Fear: Fuck Everything and Run or Feel Everything and Relax?
Updated: Feb 28
There is a reason good actors become friends with fear. Firstly, it never really leaves. It’s hard wired into our genetic make-up to keep us alive. Secondly, if we’re always growing & evolving, we will be repeatedly stepping into the unknown, of which fear is a side effect.
It’s not just actors who experience fear & stage fright. We all experience fear. It is a healthy sign we want to stay alive. However when this fear mechanism gets out of whack, going off at the slightest thing, hindering our process, enjoyment or stopping us from taking risks, it’s time to break it down and get to the root of it.
No matter what your triggers are, these are some simple steps you can take when ‘fuck everything and run’ isn’t the answer.
CURIOSITY. Fear thrives off ‘what ifs’. It doesn’t want you to question it- it just wants you to respond. Literally fuck everything and run. That’s the card it plays, again & again. The very act of approaching your fear with curiosity, takes the edge off its power. You are literally switching modes in your brain- from panic to enquiry. It’s not possible to do both at the same time. So get curious. What is this fascinating mechanism we all have hard wired into us, what was its purpose? How does it work? What can I learn from it?
FEEL. ‘Fear’ as a sensation is a healthy physical response. Blood is rushed to the heart and muscles so we pump oxygen quickly and get ready to fight or take flight. The twist is, most of the time we’re not actually in danger. Animals experience this regularly- but they’re not neurotic or plagued with doubt. Why? Because they allow their bodies to process the fear. The Adrenalin runs through without resistance, they run, they shake, they resume their business. Humans however, resist, question, push down, until the harmless sensation of fear becomes a pressurised panic container. Step in the brain. Highly evolved for problem solving, and yet seemingly useless at managing fear. Why? Well firstly, because the blood has left the brain. Secondly, the mind loves to ‘make sense of’. If fear is felt, the mind will give you a million reasons why this is justified. It loves a good problem. It will justify anything! So if the mind is no help, what do we do? We simply take our lead from animals. FEEL. Come into your body, be present with the sensations, be curious & feel. The body just wants to process the fear. Panic arises when we ignore it or try to suppress it. So time to become friends with what is. Feel deeply into the present. Shine a light. Breathe into yourself. Deeply. Your body will know it is safe, when you are present in it. Moving from your ‘head’ to your ‘heart’. Mind to Body. Ego to Soul. This is a powerful tool for actors. It literally turns a potentially panic inducing experience into a full bodied, wholehearted presence. Which is not only life-changing, but engaging to observe. Good actors do this all the time. It’s a way of coming face to face with what is, bringing awareness, curiosity and love to Experience.
EVERYTHING. If we combine curiosity with feeling, we get a profound understanding of what it is to be human. This means we don’t resist or judge. We don’t label feelings as good or bad, acceptable or unwanted. We give space to all. Everything. Through this we can see that underneath the fear, there are some pretty simple mechanisms at play. Once we realise our life is not in danger, we will see what is in danger is our ‘ego’. We can understand our ego as the ideas we have about our self, literally our sense of self. We prefer to be right, than happy. So we are very attached to who we think we are. We’ve spent our whole lives, building an identity. An identity we think serves us. Makes friends. Gets us likes. Makes us successful. Helps us belong - and if we belong, as a pack animal, we are safe. So we will defend our ego, who we think we are, with everything we’ve got. This can come under threat, not when our life is in danger, but when how we are perceived by others is out of our control. Our lives might as well be in danger as far as our ego is concerned.
And finally.... RELAX. When we feel everything, we can transcend this need to defend who we are, protect our sense of self. We are not attached to one way of being. We welcome everything. We observe it changing, moving, in motion. We release judgment with curiosity and suddenly.... we are free. Relaxation is often understood as something we do with effort. I prefer to see it as the absence of doing. We walk around with tensions & resistance all day long. Relaxation is a chance to give these up. A Giving in. A Surrendering. We can become very purposeful with relaxation so that it becomes a more habitual way of being and interacting with the world. Relaxation in the face of fear takes practice. Our body learns quicker than the mind. So it requires a purposeful undoing of our habitual response to fear.... Practice!
What a funny little survival mechanism gone awry!
When understood, you can see how we would all experience ‘threat’ from different things. For example, If your ego thinks it’s safe to go unnoticed & blend in- there will be huge resistance to stepping out & speaking up, or appearing successful, proud, confident even. As these are not in line with your beliefs about who you should be.
Can you see through the lie: that the only thing in danger, is your ‘sense’ of self. Not YOU.
There is no bigger threat to the ego than when how we are being perceived is out of our control.
You can see the problem for actors right?
The work of the actor begins with transcending fear. Anything else is putting a lie on top of a lie.
There is a specific and simple way to get out of your head, where fear percolates: Embodied Connection.
Actors in ongoing training with me can expect this to be a deeply inherent part of our process. Find out how you can manage your mindset here.
If you’re not an actor- we can still get to the route of your fear, get in touch to find out how: www.ashliewalker.co.uk
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