Processing Emotional Energy
Your willingness to open and allow life in will make all the difference in your work as an actor and as a person. Making the conscious choice to open and receive life takes courage. Understand that when you open and receive life, it affects you and changes you. This is the process of growth, the growth of conscious awareness. As children we are largely open to life, if we are safe and encouraged to grow through our exploration of life we expand through the experience of curiosity and play. Every day offers the opportunity to experience life in the moment and through our experience we learn, process, and grow deeper in our understanding of self and the world.
It is only later in life that we learn how to filter our experience through our resistance to life. Painful experiences teach us to protect ourselves and we become guarded and defensive and less and less willing to allow life in. We often create a force field around ourself that acts as a filter and as a defense. This filter prevents experience from entering fully and freely and as a result, our experience of life becomes partial and diminished. Instead of having a full on uncensored, direct experience we have an experience of percentages and degrees. This often occurs without our conscious understanding as the process becomes habitual and unquestioned over time.
In addition, we often seal ourselves within our own defensive bubble creating a sense of isolation and stagnation. We cut ourselves off from the outside world and create our own private prison of illusion and fear. The illusion is one of safety, the reality is one of stagnation and decay. Being cut off from the world, we are no longer engaged in the process of letting life in, nor are we being affected or changing (growing) as a result of receiving life. This experience gives rise to the feeling of being stuck and unable to move forward through life with a sense of freedom or ease. Needless to say, this is not a pleasant experience or a pleasurable one, and yet this is a common experience for most people at some point in their life and for many people, a constant one.
The issue is fear. More specifically it is the fear of our own feelings that prevent us from opening and allowing the full experience of life to enter and unfold. We often fear feelings for two basic reasons. One, we do not know how to process feelings, and two, we are in resistance to specific feelings that we have been conditioned to avoid through guilt and shame.
What does it mean to process feeling? A feeling is processed when we allow it to run its full course through our nervous system and discharge the excess energy through breath, movement and sound. Feelings are like food in that they need to be digested and metabolized. In other words we need to feel the feeling and express it. To express is to discharge the excess energy by grounding it. This is akin to excreting excess food/waste that the body does not need to hold on to. How ever, unlike food, we often contain the energy of our feelings and create a static charge with in our nervous system.
Holding on to a feeling creates the illusion of not feeling it. A feeling is felt fully only when it is in motion, thats why its called e-motion. When a feeling is held in stasis it is sensed but not fully experienced. A feeling held in stasis is often experienced as a general feeling of pressure and resistance. This general sense is often interpreted as stress without a clear idea of how to process it. Over time, the stress of stasis tends to build in intensity. This build up of energy and pressure is your body's way of creating an opening and a release of internal pressure. If you are unable or unwilling to process your feeling consciously ( acknowledge, accept and allow), your subconscious will attempt to overwhelm your nervous systems capacity and ability to resist and contain, and like a dam that can no longer hold back a great force and pressure, it breaks open and floods out of the body. This is a common pattern for people who do not know how to consciously process their feelings and emotional energies. The pattern generally looks like this; react-resist-contain-build-overwhelm-break open/down and discharge. The discharge may manifest as drama (arguments, yelling, tantrums), or as illness ( reoccurring colds/flu, debilitating head aches, stomach aches or mysterious fatigue) or as chronic injuries (lower back goes "out", muscle spasms, trick knees..).
Knowing how to process the energy of feelings and sensations is imperative for an actor. Without a clear method for processing (channeling emotional energy into the task at hand and discharging the excess through grounding) the actor is restricted by their own limitation of what feelings they can tolerate and allow.
The second factor to consider is conditioning.
Almost everyone is conditioned through guilt and shame to resist and avoid specific feelings. For example, If mom or dad did not know how to allow the feeling of anger in them selves, chances at they will not allow their children to express those feelings in their presence. When little Johnny gets angry and starts to express his anger in the presence of his parents he is admonished and told he is a bad boy for being angry. In essence, the feeling of anger is shamed and over time and repeated conditioning, little Johnny learns it is better to resist and avoid anger in order to avoid further shame and punishment from the people he loves and relies on the most. This type of conditioning is often passed down from generation to generation and becomes a family legacy. When little Johnny grows up and has children of his own, he conditions his children to resist and avoid anger as well, often without questioning whether it is healthy or not. After all, it is the family legacy, it is who we are and how we do.
As an actor and for your emotional health in general, it is important to understand that all feelings are valid, a feeling is just a feeling and is there to be experienced. Feelings are an integral part of our inner guidance system and a major part of our decision making process. Any feeling can be shamed and resisted, even pleasure, joy and happiness. When a feeling is shamed it is conditioned with the belief that it is not safe to feel. When you challenge your limiting belief and allow your self to feel a shamed feeling (a little at a time) and realize that it is safe and that you are safe, eventually your belief and your shame dissolves. In time, the reality that a feeling is just a feeling and can be safely allowed takes root and becomes a part of your repertoire of feelings to be used freely. Once a feeling is acknowledge as safe, and allowed to flow through your nervous system, it becomes integrated into your awareness and becomes yet another tool in your tool box.
If you are in the beginning stages of identifying and allowing a feeling that you have held in resistance, soften, smile, breathe and express the feeling through your breath with the heart sound, hawww. Be sure to ground yourself by bending your knees and centering your weight equally between both feet. Just stand, breathe, allow and express without acting out the feeling. Let the feeling run through your body and direct the excess energy downward into the ground. If you are clear in your intention and can direct the flow downward, the energy will help you become more grounded and stable. This is what we call rooting in tai chi. This steady stream of downward flowing energy will increase your stability, strength and your capacity to endure any feeling. If you have been in resistance to a specific feeling for a long time, you may have developed the belief that you cannot tolerate or endure the feeling. Understand, that is just a belief born of years of resistance and fear. The reality is quite different. The truth is, your nervous system is fully equipped to tolerate and endure any feeling if it has a clear and orderly direction of expression.
Soften, smile, breathe and express fluidly until the wave of feeling passes through you. Once you have allowed your self to feel, and realize you can feel and survive, you will no longer be in resistance, you will be in a relationship. A deeper relationship with yourself and all of your feelings, after all, a feeling is just a feeling.