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Getting Out of Your Head – Part I

March 30, 2014

I am sure most acting students have heard their acting teachers exclaim, “Get out of your head!” I know I heard that command more than once when I was a student; but as an acting coach I rarely give that direction. Why? Because it’s incogitable. Short of surgically removing one’s brain from one’s skull, one cannot “get out” of one’s head nor even comprehend the concept. Secondly, the advice is too general. If we, acting coaches, demand that our students make specific acting choices, then mustn’t we give specific acting instruction?

When I was a student, however, receiving this generalized instruction did not stop me from trying. I would roll my eyes back to search my memory banks for information correlating to “getting out of the head.” In my search, I would naturally have to stop my line of thinking heretofore.

Then, in my frustration to come up with a plausible, and more importantly, doable strategy for getting out of my head, I would have to straighten up my posture, pull my shoulders back and down (I am determined to succeed!) and take a deep breath so that I can try to uncover the solution to this mysterious state.

To reiterate, I would stop my previous line of thinking and reposition my body while taking a deep breath.

Then it would be time to restart the scene in class, and without having a clear-cut strategy for getting out of my head, I am thrust into the dialogue – this time feeling somewhat out of control and more than a little confused. In a word, I am feeling vulnerable.

Stop, reposition, deep breath, GO! vulnerability….YIKES!

Invariably, some form of performance anxiety now rears its head, and I go blank or go big. More often than not, I go BIG. And by big, I mean I start performing, essentially losing all subtlety.

However, on the rare occasion when I can accept my vulnerability and allow myself to respond organically verses needing to be in charge, an internal space opens whereby magic and subtlety can occur.

In a nutshell, it’s fairly easy to stop your current line of thinking, reposition your body, take a deep breath and start. The hard part, it seems to me, is the acceptance of the vulnerable feelings of uneasiness (or lack of control) and the allowance of spontaneous response.

It may take months, years, maybe even lifetimes to learn to accept and allow. Or, if fortune smiles upon one, surrender may happen instantaneously. For most of us, however, accepting and allowing often require additional exploration via methods like writing in a journal, therapy and/or turning to a power greater than our own. And, the process takes practice. Repeated practice.

Exhilarating at times, challenging at others, these steps which comprise “getting out of your head” (among others) are a lot less painful than brain surgery.

(Stay tuned for Getting Out of Your Head: Part II regarding focus and response.)

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