As we improvise we can’t help noticing fresh choices to respond to situations, which may mean new ways that serve us better. The supposed rules may be found to be out-dated and perhaps no longer guiding us so usefully; or turn out to be inherited from authorities with no current legitimacy.
At the least, it can be re-assuring to identify a rule and question it to be sure that it continues to serve us well.
When we notice, we can do something different deliberately when our turn comes round again. A game offers an opportunity for safe experimentation.
Improvisation can also offer an insight into rules we follow in life. Perhaps you always feel a tinge of guilt when you decide to do one thing, then change your mind when circumstances change. Well, life is not scripted, so it may be reasonable to change the ‘lines’ you have so far followed. There’s no need to waste your energy on that feeling, once the moment has gone and you’ve now done something else.
As life’s circumstances inevitably change, it’s necessary to adapt to those changes, rather than resist them because of something you feel you might have done or should have done. Adapting is a good way to avoid the perils of perfectionism, which can be particularly debilitating when they take this kind of retrospective grip on you.
When you made your original decision, it’s natural to want to hold yourself to it. But if circumstances have changed sufficiently, then not carrying out your intention does not mean you’ve failed or lapsed in some significant way. As one participant on a course explained, “I put the whole of my life’s work into that moment; it’s like I have never done anything good in my whole life.” That appears disproportionate, which makes the rule they were following a good rule to question. Reflecting on change can become a more sophisticated way of holding yourself to account than, “I must be perfect”.
Many of the most questionable rules are those that others have set us. We might feel obliged to live up to other people’s expectations, even if they were never our own choices. When people talk about finding themselves or being allowed to be themselves, this is often what they are dealing with.
What conventions would you like to test today?