Imagine you’re on a stage and there’s an audience before you. You feel confused why you’re there. What is the performance? What is your role? As fear begins to rise, someone enters the stage behind you and the audience applauds.
Suddenly, your arms raise without your doing. You look up to realize there are strings attached to your limbs, which are also connected to the hands of the person behind you. You are the puppet, and the other person is the puppeteer.
As you involuntary perform before the audience, you look out to notice that they, too, are attached to strings. Do they realize it? If they do, you wonder, why are they enjoying your subservience, which is also their own?
The puppeteers in our lives may appear within a range of disguises: societal expectations, cultural norms, religious doctrine, or the people whose opinions we’re overly cognizant of. Various puppeteers control different aspects of our lives: our career, the choices we make, the beliefs we hold, and how we behave dependent on others’ opinions.
In many ways, puppetry is damaging to the psyche. Caring what others think to the point that it dictates your actions, for example, is like handing control of your life over to someone or something else.
Many aspects of who we are is dictated to some degree by a puppeteer. In some circumstances it’s nearly unavoidable. We’re social creatures with a natural desire to conform and a strong urge to attach our identities to something easily definable.
The harm doesn’t necessarily come from the puppeteers themselves, but from being unaware that they exist. A puppeteer has the most control when we don’t see that we’re the puppet, like those in the crowd who are oblivious to their own strings. That is when we’re most vulnerable to manipulation.
The first step to taking back control is to recognize where the strings are attached and then to identify the puppeteer they connect to.
Then, it’s crucial you realize that in your hand is a pair of scissors, and at any moment you have the power to choose to cut yourself from any person, institution, or idea that is governing aspects of your life.