André Moisan is consultant in stress management and peak performance for performing artists.
Performance anxiety : fear and pleasure
There is a misconception that artists always have pleasure to perform on a stage to share their art. The subjective reality is much more subtle, going from visceral pleasure to debilitating stress so intense that some musicians will quit the practice of an art they cherish or they will simply look for medication that will help them survive. Other will adapt gradually, because they naturally possess tools or due to accumulated experiences. It is hard to resume the variety of these personal experiences in a few words, but there is a common point we can find with the artists who suffer from this invasive stress; a constant unease before, during and after the performance. This stress is not necessary negative. It can be a source of pleasure and exceptional performance.
How can we go from a great passion, a technical ease and a great pleasure to an intense stress feeling, a control loss, frustration and finally, potential physical injury? By thought. This thought is based on our perceptions, our learning, our life experiences, our beliefs, etc. It gradually becomes "ours", but it is infinitely complex; sometimes creating paralyzing fears and other times giving us a courage that few people think possible.
The thought, as well as our brain, can be remodeled at any time. That is where techniques like NLP are useful to effectively reprogram the nervous system. I use these techniques, amongst others, to work with young musicians and professionals to first find that psychological ease. Several technical approaches to posture are very effective, but unfortunately, few person work at the problem source which manifest at invisible levels. My interventions can by summarized by a reframing of the subjective perception of reality, which leads, after some mental rehearsals, to a major change in the instrumental performance, in the physical and musical comfort, but mainly in the pleasure to sing with their instrument. We can see it and we can heart it!
What is always surprising is the importance and the speed of the change. Then, the work consists in developing new thought and inner speech habits by practicing mental scales day after day. It is a balance to feed daily.