If you’ve ever felt that you were a little different from your non-performer muggle friends,
you were right.
Performers’ brains work differently than non-performers. We have a cognitive obstacle that makes it significantly harder for us to focus onstage but that, if harnessed, can become our greatest gift.
In psychology, there are what are known as “The Big 5,” the five main personality dimensions that drive behavior.
Can you guess which one performers usually have?
Non-performers might assume we fall under extroversion. But we performers know that that’s not necessarily true. Artists and performers typically fall under the personality dimension of openness to experience, or “openness.”
So, what does that mean for us?
Having the personality trait of openness signals that we are imaginative, creative, abstract-thinkers, and intellectually curious.
However, we lack one thing that particularly impacts how we perform:
the ability to block things out.
Here’s what that means: when a person with any other personality trait focuses on something, they can employ what’s called “latent inhibition,” a cognitive function in which the mind is able to filter out anything that is irrelevant to the task at hand.
When a performer with openness focuses on something (let’s say acting while singing), we are less likely to be able to use this cognitive inhibition. Unlike others, we’re unable to drown our surroundings and just focus on one thing.
When we’re performing, we are taking in so much more than just the task at hand. Our brains are also processing the energy of the room, that dim light in the corner, the casting director’s tone, the feeling in our stomachs, what our voices are doing,
so that this gift of openness may easily be misperceived as a curse.
However, there’s a way we can work with this gift instead of against.
Our imaginative, mile-a-minute brains can be our greatest assets if we go with them instead of second-guessing them. We performers have to work the muscle of creative impulse, asking ourselves, “What do I feel now?” “What am I seeing?” “What’s my opinion about the current moment?”
When we work this muscle of specificity on a consistent basis, we can start to become comfortable with our leaping brains, working with them instead of wishing that we weren’t so “in our heads."
Follow your feelings. They’ll lead to your impulses, while will allow you unparalleled freedom in your performances.