Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

Breaking the Fourth Wall

Breaking the fourth wall is a theatrical term that refers to a dramatic technique used by characters who speak directly to the audience in an aside from the dramatic dialogue (think Kevin Spacey in “House of Cards”). It is as if they come down off the stage, sit beside you, and have a direct conversation with you about the play. They are breaking through their reality (walls) of the theatrical dimension and into your reality. This is a great metaphor for what people talk about when we want to detach from our reality to find the truth.

This comes in handy in many situations, especially when we are searching for the truth outside of our beliefs and judgment. Relationships, for example. Sometimes we fall head over heels in love (lust?) with people we believe are perfect for us. Then cracks start to form in the foundation because they don’t act the way we want them to behave. They say they love us, yet don’t want to meet. They say romantic things, but certain topics are off limits. Our heads are telling us we can change that person, but our hearts are screaming “run away”. Sometimes we need to step off stage and have a conversation with someone that is objective and honest. This happens quite a bit with counselors, spiritual healers and consultants. The reason is that when we choose a path of service, we are supposed to help people, not fall in lust with them. I am guilty of that error repeatedly, people come to me for healing (subconsciously) and I end up wanting to capture and conquer that person because I perceive them to be perfect for me. When the truth dawns and my heart is broken, it is only then that I realize that I wasn’t supposed to fall for that person, my destiny was to simply give them the benefit of my talents and services. When people say they don’t want a physical relationship with you, Tony Robbins says they are having one with someone else. I don’t know if that is necessarily true, but you need to step through the Fourth Wall and have an honest conversation with yourself about the reality of the relationship.

Another situation is this whole industry that has grown up around the term “happiness”. We have “happiness” workshops, “happiness” counseling, “happiness” books and “happiness” coffee mugs and coasters. I remember what the US Supreme Court said about pornography one time, “I can’t describe it but I know it when I see it”.  The same principle applies to happiness. You can’t teach happiness, but you can teach people how to manage until they find it within themselves. Happiness is like water, when you have it, you don’t talk about it and you don’t question what it is. Happiness for some people may be far different from the state of happiness for someone else. I suppose blood pressure and chemistry could determine how stressed someone may be, but the only person who decides whether they are happy or not is the individual being asked. I am beginning to think that happiness is what is left over after we deal with the stress and suffering of our lives. Happiness is not necessarily determined by the number of smiles and belly laughs we experience, but it helps. Happiness is not necessarily determined by the lack of adversity, but the ability to connect to that state of peace and calm while you are fighting your dragons. Perhaps happiness is that state of being that resides in the silence between those dragons showing up on your doorstep.

A third situation is the concept of spirituality. When I am sitting in a spiritual workshop or listening to a video on my computer sometimes I want to leave the stage, sit down with the audience and say “this is so much bullshit!” I wonder if people actually listen to themselves talk to realize whether they are making any sense or not. Many times workshops are just copies of workshops that are copies of other workshops. Wouldn’t it be better to step off the stage and have a conversation with an alien who doesn’t know anything about this stuff? Perhaps that alien is ourselves. It is up to us to quit drinking the Kool-Aid and start living our lives, inclusive of our individual thoughts. I was listening to someone give a talk on yoga not long ago and I wanted to ask “what do you have if someone doesn’t like yoga?”

The bottom line is we all build stories by connecting the dots of our collective experiences about who we are, what we are doing and where we want to go. That is what is happening up on stage. We need to break through the fourth wall and get real. We need to step off the stage on our relationships, our happiness and our spirituality and just be ourselves. We can have all of those things but we are not those things. If it is true that we are spiritual beings having a human experiences, we need to focus more on that spiritual being and step aside from the human experiences. If we can do that, we can experience life more fully and genuinely, honor ourselves and be at peace.

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