Monday, February 15, 2010

Conversations with Calliope- Sl;iding Otter News 2/13/2010

Discovering and Managing Our Avatars

Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.
~Jake Sully, Character in Avatar 

The word avatar originally appeared in Hinduism where it means an appearance or manifestation of one of the deities. In recent years, it has come to mean a computer identity. In the movie Avatar, it refers to a way of occupying another body, grown specifically for that purpose.

In the movie, a somewhat cocky paraplegic ex-marine signs up to take part in a ruthless, profit motivated mission to uproot a civilization on another planet. His personal motivation is to prove he is still worth something despite his physical limitations. In the process he takes on an identity which he initially finds awkward but which eventually challenges him to become a compassionate hero for an indigenous race.

I have long thought that most of us also have various avatars through which we present ourselves to the world. We usually show people one main identity by which they recognize us. In different circumstances we might appear quite different to others, sometimes for the better and sometimes for worse. I remember attending several funerals where I discovered relatives of mine had a whole other side, in their case making their lives more substantial than I had thought.

Generally well adjusted people might contemplate or attempt suicide in response to a financial crisis they consider impossible to overcome. Usually placid parents can become downright fierce in response to seeing their children threatened. Sexual predators can seem quite ordinary most of the time. Those who know them in most circumstances find it hard to believe that they are capable of such acts. Some people can appear quite easygoing in some settings and act as tyrants in others on a regular basis.

Who are we really? Does one of our avatars represent our basic personality and the others hide who we really are? Or is each of our appearances a basic part of ourselves? If we act in ways we later regret, we might try to offer the explanation, “I wasn’t myself.” We did not really intend to act the way we did. Court cases have turned on whether circumstances can affect responsibility for our actions.

Sometimes we are well aware of what leads us to act in certain ways. Sometimes we surprise ourselves as well as others by our actions and have no sensible explanation for our behavior. Everyone can be thrown off balance from time to time. If we find ourselves frequently acting in ways which embarrass us, maybe it is time to find out why.

Life Lab Lessons

• Do you have times when you don’t act the way you would like to?
• Do you know what leads you to act that way?
• If so, see how you can avoid or minimize the effect of troubling circumstances.
• If you are stuck, ask people who care about you for their input.
• If you are still stuck, consider talking with a professional counselor.

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