24 March 2011

How To Treat Stage Fright

Prior to experiencing my "miracle" cure for my stage fright, I suffered a severe case of it for many years. Stage fright is a common phobia, and some surveys place public speaking up with snakes and spiders as amongst the most common fears anybody suffers. In the course of my struggles I looked in many places for the answer. I diligently studied what appears to remain the authoritative book covering the topic. In this post I am going to summarize the conventional prescriptions, and offer a novel treatment which I learned about while attending a T group.

The wikipedia page on stage fright as it looks on the 24th of March 2011 looks good to me. The experts say prepare and rehearse. This is so trivial it may be of no help. It seems obvious if you are standing up in front of a group of people unprepared you should be fearful.

The jumping jacks and the deep breathing they suggest are good enough I suppose for mild cases that are going to pass anyway and these are activities which can accelerate eventuality coming to be. I actually tried all this stuff and found it to be useless.

They have a pill for it! I had read this in the New York Times a few years ago, but I was surprised to see all the documentation. Beta blockers will suppress the symptoms of social phobia so you can take the pill before you go on stage and it will all be a little easier. Apparently the drugs they were doing in the Last Waltz are just about the worst thing you can take for stage fright.

The trick I learned in my T group is this: shiver. Just relax your shoulders, elbows, hips, knees and give yourself a good long shiver. This is our most natural physical response to the emotional sense of fear and resisting it apparently makes it worse. If you give into the impulse and let yourself shiver as much as you feel like or even force yourself to shiver a little bit more than you feel like, this will disempower the hold your fear holds over you. The T group leader offered it as part of a litany:

"if you are sad, cry; if you are angry, shout; if you are happy, laugh; if you are afraid, shiver."

Sounds a little bit Zen and I would advise counting to ten before shouting when angry, but otherwise I think it works pretty good. My own experience with shivering before going onstage is that this is the only remedy I have ever found helpful for my own (previously) severe stage fright.

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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.