So here’s a story. A friend of mine…let’s call her Angel…was asked by…let’s call him Clem…to go to a wedding because he had no-one who he could ask, and Angel was a good friend and so he asked her. She said yes. So off they go to the wedding. I get a phone call from Angel at the wedding reception and our conversation goes a bit like this:
‘Pete I feel just awful. I don’t fit in here. My clothes are all wrong, I feel I don’t belong here and everyone is looking at me. I have to leave.’
‘Okay. So how is Clem?’
‘He’s fine. But he wants me to stay.’
‘Well are you going to feel worse if you stay or if you leave?’
‘If I leave.’
‘Well, it sounds like you have to stay.’
‘But I just don’t belong here. I feel so out of place.’
‘Why don’t you just act? You can act.’
‘Play high status. Act like you belong there. Act like you are a million dollars. You don’ have to pretend to be interesting because you are. Just act like you are really a part of everything. Act like you really do fit in.’
‘But I have the wrong clothes!’
‘A high status person doesn’t’ care about clothes. Have fun. Let me know how it goes.’
Time passes…tick tick tick…Angel rings back.
‘Pete, I am having the best time! These people are so friendly. It’s just great.’
Now anyone who has ever done any drama training will know about the theatrical idea of status, and the idea of playing low or high status and all points in between. The way a raised eyebrow, a look, a shift in body position, can change a person’s status and the nature of the relationship between characters in a piece of drama. And a person can of course play their status with grace and humility or with cruelty and arrogance. It is not unrelated to the notion of power. And when it comes to drama, ain’t life just the biggest drama we ever gonna be in!
Okay so here is the point of this story. Firstly, I was reminded that the world of theatre has a lot to offer those of us in the welfare, health, community, youth fields. Not just in terms of ‘let’s make a play about something important’ but in the way theatre principles and strategies can help us look at people and the relationships between. Secondly, in this story Angel clearly makes a case for just how powerful our thoughts are, just how important is how we perceive what is going on around us, in what we choose to think about, and how we think about things, and just how powerful the way we speak to ourselves about all this is; and how it effects what we do and how we feel. Now I am not going to claim that this story is a magnificent demonstration of cognitive behavioural therapy…but I suspect it is.
I posted something on this site on 9th July 2007 which quoted Jonathan M.Adler as saying that the stories we tell ourselves become who we are. I think he might have a point.