emotions

Duality

When I was in high school, before social media existed, my friends and I would fill out silly little surveys (“favorite color,” “number of pets,” “weirdest friend,” “funniest friend”) and email them around to each other. In one survey, one friend pegged me as the “most outgoing” person she knew, and another friend named me as the “shyest” person she knew. It contributed to years of existential identity confusion. (“Am I outgoing? Am I shy? I can’t be both! I kind of am, though!”)

…..

Lately I’ve been reading about social anxiety and comedians. A study from 2009 noted that a lot of (stand-up) comedians are introverts, which surprised the researchers, because what’s more traditionally extroverted than a someone who wants to be loud and funny in a spotlight?

The study speculates:

Perhaps comedians use their performance to disguise who they are in their daily life. Comedians may portray someone they want to be, or perhaps their act is a way to defy the constraints imposed on their everyday events and interactions with others. Further study needs to be done to clarify the apparent contradiction between their true personality and on stage persona that they choose to present.

In short, comedians are (often) extroverts on stage but introverts in real life.

…..

Like most people, I have a public persona and a private persona.

The public persona, fueled by adrenaline rushes (like the thrill of meeting people for the first time), is loud and funny and charming and enthusiastic and likable. Maybe a little annoying, but it feels great to wear her. Unfortunately, it takes a shitload of energy to maintain her, which I do not have, so she’s unsustainable for any length of time.

The private persona is an asshole. I hate her. Probably everyone else does too. So I try to hide her from public eyes as much as possible, which means if I don’t have the energy to be Miss Outgoing, I tend to withdraw from society.

I start most relationships as Miss Outgoing, and then gradually slide down into Withdrawn Asshole.

I don’t tend to hold on to friends very long, because the more time we spend together, the more withdrawn I get, as the rush of novelty fades and I lapse back into being my own private shut-down asshole self.

…..

I quoted a Jimmy Carrane piece last month, that “Improvisers think they need be in a certain ‘positive’ mood to do improv” (oh good, I’m not alone feeling like this) and offered suggestions to take your negative emotions and turn them into improv.

The problem is— or one of the problems is— that I’m burning out. It feels like less of an emotion thing and more of an energy thing. I no longer have the energy to be Miss Outgoing, and Withdrawn Asshole is screaming I don’t want to be here, why am I here, I want to be at home, alone, watching TV, or quietly staring at a wall, or doing anything but interacting with people here and now! How do you play that? Apathy and “I don’t want to be here” are THE WORST in improv.

…..

I get my adrenaline rushes from novelty, from new excitement, from the thrill of the honeymoon period, from the joy of having the means to be Miss Outgoing for a while.

But my honeymoon with improv is over.

So the question is: do improv and I have what it takes to maintain a mature, fulfilling, and mutually beneficial relationship? I don’t know.

I think taking a break from improv— or at least not doing it 4+ nights a week when I don’t live nearby— is a reasonable solution. People take time off, that is a legitimate thing!

I dunno. I like it when improv and I can just be playful, and I just can’t seem to find that right now. Improv, baby, c’mon, where’s the love?

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Why perform?

I’ve read some examples of actors/comedians with performance anxiety issues. And I’m like, Okay, if they can do it, maybe I can too. But then I come to the stumbling block of Wait, if they can avoid these terrible feelings by NOT PERFORMING… why do they perform anyway?

From anxietycoach.com:

…There are people with a passion for creative expression. In this group we find performing artists, musicians, singers, actors, comedians, professional speakers and athletes. None of them are immune to performance anxiety. If you belong to this group and develop stage fright, you face a dilemma which cannot be avoided. Your spirit urges you to seek out the audience, even as your body warns you to stand back, and you must choose.

Not the best-written piece in the history of the internet, but it’s something.

Does my “spirit urge [me] to seek out [an] audience?” I don’t think so, not in general. (Or I learned to resist that urge years ago.) Case in point, hardly anyone reads this blog (or my Twitter), because I don’t publicize it (or my Twitter), in part because I don’t feel like creative expression needs a spotlight and flashing marquee to do its job. I’ve got some old beliefs that seeking attention for your expressions cheapens the expressions somehow, like the high schooler who joins the chess club not because she gives a damn about chess, but because it’ll look good on her college application.

So I’m back to the original question: if you have performance anxiety, why would you pursue the stage?

Do you crave the positive attention of an audience, but you’re terrified of negative attention?

Is it that terror of bombing that fills you with adrenaline and makes you yearn to do it again?

Do you have a “passion for creative expression,” and the creativity simply must be expressed publicly on a stage, and you are powerless to resist?

Why do performers perform? 

I feel like my failure to understand this is a big red flag telling me I shouldn’t perform. I dunno. I have a lot of thoughts right now, and I’m just jotting some of them down.

