Monday, May 9, 2011

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 5 Aaron Beck & Larina Kase

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 5 Aaron Beck & Larina Kase
[Originally Posted on February 3, 2011 by Richard Matteson]

Larina Kase


Clearing Negative Beliefs and Experiences

Clearing Technique #4: Getting Clear with Cognitive Therapy

We’re still in the twilight zone examining the subconscious mind and ways to “clear unwanted negative thoughts” that enter the conscious mind from the subconscious mind during a musical performance. These negative thoughts can cause additional anxiety and cause a lack of focus on the music and enjoyment of the performance.

In this blog we will re-enter cognitive behavioral therapy (See Part 3- Ellis) from a different branch Cognitive Therapy (CT) first expounded by Dr. Aaron Beck in the 1960s.

Most of the information is based on the short article “Five Steps to Getting Clear with Cognitive Therapy” By Dr. Larina Kase which appeared in Joe Vitale’s book, The Key.

The process is an examination of unwanted negative thoughts as they might appear before and during a performance. This was something I also learned from Aaron Shearer in his performance classes at North Carolina School of the Arts. Trying to prevent anxiety or an anxious thought doesn’t get rid of it- it makes it worse.

In the performance class we would sit on the stage and simply let the “fight or flight” responses that are triggered by a performance happen. We’d let the adrenaline come, we’d feel the body’s reaction to being the focal point or center of attention.

If our hands would shake, we’d let them shake. After the initial surge I noticed that it was something that could be managed and it didn’t keep getting worse- it got better. By trying to prevent the body from doing what it naturally does - that made it worse.

By letting the excitement happen and examining the effects, I was then able to regain control of my hands and fingers. After the first piece the excitement was becoming beneficial.

Let’s look now at the “Five Steps to Getting Clear with Cognitive Therapy” By Dr. Larina Kase:

1) Identify your unwanted, negative and obtrusive thoughts- write them down if possible.

2) Examine your thoughts and see if they are accurate. Impartially decide whether the thought is true or not.

3) Conduct a behavioral experiment to further examine if the thought is true. For example your thought is, “Every time I play I lose focus and think about making a mistake.”

The next time you perform notice if you really think that or if it was just one time (an infrequent occurrence).

4) After examining the evidence, decide if the original thought is true. Is it likely to reoccur?

5) Most upsetting thoughts are unlikely to reoccur. Realize this thought is not helping you- don’t resist the thought- let it go away from your consciousness.

The implied solution to our unwanted upsetting thoughts before and during a performance is to simply allow them to happen, notice them- realizing they are unlikely to occur, and let them go.

Kase also believes that the occasional unwanted negative thoughts do not draw or attract other negative thoughts to you (ie law of attraction). It’s the intentional or habitual dwelling on negative thoughts that is harmful.

Let’s look at Aaron Beck’s Three Column Technique as a way of examining upsetting thoughts. First, you have the situation which in this case would be a musical performance. Then you have the automatic thoughts about the performance, and lastly the logical errors:


1) SITUATION: Performing a solo at a recital

AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS: I froze once before so I’ll freeze again

LOGICAL ERRORS: Magnification; Overgeneralization

2) SITUATION: Performing a solo at a recital

AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS: There’s my teacher, I’ll never be able to play this in front of him/her.

LOGICAL ERRORS: Magnification; Polarized thinking.

3) SITUATION: Performing a solo at a recital

AUTOMATIC THOUGHTS: I feel terrible, I think I’m going to be sick.

LOGICAL ERRORS: Magnification;

These and other negative automatic thoughts will pop into our consciousness before and during a performance. When they come, you briefly examine them, then let them go. You choose instead to focus on positive enabling thoughts and the task at hand- playing the music.

