Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Why Enactment?

Originally posted on November 22, 2013

Actually “doing” rather than just “thinking about” helps anchor the behavior in consciousness. Through action one mixes the thought and the intention. The mind has a tendency to be flabby, to forget what it was talking about, to dissociate just enough to go off course. We have a tendency to think we know what we’re doing even when we don’t. For example, yesterday at a restaurant I carelessly ordered lemonade instead of water with a bit of lemon, and ended up being charged for this slip—just costly enough for my guardian angel, “Bud,” to nudge me and say “wake up just a bit more.” What? I thought I was awake; but I wasn’t; I really didn’t realize I was saying “lemonade.”

In the same sense, this is why writing is important, a technology that involves devising a writing system, making paper, writing instruments, and improving all these over hundreds or even thousands of years. Without writing, whatever goes on just while talking tends to be be too elusive. Thoughts alone, unexpressed, operate internally in the mind. There they can be too easily attacked by a host of mental dissolving processes: Thoughts may be dismissed as too puny. The unconscious mind, objecting to anything that might be forbidden, may be buried, repressed. This can happen if we even dare touch on forbidden topics. The mind broils with tiny (and sometimes not-so-tiny) complexes, like little parasites, who mock us, as if to say, “Who do you think you are, someone who might think something worthwhile?”

Saying the thought out loud helps; having an audience who hears you helps. It becomes an affirmation. Writing the thought down puts it out there where you can see it, return to it, re-view it. Thus, writing has been a major advance in not just technology, but also thinking. You externalize the thinking process, which makes it an object, one you can not only review, but also revise. It’s out there. You can see it and return to it.

Playing it out as a bit of enactment further serves to anchor and objectify thoughts. You can review and revise them. Play in this sense—role play—is not frivolous so much as provisional, a type of practice. This helps you fix the point and then build around it.

For example, the capacity for empathy can be developed through role playing the predicament of the other. One must stay in role and be asked questions. Rare is the person who can do it by himself just on being told how. Like writing supports talking, adjunctive enactments support thinking empathically. Thus, empathy-building is better done in small role plays with a few people present to help. Minimally, perhaps, just one other and an empty chair will do the job. The person takes the role of the other and is warmed up by being asked questions by the facilitating person present.

There are a number of things that are best learned by doing them, from swimming to sewing. It’s a matter of “getting the knack.” Lectures won’t cut it. That’s why enactment is very variable.

One Response to “Why Enactment?”

  • BUD Weiss says:

    So, I”m your guardian angel huh? Glad to be of service.

    Role playing especially when you take other rolls than yourself, even a double of yourself or an alter ego so to speak allows for a kind of productive disassociated state. Moving out of acting as your self as you identify yourself allows you to more completely explore that other roll as a resource and even build it up with greater awareness in the role observing in a way in that roll that you may not have been able to do in your own identified personal role. Once re associating into oneself, that specific role learning becomes more fully developed and so a kind of up tick in spontaneity takes place. This is part of the spontaneity training that goes on in all role plays. Julian Jaynes work about the Origin of Consciousness is quite pertinent to your observations regarding action and more importantly, the act of taking another role than what we consider our main selves.

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