There was about a ten year span that I suffered from acute performance anxiety. I hadn’t always been this way, but a series of mistakes made by a former lesson instructor of mine, along with my acquiescence and ignorance to what my pedagogical needs were, created a situation where I felt like I couldn’t trust myself in a performance situation. I’d get palpitations, I could barely breathe, and my focus went completely inward to my physical sensations and fear.
By finding the right teachers for myself over time, I was able to regain a level of personal/physical trust in myself so my performance anxiety is mostly gone now. It took multiple changes and realizations, but what I’d like to talk about is how the Alexander Technique has helped me see and sense myself, my surroundings, and the audience with my eyes.
By first becoming aware of myself and how I was thinking and feeling...then seeing and sensing the space all around me (including the space above and below), I was then able to invite the audience in. To invite the audience to enjoy the performance with me. Previously, while experiencing anxiety, I would purposefully EXCLUDE the audience. The thought of being watched and judged negatively was overwhelming. This was a lie I told myself. The act of excluding made me literally narrow my vision...not being aware of the room, space, and the audience.
Do you struggle with performance anxiety? Concerning your vision, do you choose to not see the space you’re in and/or the audience listening? A great place to start is with yourself. Can you just become aware that you’re nervous? Acknowledge it. Know that it’s okay. Then bring consciousness to your breath, slowing it down, breathing through your nose. After noticing and acknowledging yourself, look out. Include your peripheral vision. You can do this while looking at music.
How much of the space can you include?
Then include the audience in your awareness and your periphery. My experience of using my eyes to include the space I’m in and the audience feels expansive. Literally, muscles relax, I feel more calm, anxious thoughts get much more quiet or disappear. Things seem easier.
What’s your experience of visually including the space and audience? How does it affect your mind and body? At this moment, can you notice something that you haven’t noticed before?