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One of My Personalities Needs to Come Out! Some Thoughts on Role-play

Tuesday June 22, 2021

I have been playing and studying role-playing games (TTRPGs, the tabletop variety) a lot lately.

Part of this is because hey, they’re fascinating. Who wouldn’t want to simulate a really deep fantasy world and equip themselves with a favorite persona AND all their gear, AND some good friends, AND fascinating super-bases AND incredible adversaries? It’s great fun.

But also, part of this interest emerges due to the amount of role-thinking I do lately.

As a professional coach, I am always thinking about roles. Not only for my clients, but for myself (this is part of the trick of any career position. Learning to do that thing-of-your-role, for yourself, and by yourself, so you can move on to the next lesson in life).

What Role-playing Games Are Really Talking About

Here is one of my takeaways from studying role-playing games: In a big way, it’s about giving yourself permission to consciously act on a given role, from a different personality-perspective.

And this is really powerful: To consciously do that. That is power.

Most of us only do it unconsciously. For example, suddenly we feel a great interest in a thing, so we start acting like we know all about it, or whatever. Or we excitedly plan a time to watch a new movie about an astronaut or something, and we think, “I can’t get enough of this! How can I get more of this?” (And then maybe we end up hoarding space movies? That’s the less-conscious side of all this, and of course it’s fine to some extent)

But to lean into the role with this role-awareness is really something else! It’s amazing, in that you can get really meta, and think of your role, and separate that from yourself.

(Role-ego separation is what I’ll call that, I guess)

Once you can do that little trick, you can solve any problem, with any tool.

Even tools that aren’t your own!

So I find it really therapeutic to stat up a character, as opposed to just imagining one. Role-playing games have a thing called a mechanic, which is where you have to consciously identify your character’s various levers: Skills, powers, themes, or whatever.

If you can do that, you can start to identify the exact tools you probably need in your own life situation. Where you previously only had an “astronaut-like” interest/feeling, all of a sudden you’re going,

OK. So my astronaut is really charismatic and he lives to get to the bottom of things. He wants to get the people around him to tell him in really clear terms—WHAT is going on—so he can make decisions! That’s how you solve problems!

And then you realize—oh, in waking life, I don’t even know what’s going on. I haven’t even identified how I’m feeling, or what might be happening. So how can I expect myself to solve problems effectively?

Or something like that.

And voila—you were just that astronaut. You were your not-self, during that very important moment, and it helped you out.

Oh and By the Way

As an aside, but also related to taking on roles…

I would expect VR to be extremely important in the future. Wearing VR gear will be better than just using your eyes.

What we now consider Virtual Reality gear will be able to mediate your role-perception facilities, allowing you to take on roles that you couldn’t before.

For one, VR will probably just be handy in sensory terms. Maybe you can see behind you through an additional camera, for example, and this by itself makes your solo wilderness trek less stressful.

But also, roles are really stressful when they require interactions, and sometimes we need crucial mood or energy support in order to continue a role. Perhaps the effects of beneficial medications can be mimicked by mediating the sensory inputs from the outside world through VR.

As an extreme example, let’s say you are in an extraverted environment like a park where there are lots of people, and you had all this energy to come to a family gathering, yet you are feeling unwell. Or maybe you’re even feeling grumpy and angry and anti-social and you feel like you could really use an anti-inflammatory or some alcohol, or both.

But instead of needing those chemicals, as a simple measure, your VR system kicks in with a bit of calming background music, it adds a rose-colored tint to everything you see, and then it filters out or basically turns anybody you want into a generic outline instead of showing their face or body—these are powerful emotional cue-systems being disabled, reducing the likelihood of a negative or triggering sensory perception—and then it does the same for you on those other peoples’ VR systems, effectively introverting you even more from their perspective, too.

And then maybe at the same time, you can watch a bit of a favorite movie or something.

And then you switch your audio feeds off and noise-canceling off, and you get your favorite music, plus a text-only feed of what’s going on around you.

And then you can essentially type to chat with your environment.

You see where I’m going with this? It’s hardly even “VR” anymore; it’s more like dial-an-experience, stretching each experience to what you want it to be, to the degree possible.

Some would ask—is this real? I personally think our models of reality are way more plastic and flexible than we give them credit for, and this flexibility is a REALLY amazing aspect that we humans haven’t taken advantage of yet.

This is pretty conceptual of course, but eventually perhaps we’ll have this socially-approved method of time-outing yourself to manage your personal energy and wellness. But without needing to leave, without even needing a time-out, just an adjusted perception filter.

I think that would be good for society. It’s not just INTJs that want to be, or need to be, introverts. Introversion is really at its core a question of the quality of attention to subjective experience.

At some point everybody needs to be introverted, or they need to at least partially manage their real-time life experience in a conscious way. By encouraging the use of tools that moderate our subjective experience, we can understand the subjective world better, appreciate the objective world more, and learn to live a more integrative experience within both.

(As I finished writing this, I slipped on these big yellow goggles that somehow seem to make the text on my screen so much nicer to read…)

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