More to come,


Performance and the Subconscious Mind- Part 4 Neville Goddard

Performance and the Subconscious Mind- Part 4 Neville Goddard
[Originally Posted on February 2, 2011 by Richard Matteson]


Clearing Negative Beliefs and Experiences

Clearing Technique #3: Visualization & Imagination

“Imagining creates reality” Neville Goddard

This blog is one of a series of blogs on performance and the subconscious mind. This is Part 4 featuring the concepts of visualization based on the work of Neville Goddard.

Neville (1905-1972) was an influential metaphysics teacher. His interpretations of the Bible and the works of William Blake are fascinating. [Most of his work is available online]

At the core of Neville’s teachings is what he called The Law, the technique of creating one’s physical reality through imagining. This concept is a form of visualization and can be applied to performance as well as other life applications.

Renown guitar teacher Aaron Shearer used ADM (Aim Directed Movement) as the cornerstone of his process for learning to play the guitar. You simply see in your mind’s eye what you are going to do before you do it. He also advocated using visualization to see the opening measures of the music before you begin performing.

Neville used a similar technique to manifest events in his physical reality by first seeing them in his mind’s eye. By imagining the result you want, and seeing it, you create it in the physical world.

Let’s look at some examples of how this would work in a musical performance.

1) You are backstage alone before a performance. Closing your eyes to block out distractions you imaging yourself performing and your audience enthusiastically applauding after you finish. You see yourself bowing. You see their faces and sense their joy from hearing your performance. You hear people talking as they leave about how much they enjoyed the performance.

This is the kind of positive mental imagining that creates successful performances.

Maybe you’re a musician and you want to perform at Carnegie Hall.

1) You get photos and watch video performances at Carnegie Hall. You image the feel of the carpet, the smell of the polished woodwork, the sounds of the audience and see the colors of the interior decor. You know what it’s like to be in Carnegie Hall. You read the program with your name on it and see the pieces you will be playing. You imaging yourself on the stage playing a classical arrangement of an Appalachian folksong.

The applications for visualization and using your imagination are endless. There are two more important concepts which should be added:

1) In most cases you must take action in order for your imagination to create reality.

2) It must be something that you believe you can do.

If you don’t practice and don’t know the music, imagining success is something your conscious and subconscious minds will not believe. If you don’t call Carnegie Hall and book the hall, you may never play there.

And how do you get to Carnegie Hall?


More to come,


Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 3 Albert Ellis

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 3 Albert Ellis
[Originally Posted on February 1, 2011 by Richard Matteson]


Clearing Negative Beliefs and Experiences

Clearing Technique #2: Forgiveness & Understanding Our Beliefs

“I absolutely MUST, under practically all conditions and at all times, perform well (or outstandingly well) and win the approval (or complete love) of significant others. If I fail in these important—and sacred—respects, that is awful and I am a bad, incompetent, unworthy person, who will probably always fail and deserves to suffer.” One of the three basic irrational beliefs (or musts) posited by Albert Ellis creator of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

This quote from Ellis (September 27, 1913 – July 24, 2007) shows the fear that the pressure and stress of a performance may bring. It’s no wonder that performances trigger the biological “fight or flight” responses in our nervous system. It’s also no wonder many performers suffer some form of “performance anxiety.”

In 1955 Ellis, a psychologist who held M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Columbia University and American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), developed Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).

This blog will continue examining methods of “clearing” unwanted negative beliefs and traumatic experiences from the subconscious mind that may be preventing successful musical performances. Ellis used a rational humanistic approach and posed: it’s not the event (performance) that is a challenge it’s our views and beliefs about the event that is a challenge. He didn’t try advise “clearing” the subconscious as much as understanding the problem and dealing with it in a positive accepting way. We make mistakes; we accept and forgive ourselves and go on.

Ellis was inspired by many of the teachings of Asian, Greek, Roman and modern philosophers. The idea that our beliefs upset us was first articulated by Epictetus around 2,000 years ago: “Men are disturbed not by events, but by the views which they take of them.”

