I’m always searching for new ways to be happy and healthy – it really is an option and takes practice if you weren’t taught these skills growing up. And here today we have guest blogger and author, Jane Marla Robbins, who shares with us 2 acting techniques that she’s used in her personal life!
How do I “Live Lightly?” For one thing, I used to weigh sixty pounds more than I do now.
How do I keep them off? A number of ways, including using Acting Techniques For Everyday Life. Yes, it turns out that the techniques I learned in order to star on Broadway, and be in movies and on television, are the same techniques I use to keep from being miserable and stuffing my face.
Because yes, when I ate much too much, it was always because there was some feeling I didn’t want to feel, because of some person, place, situation or thing that was making me miserable.
So here are two Acting Techniques that helped and still help me eat and behave like a normal, healthy, happy person, instead of someone who wanted to eat herself into oblivion:
Acting Technique #1: The Magic “As If”
Some years ago, someone married into my family who used to always put me down, which only made me want to shrivel up and die. Of course I went for those chocolate chip cookies, not that two hundred of them would have been enough.
One day I pretended the guy had leprosy. I guess on a hunch. I just told myself, “He has leprosy.” I didn’t imagine boils on his face, or bones sticking out of his hands, I just said, “I’ll try it, I’ll pretend he has leprosy.”
I was using a simple acting technique called THE MAGIC “AS IF.” I merely acted “as if” he had leprosy. It worked. For one thing, it helped me to avoid him. After all, I was pretending he had some terrible disease I could catch, why would I want to get near him? So for starters, I never got close enough for him to start in.
Then later that day, the guy actually told his wife, “Jane seemed better today, didn’t you think?”
It’s anybody’s guess why he thought this. Did he feel compassion from me for his disease (his meanness)? Or was it that because I avoided him, he was no longer threatened by my energy, and therefore didn’t feel the need to try to diminish it or me?
The point is, I had a secret, and this made me feel good. Also, I was being creative and was no longer a passive victim. I had become consciously active. An actor. And this made me feel good. And finally, he wasn’t putting me down anymore– which made me feel wonderful.
I have certainly felt like a victim when my eating was out of control, a victim, for example, of the whole chocolate cakes that seemed to force themselves down my throat.
Acting Technique #2: Sense Memory
Studies show that feeling like a victim weakens our immune systems. It certainly doesn’t make for a very happy life. Studies also show that people who are happy, and who don’t feel like victims, are not only healthier, but also live longer than people who are miserable. So here’s an acting technique for feeling happy.
Let’s say you’re feeling miserable, but have to go into a business meeting where it would be useful to feel happy. (Rarely does anyone hire or want to work with someone who is miserable.)
I’m not suggesting you cheat yourself out of any genuine feelings of sadness. I believe our grieving is as important to our health as joy. But I have worked with many clients who, because of guilt, or no longer useful belief systems, or because of feelings you might call “askew,” have actually spent more time feeling unhappy than their lives warranted.
So how does an actor, whose house may have just gone into foreclosure, jump onto a stage and look, and even feel, happy? He could use SENSE MEMORY, the technique Marilyn Monroe used with Sir Laurence Olivier for her first scene in the movie, The Prince and Showgirl.
Monroe had been stuck, was tight, intimidated, dull, blocked, not the scintillating person we know her to have been. Her acting coach suggested she sensorily recreate both “Frankie Sinatra” (a favorite boyfriend) and Coca Cola.
Sometimes if you just think of someone you love, your body’s senses will remember some aspect of that person, and automatically you will smile. Sometimes just his or her name is not enough, and my clients, along with actors, and me, too, need to say to ourselves, “I hear his laugh, I see his smile, I feel his hand.”
And our bodies react as if that person were actually there! Because every sensory event we have experienced is encoded in our cells’ memory, which is why, even without our good friends being there, we smile when we think of them.
For the Coca Cola, maybe Marilyn Monroe remembered feeling the bubbles or tasting the cola — all strong sensory experiences. Who knows what she recreated from her famous affair with Sinatra…. Whatever it was, it worked. She sizzles in that scene.
So if you’re feeling unhappy, or like a victim, find what or who would make you happy. Here’s what works for me: Sometimes I just hear, in my head, a piece of piano music I learned as a child, (it’s Chopin’s Etude in E-Minor). It always makes me smile. Or sometimes I imagine I’m at the ocean, see and hear the waves, smell the salt sea air.
Or sometimes, like Marilyn Monroe, I imagine someone else is in front of me, if the actual person in front of me makes me nervous. Maybe I’ll imagine it’s my best friend, Anna, from college; and all I have to do is imagine seeing the bright blue coat she always wore on our wild adventures- – on the person in front of me. And I’ll feel happy, relaxed, loved– as if Anna were actually there.
SENSE MEMORY is a wonderful technique. Modern science has even proved how effective it is. Experiments at Harvard show it can lower blood pressure, anxiety levels, pain levels, and even accelerate healing. The medical establishment calls it “Guided Sensory Imagery.” In other words, it can change our brain chemistry and how we feel and behave.
So it’s nice to know there are at least two simple Acting Techniques to help us out of being heavy with unnecessary pain, extra pounds, or just self-defeating habits, techniques that can help us live more lightly, less heavily, more joyfully, more healthily.
About the Author
Jane Marla Robbins has been a successful and thin actress for many years. She is the author of ACTING TECHNIQUES FOR EVERYDAY LIFE: Look And Feel Self-Confident in Difficult Real Life Situations, now in its fifth printing, and of PERFORM AT YOUR BEST: Acting Techniques for Business, Social, and Personal Success. Her acting credits include, on film: Rocky I, II & V, Arachnophobia, and on television: ER, Murder She Wrote, Beverly Hills 90210.
Do you recognize that much of our daily troubles, whether it’s struggles in our work lives, relating to people or managing our addictions, have an emotional component? Let’s thank Jane for sharing with us 2 acting techniques which could help us to control our emotions and be happier!