The Psychology of Acting

One of my interests is to study the psychology of acting. What do actors actually do? Interesting enough, we can learn a lot from actors which is good for our mental health.

Many people ask me why is it that I am so interested in Actors or acting? This is because the study of actors and films can help us understand how mental disorders like depression, anxiety, panic attacks and dissociative disorders, to name a few, are part of the acting profession and play an important part for many artists and performing artists. .

For example, children with autism do benefit from the practice of acting. I know because I teach the piano to a few students with autism, and sometimes I also send them to a friend who is an actor and helps them simply by teaching them acting. It is surprising what we can learn about children with autism when they are on stage acting. We do this as voluntary work.

This shows very clearly that mental disorders like anxiety, depression and even elevated moods, are part of being human, vital to certain professions like the performing arts and as such we need to understand an important fact: that rather than wanting to eliminate these disorders, particularly through genetic manipulation, it is vitally important to preserve them, understand them and learn from them.

We need to respect the fact that without mental disorders we would probably never have great actors, or artists, or scientists. So?

Rather than have a society that stigmatizes people with mental disorders, like the Western world does, particularly Australia and America, we need a society that values mental disorders, teaches people how to cope with them and how to get the best out of these mental disorders. This is what many indigenous cultures did, including the Australian Aboriginal people. For example, a Shaman has experience of depression, anxiety and many other mental disorders. But the Shaman is never stigmatized but valued as a very special person and valued member of the society. Here is the difference.

That is why I find the present science on mental disorders, based on the medical model and the scientific models, so very stupid.

 

There is a downside to the profession as well. I think that it is also important for people to understand how difficult this profession cam be in terms of mental health and what it does to personality, behavior and character. For example, the celebrity life of famous actors can mimic Bipolar Disorder symptoms, symptoms of anxiety and depression, or panic attacks, and that is perhaps why so many actors suffer with these disorders, weather they are developed or triggered. There is also a constant struggle with Narcissistic tendencies. Not that all actors are narcissists but to be in the business it is unavoidable that some narcissistic qualities will be developed. This is, more specifically, non hostile narcissism where actors do seek recognition but, on the other hand, are also the first to recognize and promote the talents of others.

There is also the tendency to mix with their own closed circle of exclusive and famous friends or people. This is a necessity to mark the difference between celebrity status and the average person or fans; and because it impractical and even dangerous for a celebrity to mix with a non celebrity; in addition it is also source of great confusion, inequality and miss understanding about life..

I am going to discuss some of these issues here, on this webpage, without mentioning any specific names of any actors, because I do have a few friends that are actors; and because I am interested in the topic. I would like to share it with some of my friends here.

I think that this is interesting because it shows that disorders like Bipolar or Depression are not just biological disorders but can be developed or triggered by stress, a profession, or adverse life circumstances and this helps us to break down the stigma around the topic of mental ill health which can affect anyone at anytime. Actors are prone to develop mental ill health for a number of reasons that it is important to explore.

If you are interested in this topic follow me on my website where I will be discussing issues to do with mental health and related problems.

 

Differentiating between the good and bad Narcissism

 

Continuing my discussion on actors and the psychology of acting. This time I am covering Narcissism.

Narcissism is not one and there is certainly an acceptable Narcissism and a non acceptable one.

Most actors have the so called Non Hostile Narcissism. The actor will usual seek out situations where they will be admired for who they are and their work. Artists are similar and this is not an unreasonable characteristic of personality for, at a smaller scale, we all like to be recognized for our contribution to the world. No matter what anyone says, all people like to be recognized in some way, it is part of human nature.

The second type of Narcissism, which most actors don’t have, fortunately, is the darker Narcissism, the one where antagonistic attitude is adopted, essentially knocking other people down in order to boost their own grandiose self-image and go to extremes to get ahead. This is the unwanted type of narcissism.

The majority of actors will seek situations where they are admired but they will also be the first ones to get up and clap or expose a talented friend.

So? The fact is that the good type of Narcissism is part of human nature and essential for artists and actors and all those in the performing professions.

Remembering the lines

How do actors remember the script and the many long lines? It is by thinking behind the words, rather than just the words themselves, But they also have skills in the areas of “the theory of mind” “empathy” and “emotional regulation”. In addition, they study the story and they become the character that they are portraying and this is, in psychology, studied under Method Acting. I will cover this soon but for now what is important is that next time you give a talk or need to memorize a lot of words think about why you are speaking each sentence, in addition to what words need to come out in what order and try to link ideas and sequences to something in your mind like imaginary colors or places. This will help you to better remember what comes next.