Albert Ellis and REBT posit that our reaction to having our goals blocked (or even the possibility of having them blocked) is determined by our beliefs. To illustrate this, Dr. Ellis developed a simple ABC format to teach people how their beliefs cause their emotional and behavioral responses:

A. Something happens.
B. You have a belief about the situation.
C. You have an emotional reaction to the belief.

In the 2003 Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, Albert Ellis posits three major insights of his ABC format and REBT:

“Insight 1 – People seeing and accepting the reality that their emotional disturbances at point C only partially stem from the activating events or adversities at point A that precede C. Although A contributes to C, and although disturbed Cs (such as feelings of panic and depression) are much more likely to follow strong negative As (such as being assaulted or raped), than they are to follow weak As (such as being disliked by a stranger), the main or more direct cores of extreme and dysfunctional emotional disturbances (Cs) are people’s irrational beliefs — the absolutistic musts and their accompanying inferences and attributions that people strongly believe about their undesirable activating events.

Insight 2 – No matter how, when, and why people acquire self-defeating or irrational beliefs (i.e. beliefs which are the main cause of their dysfunctional emotional-behavioral consequences), if they are disturbed in the present, they tend to keep holding these irrational beliefs and continue upsetting themselves with these thoughts. They do so not because they held them in the past, but because they still actively hold them in the present, though often unconsciously, while continuing to reaffirm their beliefs and act as if they are still valid. In their minds and hearts they still follow the core philosophies they adopted or invented long ago, or ones they recently accepted or constructed.

Insight 3 – No matter how well they have achieved insight 1 and insight 2, insight alone will rarely enable people to undo their emotional disturbances. They may feel better when they know, or think they know, how they became disturbed – since insights can give the impression of being useful and curative. But, it is unlikely that they will actually get better and stay better unless they accept insights 1 and 2, and then also go on to strongly apply insight 3: There is usually no way to get better and stay better but by: continual work and practice in looking for, and finding, one’s core irrational beliefs; actively, energetically, and scientifically disputing them; replacing one’s absolutist musts with flexible preferences; changing one’s unhealthy feelings to healthy, self-helping emotions; and firmly acting against one’s dysfunctional fears and compulsions. Only by a combined cognitive, emotive, and behavioral, as well as a quite persistent and forceful attack on one’s serious emotional problems, is one likely to significantly ameliorate or remove them — and keep them removed.”

For example:

A. You have a performance coming up, you’re concerned about the situation.
B. You believe, “The music’s too difficult, I’m not ready. I’ll never make it thought the hard piece. The last time I performed my hands were shaking, it was horrible.”
C. You feel fearful and anxious.

If you hold a different belief, your emotional response would be different:

A. You have a performance coming up, you’re concerned about the situation.
B. You believe, “I love performing and sharing music. If I practice more on the hard piece I’ll be ready.”
C. You feel excitement and anticipation.

The ABC model shows that A does not cause C. It is B that causes C.

Clearly different beliefs can produce different results. By accepting ourselves as fallible and embracing our mistakes as well as our victories, we can forgive ourselves and forgive others. We can establish positive beliefs with forgiveness.

If we make a mistake in a performance- so what?- we go on. By accepting our mistakes and knowing that we are human we’re able to recover and go on. And most importantly- the mistakes from past performances will not haunt us causing more anxiety. For it’s not so much the mistakes but rather our attitude towards them.

When we forgive ourselves, we take the pressure off. When we take the pressure off, we can perform.

Say it to yourself: “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me.”

More to come,


Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 2 TFT & EFT

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 2 TFT & EFT
[Originally Posted on February 1, 2011 by Richard Matteson]

Roger Callahan


Clearing Negative Beliefs and Experiences

Clearing Technique #1 TFT & EFT

In the last Blog we looked at some information from Joseph Murphy about how the conscious and subconscious minds work in concert. If the subconscious mind is filled with negative experiences and beliefs about performing, it’s going to make performing a difficult and unpleasant experience. In this blog we’ll examine some solutions and a clearing technique developed by Roger Callahan in the 1980s.

