Thursday, 18 October 2012

a different kind of insight

Some days ago I wrote about the useful insight I gained from the experience of trying to 'normalise' my jittery voice when singing in front of (some) other people. A couple of days later, the insight developed in a slightly different direction.

It was very important to understand that messing up in public is really not the end of the world, however much it may feel like that to the ego at the time. Later on, though, I began to think about the strength of those emotions that make you feel foolish, or inadequate, or jittery, or whatever it is. There are any number of sources of advice about this kind of thing, framed as things like 'how to get over performance anxiety'. Visualise, practice, breathe...... A lot of it is very good information about how to begin to get out of your head and the negativity that your mind/ Self 1 is serving up for you once again.

However, there's another perspective on this, which sees the purpose of emotion as communication; often communication about things that you're missing because your head is so busy chattering away. This view suggests that your overall emotional/physical system may be picking up on something about the situation that isn't quite right, in terms of what is productive and nourishing for it.  Why, exactly, it asks, are you forcing yourself to do something that feels so bad??

What interests me now about my own recent experience is a), why I thought what I was doing was a helpful way of approaching a situation that (sometimes) causes me anxiety, and b), why I kept on going, despite the fact that I was feeling more and more uncomfortable. It strikes me now as a very brutal way of dealing with something that I know to be extremely delicate. My teacher quoted John O'Donohue to me when I told her about this:

                              the soul is shy, and if you approach it too directly it will do a runner....

It looks as if my mind was reproducing cultural imperatives about it being 'good for me' to tough it out; telling me that it was useful to expose myself to a difficult situation, in order to help me to 'get used to it'. But I see now how these kinds of imperatives are simply crushing to my soul, and my creativity. I don't always feel bad singing. I can sing with friends I play music with, and in other situations that feel supportive and benign. Perhaps I was just being impatient. I would love to sing for others, to share the wonder and beauty of music-making. But you can't offer what is not yet yours.


  1. Ahh yes – if the insight doesn’t overcome the issue then perhaps you were overcome by the insight.

  2. Mmmm, certainly in these sorts of things it seems for me at least that it's rarely a single issue, or that if is is a single issue, it unfortunately is rarely overcome by a single insight! Layers and layers of insight, perhaps.

  3. Ha ha - then perhaps it's okay to be overcome - one insight at a time!



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