ICYMI, we’re doing a series with performance psychology expert Clay Frost so you and your crew can bring your performances to the next level. Here’s the first post if you need to catch up or review. Today we’re diving into the first element of performance psychology: emotional control.
Emotional control is key, especially for dancers, who have to tap into and share their emotions to truly connect with their audience. “Before you can ever control your performances, you have to be able to control your emotions,” Frost notes. “Emotions, if not kept in check, hijack our ability to be creative, deteriorate our attitude, destroy communication skills, and cause us to burst like a pipe under pressure.”
While emotional control can be a challenge, Frost shares his expertise to show you three steps on how to start to become the master of your emotions:
- Change the way you see your mind
- Learn to reset with deep breathing
- Find what works for you
Change the Way You See Your Mind
There’s a common myth that we only use 10% of our brain. This is false. Normal, functioning brains are used at 100%, but only 10% is at a conscious state. It’s like an iceberg, about 10% of an iceberg is above the water. Just like our brains, 10% of our brain is “above the surface” and the rest is in a subconscious state. In other words, we control 10% of our thinking brain, and the other 90% works in the background. It’s what you choose to do with that 10% that matters.
The “law of occupied space” is that a space that is fully occupied leaves no room for anything else. Remember that 10% we talked about? Let’s call that the stage of your mind. You have 100% control of the stage of your mind and you will have complete control of it as long as you are occupying that space. That is the law, if you are occupying the space, nothing else can come in and disrupt it, if there is even the tiniest portion of free space, that can spread like wildfire. Free space can happen as we are mentally fatigued, as we have distractions, as unexpected things come up, really there are many different things that can open up small fractions of free space and that can change everything. Keep your mind occupied on what YOU want it to be occupied on and don’t let any free space cause it to wander to ineffective thoughts and emotions.
Learn to Reset with Deep Breathing
This is a simple, yet incredibly effective skill. Deep breathing can allow you to mentally reset in a matter of seconds. Anytime your thoughts, emotions, focus, or anything else starts to deviate from the path you want to be on, deep breathing will be your go to mental tool.
Start on your back with your right hand on your stomach and your left hand on your chest. Go through each step:
- Breathe in your nose out your mouth.
- Expand your stomach as much as possible on the inhale and suck your belly button to your spine as you exhale.
- Count your exhales and inhales at a 2:1 ratio.
As you do this deliberately, you’re completely occupying the stage of your mind. Once you’re relaxed, insert whatever you want into your mind, your confidence script, a mantra, a goal, etc.
Find What Works for You
Another very important concept when it comes to emotional control is finding what works best for you. Some performers do really well when they are calm, cool, and collected. Other performers have to be lighthearted. Others that have to be mad and angry to perform at their best. Either way, it is imperative that you know what leads you personally to perform at your best.
Discover which emotions lead you to perform at your very best, and do what it takes to replicate those emotions. We’ll cover priming routines more in-depth in another article but here are some things that might help you replicate the emotions that you need to crush it:
- Deep breathing
- Physical exercise
- Talking with friends
- Telling jokes
Emotions are choices. We choose our emotions; we choose our perceptions of what is going on around us. We choose our attitude, and we choose our response. Once you own the responsibility and accountability of your emotions, you have immediately empowered yourself to be one step closer to controlling them.