When we perform, we walk a fine line between excitement and fear. In a very simplistic explanation, both fear and excitement come with similar hormones and bodily repossess – like increased adrenaline and heart rate – getting us ready for Action! However, the anticipation of the performance can take us on different journeys: the excitement, the excitement-fear, or the freeze-fear journey. As our automatic or unconscious responses (anticipations) are triggered, without our awareness or consent, the journey unfolds for us. We don’t choose our journey, unless we are mindful of our responses – then we can choose and create our journey!
For instance, feelings of joy, love and excitement about the anticipated performance (I can’t wait to … , I love to…) will prepare everything that we are for that performance; triggering feelings, thoughts, body-affective states, and hormonal responses that will take us to a good performance. We have the readiness to engage in that performance from a feel-good place -from love for what you we do and confidence in our abilities! Our talents, skills, confidence, joy, excitement, love, and passion come together, creating an internal space for a successful performance. When we perform from this internal space, we become the performance. We are flowing, performing straight from our talents and heart, connecting and captivating our audience. When people can feel and connect with our performance, it touches them in memorable ways.
What happens when our good feelings of anticipations are mixed with fears and doubts? Being excited and scared at the same time is very normal when we face a performance; particularly a new performance. In these moments we can connect to our excitement and perform from our feel-good internal place – with our skills, abilities, talents, love and passion working together in harmony… At the same time, fear and doubts can also take over, seducing us into loosing our connection to our abilities, talents, love or passion…. Our performance starts being disconnected from us. We feel like we lost our touch – we are not connected to ourselves, our performance, or our audience anymore. We can become locked in an emotional void, our performance lacking authenticity, feeling, or touch.
What about when the anticipation is fear (I am scared…, I am anxious…)? This is when our adrenaline and increased heart turn into a stress response. We freeze and we want to run away. We want out of the danger zone! Despite of how much we love to perform, fear takes over. We have no more access to our abilities, talents, our passion to perform… We get stuck in fear. Being seen by others in this state is painful and vulnerable. It can make us feel incapable, less then, shamed. All we want is to escape. There is no performance anymore …. Experiences like these get encoded in our unconscious mind, reinforcing our old fears and doubts.
We all have anticipations that operate out of our awareness, when it comes to performing. When these anticipations prepare us for a good journey, great! When the anticipations are filled with doubts and fears, our performance is taken over by fears of the past, revived in the present. However, we don’t have to continue to be on a journey that we don’t want. We can develop awareness into how anticipations can take over and we can learn how to work with these anticipations, so we can create our own performance in the present.
As we all know, not all performances are equal. Performances that touch us deeply, become cherished memories. Because that is what happens when we are deeply connected to our performance through joy, excitement, love, passion, abilities, and unique talents – all becoming whole, to tell the story of our performance with everything we are. We create stories to be remembered!
Performance anxiety or memorable performances? The choice is yours!
Mihaela Ivan Hotz, Psy.D., LMFT
9300 Wilshire Blvd.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Create Your Life! Don’t Let Life Happen To You!