I was ashamed of being a sensitive person that I built the most magnificent wall of emotional- protection. Hard as a boiled egg, I later learned the hard way that I might become a laughable soap opera character one day who's miffed at the world and itching to get back at someone.
It would take an acting coach to say, "You're a fake! What is that you're doing there? Does this, in any authentic way, convey how this character is feeling or needing to say at the moment? You better knock down that emotional wall and cry some real tears for us--out of empathy for what this character has gone through and act as if you were her!" Immediately, tears began to flow. I was embarrassed, and I was also crying for the first time in what could have been a year. Real emotion. The sensitive me that I had been so ashamed of was on display for all. As I dropped real tears, I dropped my fear as well. I was no longer in danger of becoming a laughable character dressed like a hard-boiled egg ready to be cracked at any moment. I embraced my sensitivity!
Having been immersed in dramatic scripts for many years, I was called upon by coaches and directors to become a more enriched person offstage to become a more moving and authentic artist. It was my first introduction to personal development at a more profound level and daily practice. My directors and acting coaches were brilliant in my mind and experience. They influenced me to behave genuinely within fictional and dramatic circumstances through authentic self-connection and growth. As I came to understand the difference between 'playing' a role and 'participating' in a character's emotions by accessing my own, I gained empathy and understanding of my sensitive nature and a higher appreciation of others' pain.
Sometimes life feels reduced down to two channels: The Drama Channel and the Dramatic Growth Channel. While there's no shame in observing others' drama, there is also everything to gain by becoming more aware of the dramatic challenges we place upon ourselves. Where internal shame exists, we risk becoming a fake version of ourselves. With real emotion hidden and hard-boiled bitterness attached, how can we hope to step into the shoes of the people in our lives? How might we possibly move them in ways that are genuine if we aren't open with ourselves first?
Whatever channel in life we land on, whether by choice or dramatic turn of the weather in relationships, the world will keep turning, and time will keep on passing. We might be temporarily captured or obsessed with others' dramatic stories, whether real or fictional. Wherever we are, we might ask ourselves, will I turn my attitude to support the real-life characters surrounding me? In dramatic circumstances, whether onstage or off, how might you reveal to the world your true and beautiful authentic self?
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