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

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wanna be courageous?

Long ago I said "the way we deal with fear defines who we are. When abject fear strikes, the courageous or the coward immediately emerges."

As living people and as characters created by writers and actors.

When we find that nexus, where the fear hits the fan, we've defined the core of a person - created or real.

I love talking to my younger actors about this because I ask them, do you want to live in fear, or do you want to be courageous.

They *all* want to be courageous, of course!

So how do you do that?

Because we all hit the wall of fear, and often.

All we need to do is take action.

I don't mean to take a BIG action, because that it in itself will only generate more fear. I mean to take a little action. Tiny, even.

Asking a tiny question might be a good start. Like, "Why am I so afraid?" Just asking that question is taking a big, courageous step, because the answer is going to tell you exactly what action needs to be taken.

Say you're afraid to find out if the person you're dating really cares about you. You're afraid to outright ask because she or he might not care for you as much as you care for him or her. The thought of outright asking only generates more fear.

Honestly? If you have that fear? Um, you may be looking at your fear to look at the truth you know in your heart of hearts.

While you might be afraid of "losing" this person - trust me, living in the truth feels a heck of a lot better than being afraid of the (certain) future!

You have to trust your gut feeling. If something feels wrong, like something is missing or not being said, you need to find out why something feels wrong, what is missing, what is not being said.

You can take tiny actions that take you out of the fear, like ask a simple, single question that would give you an indication of what you are dealing with. Mind you, if your partner really cared about you or were genuinely functional, he or she would simply tell you instead of going into a turtle shell about .. whatever is actually going on.

Remember, when we are afraid to give someone bad news or tell the truth, it's never really about them, much as we want to believe it's about sparing their feelings. It's really about the fear of dealing with the perceived reaction of the other person to what we want to do or say.

The simple, single question to ask might be as short and clear and truthful as, "Something feels off with us. Are you afraid to tell me what's really going on?"

If it's "no," and they share, relieved that you've given the opening, you can prepare for the best - to learn what you need to help create a happy, functional relationship.

If it's "yes," they're afraid to tell you, you can prepare yourself for the worst, including how to communicate about the situation or problems, or make plans to move on, even if it hurts like hell. Who wants to be around someone who doesn't want to be with you? If you do, unfortunately, you appear desperate and massively self-esteem-less, even if you believe you are "meant for each other."

If you are facing a huge problem, how can you break it down into TINY particles to solve, rather than taking on the whole issue at once?

If you're facing a huge homework assignment, how can you break it down into TINY tasks you can complete, building up to the larger assignment completion.

If you're Captain Jack Sparrow, you can you protect yourself by taking on the weakest would-be assailant first (say, the wee monkey), before fighting the bigger guys. Or detect the weakness in an opponent before fighting his/her strengths (which, hopefully, you won't have to because you will have taken advantage of his weakness enough to outsmart, outwit and outfight him!).

Break it down.

And here's another secret: you can take a tiny action about something that has nothing to do with the problem to build your courage!

You can take an action you find simple or easy completely unrelated to what you find difficult, hurtful or challenging, and find that you feel more capable ... and courageous.

If it's a difficult thing you have to say to someone? Have the courage to tell the person honestly - without making honesty a weapon. What you may do is break down what you have to say in a way that makes you responsible for your own feelings and going for what you want without blaming anyone else; and prepare yourself for whatever response you receive.

Better to experience the pain of courage momentarily than live in the agony of fear and/or shame forever.

As our close literate buddy Will Shakespeare put it, "A coward dies a thousand deaths, the hero only one."

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