Stage phobia or stage fright is a fear and anxiety that appears when you are required to perform. It’s a kind of performance anxiety and is observed in people from all backgrounds and experiences. Actors, musicians, public speakers, politicians can experience this stage phobia.
Stage fright or stage phobia is very common. It might not be a big problem for many people who don’t have to perform in front of people, but performers have to deal with it in their professional life . Many famous people have stage phobia and have to find ways to deal with it in their daily professional life.
Some people will overcome stage phobia with drugs and alcohol, some will use relaxation and hypnosis. The last one is probably the most effective on the long term !
Why Do I Have Stage Fright or Stage Phobia ?
There is 2 aspects of performance :
1. The activity itself : This is what you do, and probably enjoy doing. That’s when you’re acting and having fun. That’s the activity you can accomplish for fun.
2. The consequences of the activity on you and people around you : booking or suceeding in a scene, receiving positive or negative feedbacks, etc…
You might be surprised to learn that you can induce performance anxiety in a child by giving him compliments on something he enjoyed doing. This is because you change the reward from internal, the pleasure and enjoyment, to external, the compliment. That’s where stage phobia and stage fright begins : instead of looking for an internal satisfaction like your sensations, you’re looking for an external satisfaction.
I have stage fright when i focus more on what others think of my performance rather than my performance itself.
Use Sensations To Overcome Stage Fright And Stage Phobia
Now, in order to overcome stage phobia you have to change your perceptions from external to internal. You have to come back to your sensations instead of analysing what other people might be thinking about you.
How do you do that ? By simply changing your focus and inner dialogue from external, e.g. « what are they thinking about me ? They probably think i look stupid… » to internal : your sensations « I see this guy with a blue shirt, i feel tensions on my shoulders, i hear a car… »
This is a first step to overcome stage phobia : you connect to your sensations and you accept them.
At the beginning, you will probably notice some unpleasant sensations like tensions in your stomach. But by giving it your attention and accepting it, you also allow this sensation to change. And you can move on to more pleasant sensations.
Have A Short Memory
Performance anxiety comes when you start to think about what others are thinking about what you do. You’re not actually focusing on what you’re doing but you’re focusing on what others might think about it. That makes you split your energy between two tasks, resulting in a lower performance.
When asked what was the greatest characteristic of a successful pass receiver un football, the great quaterback Otto Graham said : « A damned short memory »( from New Psycho-Cybernetics).
Forgetting the previous negative experiences is a powerful way to deal with performance anxiety. Each time you perform, you should do it as if for the first time.
Even positive feedbacks can take you away from your activity. It happens that some actors are performing really well on their first film, and they receive compliments for their performance, and the next time, they seem to have lost all their instinctive ability to perform and be in the moment.
They put pressure on themselves, trying to fulfill the expectations that others have put on them, whereas they were completely in the moment at the first time.
Performance anxiety is basically a loss of focus. So working on focus shall help. The Meisner technique and repetition exercice is a tremendous help as it trains you to stay in the moment and focused on your partner.
Use Visualization To Overcome Stage Fright
Visualization can help reduce stage phobia and stage fright. By visualising your performance in a calm environnement, you give yourself a chance to relax and enjoy your performance.
When you have stage phobia or performance anxiety, simply thinking about your performance can make you feel nervous. By relaxing deeply and putting yourself in a state of inner calm, you will be able to visualize your performance without anxiety. So you will dissociate the feeling of anxiety fromm your performance, and associate a positive feeling instead.
Visualization for stage phobia and performance anxiety can be done in 3 steps :
Step 1 : Relax physically and mentally by visualizing yourself completely relaxed in a relaxing environnement. You can visualize yourself in a place you love and where you feel completely at ease.
Step 2 : Visualize your ideal performance. What would it be if everything goes well, what would your sensations be ? Enjoy this visualization, make it brighter, add details to make it even more perfect.
Step 3 : Visualize the nightmare. Visualize what would happen it goes wrong. But this time, keep the inner feeling of calm. Visualize yourself staying cool and calm when everything goes wrong. If you find yourself getting nervous, just come back to the first step, find your calm, and try again.
Most of the time, people forget the step 3 and just visualize what they want. But they don’t get prepared for what they don’t want. Step 3 will help you accept your circumstances and keep your calm.