Contributed by Kimberly Logan
Inside Out opened recently and I’m dying to see it. Pixar has a great track record and all, but mostly I want to see this movie because as a child, I clearly remember the variety of voices I had in my head, telling me when to be scared, happy, sad, angry, confused, et al. I remember them so clearly – and their conversations with each other and the main ‘me’ – that for a while I thought I had multiple personality disorder (especially when I started reading mystery novels that included this type of character!). Don’t worry – no therapist I’ve been to in my life has ever agreed with my self diagnosis.
But we all have those voices – and in the mind of an actor, those voices can be extremely distracting. I recently met someone who is working on learning lines for a one-woman show this fall. The pitch was great. The excitement about the show was unstoppable. The minute she sat down to start learning lines, the doubts came up. The phrase she used was the “Itty Bitty Shitty Committee” – you know those nay-sayers, those dooms-dayers, those “Who do you think you are” voices. They can paralyze even the most seasoned performer.
The same conversation included a reminder that the psyche is just trying to protect you with those words of discouragement. Yup. Protect you. Unfortunately, the psyche doesn’t realize that the danger it is protecting you from isn’t really that dangerous. There’s no scale of danger in the lizard-brain. Every threat is DEFCON 1. The lizard-brain believes that every risk you may take is going to result in impalement by a mastodon. (Have you seen The Croods? I watched it with my friend’s family, and they do an excellent job of making this point: anything new or different = sudden death) To the psyche, a bad review by the NYTimes (if your show is lucky enough to be on their radar) is equal to death by impalement. Undersold houses? Equals death by impalement. Flubbing a single line? Death by impalement. Not hitting your light on stage? Death by impalement. (Though, to be fair to the psyche, if your lighting designer is of a certain temperament, this might be more true than the others.)
In an interview for Broadway.com during the production of “9 To 5”, Allison Janney offered this tidbit of advice: “I suggest anyone who chooses acting get a really good friend who’s a therapist!” I’m an advocate for therapy in general as there’s a lot to navigate in this world just going through day-to-day life. By pursuing a career in the arts, you throw in habitual rejection and a lack of true guide-posts (there really is no ONE way to make it in this biz!). Not being able to track progress can be maddening! Besides which, your whole job is to bare your own heart and soul to an audience by expressing the heart and soul of the particular character and show you are working on at any given moment. Insane? Maybe a little!
John Updike said that “perfection is the enemy of creation”. Unfortunately, that doesn’t keep us all from striving to reach that unattainable goal and battling our pscyches every step of the way.
Next time you find yourself in front of the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee, take a second and remember they are trying to help you (in their Neanderthal sort of way!). Then say, “Thanks guys, but I’ve got this. I’m going to be okay.” Because you DO got this. And chances are really good that going through with your choice and taking that chance will not, in fact, lead to death by impalement.
blog post contributed by Kimberly Logan
For ramblings, check out her blog