Pretence – Is It Needed?

I read a marvellous quote on Rogene’s blog, Espirational. It was by Meryl Streep. She said, “Pretending is not just play. Pretending is imagined possibility. Pretending, or acting is a very valuable like skill and we do it all the time.”

It’s one of those quotes that invokes in me a kind of “Yes” and a “No.”ย  Yes, because I think pretence can be used for coping, protection and the imagining of oneself in to possibility, but No, because it does have the constant and insidious capacity to alienate us from true identity.

Is there then such a thing as necessary pretence, and does it assist in the journey towards true identity, or is it simply a barrier that must be dissolved at all costs? I’d love to sit down with Meryl Streep and talk to her about it, but more so with the brilliant and tragic Robin Williams.

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About Don

I love life. Sometimes it makes sense, other times not. Discerning its underlying patterns and beauty always provides great reward and meaning and is a passion I ineptly follow. I feel deeply attached to nature and love the sea with its distinct moods and colour and find walking along its beaches wonderfully inspiring. Writing, sketching and photography is a sheer joy for me and the blog is one of the places I am able to express these pursuits.
This entry was posted in Communication, Discernment, Identity, imagination, inspiration, Letting go of Ego, Life, Poetic Imagination, Relationships, wisdom and insight and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Pretence – Is It Needed?

  1. Yes the Robin Williams tragedy has blindsided me. Too soon lost.
    Diana xo

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  2. Dan Antion says:

    I think it’s helpful to imagine what one would do if one’s dreams were to come true, but you’re right, we need to remain aware of who we are. Tragic loss, as it is when anyone decides to end their own life (if that is the case).

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  3. In a narrative sense, I love the idea that we can imagine ourselves into our preferred story! Too often we are governed by our too little and often ‘dominant’ story (or image of ourselves). Meryl Streep makes a point and although I don’t think pretense should be a tool to hide behind, I do think it helps us re-image ourselves. Like John wesley, who had to preach faith until he had faith, we too can go through the motions until that which we imagine becomes reality for us!

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    • Don says:

      “Imagine ourselves into our preferred story.” Wonderful phrase that, Jenny. I like the way you use “pretence” in the act of re-imaging ourselves. Thanks for a very thoughtful comment.

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  4. Val Boyko says:

    That would be a lovely conversation Don. We would all be laughing ๐Ÿ™‚ …
    Our persona and ego are natural actors. We learn how to act in order to get what we need from our earliest audience – our mother. Acting and pretense are important survival strategies for this human body.
    When we see ourselves as evolved we may not like that part of ourselves, and tend to resist it. After all we are expanding a new consciousness … and this part of ourselves seem contrary to it and what it stands for.
    It isn’t good or bad, our thinking only makes it so. It is a part of being human.
    Our true identity is revealed when we let go of our thoughts.
    Val x

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    • Don says:

      I relate to what you say, Val. What you describe has a holistic sense to it. It is an important aspect to being human, but a growing in consciousness will slowly shed the need. I think that is what I’m hearing you say. I warm to that.

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  5. nrhatch says:

    Don ~ I think you’ll find Carlin’s thoughts interesting. He discusses the dissonance between who he thought he was and who he really was and how he shifted mid-career from someone who was on stage to entertain by pleasing people to someone who was on stage to share his honest thoughts with the world.

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    • Don says:

      Thanks Nancy – very good. What fascinates me is how in his life he was seeking to image himself in a way that was completely at odds with who he really was, and yet it was that very dissonance he felt that moved him in to a true sense of identity. The pretence was kind of necessary for him to ultimately discover who he really was. It’s almost as if it becomes a kind of womb from which the new Carling is birthed. Very revealing

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      • nrhatch says:

        One reason people claim that there are “no mistakes in life, only lessons” is because (if we pay attention), everything teaches us something:

        We try X, it doesn’t resonate, so we cross X off the list b/c X is not what we are here for.

        We try Y, it fits likes a glove, so we keep doing Y, until we are prompted to move past Y and onto Z.

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      • nrhatch says:

        We are always “evolving” based on the experiences we have ~ life is our “womb.”

        I suspect that Carlin didn’t feel nearly as much dissonance at the outset of his career. Once he saw his peers (like Lenny Bruce) shrugging off the status quo, he knew that he needed to head in the same direction.

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      • Don says:

        “Everything teaches us something.” You put it all so well and practically with your X,Y and Z’s, Nancy. So true, light and dark are teachers. As I said to Val, I love the holistic sense of this. I think dualistic thinking has created a tremendous amount harm for so many of us.

        Life as a womb – beautiful metaphor. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  6. Espirational says:

    Interesting thoughts Don.

    I always find it fascinating when the same words, pictures, etc. have very different meanings for different people. This quote had a much less serious meaning for me. As an artist I have lived in the world of “what if’s,” splendid imaginings, and pretending all me life. But all that is the real me. It’s how many people learn, live and create. Many of the great inventions, works of art and even cures for disease come from people who live in that world. I believe that everyone is creative and posted that quote as a way to encourage people to loosen up and let that creativity develop.

    But that’s just what I saw in that quote. It would be interesting to hear what even more people see in it.

