16 November 2011

The Games We Play

When I was a kid I often thought life was like a video game. Everything seemed contrived and I set out to have fun playing it. Now I spend less time focusing on what, in 2006, I called "The Game of Life," but the thought does periodically come to mind, as it has at this 3 AM listening to the rain outside my window. Now, while I am not suggesting that the purpose of life is a game, that we are here to play, the case can be made that, fundamentally, that statement is accurate. It seems to me that there are many, many levels to the Game of Life.

In 2008 I was drawn to the notion that, like it or not, and most of the time it is not, we are always playing and never living from a position of authenticity. We are never living from a position of the true self, but instead are always putting on masks and hiding from the truth.

We are always lying, all the time, even, and I would say especially, with ourselves about who we are. We create a series of intersubjective rules where certain actions, behaviours, mannerisms, appearances, styles of dress, professions, and patterns of consumption will define us as a "winner" and other actions etc., will define us as a "loser." We are always trying to win this game we are playing with other people and with ourself. It may get us somewhere and there may be some temporary benefits to playing this game, but the real effect is seen in the anxiety it creates; the sense of shame and inadequacy we feel, the depression, the anger, the confusion all from this drive toward inauthenticity. It is no surprise that we are the most heavily medicated people in all of history. We damage ourselves psychologically so much and we are taken to believe, through clever advertising, that the cause to our problems are external to our own minds (be they society, our brain, the 1%, etc.) that we become drug addicts and shell out loads of money to either the cartels or the government's favourite pharmaceutical companies, who are deeply in bed together and working to create a drugged society.

As a result of this game you do not have one self. You create a new persona for every person you interact with. There is the self you present to yourself, the self you present to me, the self you present to persons X, Y, and Z, etc. All of this is a fiction. It is a mechanism of avoiding the truth. Maybe we cannot cope with who we are, cannot accept who we are. We are too damaged and so we play hide and seek with ourself. We erect boundaries and hide everything we cannot stand about who we are and it is this lie that is fundamentally the source of our problems. We invest so heavily in maintaining the lie that the lie consumes us.

Life is a game and it is one that we play to avoid ourself. Now there are some people who have uprooted this lie and are living from authenticity and there are more who have tricked themselves into believing that they are being authentic, but this is just the smallest percentage of the population. Most people will never even become aware of the lie. They cannot handle the psychological shock. For those of us who are aware that we are playing there is a long road ahead to get out of the game. Meditation cannot free us because it ignores the lie completely. In samadhi there is nothing arising, including the lie, but once we come out we are right back in the same pattern of self-deception (which is why so many great Eastern masters came to the West and became entangled in problems with drugs, money, or sex: they were fine in the ashram where no temptation existed, but back in society where temptation abounds they have no psychological mechanism for dealing with it. It's a lot like the alcoholic who doesn't deal with alcohol, he just avoids it. Avoiding temptation is not the same as overcoming it.). We have a Shadow, and that is what Western psychotherapy works on. We must integrate East and West to uproot the lie and start living from authenticity.