It’s Spring, the time of year when Mother Nature reminds us that renewal is possible. Seedlings push their way through the Earth determined to find their place in the Sun. Trees bare during the Winter, sprout buds with the scent of Spring in the air. The renewal that comes with Spring can be a visual reminder of our own resiliency. Indeed, it is this resilience that can become the anchor that keeps us grounded through storms of difficulty. The acting profession is inherent with unknowns, disappointments and challenges. You can gain an enormous advantage if you learn to ride the waves of life rather than allow them to toss you around. Ensuring your endurance in the field will not come from the successes, rather they will be derived from your skills at weathering the storms.
How can you learn to build resilience? It might be comforting to know that the human mind is built to make the best of the situations it finds itself in. We have a built-in warning system called “emotions.” These emotions let us know if what we’re doing is enhancing or diminishing our chances of survival. So, the first step is to pay closer attention to your emotions. Think of emotions as a car navigation system, which gives us direction and helps us to get to our destination. Our emotions can be useful in helping us to arrive at the place in life that we truly want to be. Pay attention to your emotions rather than trying to get rid of them and they can be your greatest teachers. Ignoring them is like listening to the radio instead of the GPS; not paying attention can ultimately get you lost. When we appreciate and make use of our emotions, they can be a great guide towards helping you to arrive at a more fulfilling destination in life. They can help you stay out of bad, repetitive relationships, and keep you from taking jobs that are unfulfilling and don’t utilize your potential.
The second step is to be curious about your emotions. Curiosity will keep you open and motivated in understanding your feelings. Self-criticism will shut you down. A few weeks ago while running a psychotherapy group, one of the members ( Ms. A.) was struggling with feeling left out of the group. (These feelings had surfaced in her relationships outside the group as well). She noticed that as other members started speaking about their problems, she would get a powerful feeling of worthlessness and get very quiet. When other group members would notice and try to bring her back into the group, her face would turn bright red and she would begin to cry. Seeing this as a warning to stay back, the other members would begin to tip toe around Ms. A. I could see that Ms. A was shutting down so I asked her what she was feeling she replied that ‘she didn’t know.’ I asked her to describe what she felt, where she felt it in her body, to give it a color and a texture. As she started to observe her feelings, she felt less controlled by them. She put a name on the feeling–it was ‘shame’. She described it, and remembered feeling like this before.
When she was eight, her parents were having a dinner party. She ran to her Father as he was talking to some business colleagues and wanted to recite a poem that she had learned in school that day. Her Father, annoyed by her intrusion, reluctantly agreed and when she couldn’t remember the second line of the poem he turned to her and sternly said, “Don’t waste my time if you don’t have it down perfectly.” She hadn’t thought about that evening in a very long time, but the tears streaming down her cheeks made it seem as if it happened yesterday. Through the group’s compassion and support, her wound of shame was given the healing it needed. By staying curious and open to her unwanted emotions, she was able to transform her shame into growth.
The third step is to remember that emotions come and go–they are not permanent. This thought makes it easier to deal with them. As living beings, our bodies and minds are changing every minute, it’s all IMPERMANENT. Impermanence reminds us that change is not only possible, it is an inevitable part of life. We can use this idea to our advantage and with it become less stuck and more resilient. When an unpleasant emotion arises, remember that in ten minutes, twenty minutes, twenty-four hours, this emotion will shift, change and may not even be present. Feelings are not concrete, see them as clouds floating through your mind. This visual can help you stay with the emotions long enough to transform them.
As actors, the practice of staying open, present and curious to your emotions allows you more access to greater depths within the characters that you portray. Paying attention, being curious and seeing your emotions as impermanent can transform them into treasured messages that can help you return to the person you were meant to be. When you glance at Mother Nature’s spectacular display of Spring, let it be a reminder of your ability to blossom again and again.
Bonnie Katz is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice. One of her specialties is working with artists in the Entertainment Industry. Her skills and training as a psychotherapist and mindful meditator enable her to work with clients in an atmosphere of warmth and understanding. For more information on Bonnie’s psychotherapy practice,visit her website.Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.