Jimmy Carrane – A Bad Day Doesn’t Have to Mean Bad Improv

http://jimmycarrane.com/bad-day-doesnt-mean-bad-improv/

Trying to answer the problem of “well I’m in a shitty mood. Nothing is funny. I’m not funny. How the fuck do I get through this?”

 

Improvisers think they need be in a certain “positive” mood to do improv, and if they are not, they either don’t bother to show up to class or they ignore their feelings and paint a big latex smile on their faces and muscle through with that fake energy of a birthday party clown. Then when they have a bad improv class or a bad show, they end up beating themselves up or blaming it on their bad day.

What if we looked at those so-called negative emotions as a gift? And instead of trying to push them away, we were brave enough to acknowledge them by saying them out loud to a friend, the class or the group?

 


…Charlie McCrackin of The Reckoning… said if you are feeling sad or angry you might want to use them in character. Charlie e-mailed me later: “The only things I can add to my thoughts on emotions is that it’s easier to make use of the strong emotions already present in you than to try to build strong emotions from out of nowhere. Plus denying your actual emotions diminishes your ability to play truthfully.”

 

…just because I have a bad day does not mean I have to do bad improv at night. Instead, I can use those emotions to inspire my choices and deepen my connections with my partners to make me an even better improviser.

Stop fighting!

An observation about one of the many improv things I struggle with— If you come at me with an accusation, I will always, always fight.

I mean, I’ll accept the reality of the situation, that I did the thing you’re accusing me of, but I’ll be damned if you’re gonna tell me that’s WRONG. I had a TOTALLY valid reason for crashing that commercial jet, and fuck you for saying otherwise.

The problem is: fights rarely make good improv. The scene never goes anywhere– no new information gets added to the scene, you just dive deeper and deeper into the dumb little factoids you started with. It becomes about the facts (which are MADE UP! how can you strive win a fight based on make-believe facts?!) instead of about the relationship between the characters.

The problems for me, why I have so much trouble not fighting, are:

  1. I wouldn’t say I like arguing, but… uh, I like being right. So I’m usually having so much… fun?… trying to one-up my opponent that I don’t even realize I’m doing a terrible scene until like 2 minutes after it ends.
  2. It’s my honest reaction. That’s honestly how I’d handle an accusation in reality. And you’re supposed to react honestly, right?

I’ve got a short fuse. I never thought I’d be able to hold a job as long as I have; I always envisioned myself telling a boss to go fuck himself and quitting/getting fired in a spectacular tantrum. (I’ve come close! Oh did my manager and I have a talk last week. But I digress.)

Lately, I’ve had some opportunities to get screamingly rageful in scenes, and that usually goes over well because “strong emotion” and all, but I’m just like, wince, guys, I have anger issues, please don’t validate them.

Back to the point: ideally, I guess you avoid confrontational initiations, but once it’s out there… maybe I need to learn to just… accept that I was wrong, that I’m the lower status character here. At least sometimes.

Is there a way to do this without being either (a) remorseful (“I’m so sorry, I’m a terrible person for crashing that jet”) or (b) incompetent/clueless (“You’re not s’posed to shut off the engines in flight? Golly, I didn’t know that!”)? Or is one of those two options how you’re supposed to navigate the situation?

Or should I hold on to my “fuck you, I’m right” point of view (thus maintaining the “honest reaction” thing), but steer the conversation away from the subject we’re fighting about?

…I have no idea how to do that, though (in improv or reality).

So how do you handle accusations (in improv or reality)?

 

 

(Oh hey, also, this is my 69th post, hurr hurr hurrrrr.)

Enjoy yourself

YOU: Do you enjoy improv?

ME: Uh. Workin’ on it!

YOU: Wait, what? If you don’t enjoy it, why are you doing it?

ME: Logically:
(A.) I tend not to like things I’m bad at.
(B.) I tend to be bad at things that are new to me.
Therefore, (C.) I tend not to like things that are new to me.

(D.) As a human, I tend not to do “optional” things I don’t like. (Things like taxes and caretaking aren’t “optional.”)
This all implies that (E.) I tend towards doing the same things, all the time, over and over, forever and ever.

(F.) Also as a human, I get bored doing the same things, all the time, over and over, forever and ever.
(G.) I am therefore faced with a choice between (1.) feeling bad because I tried something new and I’m unskilled at it, or (2.) feeling bad because I’m stuck in a boring inescapable rut.

I have weighed the options, and in this case, I believe that option (G1.) has better long-term implications. (I can’t justify this succinctly, but trust me, there is logic behind it.)

Besides which— if I continue with improv, simply by virtue of doing it for a while, I’ll HAVE to pick up a FEW skills along the way, which will hopefully make me less bad at it (see [A.]) and consequently increase my enjoyment.

 

YOU: …Wow, um, I was just making conversation.

ME: I know! You’re very good at it!