The Roles People Play
If you are awake, aware enough, to be able to observe how you interact with other people, you may detect subtle changes in your speech, attitude and behaviour depending on the person you are interacting with. At first, it may be easier to observe this in others; then you may also detect it in yourself. The way in which you speak to the chairman of your company may be different in subtle ways from the way you speak to the janitor. How you speak to a child may be different from the way you speak to an adult. Why is that? You are playing roles. You are not yourself, neither with the chairman nor with the janitor or the child.
When you walk to the store to buy something, when you go to a restaurant, the bank, the post office, you may find yourself slipping into pre-established social roles. You become a customer and speak and act as such. And you may be treated by the salesperson or waiter, who is also playing a role, as a customer. A range of conditioned patterns of behaviour come into effect between two human beings that determine the nature of the interaction. Instead of human beings, conceptual mental images are interacting with each other. The more identified people are with their respective roles, the more inauthentic the roles become. …
So you are not reacting with that person at all, but who you think you are is relating to who you think the other person is and vice versa. The conceptual image your mind has made of yourself is relating to its own creation, which is the conceptual image of the other person. The other person’s mind has probably done the same, so every egoic interactions between two people is in reality the interaction between four conceptual mind-made identities that are ultimately fictions. … There is no true relationship.
Eckhart Tolle, The New Earth