Are You Faking Your Life?

I’m always surprised by the height of drama that surrounds me.  People pledging revenge, crying like the world is ending, stressed out to the point that they make themselves sick.  I wonder sometimes what makes each human so different in their response to the trials and tribulations of daily life.  Why does one person lose the love of their life, pick themselves up and love again, when someone else sinks into a depression never to recover.  Did one person truly love more than the other? Is one person’s hell really that much hotter or painful than mine? Is it really individual differences that make us react like night and day or do cultural expectations brainwash some into thinking they’re entitled to be selfish, stage hogging, attention grabbers?

I guess I wonder if everyone around me is overly influenced by the visual entertainment of our time? I’m sure generations before ours dealt with revenge, depression, anxiety and fear…great literature proves this to be true, but was it as acceptable then as it is today to throw a fit? It almost feels to me like people think they’re starring in their own movies and the people that surround them are just extras put there to revolve around their story. If we couldn’t watch the sordid, crazy, unreal situations in the cathartic presence of others, would we be so easily influenced towards the melodramatic?  Does the fact that we’re having a communal experience that seems so real make us believe that it is reality?

I remember when a friend who suspected her fiancé of cheating told me before her wedding, “If I find out he’s cheating on me I will call his boss and he will lose his job.  His life will be over.”  There was more…it was a tirade but I don’t recall it all.  They’re now divorced, but I remember thinking, “Why are you marrying someone you obviously don’t love?” If she loved him, how could she so easily have ruined his life – even if he did hurt her? It became obvious watching their marriage that in the saga that she saw as her life, truly loving that person didn’t matter.  She was living out her own soap opera – and still is.

I wonder if people were left to truly gauge their own level of emotion without reference to media, would we have the level of violence, craziness, and drama that exists in our society? I’m sure there would still be women like my friend who would take their revenge to excess, but would there be as many?

Sometimes I feel like I’m walking around watching people fake their lives and I can’t help but think that’s really dangerous to the authentic human experience. What would I expect of a relationship if I hadn’t watched a zillion romantic comedies? Would I be so quick to diagnose myself and others with depression or as needing therapy if I hadn’t watched so many people in therapy on the silver screen? How do we know what we are really feeling when we follow a script?

I’m not just judging others, I’ve been there.  I’ve caught myself listening to words come out that I I didn’t think up.  I’ll catch phrases or moments that came from conversations I’ve observed in shows that I like or movies I’ve seen.  People always tell me I’d be a great counselor, but is that because they really feel like I can connect to them, or am I just good at sounding like the movie script they want their life to be?

When I went off script with my friend who wanted revenge on her fiancé it was totally ineffective.  There was no way she was going to see reason.  Was that because love and hate are so closely related or because she was experiencing pain and it was easier to handle it in a way that she’d observed and found fascinating than in the way her authentic self would have processed it?

I don’t have any answers.  I’m just truly hoping that by raising the questions I can up my own level of awareness and maybe that of some people around me.  Maybe the next time I catch myself about to go ballistic, I’ll put myself in check and examine my genuine feelings instead. I hope that I can.  I fear the day we can’t tell the difference anymore.

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