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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