This weekend, I started on the first item from my One to Grow On list. I had my first improv class, and my head didn’t explode or anything, though there was a close call.
I’m pretty sure this was an HSP reaction, and not related to the shyness or introversion. We started out with a bunch of games to get us to loosen up. When I type that out, it sounds like a form of torture, while it actually worked well, I promise.
Have you ever taken ice skating lessons? In my first ice skating class, the first thing they did after herding a dozen gangly wobbly children to the middle of the rink was tell us to fall over. Right…… A couple of kids did it, but the rest of us just stared back. We wanted to learn how to skate, we already knew how to fall over. Of course, they wanted to teach us how how to get up, but first, you have to fall over. Repeatedly.
A big part of improv is letting go of the preparation, the mental planning that we do all the time. You know how all the relationship experts tell you to really listen and then come up with your response rather than what we naturally do, which is listen to the first bit and then pretend to listen while we start creating our own rebuttal? It’s the same instinct. Our brains want to protect us, they want to keep us from being vulnerable.
The thing is, we’re rarely vulnerable in dangerous ways now. Getting laughed at won’t kill me, so far as I know. And let’s be honest, making myself vulnerable is a big part of what I do. I want you to see me take risks, and sometimes, I want you to see me fall on my ass. Because, as unnerving as it is, I’m always able to get back up, and so are you.
So, we went through several games designed to make us mentally flail around and get back up. Repeatedly. Toss a ball… ask a dull party question, catch the ball… answer another dull party question. The group’s gotten good at it? Cool, add another ball. Five balls and a hat later, and brain splody was approaching. We also threw noises and skittered around the room trying to find a perfect spot between two other class members who were trying to find a perfect spot between two other class members who were trying to find a perfect spot between two other class members who were trying to find… Right.
It’s impossible to stay completely focused and straight faced under circumstances like those, which was, of course, the point. The more we did these games, the more guarded I became, as my HSP reactions got stronger and stronger.
I you like this thought, take a peek at theSocial Caterpillar Store
The last one before break involved, one person moves around the circle asking a question and the people on the other side of the circle dart around trying to change places without getting caught. If the questioner sees an opening they can dart in and whoever’s stuck in the circle starts asking the question. I stayed perfectly still. There was no way I could have darted anywhere at that point. I was actually wondering if I could finish the class.Then we took a break and I sent the tweet above and something in my brain shifted. I don’t know what happened, but in that fifteen minutes between sessions, I was okay again. It was still unnerving, but we were all in it together. We were all vulnerable.
Next came the Failure Bow. It’s exactly what it sounds like, you screw up, you shout “I fail!”, you take a bow. I’m still trying to find phrasing I like better, as I prefer positive wording whenever possible. But here’s the thing, you took the risk and you got the applause, and you keep going. So, love.
We moved on to very short story telling and vignettes, which dropped the overstimulation factor as well. It wasn’t any less unnerving, but easier to practice awareness about, without the added dimension of… activity.
For me, taking improv is about making myself vulnerable, learning to become more comfortable with being in front of an audience, and letting go of planning when I need to be listening.
Do you intentionally make yourself vulnerable? How?
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In the comments:
We’re being open here, sharing and saying things we don’t always say out loud. What helps: Sharing your stories and Ideas. Cheering and telling what works/worked for you. What hurts: shoulds, harshness, and such. (I used to teach first grade, I can’t help it.)