Acting After Illness #3 Fear

For me, one of my fears is, I am afraid of what I sound like. I am afraid of how people will perceive and judge me on the basis of how I sound when I speak and how I might say something or how I might pronounce a word

Am I afraid of the AVM in my head bleeding again? Yes. Am I afraid of the damage a bleed in my head can do? Yes. Am I afraid that a bleed in my head might kill me? Yes. Am I afraid of a lot of things? Yes.

I am human.

Fear floods me with emotions and feelings which come in all sorts of names, shapes, colours and sizes, most of which are not pleasant when there is a perceived threat of danger, pain, or harm coming my way.

Fear does what it's supposed to do, every time, without fail. Thankfully, fear, is reliable.

I've been living with this emotion for a long time and I have come to realise, via a brain hemorrhage and the road to recovery, there is a problem.

This fear, this emotion, by way of my thinking, doesn't know when something is a real threat to my existence or just appears to be a threat, which, could actually be no threat at all.

For an actor, an obvious fear goes by the name of Stage Fright. This fear can come with all kinds of real and unpleasant symptoms. How about a pounding heart, the shakes, sweaty hands, tics, a dry mouth, dizziness? For others, actors or not, just the name Shakespeare can cause an outbreak of symptoms and worse, The Terrors.

For me, one of my fears is, I am afraid of what I sound like. I am afraid of how people will perceive and judge me on the basis of how I sound when I speak and how I might say something or how I might pronounce a word.

This fear manifests itself not only in my speaking but also when I read out loud and in the way I learn lines.

A voice in my head tells me to say it this way or that way. This voice tells me I'm pronouncing a word wrongly. It criticizes me. It tells me I'm stupid, inadequate. Useless.

I don't know where this critical, destructive and negative voice comes from and that's what criticism is, whether it's self-criticism or you are criticizing someone else. It is destructive and damaging. It destroys and closes the door on opportunities that may lead to a better place, a better you and a better someone else.

I am sure that I wasn't born thinking this about the way I sound. Maybe, the dogma, children should be seen but not heard, has somehow got itself inside my head.

I also remember a thing in junior school, a drama lesson, and the teacher yelling at a girl, "Briggs, you stick out like a sore thumb...".

She cried. A lot.

That teacher destroyed that girl with her criticism.

I thought that was horrifying and I was afraid of that teacher from that moment on.

In my first post Acting After Illness, I wrote about sessions I had with a psychologist, Dr Mark Draper who helped me understand my shame around what had happened to me.

I saw myself as a failure with zero levels of self-esteem. My tank was empty.

I found it fascinating, and a big relief, to learn that 99% of the time, as human beings, our thinking is twisted and flawed.

Just because I think I have low self-esteem doesn't mean it's true.

Mark asked me to note and be curious about my thoughts.

To my surprise, I learned that if a thought is neither true nor useful, or both, then show it the door, wave it good-bye. Don't give it any attention. It's just the brain doing what it's designed to do. Thinking.

Why do they not teach me this stuff at school?

As a child, I must of discovered the world by being curious and asking questions and yet, somewhere along the path to being an adult, I stopped being curious.

The film and television producer Brain Grazer has written a book about curiosity, A Curious Mind, The Secret to a Bigger Life. Grazer puts his success in the movie business and his personal achievements down to his ability to be curious.

Curiosity opens the door to opportunities, adventure and creativity.

And my fears?

Yes, I still have them, of course. Yet, I have learnt that fear lives inside my head manifesting from my thoughts.

I get curious and reach for better thoughts, more balanced thoughts and more positive thoughts.

This action, thinking on purpose and being curious about my thoughts, switches off my destructive self-criticism along with those unpleasant feelings, and abracadabra, my fear subsides too. I am in a better place.

David can be reached via his agent Sam Brown at Brown and Mills. London.


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