Category Archives: Obstacles
New York Magazine published an interview with actor Mandy Patinkin in which he talks about the impact of a script’s subject matter on an actor’s soul.
I quote from the interview:
“The biggest public mistake I ever made was that I chose to do Criminal Minds in the first place. I thought it was something very different. I never thought they were going to kill and rape all these women every night, every day, week after week, year after year. It was very destructive to my soul and my personality…I’m not making a judgment on the taste [of people who watch crime procedurals], but I’m concerned about the effect it has. Audiences all over the world use this programming as their bedtime story. This isn’t what you need to be dreaming about.”
Thank you, Willa Paskin (@willapaskin), for including this in your article. And thank you, Mr. Patinkin, for being willing to talk about it.
I’ve written about why writers should respect actors. Much of writing is spiritual in nature. The source of material is rooted in spirit and we draw on the spiritual connections we have to this material to access characters and translate their stories.
Actors do the same. Only more intimately, as they allow characters to embody and live vicariously through them. There is an inherent risk in material that includes graphic violence, crime, loss or torture. And while it is an actor’s job to make these scenes real in the mind of the audience, there is an underlying authenticity that makes them real to the actor’s spirit as well. It doesn’t matter that the mind knows that what is taking place is crafted and not spontaneous.
Without a way to safeguard the soul, actors can suffer from trauma – even to the extent of first or secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. But even more so, exposure to trauma can shift your spirit so that you start to see more of the dark side of life and less of the light. And this can lead to enjoying your life less, feeling fear more, and generally developing a distrust in the goodness that abundantly flows around you.
How do you protect the soul while delivering an authentic performance?
- Know yourself. Know where you begin and the character ends. Know what you believe, value, hold to be true. Separate yourself from the character and the story.
- Be mindful of the real spiritual nature of characters. It’s not talked about a lot, but characters are real and exist in their own dimension. Writers are the first to interact with the character, but actors must physically and emotionally experience a character and their story.
- Remember you are a conduit. Not a character. Why are you an actor? Because you love storytelling? You are a conduit, facilitating a character’s story. You acquiesce to a character’s experience in order to share their story. If that story resonates with you in some way, you will connect to it on a deeper level. Choose roles that call to you.
- Be aware of what a role is asking you to experience. Violence and trauma that serve a purpose in a character’s arch can be dealt with in a way that respects the actor’s soul and well-being. Support in the form of a confidential creative-spiritual life consultant, preparation for traumatic scenes and actions, and taking time to process how trauma affects you are all steps that can allow traumatic scenes and roles to drive inner growth, not damage it.
- Understand that it’s going to impact you. Know ahead of time that violent scenes and acts are going to affect you. It’s going to bother you. It should.
- Put boundaries on antagonists. Antagonists bring values and acts that conflict with moral principles. Their thoughts, desires and actions are not ones that will nurture your spirit. Actors who portray antagonists* are not antagonists themselves. Find ways to connect to things that support your moral beliefs, goodness, and compassion in your real life. Put boundaries on antagonist characters.
- Develop a safe place. One just for you. No character intrusion allowed.
- Don’t forget to create your own story. Your life goes on while you are in character. Keep it interesting and focus on what you do want to experience in life.
What if you’ve already been traumatized?
- Accept that your feelings are real. Emotion and expression are an actor’s lifeblood. But they are your spirit’s lifeblood, too. It doesn’t matter what caused your feelings, what matters is that what you feel is real. If a role or scene bothers you, it’s okay to admit it. In fact, the more perceptive and sensitive an actor you are, the more likely that it will bother you. There’s no shame in that.
- Ask questions. Mr. Patinkin asks a relevant question when he ponders if violent scenes are what we need to be falling asleep to. Violence certainly serves its purpose. But it requires a purpose with context for the human soul to embrace it. I, too, question the point of entertainment that involves senseless, overdone, graphic violence without ultimately delivering a life-giving story. This is a question for culture. But as storytellers, we need to be mindful of why we present stories the way we do and ultimately, the impact those choices may have on the human spirit.
- Seek healing. The farther up the A-list you are, the more complex wounds you’ll most likely have experienced. Navigating these wounds can be a complex process as well. Don’t let yourself lose hope that healing is possible. Don’t lose sight of who you are as a being of Source. Whole. Happy. Safe. Contributing.
What about the crew?
