Ego is merely but a few thoughts you have based on a simple idea or principle.
– Evette Henderson, Performance Coach
In my previous article The Truth About Acting I touched on ‘facing your demons’. I thought I’d take this opportunity to clarify and expand on that further as its been playing on my mind since I published the article yesterday.
What are demons and fears? How do you face up to them and fend them off? And most importantly, why is this topic so relevant to actors?
Well let me explain further… Demons and fears are those little voices inside your head that tell you things. Things that you perceive to be true and don’t want to believe, or things that are no where near the truth but somehow they still make you believe it. Or perhaps it’s a ‘heavy’ feeling or memory you hold inside yourself that doesn’t fill you with joy. It’s called our ego. Ego comes in many shapes and forms. Ego is a clever little thing as it’s purpose is to play on our mind by taking advantage of our fears. However, ego is merely but a few thoughts you have based on a simple idea or principle.
Do you have a past experience that is unresolved or has left a negative residue upon your soul? Then know this. It’s a bit like dust. When the wind blows the dust unsettles, but when the wind calms down the dust settles again until the next time the wind gets up. And so the cycle continues. But what happens if you get a wet cloth and actually wipe the dust away so that it disappears forever? It leaves behind a clear, empty space ready for anything.
All human beings (and characters) have a past, present and future, however the most important element of these three dimensions is the present moment. The past and future are merely figments of our imagination. I’m not discrediting that events didn’t take place in your past that had a profound effect on you, however the past is unchangeable and the future hasn’t even occurred. So that leaves the only real moment in existence being NOW.
So if you approach your character carrying a dusty past, how do you think this will effect your interpretation of the character? Will you be confident in making clear choices? Will you have the clarity to connect to infinite possibilities? Freedom of choice exists only in the present moment. Allow the past and the future to just be an idea and maintain your focus on right here, right now. The past and future are ‘no where’, whereas the present is ‘now here’. Do you see the difference?
“It’s easy for you to say,” I hear you saying. Well, to put it quite simply you’re right. It is easy for me to say as I’m on the other side so to speak. I have chosen to stay in the moment, moment to moment. I have faced my fears and combatted my demons by receiving professional help. I’m proud to admit this to you as I have a very colourful past and it genuinely took a professional counsellor to unravel me and take me places inside myself that I feared. And guess what? I survived. I also grew and evolved enormously for having made this courageous choice. So I choose not to allow my previously painful past and an unfulfilled future to control my now moments. I choose not to let it effect my character choices and creation.
And you can too. If you choose to. By wiping the dust away, you will approach your characters with infinite possibility in a clear, empty space freeing you for optimum play. By wiping the dust away, you can then take advantage of it and use it for courageous character creation. At the end of the day all character creation is based on your own unique thoughts and experiences. Therefore, there is never a right or wrong in performance. Only interpretation and more effective choices. And to make more effective choices means you must have faced your fears. It’s another fun circle.
Face your fears, combat your demons. Do not let them continue to control you. Turn it around so that you may finally play with your characters fully, wholly and completely. Amen!