By Barbara Radin Fox
The actor freezes onstage during an important scene. A writer stares at the blank computer screen. An empty canvas mocks the frustrated artist. These are common examples of “performance anxiety.”
Performance anxiety is the failure to achieve or to do what a person can do in a more relaxed state. Our inner fears expectations can cause many psychological changes and result in a failure to perform, more commonly referred to as choking or writer’s block. Anxiety can be particularly stifling in the creative process when an artist is attempting to get that next idea (the next paint stroke.
The more they worry about creating, the more frustrated or pressured they feel, the more blocked they become. The pressure of a deadline, short breaks, exercise, meditation, or exercise can help to move the mind along. Some artists or writers pace around during this period of angst, some are driven to destructive habits or situations such as drinking alcohol, drugs or depression.
A crisis of confidence in ourselves can happen to anyone and then we are able to move on. But sometimes nothing helps. For the chronic sufferer, worry, fear and lack of self confidence feeds on itself and creates so much anxiety that the person can lose their ability to think dearly and not be able to break their blocks.
Performance anxiety has been treated, not very successfully, by support groups, pats on the back, tough talk, seminars and repeated practice. A relatively new psychological treatment, EMDR (for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is now being used to treat this problem.
EMDR was first used to treat very extreme cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with soldiers returning from war. Later psychologists Sandra Foster and Jennifer Lendl, professors at Stanford University, were able to use EMDR successfully in all types of performance anxiety. The EMDR process uses visualization and mental stimulation to help an individual remove the specific anxiety that is causing problems with their creativity.
The effects of EMDR therapy are often long-lasting and are enhanced by the use of other effective mind-body techniques as well as psychotherapy and creativity-sparking support groups.
EMDR is effective in most cases, often in 4 sessions or less. Performance issues range from public speaking, test anxiety, competitive sports, writing or artistic blocks and music, drama or sexual performances. Creativity does not have to be associated with the great angst that some people face.
EMDR may be just the answer to let creativity be associated with excitement, comfort and delight.
Barbara Radin Fox is the founder of Body and Soul Therapy and The Fox Performance Coaching Institute. Barbara is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and has a Masters in Education. She sees clients at Body & Soul, 2045 Maybank Hwy, James Island, SC, as well as in offices in Mt Pleasant, Seabrook Island and Goose Creek.