Anyone who witnesses traumatic scenes or assists in designing them is also impacted. You don’t have to be an actor to feel the trauma. Witnessing violence portrayed as real can be very difficult to deal with. Everyone involved in the Story should be mindful of trauma and be empowered with ways to work through the emotions involved.
*A note for actors who portray antagonists. Depending on the depth of evil your character involves, you need to be extra careful to guard your spirit. The things your character may think, feel, fantasize and do may be frightening. As you give this character permission to tell a story through you, you will come up against the dark realm of the soul. One that can be shocking in itself and present some of the deepest questions in life.
You may grapple with questions about human nature, humanity, suffering, and what has to happen to a human spirit and mind in order for it to commit atrocious acts against others. As you physically live out the character’s actions, you may find yourself struggling with your own identity in all of this. Audiences will relate to you for the dark characters you portray – and may not get to see the goodness in you as a person separate from the character. Don’t lose sight of the goodness in you. You are not the character; the character is not you. You are an actor, an artist. Let what you have learned of the dark side shine light on your work.
We are all responsible for tending to each others’ spirits
No matter your role, we are each responsible to tend to each others’ spiritual well-being during the storytelling process. Storytelling is a way to unite, to enjoy the creative calling and responsibility we’ve each been given.
Be sensitive to what others’ may perceive. Be mindful. Be kind.
Artists must accept risk all the time. What’s your opinion on risk-taking in creative work and in life in general?
Anytime you’re bringing forth what hasn’t been, you’re faced with risks. Primarily, rejection, but also the risks associated with digging deeper within yourself to expose more of who you are to the world. Be certain: we are not our work. But we are responsible for it and we are the ones who have been entrusted with it. So, there are risks involved in facing our fears about the quality and potential of our work against what the work is in itself and how it is received. Most artists create because that is simply who they are and they can’t imagine life without creating. Creating itself doesn’t necessarily involve risk. But when you take that work out into the world and release it, then you definitely have risk.
There are more important risks to take though and those are the willingness to actually create a life you love. Those risks are life risks – and have nothing to do with whether or not you work in a creative field. It’s so easy to assume that life is just what it is – and not ever get to the point where you not only imagine a bigger life, but actually create it. The biggest creative risk in life is not having created your own life.
How do you create a “bigger” life, pursue your dreams?
When you get to a point where you understand fully that you are Source Energy and that you are here to experience joy – not just occasionally, but most of the time – much of the traditional “risks” begin to fall away. You begin to realize that you really have nothing to lose by pursuing your dreams and crafting a life that brings you joy.
Most of what we learn to fear in life are things that should never be feared, because they cannot actually destroy us. Financial ruin is one of the biggest fears people stumble over when considering doing something that would make them happier and more fulfilled. If you get to a place where you understand that money is simply energy, like the air we breathe and the food we eat, it’s replenishable, renewable, you let go of that intense fear of losing it. It’s meant to flow in and out of our lives much like the air we breathe. You can create money in your life and when you truly learn that, you know that if you lose it, you can create it again. Money becomes a tool instead of a fence. That really sets you free.
If you know that you will essentially be okay, that the Universe will provide, that you are Source Energy and have the power to create your experience, then you open to risks. And how you set yourself free is by becoming conscious of what you think and believe about money. You examine those beliefs, figure out if they still serve you and replace the limiting ones with ones that do support who you want to be.
Essentially, you have to set yourself free to take risks. We hold ourselves back far more than any other force can ever hold us. And what holds us back is limiting beliefs. A belief is just a thought that you keep thinking over and over again. Stop thinking it, stop assuming it’s true and, presto – you change it. It’s a process – you start somewhere and as you open and take more risks, you start dreaming bigger and bigger. You accomplish one dream and it’s replaced by another. It’s a lot like climbing a mountain – what looks so far up and impossible from the bottom of the hill, doesn’t look that way when you get closer to it. Once you reach that place, you look higher, you keep climbing.
So what’s changing is your perspective. And what is perspective? Your thoughts on something.
But how do you get to the point where it’s not just wishing, but reality?
Action. You don’t have to change your beliefs first. Start climbing. Your beliefs will be challenged as you do. And, you’ll have to either change them to accommodate your new goal or stop climbing. That’s how we grow, that’s how life either gets bigger or stays small. Many, many bigger lives, happier ones, incredible accomplishments never happen because people do not make up their minds and decide that that’s what they want. Decision is so essential to creating a life you love. We tend to wallow in a space of wishing, hoping, dreaming then talking ourselves out of it, tallying all the reasons it couldn’t work, feeling afraid, shrinking because we fear we’re inadequate, not good enough, that we’ll fail – and cycling through this. And what happens? We never decide.
