Friday, March 20, 2009

Shadow and Self

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It's a miserable day. I just got over one of the worst illnesses I've had in my life. I had a case of food poisoning. Salmonella had contaminated millions of food products in which peanut products were used. I happened to have eaten one of those products and only later did I realize that it was recalled. I thought I was going to die. To date more than dozen people have died from the contamination. It was my first day back at work in nearly a week. I was still pretty weak and I was having breakfast with a few of my coworkers. We're talking about nothing when the topic of acting comes up. It's said that actors rarely watch their own performances even the really good actors have a hard time looking at themselves. And I got to thinking, we are all like this.

Why is it so hard to see ourselves as we are? Do we need our delusions in order to be happy? I remember reading that depressed people tend to have a more realistic view of themselves and the world. Happy people also tend to be delusional about the amount of control they have. In an experiment where the subject was given a task such as turning on a light with a switch that had no influence on the light blinking on and off, happy people tended to believe that they had an effect on the light about 40% of the time. Researchers have discovered that people who are happy tend to dismiss their own weakness and externalize failure. They blame circumstances rather than themselves. They also believe that those circumstances can be changed even when they cannot.

I tend to be a realist. I like to understand things for the way they are, but is it worth sacrificing your peace of mind? No. And so I strive for the middle ground, I am a delusional realist. I'm delusional just like other happy people, only I know and am delusional and aware of my reality though I don't fully accept it. I know I'm not as funny as I think am, or as good looking, or as smart, but when I think of myself, I think positively, because the alternative isn't worth the sadness. I too cannot look at myself in a video recording without cringing a little. The camera doesn't ten pounds our minds subtract it. As I sit looking at myself ready to turn away I linger a little just so that in the back of my mind I can store that realistic self image in a dark and safe place where it will not bother me.
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