Role suction refers to the tendency to drop back into familiar roles either from childhood, or previous relationships or jobs. Common roles are the joker, the peacemaker, the victim, the enforcer, bad boy/girl, rebel, etc., etc. Group dynamics can reinforce role suction and even create “role lock” i.e. we are fed certain lines and expected to respond in predictable, reliable ways. Frequently, if we don’t play our roles, we are met with “What’s wrong? You don’t seem yourself today?” and often it seems easier to just play along rather than to put forth the emotional energy to carve out a new identity/role.
Roles and the related group dynamic can range from 1) socially acceptable to 2) undesirable but not permanently damaging to 3) seriously dangerous (cults, gangs). The key is awareness, openness, and self-direction. Are you aware of the roles you fall into? One way to increase your sense of self awareness is to notice if and how your behavior varies in different groups or settings. Often a good friend observing you in a new setting can offer insights.
Are you comfortable with the roles you see yourself playing? Or do they stifle you, confine you, stunt your growth, hinder you from exploring other parts of your personality? A healthy group is one whose dynamic is open to and supportive of the growth of its members.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask.” – Jim Morrison, 1943-1971, lead singer, The Doors
“You like to assign roles to the people in your life. And when they don’t play their parts right, you have a hard time accepting that.” – Kasie West, Pivot Point
“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts…” – William Shakespeare, As You Like It
As always, I share what I most want and need to learn. – Nathan S. Collier