A musician can consciously focus on positive thoughts and words before a performance repeating in their mind, “I’m prepared, I can do this” or “I’m a great guitarist, I know I’ll nail this.” The positive thoughts are good but they may not be in alignment with your subconscious or the musician may not believe they are true. The negative beliefs and experiences may be blocked in your body. How do we get them out?

Pumping in a few token positive thoughts will help but probably not enough to make a big difference. In past blogs we looked at some ways world renown teacher Aaron Shearer
had his students mentally prepare for performances. The main ways were:

1) Believe that a performance is sharing music so the emphasis is on the music and not the individual musician and their ego.

2) Think positively toward your audience.

Without recognizing the role of the subconscious mind (which we talked about in private conversations), Shearer is teaching you to send affirmations to the subconscious.

There are two ways to get both minds aligned:

1) You can send positive thoughts, affirmations and beliefs to the subconscious (I love my audience; I love sharing music) hoping to replace the negative beliefs and past experiences.

2) You can “clear” the past negative experiences and beliefs so that they no longer bother you.

Positive information and beliefs simply do not work with some individuals because of the deep emotional scars they have experienced in the past. Some of the fears may not even have anything to do with performances. They may involve personal trauma.

So how do we clear ourselves and cleanse our subconscious memories?

There are many ways, some rooted in accepted and often controversial psychotherapeutic remedies and some new concepts that are beyond quantitative scientific analysis.

From the concepts of Freud, Alfred Korzybski and Will Durant came L. Ron Hubbard’s 1950 book Dianetics, which led to the religious movement Scientology, defined by Wiki as a “method of spiritual rehabilitation is a type of counselling known as auditing, in which practitioners aim to consciously re-experience painful or traumatic events in their past in order to free themselves of their limiting effects.”

Clearing and removing past negative experiences and beliefs is a topic with a myriad of possible remedies that my short series of blogs cannot evaluate.

When you think (pun intended) about it, we don’t understand scientifically how our thoughts travel, the rate they travel, and what they are composed of.

Let’s look at some solutions to clear our subconscious so we can perform better and become better people.

Clearing Technique #1 TFT and EFT: Thought Field Therapy (TFT) was discovered and created by psychologist Roger Callahan in the 1980s. It involves tapping with your fingers on the main meridian points used in acupuncture. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), created by Callahan’s student Roger Craig in the 1990s, is a variation of Callahan’s techniques.

“According to Craig, imbalances in the body’s energy system have enormous effects on the personal psychology and subsequently on the physical health. He further theorized that tackling the negative experience as well as curing the negative emotions is going to correct the energy imbalance. EFT gets rid of the negative emotions that disrupt the human system’s flow of energy.”

While tapping, certain repetitive phrases that deal with the problem are spoken or mentally reviewed. The EFT verbal phrases would need to be customized and adapted to fit musical performance, which wouldn’t be difficult. Here are some of my ideas you might say while tapping:

First you identify the problem, saying to yourself: From past experiences I have learned that I can’t make mistakes, that anything but a perfect performance is unacceptable.

Then: These limiting beliefs I no longer hold true. I choose to accept myself.

Then: I enjoy sharing music and have the ability to confidently perform in any situation. I love playing music.

You can script the dialog to fit your personal situation. There’s lots of info on the internet and you can access free videos on youtube and other sites.

More to come,

Richard Matteson

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 1 Joseph Murphy

Performance & The Subconscious Mind- Part 1 Joseph Murphy
[Originally Posted on January 31, 2011 by Richard Matteson]


Performance is a concerted effort (pun intended) of both your conscious mind and subconscious mind. In an effort to better understand the working of the subconscious mind, I’m going to write a few blogs about how the subconscious mind works and present some different ways to improve your performances.

Joseph Murphy wrote a book titled, “The Power of Your Sub-Conscious Mind.” In it he says, “Your conscious and subconscious mind must agree. Your subconscious accepts what you really feel to be true. The dominant idea is always accepted by your subconscious mind.”

