Recently an e-mail list I am on asked, "why do people pretend to be something they are not?" I offered up some answers that seemed insightful. Reflection on my answers has caused me to want to say a bit more on this topic. I had left out mentioning balance as I addressed why people pretend, or more directly, why people are out of touch with their surroundings. The aura of pretending, deluding oneself, arises when reality does not fit well to a person's behavior. I will look at this topic in this article.
I am blessed at this time with teachers who have directly and indirectly instructed me on the balancing of life. Their lives are neither easy nor are they comfortable, but they do live with an ease of mind foreign to many people. I was fascinated with this and wished to learn more. My own life lacked the same ease of mind. The answer to improving my own lot in life was to achieve a more balanced state. How? I've begun work on this, and I would like to share some of my discoveries.
Before I talk about balance I'd like to return to the original thought. Why do people pretend? The perception that a person is pretending derives from the observation that their actions and thoughts do not fit the reality of the situation. Why does this happen? The cause is twofold. Both are based on desires and both come from the ego. Firstly, there is the desire to achieve a condition or state that does not meet with reality. Secondly, the reality has shifted away from a truthful state, and the person is attempting to hold onto the old frame of reference.
The result of pretending is the living in a wishful fantasy world. There are two paths to this place. The first path occurs when a person holds onto the past. They will inevitably have a desire to maintain the now disjointed reality. One follows another. This is especially challenging as the pretending is based on a past truth that has now slipped away. It was grounded, but it is now baseless. It has become a fantasy world of pretended results. The second path to pretending is purely based on the desire for a world not grounded on reality. There is not past truth in this case. The motivation to pretend springs purely from personal desires and aspirations. In the end both paths lead to fantasy worlds.
Caution is called for here. Not all aspirations are fantasy. Striving for what is not yet is the driving force behind creation. Likewise, not all pasts have died. Many are merely slumbering, afflicted by neglect or passivity. Indeed, many relationships are salvaged by remembering the truth that grounded them originally. How does a person determine when there is pretending and where there is room in reality for something new or a return to the old? The answer is also two-fold, and the answer brings us back to the idea of balance.
Discernment of the reality, the truthfulness of it, is done so with the eyes of integrity and the tools of balance. Integrity is essential to separate illusion from those things with value and meaning. Balance is essential to returning conditions to a state of non-pretending. Negative words lack consciousness, so I will substitute the word "integrated living" for non-pretending. The integration speaks to being properly connected, in harmony with the surroundings around us. Integrated living is self-perpetuating because this is where reality really is.
The word integrity gets a lot of use in the discussion of morals, ethics, cleanness, hygiene, etc, and I will explain how I am using the term. I am presenting it as a lens for determining the path out of pretending, and the way of keeping in integrated living. Integrity is directly linked to respect and truthfulness. When we respect the connections in life, and are truthful about where we stand in the connections, integrity will follow. Respect moves us away from the mindset of rampant desire. Integrity provides the compass for traveling the high road, and staying on it.
There is an enemy to integrity that I must mention now. Enemy is a strong word, but often it is appropriate. Other times the word enemy stands as reminder that we are to be on guard. The enemy is the drama of life extending from the desires of pretending. A false reality must be created to support the world of pretending. Drama is both the result and vehicle of this world. Through drama, our entertainment media serves us pretend worlds. As a culture we are very comfortable with spinning a drama around ourselves to satisfy our desires. A robust drama is not benign to it's surroundings. There must be action, romance, danger, suspense, and of course, actors. Everyone is given a role in the drama of pretending. Everyone and everything has a part and place. We extend our own personal dramas onto the world, thus distorting reality through it's the lens of pretending. Drama is an enemy to integrity because drama is not driven by respecting the reality of the world. Instead, drama plays by it's own rules. As such, drama must go to extraordinary means to trump the realities around it.
How does a person escape from their dramas and embrace integrity through balance? The first step sounds very easy but can be quite difficult. There is help here, but often it is not appreciated. The second step used balance, and the third step takes a lifetime. I will examine the steps one by one.
The first step asks a person to recognize their own dramas. It asks them to be aware of how the world is interacting with them. This is not easy. Dramas can take on a life of their own. The clues to seeing the painted backdrops and worthless props of the drama lay in where we suffer. Being out of sync with reality will lead to suffering. Clothing that is too small for a person will rub and chafe. A car that is underpowered for a steep hill will move slowly and overheat. Life should be examined to see where suffering exists. What makes you feel bad? How do you compensate through the personal dramas to attempt to feel better. The stage of drama seems empty and hollow compared to the richness of reality. The points where the two touch, and are in conflict, are where we will hurt. The suffering will become a companion as the journey to integrity is taken. Here the dramas of life are revealed.
The second step is to achieve balance with people and events in life. Balance places a person in harmonious placement with the environment. The path of balance can be very long or very short. We all pretend to differentiating amounts, and the distance we are from integrated living will determine the suffering experienced as balance is achieved. Awareness of the surroundings is essential to achieving balance. Where is the balancing point? Communication with the self and those around the self are mandatory. The true surroundings of life will be revealed with suffering as the guide. The suffering decreases as balance is achieved. Within the center point of balance is the integrity with life. The journey is not easy. A life very much out of balance will take time to correct. Small steps are made and balance is reestablished each time. Surroundings that are themselves dramatic will be abandoned for the sake of personal growth. Likewise, those who feed our past dramas are left behind. The relation to all the people and events must be examined.
The final step to an integrated life is an ongoing one. The world is an every changing place, and to maintain integrity we must change to stay in balance with the world. Ever vigilant of drama, using suffering as an alarm, the integrated life is aware when pretending seeks to gain a foothold. The world will shift. We will shift, with our center maintained in balance. People will come and people will go. Places will come into our lives and move away. Pretending could be used to hold them there. It will not, as we know the price that is truly paid. The price is a disconnection from those things that are real, and hence a disconnection with the realization of divinity present in ourselves and the world.
As a final note I have to advise that a person finding integrity in balance will be judged as a pretender by those who are firmly entrenched in their own dramas and pretendings. Do not loose heart. It is a terribly time and energy consuming activity to worry about what other people think. It can be confusing as to whom has the most integrity, who's life is the least pretended. The secret to keeping integrity is in the realizing that the individual can only be faithful to their balanced path. When balance is maintained with the world, the world will joyfully mirror the internal integrity. In time, those who criticize will fall away and the prize of joy, outside of all those things that bring temporary pain or pleasure, will be realized.
Seek your own integrity. Judge lightly others as they are own their own paths. See the dramas of others as mirrors of your own. Those dramas of other people, the ones that stand out to you, are signposts of where your own dramas lay. Thank others for the sacred teachers they are. "Why do people pretend to be something they are not?" They are struggling just as you are. Honor them, respect them, and continue on your own path to integrity through balance. Namaste!