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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Checking Out

At some point in our artistic process, no matter how connected we normally are, we normally want to be or we normally seek to be, we will check out.  We, the people we like to think of ourselves as, take a temporary leave of absence.

Checking out can manifest itself in a lot of ways.  Some are much more obvious, like alcohol or drug abuse, compulsive gambling, sexually addictive behavior, overeating, rage-aholism.  Then there's the ones that are much more subtle.  Isolating ourselves, procrastinating, putting up our walls and defenses, getting snippy for little or no reason, enabling someone else's destructive behavior.

This list, unfortunately, is not all-inclusive.  There are SO many ways we can check out.

All of them have one thing in common.  They are self-sabotaging.  They move us backwards rather than forwards.

There are a lot of "reasons" why we decide to do this (and it is always a choice, even when it seems like it's not), but ultimately we find that what we thought were really good excuses are just so much hogwash.

Here's the other thing:  we pretty much always end up regretting what we've done while we were checked out... once we come back to our senses.  In the moment it seems like the thing to do (sometimes the ONLY thing to do), but at some point, we always wake up.  And remember.  And cringe.

What can we do about this?  One thing is to continually check in with ourselves and with someone we trust to call us on our crap.  Don't have anyone like this?  Find someone now.

Oh, and once you've found them, don't let them go.  Because you'll want to.  While we're checked out, we don't want anyone to identify that it's not really us.  It's uncomfortable.  We fight it.

But if we'll just listen and open up in that moment, we can break the cycle of unconsciousness.

The markers of when we're checked out vary quite a bit (remember the list?), but there are a couple of things that I find they usually have in common.  Our focus goes inward instead of outward.  We're looking at all of our misfortunes, instead of reaching out to others to help with theirs.

The only apparent exception to this is co-dependency, but even that is really inwardly focused.  If we're obsessed with helping or fixing someone else, that's really about us.  Otherwise, it's just us reaching out a hand.  If they take it, great.  If they don't, we're sad, but we don't try to control their behavior.

The other thing that I've noticed is that I get really defensive.  I find it so much easier to focus on the problems of everyone else around me (especially those that are pointing out that I'm not acting like myself) rather than take a look at what I'm doing.

When we make the choice to do the uncomfortable thing and really look at ourselves honestly, some amazing things happen.  We become more gentle, more loving, more understanding.  As artists, our work gains resonance and power.  We move audiences instead of just impressing them.

And I don't know about you, but that's why I got into this whole acting thing to begin with.

You know one thing that can really help in this process?  A good, kind and passionate acting teacher.  Which I happen to be.  So, if you're looking for classes or private instruction, shoot me an email at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.  Afraid that you're too far away?  Don't despair!  I teach classes online.  C'mon, that had to have made you curious.  Email me and I'll explain how it all works. :)

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