Performers, Creatives and Athletes often have to struggle against the grain of society and parental pressure to do the work they love. Those with ‘natural talents’ might have had years of parents and coaches putting outside pressure on them to do what they love to do less, more, faster, differently. As a performer excels, they find themselves working with and often competing against people with greater talents. Being surrounded by a community of excellence creates pressure as well as competition. When we are under financial pressure to ‘win’ and it affects our self-esteem and love of the activity.
As performers work they experience injuries, losses, rejections, times they don’t make the audition or the competition. Dealing with knock-backs is seen as part of the job, but performers are humans and it takes a toll. Sometimes these knock-backs are public, humiliating. These setbacks often hurt when years of committed effort and giving of oneself if deemed insufficient by a subjective judge or because of conditions beyond one’s control. In addition, the bodies of performers are put in under great pressure in training and many sports and dancers suffer substantial and repeated injury which may not be fully attended to. Seeing emotional and physical hurt in others can result in secondary trauma and receiving it directly can result in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The build-up of these factors undermines the performer and may result in their inability to do the one thing they loved and gave their life the most meaning.
Traditional talk therapy and Cognitive Behavioural Coaching describe what is going on and can help performers to understand their problems and make plans, but these approaches do not offer the necessary neurological supports to overcome trauma which is held in the body. Brainspotting offers a way for performers to connect with experiences which happened outside their known experience, using reflexes to help process injury, disassociation and trauma.
Brainspotting enables us to work with Performance Anxiety in radical new ways bringing together relational therapy, neuroscience, mindfulness and healing from trauma and PTSD.
Brainspotting for Creatives
‘Writers Block’ is an example of a stuck process, while living processes are always in movement. A Brainspotting session using focused mindful processing enables creatives stuck at starting, with perfectionism, insecurity, anxiety, or just a blank ‘foggy’ heavy sense of not being able to get something started, moving or finished to relate to the blocked process from a new perspective and come to understand a better way of working than slogging through or giving up.
Brainspotting for Actors, Writers and Dancers.
Brainspotting allows us to delve into a character’s ‘felt sense’, to ‘get under their skin’ in a neurobiologically attended way. We will set up a visual brainspot to anchor yourself as the character you are being asked to play or develop. Rather than being you pretending to be someone else it is possible to work on a script in the Brainspotting session to hear yourself as that character.
Brainspotting for Athletes
When we have a physical or psychological injury our nervous system holds the memory and we sensibly act to protect the hurt part from further pain. For a performer this can have disastrous consequences on making the full expression of the movement needed. Brainspotting allows us to work directly with the nervous system to ‘let go’ of the impact of the injury so that not only are we physically healed but also our body can process the impact of the trauma. This could be a ‘wince’ from our performance not being well received as well as recovery from an injury. Head injuries and concussion respond especially well to Brainspotting as the impact of the head trauma is held unconsciously. Some activities such as dancing, horse-riding and contact sports might be a further injury to many impacts received in training and competition over a lifetime, these compound previous unhealed traumas and can have devastating effects personally and professionally. This documentary shows David Grand and Mackey Sasser work together to overcome the ‘Yips’ with Brainspotting.
If rejections and physical trauma’s were not held by kindly parents and coaches the impact on our emotional well-being is huge. Often family members and coaches and whole institutions are unsympathetic, there is a belief that suffering will make the artist more brilliant or the sports star more focused. However, that simply cannot be true from a neuroscientific perspective. Instead each hurt is a hurt, whether it is physical or emotional because the body is the site of these impacts. Being part of a disadvantaged group because of institutional racism, gender privilege and discrimination on the basis of sexuality and other intersectional factors makes this even worse. Performers have also often been victims of abuse by coaches, other performers and at their places of work. Traumatised systems simply become petrifies, ossified and more rigid with each of these types of impact. For personal and professional success and growth we need healing and that can happen.
I am an accredited member of Brainspotting International, a trainer and therapist member of the Focusing Institute and a provisional member of the New Zealand Association of Counsellors. I have completed the Phase 3 training with David Grand which focuses on Performers and Sports People.
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From my blog
Here are some articles on the topic of performance and creativity.