SE Coaching for Actors and Performers
One of the main goals of Somatic Experiencing is to become a bigger 'container' for our emotional responses, and so be more available for life and for living it. This also means we can be more available for connection with ourselves and intimacy with others. For actors and performers, it means having more depth and breadth of their self to draw from, which makes their performance more affecting to others.
The bigger and richer an actor's container, the better their performance, because there is more depth to draw from. If we think of a great performer, it is invariably someone who conveys great emotion with profound subtlety, and emanates authenticity.
People are biologically wired to feel safe and comfortable with someone who has a deep sense of themselves, because it gives them permission to be more of who they are. Audiences are affected by performers in the same way. A performer who has a big 'container' to hold their whole 'self' is said to have "authentic presence" - and audiences are drawn to that. That depth provides a constant presence, which attracts and moves the audience, regardless of how major or minor the role is. The performance feels substantial, grounded, and full of 'essence'. Consequently, the audience feels more of their essential nature, which invites them to experience healing and transformation through the performance.
Actors do not have to be traumatised to benefit from Somatic Experiencing, though it's possible to learn how to safely utilise your unique trauma history through breath, movement and refined body awareness skills.
Somatic Experiencing teaches performers how to track sensations directly in the body and feel emotions and physical sensations that may be held there due to stuck freeze, fight and flight states. Doing this in stages, rather than all at once, naturally gives rise to a sense of wholeness and capacity, and therefore a deeper well to draw and act from.
I was formally trained as a stage and film actor in my teens and twenties, and have retained an abiding love of theatre and performance. I know the pleasure of making a character come to life by touching into experiences outside the domain of my direct experience - my work as a trauma therapist has taught me that it's possible to deeply empathise and join with clients on a human-to-human level, without necessarily having had their exact experience.
I have been coaching actors, musicians, writers and poets for the past eight years, and am constantly moved by their ability and courage to track their body's states. Their capacity for imagination and curiosity invariably gives them a head start with this work!
"I spent more than four decades being kneecapped by a post-traumatic terror response every time I performed or did any public speaking. Frozen, rabbit in headlights, heart thumping, wobbly hands, brain goes blank, etc. It made it extremely difficult for me to get through any kind of performance, music exam, audition or public speaking event, no matter how hard I prepared.
As a musician, I found this pretty demoralising and frustrating. I spent many years working with a string of counselors, psychotherapists, healers and personal growth modalities, but nothing shifted it.
After working with Raquel for about six months, one day I came off stage with a strange and unfamiliar feeling. I realized that I’d had absolutely no fear, before or during the performance. This wasn’t a one-off experience – I’ve repeated it many times since. My nervous system no longer believes that I will be eaten by a sabre-toothed tiger if I open my mouth in public. At last, I’m free!" A.B.
"I am a singer, songwriter, musician and music teacher. For over 40 years, as a highly sensitive personality, I have struggled with extreme anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Traumatic family events and psychological abuse that occurred in my teenage years created the perfect storm for hard wiring my nervous system to be in a constant state of tension and hypervigilance. Anxiety attacks stopped me from performing for many years.
I tried many, many different types of therapy over the years to try to ease the mental and emotional pain and physical discomfort. At a time of great distress, less than 6 months ago, I sought out an SE therapist who I could work with through the official SE website. I was drawn to Raquel from the beginning.
Raquel’s manner is one of an intuitive, empathetic, highly skilled professional. She identified my main issues on my first appointment in such a precise, clinical way, that in itself made me relax, as I had finally met someone who ‘got’ me on such a deep level, that I had never experienced before. For me, working with Raquel is like being really seen for the first time.
In the short time I’ve been working with Raquel, I’ve learnt so much about myself and the way my body works. She is helping me to be more present and non-judgmental with my ‘difficult parts.’I feel that the ability to be truly present with much more of myself comes across in my role as a performer.
I highly recommend any artist work with Raquel, whether struggling with emotional issues or not, as they will become much more aligned with their natural, real selves that audiences respond to and admire." M.J.