If you don’t know by now, I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theatre Design with a specialization in costume. In Theatre school, we learned from all different areas so that we could understand and appreciate all of the jobs that make up a working theatre – stage management, lighting and sound, scenic painting, stage carpentry, and acting, for example.
While in my performance class, I developed an appreciation of acting and how difficult it is. One of the most challenging parts of acting for me at least, was to sync up the movements – genuine movements – to the genuinely delivered but memorized words – it’s all so fabricated that only great actors can do this well. (Next time you’re watching TV or a film, watch the hands of the actor – if he / she is focused, their hands will be one with their emotions and words.)
Throughout the class, we worked on monologues and performed our speeches to the whole department at the end of the semester. I chose a piece from a Eugene O’Neill play, A Touch of the Poet.
I was prepared, I researched the play and my character, I memorized and internalized the work, I knew all of my lines cold. The night came. It was my turn. I walked into the center of the floor in the studio theatre and began my monologue. I delivered my lines flawlessly. Then, while reaching out in gesture as I continued, I was so focused on getting the words right, that my hands froze in mid-air until my brain realized that there was absolutely no connection between my outstretched hands and the words I was speaking.
From this experience, I learned many things. I realized how important and how strong the connection between the mind and the body is, and I realized how out of touch we are with ourselves when we are not conscious of our physical body.
I know from acting studies that our hands give much away about our emotional state and when I’m working with my clients, I like to draw their attention to this idea. I like to take them through a mental journey of their own bodies when we do body work. This helps them to become aware of their bodies, how they hold themselves, their posture, and their movements because not only does it feel good to be alive, our physical presence sends messages to the people around us to be interpreted accordingly.
Hand movements and gestures can speak at high volumes and can punctuate our words and give away our state of mind, even if we’re not conscious of it, so being able to identify what our bodies or hands are doing is a great way to learn to be in control of oneself.
If you read my Multi-tasking blog post from earlier this year, I discussed the difficulty men often have with doing more than one task at a time due to the amount of testosterone in their bodies which likes to focus on one thing at a time. The challenge for the fellas is becoming aware of the body and its parts at any given time while remaining present in the current situation. If you are up to it gents, try the following experiment.
At different points during your day, try asking yourself, what are my hands doing? to become more conscious of your appendages while your brain concentrates on other things. You may be surprised to find that your hands are the physical manifestation of what you’re thinking about / feeling / in the midst of.
Try this experiment if you’re interested and ask yourself what your hands are doing when you are in different situations:
- If you’re relaxed, your hands may be hanging relaxed at your sides
- If you’re speaking to someone who is giving you information that you don’t like, ask what your hands are doing and you may find that your fists are clenched
- If you’re bored or in a situation that makes you nervous, you may become aware that your hands are fidgeting in some way or have gone to your mouth
These are simple examples that most people can read. The trick is to make yourself conscious of them so that you can control yourself, if you so choose. I believe this knowledge will help you if you don’t want everyone to know how you are feeling at that particular moment. So when you’re in a meeting and not agreeing with what is being discussed and you notice that you’re roughly rubbing your hands, take a breath, realize that other people can see and read you, then consciously relax your hands. Undoubtedly you’ll feel better and being controlled / conscious, you may be in a better position than if people read you as an aggressive member at the table.