Overcoming stage fright

NLP Techniques

The desire of overcoming stage fright is probably more sought after than audiences realise, for it seems that a large number lot of people who perform as amateurs or even as professionals suffer from fear in this form. 

Some budding actors and singers unfortunately succumb to that unpleasant state and the public never get to witness the innate talent that has never been permitted to blossom.

Where would you rather be?

Anywhere but here

When will the time be right?

Anytime but now

The doubt and the fear I know

would all disappear

Anywhere but here

stage fright

Others though do get through it.  Some get over it completely and it never returns; others battle on and put up with the symptoms.  However they do or don’t deal with it, the symptoms are very real. 

It is not a question of feeling only nervous; it may involve trembling or shaking, cold sweats, pounding in the chest, a dry throat, sickness or diarrhoea, among others.

Overcoming stage fright – disappearing actor

Around 17 or 18 years ago a prominent and well-liked English actor disappeared from a West End production after only the third night of the show.  

Telephone calls to his home were met with an answering machine message which said words to the effect of I am sorry, I am terribly sorry.   There were reports that he had attempted to take his own life.

Since then he has returned to public life but it was only in the last few months that he returned to the stage, and he has stated publicly that he suffers from bipolar disorder and is receiving treatment for it. 

That, you may think, took a great deal of courage, but it is important for all to know that even the greatest performers suffer but many of them find a way of dealing with it.

Self-help in overcoming stage fright

There is a lot you can do to help yourself before you ever need to get upon the stage.  In my view, the single most important piece of advice is to prepare well.  If you are to act a part, learn your lines so that you know them inside out and backwards. 

Study your character.  Get inside the part.  Live the character.  If you don’t know your lines properly, don’t expect to be perfect all of a sudden.  Without proper preparation you will intensify your fear of failing on the stage, and you are unlikely to want to go on.

Deflecting attention in overcoming stage fright

Deflect attention away from yourself.  Concentrate upon the people who are coming along, and may have paid money for which they have worked very hard, to see the performance. 

Some may have come to see you.  Most, perhaps, might have come to see the performance in which you play a part.  They haven’t come along expecting to see anyone fail.  Neither will they rejoice if somebody slips up. 

They are much more likely to feel a little sympathetic.  So concentrate on them.  They have attended to enjoy themselves.  Set your mind on entertaining them rather than dwelling on the perception of your own fears and inadequacies.

Appearing as an advocate in a court of law is a similar experience.  The difference is that the court room is the lawyer’s stage.  But when the lawyer speaks for the client, or cross-examines a witness, he is not being himself; he is acting a role. 

He needs to convince a jury that he believes in his case.  So he has to argue his case confidently, sometimes passionately, in order to persuade them that his line of argument is the one to follow, and it is his client who should get the verdict.

Overcoming stage fright and the desire to flee

At different times, particularly early in their careers, actors, musicians and lawyers all have a strong desire to run in the opposite direction the moment the time comes for them to perform on their respective stages. 

But they all have duties and responsibilities to those who hire them or who come to watch them, and by concentrating on their customers or clients it helps shift their focus in a different direction and assists in overcoming stage fright.

stage fright

When it is your turn to act in whatever role it may be, take time to sit quietly and think about your performance.  The actor will know that he has learned his part and can get inside his character. 

The musician will know her score and will have mastered her instrument.  The lawyer will know his brief and his law and the nature of the arguments he has to make and the questions he wishes to ask.  Now make a picture in your mind and see yourself in that picture performing your role confidently.

Overcoming stage fright and your imagination

When you can see yourself doing that, imagine not only that you are confident but see yourself excelling at what you do.  Double the size of your mental image and make it brighter.  Hear the audience applauding. 

Feel what you would feel, hear what you would hear and see what you would see.  If smells and tastes are appropriate, imagine those smells and tastes.  Bring as many senses as you can into the image.  Then double the picture again.  This in itself should immediately improve your confidence.  Hold that picture there and feel really good.

That exercise alone should help you in overcoming stage fright.  But it may be used as the first part of a swish pattern.  Imagine now that you have created that picture and associated all the different senses.

Now shrink the picture, make it quite tiny and mentally place it on one side.  We will refer to that as your cue picture.  Having done that, bring up the picture that makes you nervous but look at it through your own eyes (that is to say, don’t see yourself in it).  It gives you a bad feeling and everything seems to be going wrong.  Drain the colour from it.

You can now bring back the tiny cue picture and place it in the bottom left hand corner of your nervous picture.   Now, in one swift movement, shrink the nervous picture down into the left hand corner and expand the bright, happy cue picture and, at the same time, make a S-w-i-i-i-s-h sound out loud. 

You have before you a large, bright picture of yourself succeeding and it has completely blotted out the negative picture.  Double it in size.  Repeat that exercise about five times, and you should feel much better.

Practice those exercises in the days leading up to your performance and they will help to give you confidence.  You should also learn about NLP anchors, something that many leading sports people use, and find out how they too can benefit you and get you the result you desire. 

In the future you may take pleasure from your performance knowing that you can seriously diminish and even banish the pain altogether. 

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