I’m going to kick this one off with a sports metaphor.
Why does someone play soccer? Well I haven’t played since I was a little kid so I don’t really know but I imagine they probably love the challenges and potential successes it presents or the good feelings they get from being a part of a team. Through all the matches and practices, these soccer lovers also get really fit, right? That’s a lot of cardio. Physical fitness benefits are a nice side effect of their love for the game.
I feel the same way about my artistic practice and its effects on my emotional and mental health. I make art because I love it, I’ve found such an incredible community through the arts, and it’s also helped me learn so much about myself and how I relate to and see the world around me. Acting, storytelling, making theater, and writing have been essential therapeutic companions through so many transformative periods in my life.
However, I think sometimes in these transformative periods, I’ve gone too far in thinking that art making should be my primary form of self care and that DOES NOT WORK on an emotional or artistic level. For example – one time I was in rehearsals for a play while going through a breakup and I made everything underneath what was happening in the play for me about how I just got dumped. I’d sit backstage before a scene and think about how angry and hurt I was, how life was so unfair, and do all I could to conjure up some real tears before going out on stage. At the time, doing this felt like it would help me deal with my hurt feelings while simultaneously infusing my scene work with raw, authentic emotion.
It didn’t do either. Instead, that emotional labor in rehearsals caused my scene work to be self absorbed because the feelings I was feeling in real life took my focus away from the scene, rendering me out of touch with the present moment, and after the scene was over all of my hurt feelings were left unresolved. Instead of using my art as therapy, I should’ve made an appointment with a therapist or talked to close friends about my experiences to better understand what I needed to do to feel better.
It wasn’t until I discovered the Meisner Technique that I came to understand a healthy, effective, and incredibly fun way of bringing my authentic self to my work as an actor without crossing that line into making it into a secret self therapy session. Drawing this line for myself, and making moves to take care of myself in much more effective ways, has helped me be a happier and healthier human.
It’s made my art better too.