I’ve been thinking lately that we don’t give our individual psychoses enough credit for the power they hold over who we are and how we live our lives. There’s nothing quite like the Meisner work we study at the Matthew Corozine Studio, to expose the awesome and terrible power of our psyche. To really “get” the work, to have successfully built a technique here, means to push boundaries within oneself; boundaries our psyche has been building steadily for years. It is like an undersea earthquake, with the potential to cause a tsunami in a far distant place.
We begin by building a technique to fortify ourselves as actors, so we can be “on” even when we’re “off”. There is only one kind of “on”, and that is simply being Present, in the moment. The problem is that there are so many kinds of “off”, and a true technique needs to be strong enough to break through all of them. When we begin the Meisner work, we encounter the preliminary “off” of self-consciousness, trying not to look “stupid”, searching desperately in our heads to figure it all out, while keeping our ego intact.
As we build our technique, we learn to silence those thoughts, to be open, to conquer our automatic “social” learned behavior. As we get deeper into the work, we start to break through our individual psychological/social hang-ups that make us want to control the situation. Some of us slip into the pitfall of “fixing”: trying to make it okay when the situation becomes uncomfortable or sad. Some of us slip into the pitfall of “handling”: stifling our own self expression in order to avoid the hurt that may come, or hurting our partner. Some of us slip into “ignoring” or “pretending”: when it gets painful, we refuse to acknowledge it, or we merely become observers, therefore we don’t have to deal with it. But the Meisner work forces us to push through these obstacles, and then we learn to truly take risks, to expose our own vulnerability, to give up our need to control the situation. We are no longer held hostage by our fears and insecurities. We experience true human connection: earthquake.
This is when the work begins to spill over into our lives: tsunami. The boundless freedom that comes with stepping out of our heads, of our imagined limitations, of real connectedness is intoxicating. We have seen the beauty in the breaking of our own hearts. But this new awareness of our own emotional life, and a deeper understanding of that of others, uncovers places in our everyday lives where we have not been entirely true. This discovery makes us want to express ourselves more fully in our own relationships, to want that reciprocated from others. We are no longer so terrified of our own emotions and reactions or of those of others. The fear of rejection diminishes in the face of the possibility of a true connection. We begin to crave that in all of our relationships.
Unlike a repetition exercise, our new openness and vulnerability in our everyday relationships puts us at an extreme disadvantage. When both partners do not follow the rules, the one who does is as a steaming heap of tar before a steamroller. We learn once again (just like in grade school) that the social behaviors of handling, stifling, fixing, ignoring, pretending, etc. are the fabric of social interaction in a civilized society. But the Meisner work makes us see this social behavior as the false behavior, while the Meisner behavior is the true one, or the enlightened one. For Meisner students, then, it is the social behavior in our everyday lives that is “put on”, that is the “act”. Once we have gotten in touch with our true feelings about things, or once we discover “where emotions really live in us” we know that the work has begun to really sink in. We begin to see it everywhere, in everyone, and this possibility in the face of impossibility becomes our new struggle.
How do we reconcile these imbalances? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it has much to do with art….