People who are unconscious of their own performance are not conscious of the work that goes into creating a performance.
They tend to see other people as just “normal,” a code for simple, without context or sweat. To them, normal things just happen, easy and simply.
This is taking the world at “Face Value,” only looking at simple surfaces rather than understanding what is going on beneath.
Those who are conscious of the choices they are making have some capacity to understand the meta, the underlying motivations and effort behind the choices of others.
I call this stage “post-therapy,” using the term therapy to describe the process of unpacking and understanding our own unconscious motivations and habitual patterns. We mostly do this work when we understand how our automatic choices are not serving us well, how they are limiting or hurting us, how they reveal pain and wounds that need healing, how those choices need to be changed.
Therapy isn’t something you can contract out. All a clinician can do is help you with the process of revelation, help clear the way for growth and healing. Only you can actually change yourself by changing your perceptions and changing your choices. I am the prime contractor in my own therapy, using all sorts of others to help over the years, in sessions, books, workshops, and more.
Like many comedians, the Marx Brothers rarely laughed when they heard a new joke. Instead, they analyzed it, often making comments like “That’s very funny.” Analysis was their primary orientation to comedy, just like Freud called therapy “analysis.” Great mothers do the same thing, learning to analyze people around them rather than just taking them at face value, a truth that has saved many upset children from a whooping.
You cannot build quality and precision without building understanding. Having taken things apart to know how they function helps you keep them running and optimize them. Until you understand the inner workings, they are just magic to you, like how a car is just doing its normal thing when it starts and runs.
Not taking things only at face value, though, going deeper, is always revelatory. For people who don’t want to have to face revelations which might be uncomfortable or challenging, staying on the surface often seems a good plan. They actually resist examining their life, believing that somehow, a deeper understanding will just complicate things and remove the magic, refusing to understand that whether you are aware of it or not, life is always nuanced, complicated and magical.
It is impossible for me to take the world at face value. It has always been like that for me, partly because of the way my mind works and partly because the challenges I faced, like my parents Aspergers and my own transgender nature required me to analyze and understand what was going on below the surface. This blog is nothing but my own attempt to understand, explain and share my own meta view of my world.
For people who do take the world at face value, resisting deeper analysis, my work, my struggle, my nuance and even my courage and brilliance is invisible. They cannot afford to see it because it might mean that they would have to see their own depths. It is often easier to cover or break a mirror than to look into it.
The unexamined life is usually the reactive life. We react to our triggers in a habitual, routine way rather than taking the time to consider our response. We stay negative, not using our freedom to change, instead continuing to dance to the tune we learned so long ago.
A store called Syms used the tagline “An educated consumer is our best customer.” They are gone now, just a remembrance of a time when considered choice was more important than impulse.
Attention is the most precious commodity and today, for most people, that is stretched to breaking. In the New York Times, Grace Helbig notes that in her YouTube videos “I cut out a breath between sentences. People have such short attention spans, you have to be quick.”
I know why I feel erased and invisible in a world that mostly rejects analysis and instead takes everything at a perceived face value. I know why I feel disconnected from people who feel compelled to stay at the level of small talk rather than looking at connections and implications of their own choices.
I am not just who I am in this moment. It took me an enormous amount of work to own my own life and my own gender as well as I do today. My goal isn’t to make it look easy, to never let them see me sweat, as so many performers work to do when enchanting an audience. I am this aware and healed because of my wounds, my scars, not in spite of them.
This approach has not built me an audience who looks forward to what I choose to share next. I don’t even have an audience of healers who see the nuance and the work and find some bits of insight and utility in what I share.
Being aware and conscious of my own performance, though, makes me feel connected to both my continuous common humanity and to the thread of divinity that holds the shining bit in all of us. In fact, it allows me to see where humanity and brilliance always intersect in the best choices we make to take care of our world, our community and our children.
We are much more than our face value in any given moment. We are complicated, complex, nuanced and shimmering creatures, full of blood and shit, of magic and light.
And I am grateful to have the attention and energy to be part of that truth.