Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Vitality Enhancement

Originally posted on April 25, 2014

This is my term for a very valid activity. This phrase is needed. Of course it’s also recreation, but that category has been co-opted by two activities that may offer illusory gratifications. One is competition, which often is so focused on the winning that the fun is lost. The second gratification is vicarious. There’s a key difference between authentic and pseudo-vitality, between pleasure experienced as part of self-expression and pleasure experienced vicariously, second-hand, via electronic media. This pleasure of actually doing oneself rather than watching or hearing someone else do is important in a culture that is on the whole becoming more passive, outsourcing vitality to those media and their content—entertainment professionals who “do” it so well. One of the functions of drama therapy and related creative arts approaches is vitality enhancement, aside from the other ways it serves people.

The development of creativity is related to this. Generally thought of as building skills of innovation which then are turned to helping people cope, it should also be recognized as useful simply for helping people have more fun in life. Nor should creativity development be used only for those in the sick role; it’s a more general application, a way to help everyone enjoy themselves more.

The key is to do stuff. Do it, don’t watch it being done by others, even if they do it so much better than you. A second point is to give yourself permission to be middling, not to have to excel. Give yourself room to make mistakes. Learn to laugh and re-align. A few really enjoy bettering themselves more and more, and who are we to say no? But pushing oneself to be excellent borders on making what’s fun not so much fun, taking it too seriously. Be aware that excelling has its advantages—you get to appreciate yourself and be appreciated by others as having excelled. You get trophies. But there are disadvantages: One loses one’s capacity to be carefree in that role, and if that role, that goal, is big enough, one may lose the capacity to be carefree in any other roles.

As you may guess, I’m not that committed to being committed. There are in my world too many things to learn, read, dance, sing, walk, shop, visit, and in other ways, do. I do enjoy in my own life the way there are a few things I do quite well; and other things I do better than average, I think; but there are a number of things I give myself permission to do worse than average and, truth be told, I don’t care.

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