If you have mixed thoughts about your performances or your ability to perform- guess what?- the mixed thoughts and feelings will prevent you from performing at your ability level. The negative thoughts you’ve been feeding your subconscious need to be replaced with positive thoughts- I love sharing music, I love my audience etc.

Some negative thoughts are so ingrained that getting them out is as important as replacing them. How do we do that? That’s another blog–or two!

Many of the keys are found in psychotherapy. I’m studying newer concepts like NLP techniques and other new forms of finding the source of negative beliefs- like “clean language” (exploring the source) and “power switching” (directing the mind so you can keep positive thoughts during a performance).

Here’s a bio from wiki: Joseph Murphy (May 20, 1898 – December 16, 1981) was a Divine Science minister and author.

Murphy was born in Ireland, the son of a private boy’s school headmaster and raised a Roman Catholic. He studied for the priesthood and joined the Jesuits. In his twenties, an experience with healing prayer led him to leave the Jesuits and move to the United States, where he became a pharmacist in New York (having a degree in chemistry by that time). Here he attended the Church of the Healing Christ (part of the Church of Divine Science), where Emmet Fox had become minister in 1931.

In the mid 1940s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he met Religious Science founder Ernest Holmes, and was ordained into Religious Science by Holmes in 1946, thereafter teaching at the Institute of Religious Science. A meeting with Divine Science Association president Erwin Gregg led to him being reordained into Divine Science, and he became the minister of the Los Angeles Divine Science Church in 1949, which he built into one of the largest New Thought congregations in the country. In the next decade, Murphy married, earned a PhD in psychology from the University of Southern California and started writing. After his first wife died in 1976, he remarried to a fellow Divine Science minister who was his longstanding secretary. He died in 1981.

Joseph Murphy: The Power of your Sub-Conscious Mind

“The subconscious cannot reason like your conscious mind. Your subconscious mind cannot argue controversially. Hence, if you give it wrong suggestions, it will accept them as true and will proceed to bring them to pass as conditions, experiences, and events.

All things that have happened to you are based on thoughts impressed on your subconscious mind through belief. If you have conveyed erroneous concepts to your subconscious mind, the sure method of overcoming them is by the repetition of constructive, harmonious thoughts frequently repeated which your subconscious mind accepts, thus forming new and healthy habits of thought and life, for
your subconscious mind is the seat of habit.

The habitual thinking of your conscious mind establishes deep grooves in your subconscious mind. This is very favorable for you if your habitual thoughts are harmonious, peaceful, and constructive.

If you have indulged in fear, worry, and other destructive forms of thinking, the remedy is to recognize the omnipotence of your subconscious mind and decree freedom, happiness, and perfect health. Your subconscious mind, being creative and one with your divine source, will proceed to create the freedom and happiness, which you have earnestly decreed.”

Thanks Joseph,

More to come, Till next time

Richard Matteson

Performance: Establishing a Routine

Performance: Establishing a Routine
[Originally Posted on December 5, 2010 by Richard Matteson]


Today we’ll look at another critical area of performance development: Establishing a routine (or routines).

Aaron Shearer talk about establishing routines in his “Learning the Classic Guitar” volume 1. He suggests a series of routines to establish your concentration as you are seated before an audience in the final moment before you start playing.

1) Check the tuning of the guitar (or it could be any instrument) [Shearer is suggesting this not only to make sure your guitar is in tune but it's important to move your hands, get a feel for the strings and how your hands are operating doing some simple motor skills. This also gives you time to understand the effect the increased adrenalin has on your motor skills and to calm down from the initial adrenalin rush.]

2) Breathe deeply several times. [This has a calming or relaxing effect on the nervous system and can stabilize the adrenalin rush.]

3) Silently sing or solfege the first well defined phrase of the piece you are about to play [This helps you focus on the music and not on negative performance concerns. The more you can focus on the music the better the chance for a successful performance.]

