We All Play Roles - What's Yours?

Written by Emill Kim, LAc

I heard an anecdote long ago that Buddhist monks in a certain community would see a wretched soul or an impoverished person and laugh at their situation.

They weren't members of a selectively cruel order, grown sadistic from living a sheltered life of asceticism, rather they saw these stations of life as something absurd.

The monks believed that we are all playing roles in order to fulfill our karma. They would have heartily agreed with Shakespeare that the whole world is a stage and any suffering in general was a performance from the players.

We've all embraced particular characters (or archetypes) in our life: the jokester, the jock, a favorite son, the beautiful stranger, smart businesswoman, a matron, maybe a criminal ... the list is endless.

All of these characters are identities that have been given to us (by our parents, circumstances, or upbringing) or we have personally chosen (by our hard work, dreams, or vanities).

These longstanding roles can be such beautiful expressions of our inner energy. We can comfort as healers, nurture as parents, be brave as heroes, or be kind as friends. Unfortunately, for many of us, we embrace roles (or residual self images) that often diminish and limit us. The ugly girl, the unwanted child, the poor boy, the sickly one, to name a few.

People come to my clinic with a myriad of serious issues: Back pain, insomnia, fibromyalgia, IBS, migraines to name a few. A good number of them have a true pathologic disorder that stems from an abnormal biology.

The majority of my clients though suffer primarily from something more insidious, an energetic schism between their emotions and intellect. They understand themselves to be doctors, lawyers, parents, sons and daughters, successful business people but things become chaotic when their energetic body lacks resonance with their physical expression, regardless if their status is respectable or possesses a high social value.

Our roles are more than skin deep: they penetrate to our bones. Unfortunately, the characters we play don’t always resonate with our energetic body (soul, self identity, dreams and desires). When there is a lack of resonance between our choices and our authentic energy, there is invariably a clash manifesting in a physical reaction.

Wisdom dictates we listen but sometimes we press onward guided by an ego or exterior motivations. We will fight our internal self with our external form, literally striking a posture. Over time, our musculature will hold this position from habit.

I recently saw a brilliant opthamologist who suffered from acute idiopathic flank pain. No clear physical etiology for his pain could be discovered. Previous visits to either his primary care physician or his orthopedist produced nothing.

His medical history revealed acid reflux from the age of 17 (dealt with Prilosec daily), his personal history described a recent change in employers, and he often mentioned the fact that he is the son of a doctor.

My hyper technical medical opinion (sarcasm) was that he was a big stress ball who grips internally to shield himself from the emotional/energetic discord. The recent acuteness of the physical reaction manifested from the inability to manage the excessiveness of the discord.

Within five minutes of finishing putting in last needle in his treatment, he literally started to pass out. This reaction is familiar and often characteristic of someone whose deep musculature is habitually contracted.

Certain acupuncture treatments trigger the body to systematically relax. The standard circulatory volume, heart rate, arterial tension becomes inappropriate and leads to drop in blood pressure. His fainting literally confirmed my diagnosis.

Unfortunately the opthamalogist learned nothing from the experience. After reviving, he started discounting everything I had to say, rationalizing what occurred only as a vasovagal response. He actually never paid me (telling me his insurance company would contact me) and never returned any of my follow up phone calls about his condition.

Throughout this there was not one instance where I was upset. He was literally a car driving in autopilot. In his own oblivious way, he rewarded me greatly with a great anecdote and tremendous insight.

There will be a time when he, and all of us, will need to heal. Besides saying no to our long embraced archetypes, we have to be aware of the chronic expressions that playing such roles have created: The habits, expectations, relationships, as well as the physical form.

Ultimately knowing oneself is not process of finding yourself but rather a growing state of awareness and letting go of all the things that you are not: Emotionally. Energetically. Physically.

If you are desirous of more than a costume change, remember genuine transformation starts and always from within and moves outward. This expansion from your authentic energy will burn away the habituated grooves and negative boundaries of all the roles you have been playing in life. It starts with a recognition that you are something greater. Really, don’t be afraid. The only thing you can possibly lose is everything you don’t want.

Trust me, if you do fall short, you will definitely laugh about it later.


Emill (aka the character in this life named Dr. Kim)

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