Decide what you want – and a whole new force of energy rushes in.
You can’t wait for perfect timing. Perfect timing doesn’t exist. You start by deciding what you want. Taking action, changing your beliefs along the way, essentially growing into your dream.
Do you have to start small?
That’s a great question. Most advice out there tells you take baby steps. Inch your way along your dream path. For some that’s good, practical advice. It’s not right for everyone. You don’t have to start small. In fact, you may want to start at the top. And by this, I mean start seeing yourself, your life through the lens of who you want to be, what you want to have achieved and live from that perspective. As Mike Dooley says “Dwelling from, not upon, the space you want to inherit is the fastest way to change absolutely everything.” That’s absolutely true.
We Must Meet Each New Work for the First Time
As artists, we develop style, routines, working habits that shape how we approach our work.
It can be tempting to move on to the next project as more or less a subconscious continuation of the last one. Especially when we’re busy and have little time between projects. We know we’ve done it before and so we assume we’ll do it again the same way. But no two projects are ever alike. What worked so beautifully before may or may not work for this one. Staying open to new processes is essential and one of the primary ways we develop as artists.
Each new work deserves to be met with a creative openness that combines our wealth of experience with fresh humility and respect.
We Think We Create, When In Fact We’re Being Created
If you see your creative project as something that must be done, achieved, strived for, accomplished, completed – you’re looking through a very narrow lens. Projects must be brought forth and brought to their finished form, yes; but they have far more to create in us than we ever create in them.
Each new work brings something to you, the artist.
Each new work develops insight, perspective, experience in you.
Each new work prepares you for the next work.
If you’re not looking at your project with this in mind, you won’t be able to fully receive its blessing.
The Most Important Thing You Can Do is… Listen
There is nothing more important, in fact. Listening comes first, comes second, comes last.
You have to listen to the work, be receptive, interact with Guidance.
If you throw too much of Yourself into your work without knowing where you end and the Work begins, you’ll miss its soul spark. It is an interactive process – you listen to the work, you receive the work, the work reveals itself through your creative process over and over and over again until it emerges and you fade.
Projects Choose You Because They Trust You…So Let Them Trust You
Artists receive creative work from Source. We are conduits. We stand between the Unseen and the Seen. Our gifts allow us to translate the Unseen into the Seen. We do not actually “create” anything. We are provided with ideas, insight, guidance, inspiration, stories, characters, concepts – all because we have been deemed Trustees of this Unseen World.
It’s our job to say yes to our calling.
Each new work counts on us to bring the best of ourselves to it.
Each new work trusts us – more than anyone else it could have chosen – as the right person to emerge itself through.
That’s why we must meet each new work as new work.
Because we are the only one who can greet it.
Mike Dooley, founder of Totally Unique Thoughts (tut.com) wrote the following “Top 10 Ways People Give Away Their Power” in the latest Notes from the Universe e-mail I received. If you’re not familiar with Dooley’s work, I encourage you to check it out. I want to comment on these Top 10 because they really do have the power to leave you disengaged and feeling helpless to actively create your life. (By the way, you’re creating your life all of the time – it’s just a matter of “what” you are creating. And “what” you are creating comes down to what you are predominantly choosing to think, believe, envision and expect.)
So, let’s dive into these a bit more:
Top 10 ways people give away their power:
1. Asking others what they should do.
You know in your heart, if you stop and really listen, what you are to do. You know the right path for you, for your work, for your characters. Asking for feedback or advice is beneficial only to the degree that it opens you up to see things from another’s perspective – but no one else can ever see from your inner knowledge. So do ask, but own your role as the creator and know that you are the only one who can decide.
Keep in mind, too, that everyone has their own opinion about you and your work. Don’t let others’ opinions become your reality. Take what can benefit you, discard what will not. It’s too easy and we all do this – to value other people’s opinions more than we value our own. Yet, in the end, our opinion is what ultimately matters. Own your opinion and your power.
2. Thinking God decides who gets what.
We create how we experience life by what we think is possible and impossible for us. Focus on what you do want, not on what you don’t want. Start asking “what ifs” about all the good things and big dreams you have. What if it were easy? What if is happened fast? What if I really could achieve this? That creates space for your mind to start considering the possibility of it happening and the more you dwell on it, the more energy you give it and the more it will manifest in your life.