4) The last step before beginning to play is clearly setting the tempo in your mind by silently counting. [It helps me to also feel the pulse in my body- usually I use my right toes to gently and quietly pulse the beat. The worst mistake is to simply get pumped up and start the tempo at too fast a pace]

You’ll need to do this routine over and over until you’re unconsciously competent, then it’s a habit. Aaron Shearer wrote that these steps direct your attention away from the audience, gives you time to gain composure and they create an atmosphere of expectancy in the audience.

These are not the only routines. There are stage conduct routines that should be learned as well as pre-performance off stage routines.

If we look at Aaron’s list of routines while seated on-stage just before a performance, there is no mention of positive thoughts. Aaron preferred to use practical and tangible guidelines.

He does suggest that the performer needs to direct their attention away from the audience and to tuning the guitar and the music.

I believe and studies have shown that positive thoughts improve the mental state of the performer which in turn leads to better performances.

Thinking about a past successful performance (or performances), thinking positive thoughts about yourself and your audience are also important mental routines and help give you the self-confidence to perform to the best of your ability.

Howard Thurston (July 20, 1869 – April 13, 1936) a famous magician from Ohio, never stepped onto the footlights until mentally he said over and over, “I love my audience.”

Be sure to add to your routine positive thoughts about yourself and your audience. We’ll look at other positive thoughts and examples in another blog.

More about routines to come—

Richard Matteson

Performance Excitement

Performance Excitement
[Originally Posted on December 4, 2010 by Richard Matteson]


Today we’re going to look briefly at performance excitement.

There are two main types of performance excitement: positive and negative.

Positive excitement is excitement that sharpens your focus allowing you to fully concentrate on the music and the task at hand. You feel stronger and your fingers have more vitality. You can bring out subtle nuances in the phrasing. You can use expressive devices like playing sections with different tone color (timbre) and dynamics. You feel the energy from the audience and it lifts you to a new level of execution that you can’t reach in your practice room. You can play faster and more accurately than during practices.

Negative excitement and concerns make you feel uneasy, nervous or sick. Negative excitement is also called “performance anxiety.” Negative excitement causes the hands, arms and sometimes legs to shake and twitch. The performer may sweat and their hands and touch become slippery. It becomes impossible to concentrate and the mind reaches a panic state where memorization is faulty and focusing on the music is impossible. The performer is now focused entirely on negative concerns and making it through the piece is the only hope.

Let’s look at what happens to the body during a performance. Being the center of attention and other concerns cause the mind to send messages to the body. The body prepares for a “flight or fight” situation and pumps additional adrenaline and other hormones. This is the body’s primitive inborn response system.

This is what happens:

1) Our breathing rate increases.

2) Our heart rate increases. Blood is also directed away from our digestive tract and into our muscles and limbs, which are used for running and fighting. Because of the additional blood flow to the muscles, our body temperature rises and in order to control our temperature, we may start to sweat.

3) Our pupils dilate.

4) Our awareness and concentration intensify.

5) Our sight sharpens.

6) Our impulses quicken and our reaction time is quicker.

7) Our perception of touch and pain diminishes.

You can see that many of the physical changes can be beneficial to a performance. Understanding what happens to your body and harnessing the excitement so the results are positive is our goal.

This requires practice in a controlled performance environment like a performance development class or a group of performers trying to improve their skills.

The key is letting the body pump additional adrenaline and other hormones and using the excitement to perform better. Your mind can’t tell your body, “Don’t pump in any more adrenaline my hands are beginning to shake!” It won’t help.

You need to become aware of what’s happening to you and learn how to use it to your advantage. The role of the conscious mind is to objectively notice what changes are happening. It’s the negative concerns of the mind about the physical changes that often create performance anxiety. Negative thoughts lead to a panic state and make performing very difficult. The mind needs to assist the body and notice the changes while focusing on the music and positive concerns.

Positive performance excitement can take the performance and music to a new level that isn’t obtainable in the practice room.

We’ll look at how to do this in another blog,

More to come—-

Richard Matteson