I attended my second class yesterday. I told myself this time I’d focus on boring, real-life things and wouldn’t worry about being funny. While I sometimes demonstrate wit that makes people laugh, I don’t really consider myself to be a “funny” person.
I found it interesting that going back for another session of improv caused me way more anxiety throughout the week than starting a new client project.
Part of why I signed up is to keep shedding tendencies toward perfectionism and to get out of my own way when it comes to sharing opinions on the spot. I often prefer to have time to think about things before responding to questions and I feel like I best express myself in writing. I HATE being put on the spot. I also want to become a better storyteller. The story I carry with myself for now is that I am not a storyteller, that I ramble in incoherent ways, that I don’t really have stories I share. And, I also recognize that stories power our society and are pretty much core to everything. So this is another growth area for me.
I have an irrational fear that when I do speak for any period of time (or when I write), I will somehow inadvertently restate something someone else has just said…that I will steal their opinions and thoughts completely unknowingly and express them as my own. Essentially, I have a fear of being a plagiarist and copy cat. Part of this, I think, is an inputs problem. I am always consuming content of some sort and doing a deep dive in some topic area. This all marinates and remixes in my brain. I have long considered myself to be a paella. The challenge is, I often don’t know which ingredients came from which sources and which ones I “grew myself.” And with self-applied pressure to always credit and honor those who have come before and inspired me, this perpetuates constant worries and a censoring, second-guessing voice, any time I share a string of words presented as thoughts or opinions. It’s a shitty, not fun cycle.
When I fear I’ve done this, I replay conversations over and over in my head, to try to trace the always vague hint of something that points to the wrong I did. I never come to anything concrete, though. Or I research answers to questions about how shared language is formed and whether this is usual and natural…that doesn’t turn up much validation or comfort, either. Discovering the chameleon effect, however, did provide temporary mental relief some months back. “The chameleon effect refers to nonconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one’s interaction partners, such that one’s behavior passively and unintentionally changes to match that of others in one’s current social environment.”
Last night, on my two-hour drive home, I realized that the non-verbal or verbal-lite improv games caused me zero anxiety. I had no problems catching and tossing imaginary objects of varying sizes, for example, or with moving around in space in exaggerated voices, making incoherent sounds. It’s only when I have to speak in sentences, whether true or even when completely fabricated to play along with the story.
To be continued in the next chapter of yes, and. (I have four more weeks of classes and a performance.)
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