While gathering my thoughts for this article, I picked up the L.A. Times and stumbled upon a story by Rachel Abramowitz in the Calendar section entitled, ‘It’s What Makes Sammy Run Wild.’ It was about a Producer who was “obsessed with success.” As his salary began rising, so did his $80,000 a year drug habit. His seduction by Hollywood seemed to temporarily satisfy his underlying feelings of being “incomplete and vacant.” The article continues to describe how Hollywood can be a dangerous trap for those who suffer from these same feelings of emptiness, and many desperately try to heal their deep inner wounds with a temporary fix of fame and fortune.
U.C.L.A. psychiatrist, Dr. Todd Zorick, and his colleague, Daniel Goldin, gave this condition an unofficial diagnosis: Hollywood Not Otherwise Specified. While Zorick was working at a rehab clinic in Hollywood, he would see many people involved in both the film and music industries who were enticed by the promise of fame. He observed that, “Patients suffer from the mistaken assumption that showbiz glory will somehow insulate them from emptiness or the mundane hardships of day-to-day life.” He continues to explain how, “Fantasy of stardom as an actor, director, producer or writer – collides with the rejection, failure or limited success that is the reality for the vast majority in the industry.” This leads us to believe that an actor’s dream of being discovered and finally getting the accolades of love and attention they have been longing for can quickly turn into a nightmare of rejection, disappointment and self-loathing.
So, what can an actor (or industry professional) do to prevent themselves from ending up on that road to self-destruction? A simple first step would be to get curious about what is behind some of the decisions that you have been making concerning your career. Shining the spotlight inward without judgment or criticism can bring an awareness to your decision-making process and help keep you out of trouble.
To understand if you are on a healthy path in your career, get into your curious, self-investigating mode, find a quiet space and jot down answers to the questions below. You might want to start a journal that is solely devoted to your journey of self-discovery and use your answers as your first entry.
- Why did you choose to become an actor?
- What do you hope to gain from being in this profession?
- What is most important to you in life?
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- What do you think are some of your unhealed wounds that might get in your way?
Let’s take a quick look at how you can use the answers to the above questions to gauge how your personal issues might be interfering with your professional life. For example, if your answer to question number one was, I chose acting because when I land a role, I feel loved, accepted and worthy. and when I am rejected, I feel unloved and worthless. This is a warning that unhealed wounds from the past are blocking your ability to view your career with a healthy perspective. In other words, your feelings of being loved, accepted and worthy should come from your personal relationships and not your professional relationships.
There is so much that an actor does not have control of in his/her profession, but self-awareness is definitely not one of them. In fact, it is completely up to you to determine whether or not you want to just let life happen to you, or create vision and purpose for yourself through self-understanding.
The desire to hear applause and laughter is not dreadful, but if it is your only means of feeling worthy, maybe it’s time to take a deeper look inside. Trying to fill feelings of emptiness with fame and fortune is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. It just never seems to get full. Fame and fortune are not a fix for what may be deeper psychological issues. There is no substitute for self-understanding and self-acceptance. It’s an inside job. It can be a difficult path to attain, but it’s also a journey that leads you back to yourself and aren’t you worth it? Those actors who are successful people usually have a well-balanced life, belong to a meaningful community and find value within themselves in many different areas. Which road are you on?
If you tend to your inner wounds in the appropriate professional arena, you will be able to approach your acting career from a place of strength, not weakness. Your self-esteem shouldn’t rest on whether or not you got the part because who you are is more than that. Those actors who have a healthy, professional life know how to leave the stage for acting and not acting out.
Good luck on your wonderful journey.
For further information on self-discovery, please visit my website.
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.