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,


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