Theater Metaphor of Mind

We went to the movies a couple months ago. It was a fun sci-fi flick I’d been looking forward to viewing. We got to the theater early, bought some popcorn and water, then found the best seats and waited for the show to begin.

Soon, the screen was lit with flowing images. The movie was all I expected and more. I could really feel myself being drawn into the story. I felt for the characters and found myself hoping for their success. The popcorn was delicious!

I was feeling grateful!

Theater Imagery

In one Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) exercise, we imagine being in a movie theater watching a [sensitive] life event being projected onto a big screen – like my sci-fi flick. The idea of the exercise is to gather information ABOUT the event by looking AT it without being IN it.

It’s a useful metaphor for learning about past experiences without being affected by the emotional baggage attached to them.

This got me to wondering – WHO exactly is watching that metaphoric screen? I assumed it was ME, the same me that had the experience projected on the screen. Makes sense to me. And the theater was a metaphoric vehicle to help me imagine. It’s a metaphor, and so, I wonder…

  • Who/what is represented by the theater?
  • Who/what is watching the movie in the theater?

Yes, I’m all of it! Theater and viewer! It’s MY image! It’s all ME!!!

Theater Metaphor of Mind

I can consider my mind as two aspects: conscious and subconscious. My subconscious mind is the giant super-human part of me that controls virtually every aspect of my body as well as most of my thoughts and perceptions. Some researchers contend that this subconscious mind of mine represents some 95+% of my thoughts. I wonder if that figure may be low.

My conscious mind, on the other hand, hardly registers in comparison. Let me put it into perspective with the theater metaphor – the theater, its building, management and facilities, the move itself – including all the actors and events, the screen upon which it is projected, the projector, the film, the seat in which I sit, the popcorn – the viewer, too – ALL subconscious mind! Doesn’t seem to leave much room for Mr. C. M.

My conscious mind is represented in this theater metaphor of mind by the esoteric aspect of the viewer that is AWARE of the movie and can make judgments about it.

I like to think my conscious mind can direct the body – mostly because of the illusion of will and that I have voluntary muscles at my disposal. Yet even that muscular discretion is an illusion – as anyone who has lost the use of a limb will tell you. I get to exercise discretion over muscles ONLY as my subconscious mind allows – which it usually does. However, my subconscious mind can just as easily revoke that permission when it perceives that my conscious mind is, well, off the mark – for example, when I consciously choose to do something a bit too dangerous and my muscles freeze up.

No matter how much my conscious mind wants to think it has control, truth is – it has precious little. What it does have, though, is attention – defined as, “Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.” (Google)

In other words…

My subconscious mind takes care of just about everything in my life – allowing my conscious mind to NOTICE and ENJOY.

Perhaps my experience of living is the manifestation of my conscious mind enjoying the show. Yes, sometimes I don’t particularly like the feature – maybe I feel uncomfortable or afraid – yet these, too, may be MY way of expressing my enjoyment. I enjoyed the sci-fi movie more when I allowed myself to get INTO the movie. In other words – the more I noticed and involved my conscious awareness into the movie, the more I enjoyed it.

Rather than to direct my life as I’ve been taught, perhaps the most useful function of my conscious mind is merely to notice and appreciate.

Maybe as I release my need to consciously defend myself – which defense burns precious mental fuel in an attempt to do poorly the same job my powerful subconscious mind does well – a bit like trying to run commentary on the story out loud during the movie – I might realize the ultimate experience of consciousness —


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