3. Worrying about how their dream will come true.
How is not what we need to focus on. Remember the troops in my general analogy? They represent the Universe and they know how to work the miracles needed to achieve your dreams. Don’t worry about the hows. Focus on the destination and the actual steps you can do now to step closer to that destination. Take Toyota’s mantra “Choose any direction, as long as it’s forward” – if you haven’t heard that from them, it shows up in Closed Captioning at the end of their commercials.
4. Thinking they have dues to pay.
The only dues you have to pay is the time it takes you to let go of limiting beliefs. Start believing that you can create your dreams. Start challenging all those thoughts that tell you you can’t or that make fear seem more powerful than you are.
5. Attaching to unimportant details and outcomes.
Focus on the destination. Keep your end goal in sight, imagine what it’s like to be in that space. Live from that space. Don’t get hung up on the little details. As Dooley says: “It’s not the steps that matter, but the path. And the path will take care of itself, when you keep focused on your destination.”
Open your mind up to allow your dream to become reality in the way that it needs to. Don’t try to control all the details or how it happens. Let it come to you in the magical way that it can and will.
6. Believing in soul mates.
This is a tricky limiting belief if you interpret it to mean that there is only one person or solution out there right for you. If that’s what you believe, it closes you off to the possibility of letting the Universe choose someone who will love you in a healthy, enjoyable way. Believing that there’s only one person out there for you – or one producer, director, buyer, agent – is based in fear.
However, when you allow the Universe to make the connections and you trust that you are being guided, then you often will find that the person who comes into your life will be a soul mate – someone just right for you.
7. Thinking karma or spiritual contracts are absolute.
The only absolutes in this life are the moment of birth and the moment of death. Everything else can change, because we perceive experiences through our thoughts. If we change our perspective on something, we change how we feel and when we change how we feel, we change our behavior and that leads to new and different ways of experiencing life. It’s our interpretation of experiences that creates our perception of events.
8. Fear of anything, especially falling in love.
You can say no to fear. Fear doesn’t like to hear that, but it’s true. You can look it in the face and choose to say no. You’re not going to stop feeling afraid first and then say no. You have to choose to say no to fear first and then feelings of fear will dissipate. And remember, fear is often the child in you trying to protect itself from change.
9. Waiting for their ducks to line up before acting.
Your ducks will line up after you take action. It’s easier to direct the course of a moving object than a still one. Let me tell you this, too: the “ducks” in your life are waiting for you to act before they line up. You’re the creator, remember?
10. Choosing to be unhappy.
“Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be,” said Abraham Lincoln. Happiness is a choice. Choose to be happy and the feelings will follow. Don’t wait for something else or someone else to make you feel happy. It’s not anyone’s job to make you feel happy. You’re responsible for it.
So choose happiness. Choose faith. Choose trust. Choose to say no to fear. Choose to take action. Choose to listen to your own guidance. Choose to create the life you want.
People are going to tell you that you can’t do it.
The odds are against you. It’s nearly impossible to “break in.” Only such-and-such a percentage of people achieve it.
Don’t listen to them.
The only people who tell you this are those who haven’t achieved it.
This is your journey. You are the driver. And while these “voices” out there may or may not be concerned with your well-being, they actually have nothing to do with YOU.
Why do people caution others against hope? Why do they always tell you to be so careful? Why do they think you have to be told (like they have some legal obligation) why you shouldn’t expect too much from yourself, your dreams, your desires? Why does everyone think we all have to be so insulated from disappointment? As if not achieving a dream would be fatal or something?
This is a Game and You’re Ultimately Going to Be Fine
Dreams – achieved or not achieved, held on to, let go, changed, altered, dreamed bigger, dreamed differently – they’re not life and death matters, folks. They’re supposed to be pursuits of joy. You’re supposed to be lighthearted enough in life to enjoy the process and know that no matter what happens, this is a game and you’re ultimately going to be just fine.
Okay, okay. You could look at “facts.” You could look at numbers. Those numbers all apply to other people’s experiences. You don’t know the stories behind how those numbers came to be.
When it comes to your dream, you are the only one who can decide what you want. And I can tell you, very few people actually decide what they want. They linger in wishful, hoping, wouldn’t-it-be-wonderful-if-it-came-true land. That land is Indecision. And with indecision is lack of commitment.
