Close-up of actress during filming being shot by cameraman and his assistantActing can be a thrilling and fulfilling experience, allowing you, as a performer, to embody  fascinating characters and stories and explore new worlds.

 But, performance anxiety or stage fright can disconnect you from your creative core self. You might suddenly find yourself frozen in front of the audience or trapped in a cerebral  and lifeless  performance.

As an actor, you’re here to draw people in your experience. Your purpose is to invite your audience to identify with the story you’re telling.

When you can act from your essence, you’re in that emotional creative space where you feel an intimate connection with your acting passion, talents, and skills. Everything becomes one and it feels right. In moments like this you know why you want to be an actor, you know this is what you’re supposed to be doing.

Anxiety can take that all away from you…

Let’s explore the causes of acting performance anxiety.

Acting is a highly relational form of art. It’s about characters and their stories, and about the interplay with other characters and their stories. It’s about bringing characters and  stories to life.

As you work with others actors, you’re walking multiple fine lines of relational dynamics. Both your own and others’ unresolved emotional conflicts and trauma can be easily awakened. All of these interactions can challenge your ability to stay grounded in your essence.

Silhouette images of video production behind the scenes or b-roll or making of TV commercial movie that film crew team lightman and cameraman working together with director in big studio

Plus, your acting often happens in the presence of the filming crew (directors, show runners, other actors, cinematographers, etc.) which can be unnerving. This is the emotional environment in which you’re supposed to show up in a raw and vulnerable way. Hopefully that emotional environment is attuned, supportive, and encouraging. But, many times, it isn’t. 

The reality is that the filming crew is itself filled with characters, each and every one with their own stories and emotional conflicts or traumatic histories. They communicate to you consciously and/or unconsciously all the time. And, you’re picking on their messages consciously and/or unconsciously.

You, the actor, are caught in a matrix of conscious/unconscious emotional messages, and in spite of what comes at you, you need to stay in your emotional creative space to give your best performance.  

A tone of voice, a look from someone, a gesture can trigger your own unhealed parts or emotional conflicts. Next thing you know, you’ve disconnected from your performing essence. You start getting triggered and begin to feel anxious and nervous. This can happen so fast. In  seconds, you’re out of your creative mode  and caught  in stage fright. You feel as if your acting has lost its vitality or aliveness.

Or, worse, when performance anxiety creeps in, you start feeling self-conscious, and scared that others may see how nervous you are. It’s quite vulnerable when others observe your voice cracking, your hands shaking, or the way you can’t control your breath. Or maybe you go into a full panic attack and you can’t trust your acting abilities anymore. You freeze and forget your lines. You just want to hide or run away.

The focusing device turns focus on the set, during the filming of a movie.Psychotherapy can help you heal unhealthy anxiety and turn normal jitters into energy for expressing your art

In my experience working with actors, many times anxiety that incapacitates you (in contrast to the normal jitters or nervousness that come with standing in front of people) has roots in unresolved emotional conflicts, unprocessed feelings, or past trauma.

Psychotherapy can help you heal emotional conflicts and trauma so you can stay grounded in your creative and performing core, even in challenging emotional environments. At the same time, psychotherapy can help you develop healthy coping strategies that will continue to strengthen emotional creative space and even improve your acting skills.

As a therapist, I’m seeing great results for actors as we combine an in-depth relational approach to therapy combined with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

This kind of psychotherapy will help you respond in healthier ways to relational situations, both on the set and throughout your life. It reshapes from the inside-out, how you relate and respond to interactions with others

EMDR brings about changes in the neural implicit (automatic/unconscious memories) relational responses. That means you won’t have to work so hard to use “strategic tools” to  manage performance anxiety. Instead, you can remain grounded in your essence and in your performance, even in the face of challenging moments and difficult feelings.

Being able to stay grounded in your creative essence while navigating all the relational dynamics that come with acting is not only important, it is fundamental for you as an actor.

Psychotherapy will help you act from your emotional creative essence – that space when conscious thought seems to disappear and your acting feels fully embodied and timeless. Your talents and skills become an extension of you or the core of what you are. The world disappears and all you’re aware of is your connection to the fluidity of your performance. Without your thinking interfering, you’re alive and intimately connected in your acting abilities. In that space there are no fears or no self-consciousness – you just perform with all that you are.

I offer psychodynamic therapy, EMDR therapy (EMDR certified), psychoanalytic therapy (certified), combined with CBT, and grounded in the neuroscience of psychotherapy and relationships in order to help people discover how to live fully in the present and create more fulfilling, successful lives. 

In particular I have an expertise working with creatives, performers, and artists of all kinds – writers,  actors, fine artists, musicians, producers, directors, fashion designers, and creative entrepreneurs. My office is in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. I provide in-person and online psychotherapy to people across California.

If you are interested in EMDR therapy, please contact me for your free 15 minute consultation to see if this therapy is appropriate for you.


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