If you can’t pretend, life is going to be difficult. For even the most basic social functioning requires “pretending” at times, not acting on impulse but acting according to the expectations of the social group. The problem with serious psychopathology is the inability to subscribe to and conform to these social expectations.
But even for the garden variety neurotic this pretense can be a struggle. W. H. Auden noted:
I wish you first a sense of theater.
Those who know illusion and love it
Will go far.
Otherwise you spend your life in confusion
Over what to do and say with who you really are.
For, if you don’t develop that “sense of theater” you are apt to find yourself “wondering” too much about “who and what you really are”. That navel gazing can pose real problems for your life
There is an old oriental aphorism that illustrates this point:
A centipede was happy quite
Until a toad in fun, said
“Pray which leg goes after which?”
This through his mind to such a pitch
He lay distracted in a ditch
Considering how to run.