Lack of Commitment Will Always Result in Not Achieving Your Dream
You’re the general of a strong, powerful army of well-trained, skilled troops. Each soldier has very specific expertise. They know how to work together to get the job done.
They’re all standing in a field in front of you. Ready.Waiting. Fully capable of going into action to achieve your goal.
You’re sitting in your tent (yes, this is ancient army imagery). You’re thinking how wonderful it would be if maybe, perhaps, gosh, you better not even dare imagine it – but wouldn’t it just be so great if you could really make it. If you could achieve this big, huge goal that everyone says you shouldn’t even reach for because, well, so few generals have ever achieved it. But what if you could? No, you shouldn’t even think it. Wouldn’t it be awesome though? Yeah. You can feel how awesome it would be….
Meanwhile, the troops are getting impatient.
Back to you: okay, maybe you could take at least a few steps in that direction. You emerge from your tent. All eyes rivet on you. Every body poised to jump into action.
Here’s what you say:
“I don’t know if I can achieve this. I mean, who am I to achieve this? I probably shouldn’t even bother. I’m not ready. I don’t have the experience. I can’t really be a ‘general’ can I? I mean, I need someone to tell me if I’m a general. A real one.” You turn and go back inside, the crowd sighs, look at each other, wonder about you. They wait.
You come out again.
“Okay, I’m going to give this a shot. If it gets too hard, I can always quit. No one will know. I probably won’t make it. Few people ever have. I won’t get my hopes up. Let’s take a few steps, see what happens.”
The soldiers groan with disappointment. But they’re good troops and they do exactly as you say. Half-heartedly.
They take a few steps, but no one feels any real commitment, because you haven’t committed. And what do they achieve? Exactly and only the few steps that you told them to do. That’s what you wanted, after all. That’s all you asked of them.
NOW, let’s change things up. You are sitting in your tent. Looking at your maps. Visioning exactly what you want to achieve in the end. You have a big goal – yes, you know it’s bigger than what most generals attempt, but you don’t care. That was their decision. Not yours. You believe in your troops. You believe in your ability to lead them to this goal.
They’re outside waiting for you. Excited, expectant.
You emerge from the tent. All eyes rivet on you. Every body poised to jump into action. Here’s what you say:
“This is what we’re going to do. This is what we are going to achieve. It’s big, it’s going to take everything we’ve got. People say it can’t be done. We’re going to do it. This is where we are going. I want every one of you in action. I expect you to do your best work. Make it happen. You have the skills to get this done. I trust you to know what to do, when to do it. If you have questions about where we’re going, come and ask me. I’ll remind you. We’re moving forward. There’s no turning back.”
Shouts of joy and excitement fill the air. The troops rally, move out into action. They know exactly what to do, who to contact, what connections to make, what paths to go down and who to say “no” to because, in their expertise, they know a better, easier, and more impactful way to reach this goal. They do things in ways that surprise you, but you trust these troops and you keep your eye on the goal, not the individual steps they take. You hold the destination in sight. They report back to you with opportunities, connections, yes’s from supporters, no’s from detractors, detours around obstacles, paths they’ve taken that you would never have thought of.
True, sometimes they come back without progress to report. You wonder a bit if you’re going to achieve it after all. You remind them of your commitment and they continue using their skills to get you closer to your goal. They have perfect faith in you and you have perfect faith in them. This is who you are, this is where you’re going. You aren’t striving or pushing or pulling by yourself – you’re leading your troops, keeping your end destination in sight and adjusting course as you get feedback from them. You feel an ease, a faith, a confidence because you know that these troops come through.
You spend time visualizing what it feels like to already have achieved your goal – you can feel it, you live it out in your imagination now, you adapt your mindset to the person you’ll be when you achieve it. You start to think from that new perspective. You make decisions based on that future you.You have full confidence that as you keep moving forward, you’re getting closer to your destination.
And you have the ease and peace of mind to enjoy the whole process of getting there. You even start to plan your next big campaign, because once you achieve this one, you know you’re going to want to head out on another journey, this time even bigger, more amazing and far-fetched.
Which General Are You? Decide & Commit
Feel the difference? Decision and commitment. It puts everything into full-fledged action. It gives your dreams the driving energy they need.
You decide which general you are. The troops are the Universe. They’re waiting outside your tent.
What are you going to ask them to do?