Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Letting go"

One of my actors and I got into a great discussion about the notion of "letting go."

So often, when we face an emotional dilemma, we're told to simply "let go." Or "let it go."

Easier said than done.

I've found that when we attempt to only "let go," we can try to repress or push away our feelings, but residual resentments still build and one day come back in a way we sorely wish they would not! It's as if we've given ourselves a surprise attack because we had no idea all that anger, resentment or hurt was building. We thought we had "let go."

Even visualizing negative thoughts disappearing into the stratosphere, putting them in packages and letting them float downstream or using some other imagined releasing metaphor can still result in those negative thoughts bouncing right back when we least expect them.

Again, this can be infuriating, since we thought we had somehow dealt with the issue - that we had "let it go."

But there it is again, rearing its ugly head.

Here's what I suggested to my actor:

Deal with the issue that makes us feel helpless, fearful or hurt in a way that empowers you, rather than passively trying to "let go."

For example, say you're angry because you're part of a production that, while touted to be a great experience, turns out to be unprofessional, run by someone who actually doesn't know what they're doing - and who won't collaborate and the script stinks. You know what will "fix" the show but they refuse to listen to anyone; it's an ego trip for the folks putting on the show - who are writing, directing and performing in it.

Meanwhile, you're a professional actor surrounded by wannabes who chat and laugh during rehearsals and don't even show up with their lines learned.

While tickets to the show are expensive, none of the actors will be paid, but the unprofessional people "producing" the show will be.

Like, OUCH!


And you've been advised to "just let it go," show up for work and keep your mouth shut. Show up for a dozen rehearsals so you can perform in a production that will probably be poorly reviewed and poorly received by audiences.

Because, face it - the script sucks. And those in charge refuse to change a word.

You are pissed.

Do you continue to resent every moment you spend with this endeavor, building anger and bitterness, or do you empower yourself to get back on track to your usual positive outlook and strong self-worth?

O....K. Time for a hearty dose of Coach CP's Esteem Elixir!

Despite the long list of complaints?

Don't be dissuaded or distracted by all the stuff that doesn't matter. Remember we have primary feelings of love and fear. Fear, or fear and hurt=anger.

The *real* issue is that you're being treated disrespectfully (OW!). And unprofessionally (OW!). You - and your potentially face-saving ideas (fear of making a fool of yourself in this stinker) - are rudely discounted as an actor (OW!) and a contributing member of the troupe (OW!). Which in turn makes you feel excluded (OW! - again). All of which=anger.

Identifying those feelings of hurt, fear and anger is the most important part of the empowering process.

You're hurt, angry and fearful that your career is about to get a big ol' bump on the nose because you made the choice to be part of this wacko show without doing enough research on the production team.

Love and fear cannot co-exist at the same moment.

So let's get you back into the love/courage/high self-esteem column.

The first good vibe? A valuable lesson learned. Getting cast for a project (or offered a position) doesn't mean you have to accept the job. Check out the folks doing it. Read the script - and know enough to recognize a bum one, and make sure about what sort of working situation you're becoming part of.

Good vibe#2: Look around - have you learned something from anyone in the group? Something about yourself? Your profession? Acting? Production? Your goals? Your career? Your craft? Chances are you have.

Good vibe #3: Understand you have choices in this situation. Acting, as any art is all about choices.

If it's not too late, you can actually leave the production. Chances are they cast anyone who work free, so your reputation as a pro won't suffer if you hit the road with this group. The question is whether you are a person who wants to see something through to the end, no matter what you have to suffer through - or if there are enough perks to make it worth your while.

The empowering part is that you realize you have the choice. Whatever you decide - stay or go - you are in charge of you. Not them.

I suggest people ask themselves three questions before they decide to accept or not accept a gig: 1. is it good for me personally? 2. is it good for me professionally? 3. is it just a boatload of fun?

In order to accept the gig, you must answer yes to two of those questions.

Looking back, which *two* of these questions can you say "yes" to?


Let's see how many of the three you say "absolutely!" to:

Professionally? - no
Personally? - not unless you made a new best friend among the troupe
Fun? -um, absolutely not

At this point, whatever you decide? You should feel good about yourself again, back on track - your anger completely dissipated.

That's how the Phoenix rises from the ashes!

Good luck!

(Gentle Reader - I'll let you know what the actor decided after s/he makes the decision!)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Ooooooooooo.... *secrets!*

What is it with people who are so "secretive?"

Or at least try to be.

We somehow always find out what's going on, anyway.

Like the person in the office that everyone *knows* is gay but who pretends to be straight. How painful is that?

Or the couple having the affair who insist they are "just friends." Yeeeeeeeah, right.

Or the dog who swears he wasn't in the garbage while he sits with last night's dinner dangling from his mouth.

It's like lying by omission rather than commission - and the ramifications can be unnecessarily painful for themselves and the people around them.

For most, it's a way to maintain some sort of control of other people and to prevent them from getting close - profoundly close. These folks generally sabotage relationships that start to be too "real." Too intimate - not necessarily sexual, but genuinely positive and close.

I mean, these people claim to be "private" but it feels more to me like they are afraid of sharing who they are. Emotionally parsimonious.

Like a story I wrote long ago called The Feelings Miser. It was about a massively disfigured old woman who tried desperately to conceal her feelings, making her uglier with every feeling she concealed from others - and herself.

She also became more and more desperate to control all those feelings. She caught them before they escaped, shoved them in corners, compartmentalized them, categorized her emotions by color and then locked them away.

Until one day a little girl innocently discovered a feeling the gnarly-fingered woman tried to hide from her - but not soon enough!

The little girl told the old woman she must feel very bitter.

The old woman imploded!

Realizing that even though barely a dollop of her "secret" world of feelings had been exposed, she started to feel vulnerable, scared, fearful, and was suddenly incapable of withholding any of them back! All the colors she had hidden away for all that time escaped from underneath her large black dress - from the area of her heart.

A massive streak of every color with every hue imaginable flew around the room, filling it with ribbons of emotions she had been holding so closely, terrified of showing her real self to anyone.

Interestingly, as her tears fell, as she laughed and cursed and loved and showed every emotion she had attempted to conceal - the gnarled old woman grew younger ... and beautiful! More, she was so excited and happy to not just own and experience her feelings but to share them!

She was amazed at the sheer beauty of every shade she experienced that permeated every inch of the chamber.

The little girl squealed with delight, clapping her hands gleefully.

From that day on, the little girl and woman shared their feelings and secrets, filling their lives with meaning and significance, after which they blew emotion bubbles, which always made them smile, no matter how serious, sad or bleak the feelings they shared that day.

I know people who clutch their emotions and stories so tightly even standing next to them they feel as if they are a tick away from bursting.

But they are too afraid to talk about the feelings that ensnare their minds and lives, preventing them from connecting with others in a healthy, fulfilling way.

I hope one day they appreciate how enjoyable life can be when they release all that pent up emotion, letting everyone around them know who they are - and just what fantastic people they can be - or already are.

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