I am pretty sure that fear is a good thing.
I mean, it’s intention is to keep us safe, warn us if there is danger looming. This is a sense that we all seem to really need to survive.
But I have found myself trying to figure out how to face fears my whole life. I am pretty sure I have tried everything from pretending to not be afraid, to being vulnerable and admitting my fears, mantras, etc.
Now here’s the rub.
When fear gets in the way of something that is good for you and is something that you want, how do you face those fears? And why are they there?
Okay, now I am getting very mystical with the questions, and there are entire websites dedicated to help public speakers and musicians work through this process, (one of my faves, The Bullet Proof Musician ) but seriously if fear is there to warn one of danger, how much convincing does the brain need to trust that the end result is worth the risk?
In a great post by Mikael Cho, co-founder of ooomf, he describes his public speaking struggle and details how physically Fight or Flight Response is triggered in the body due to the release of adrenaline when the brain starts to think negative outcomes, or is presented with a stressful situation. Video
In the voice studio, building a process for artistry is a very individual one in my perspective. The number one issue, once you pull away everything else, is fear. Some students fear failure, some success, some that their success won’t be enough, and the list goes on and on and in some, spins around and around in their subconscious until they become totally neurotic. I was once one of these little spinners, that found my way out of this web by consistently working at it, but am always looking for ways that might speak to my students, to empower them to face their fears and realize their potential, and that it is possible to get up and try again if you have turned away in fear.
Ultimately, most students want to sing in front of an audience. This is when fear becomes very obvious.
There is mountains of information on “stage fright” and George Dvorsky writes about his experience and research into The Neuroscience of Stage Fright:
“And in fact, studies have shown that these fears can be driven by any number of personality traits, including perfectionism, an ongoing desire for personal control, fear of failure and success, and an intense anxiety about not being able to perform properly when the time comes (which can often serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy). Psychologists have also observed that people with stage fright tend to place a high value on being liked and regarded with high esteem.
Moreover, during the performance itself, individuals with stage fright tend to form a mental representation of their external appearance and behavior as they presume it’s being seen by the audience. Consequently, they turn their focus onto themselves and interpret the audience’s attention as a perceived threat…
Your blood pressure increases and your digestive system shuts down to maximize efficient delivery of even more nutrients and oxygen to your vital organs. When your digestive system shuts down, this is what leads to the feeling of dry mouth or butterflies.”
It is so interesting what the body will do to protect itself, literally shut down digestion because you choose to get up and sing in a recital?! When I put it that way, it seems so silly, like we need to have a little chat with the caveman on the inside running the show and tell him to catch up to the 21st Century!
I jest, but I am fully aware of how debilitating fear can be and how devastating it can be on one’s self confidence when it gets in the way. It would be great to be able to laugh it off and talk your brain out of excreting adrenaline and shutting down your digestive system, and to work in the most optimal way when you want it to. And there in lies the beauty of Process; finding the path to that ability and the realization of full potential without barriers or fear.
(I am sure there will be more posts on this topic when I am faced with another fear 😉