Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fear, Joy, (performing?), Anger and Love

One of the greatest challenges for my clients- and I'd say most singers and performers- is managing stage fright. To further complicate things, this 'skill' is entirely separate from the understanding and development of the voice... what is solidly known, understood and eventually predictable in the practice room, shower and car becomes strangely foreign the moment the stage is approached or studio entered.

Over the years, I've come across some tricks and tools for managing stage fright that have worked well for my clients and myself: By anticipating, embracing and even practicing stage fright, we're able to blend into and ride the wave rather than get pummeled by it breaking over us.

Still, this approach is a challenge, as in many ways we're tricking ourselves into believing something that isn't true. We're pretending to be excited when we're really terrified... we're running toward our panic, rather than running away. All of this while trying to perform in front of an audience!

Thankfully, new research says that we no longer need to lie to ourselves. An easier and more honest approach for managing stage fright is available that can eradicate the nerves before making a toast, speaking at a business meeting, or singing on opening night.

This 'revolutionary' breakthrough isn't as revolutionary as it is stunning: Fear and joy, love and anger... While these are entirely different emotional experiences, physiologically, they're essentially the same.

If you're having trouble believing- or even conceptualizing- this idea, imagine narrowly avoiding a car crash, then your first kiss. Recall a scary part of a movie, followed by walking down the aisle at your wedding. The same physiological reactions were occurring in these moments... sweaty palms, dry mouth, shaking, rapid heartbeat. What made these experiences different from one another was our secondary emotional interpretation of the primary physiological experience.

While we can't control the physiological response to fear, attraction, joy, or rage, we can control our emotional naming of- and therefore reaction to- that response. What this means for us 'stage scaredy cats' is that we've just won half the battle; with our bodies now on our practical side, it's two against one versus our emotions.

Go get 'em, tigers!

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