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    • Val Boyko says:

      I also like Nancy’s idea that we are always evolving … and to do so we try different things to see if they fit.
      … and Esperational’s comment that different people’s filters pick up things that resonate with them!
      … and the fact that you ask questions which raise more ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Don says:

      Rogene, you bring a whole new angle to it and it is quite amazing how we look at things from different viewpoints.

      “As an artist I have lived in the world of โ€œwhat ifโ€™s,โ€ splendid imaginings, and pretending all me life.”

      Wonderful sentence. Splendid imaginings and pretending certainly is the essence of creativity. I suppose in the realm of creativity lets dream and pretend to our heart’s content. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thank you for this Rogene. Appreciate your thoughtful comment.

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  7. I strongly vote “Yes” because pretending is a coping skill, also a hopefully creative skill. It can become a a hiding technique and an avoidance, but those things can be faced and dealt with later. Coping skills are needed when they’re needed… work out the details later.

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    • Don says:

      Yes, I affirm that Marylin. I certainly feel that it is a coping and creative skill, but as you say, as with everything, it can become unhelpful and destructive. I really like your last sentence. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  8. Healing Grief says:

    Great blog Don. In order for some to numb their emotional turmoil and pain, pretending is a perfect coping mechanism. I would say that most famous actors have had a very sad upbringing and so acting allows them to move out of their real story and into one they wish to have.

    Unfortunately, the pretending doesn’t always work.

    Karen

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    • Don says:

      Thanks Karen. Yes, I agree. I also think it is used as a coping mechanism, sometimes a necessary means of coping, but it has it’s limitations. Interesting comment you make about famous actors. I wonder to what extent pretence or acting can be cathartic and healing. Thanks for a great comment Karen. Appreciate your sharing. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. josna says:

    “Is there then such a thing as necessary pretence, and does it assist in the journey towards true identity, or is it simply a barrier that must be dissolved at all costs?”

    Great question, Dan, without easy or pat answers. Perhaps it isn’t either/or. Perhaps we need to recognize that much of what we present to the world is pretence and always keep in mind that it is a (sometimes necessary) mask. Perhaps the trick is not to BECOME the mask.

    I haven’t forgotten that I owe you a reply to a response you made recently to a comment of mine. I take the response seriously and just want you to know that I intend to get to it.

    Thanks for continuing to ask terrific questions.

    Josna

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    • Don says:

      โ€œNot to become the mask.โ€ Thatโ€™s it Josna โ€“ so true. I think when we are conscious to the use of pretence thereโ€™s a sense in which we are consciously using it in constructive ways, hopefully. When we are unconscious to our using it the possibility always exists that we will fall victim to it. Thank you for that.

      Would love to hear you on the comment, but please donโ€™t feel any pressure to answer. I really wouldn’t want you to feel that way, Josna. Loved your comment. Thank you.

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  10. davecenker says:

    This is a very thought-provoking discussion and you have so eloquently laid out the pros and cons of both sides. For me, at least, I think that it all lies in the perspective of our pretending. When we act as such with a wish for it to come true, it can indeed be dangerous, in my opinion. When we pretend to truly explore possibilities and discover new viewpoints, it become a valuable tool to broaden our horizons and learn more about ourselves and the world around us. Thanks for sharing, this is an extremely insightful post, well done ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  11. The Human condition fascinates me, I’ve come to believe that we are by large in a state of Physc where we all feel threatened by one another. Ive spent some time observing meetings … “you wanna see theatre and acting goto meetings. ” especially when a manager is present, how everyone is immediately concerned with what the manager thinks of them … at that point they all choose the appropriate role to see if it works, from Rambo to Harrison Ford types … some even defending or promoting something they don’t believe in with oscar winning vigour enjoying act rather than the point !!! Then the manager leaves the room … INSTANTLY everyone goes back to their true state for about 15 seconds. Mumbling, swearing …. when they realize they are themselves … poooof back into a new role to elevate himself or herself above the rest. Be careful WHO succeed’s in your life, if your that good an actor that the actor succeed’s at some point the real you would have accomplished nothing and is so frighteningly smart it will be able to fully understand the gravity of this that it would be enough to push you over the edge. To add to this, I also think comedians are far more aware of how false people can be due to their acute observance of life around them to build material. Quoting Robin, “I used to think the worst think in life was to end up all alone, it’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel alone.” – Robin Williams.

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    • Don says:

      Hi Michael. So good to hear from you. Thank you for such a descriptive and human comment. The situation you have described is practical and down to earth and such a good example of what the post is all about. I think it’s marvellous that you are able to observe it so well and be so conscious of it.

      The Robin Williams quote is a poignant one and food for deep thought. Thanks for sharing in this discussion and I hope you and the family are all well. Again, really good to hear from you. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  12. Don, I think there’s a place for pretending or imagining in our lives. Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine the best in others and ourselves as a way to empower ‘goodness’. People respond well to being believed in.

    Balance, as aways, is the key… since the imagination can be misused to keep oneself in denial (and stuck) about an unhealthy situation or relationship. I’m not sure if I’m off topic–but this is what came to my mind.

    Blessings ~ Wendy โ€

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  13. Pingback: Why It’s Important NOT To Give A Shit! | Spirit Lights The Way

  14. Don says:

    Thanks for the link Nancy.

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