A new take on performance anxiety

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dory
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A new take on performance anxiety

Post by dory » Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:19 pm

I was ruminating on this when someone in public space posted about the dread topuc of performance anxiety. I realized that there are 3 people I know who, to my knowledge have never suffered from it. One has autism. Two do not but are that type of person who do not communicate well with other people, and use music to express their emotions. Most other people I know have suffered from performance anxiety at some time although some have gotten over it. I was just wondering if performance anxiety was related to a large degree of awareness of other people, and if people who are more inward looking for whatever reason suffer less from it. I have no idea whatsoever if my theory is off the wall. I am wondering. Do you consider yourself very attuned to other people amd their feelings? Have you, or do you suffer from performance anxiety even if you have gotten over it? ( I am aware that some performing musicians still suffer from it but work hard to keep it under control.) Do you know people who seem to have never had performance anxiety? (Maybe you.) if so, what are they like? I know. Another weird question from Dory. Maybe glassy and I are twins separated at birth, although I have to say his weird questions do seem more interesting than mine.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:34 pm

You might be onto something there. A common sign of Autism is lack of empathy or ability to think what the other person may be thinking. The destructive feedback loop of performance anxiety is probably based on "if I mess up, what will they think of me?", and so the player messes up even more to almost fulfil the prophecy. I can't imagine those far on the autistic spectrum feeling such social doubt.

However, I think that the best approach is to freely admit that nearly all of us have performance anxiety, and will always have it. We can use tactics to help manage the situation, and they have been proven to have great effect.

I have a copy of BMG from the early 1970s where it says that John Mills is a promising young player, but his recent concerts have been hampered by extreme nerves. Presumably he overcame it - I believe his strategy is to play beneath a lamp, with the audience dark if possible.

I also read an interview with Manuel Barrueco where he states that he had an extreme level of performance anxiety - and he has obviously overcome this to be in perhaps the top five players in the entire world.
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by bear » Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:39 pm

My wife and I were talking along these lines earlier today. We know several professional entertainers. Some are musicians, actors, singers and such. A common denominator that we could identify was that many have anxiety and insecurity issues.
You'd never be able to tell, if you saw them perform.
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Erik Zurcher
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Erik Zurcher » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:12 pm

I don't think there is a causality to performance anxiety and the ability to communicate with people. In my experience the best performers are very friendly and communicative. I consider myself attuned to other people but often suffer from performance anxiety. I could chose to give up performing to stop my anxiety. I chose to overcome my weaknesses. In the end its all about 'mind over matter'.
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by pogmoor » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:20 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:34 pm
I have a copy of BMG from the early 1970s where it says that John Mills is a promising young player, but his recent concerts have been hampered by extreme nerves. Presumably he overcame it - I believe his strategy is to play beneath a lamp, with the audience dark if possible.
He seems able to cope with seeing the audience these days!
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Adrian Allan
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:25 pm

Erik Zurcher wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:12 pm
I don't think there is a causality to performance anxiety and the ability to communicate with people. In my experience the best performers are very friendly and communicative. I consider myself attuned to other people but often suffer from performance anxiety. I could chose to give up performing to stop my anxiety. I chose to overcome my weaknesses. In the end its all about 'mind over matter'.
If you look at examples I give, it is clear that two top players suffered from anxiety, probably as much or more than me or you.

I think we should guess that, in the same manner that these players have spent thousands of hours perfecting their playing, they have also spent lots of time managing their performance anxiety.

We all know that these players look effortless as players only because they have slaved behind the scenes to reach that level. I also think they give the illusion of being relaxed because they have learned over hundreds of hours to manage the situation, and that fact is overlooked.
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Adrian Allan
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:26 pm

pogmoor wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:20 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:34 pm
I have a copy of BMG from the early 1970s where it says that John Mills is a promising young player, but his recent concerts have been hampered by extreme nerves. Presumably he overcame it - I believe his strategy is to play beneath a lamp, with the audience dark if possible.
He seems able to cope with seeing the audience these days!
Yes, but I have twice seen him perform under a lamp!
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:38 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:26 pm
pogmoor wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:20 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:34 pm
I have a copy of BMG from the early 1970s where it says that John Mills is a promising young player, but his recent concerts have been hampered by extreme nerves. Presumably he overcame it - I believe his strategy is to play beneath a lamp, with the audience dark if possible.
He seems able to cope with seeing the audience these days!
Yes, but I have twice seen him perform under a lamp!
Not that long ago I saw John play locally and he had his lamp, said the stage was a bit lonely without it there with him ...
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Adrian Allan
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Adrian Allan » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:42 pm

Stephen Kenyon wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:38 pm
Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:26 pm
pogmoor wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:20 pm

He seems able to cope with seeing the audience these days!
Yes, but I have twice seen him perform under a lamp!
Not that long ago I saw John play locally and he had his lamp, said the stage was a bit lonely without it there with him ...
I am wondering if all the light shines on oneself, the audience is less visible. This might have been an early coping strategy, and it has since become more of a habit?
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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:51 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Mon Aug 07, 2017 10:42 pm
I am wondering if all the light shines on oneself, the audience is less visible. This might have been an early coping strategy, and it has since become more of a habit?
Very likely. Context dependency is a big part of the question in my book, and getting used to 'a thing' is part of it. E.g. what one wears, pre-concert rituals, whether or not the audience is visible, many such environmental things.
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dory
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by dory » Tue Aug 08, 2017 4:03 am

I know many of us have struggled against performance anxiety with greater or lesser success. However, I am most curious about those who never seem to experience it in the first place.
My husband is a pretty sensitive guy who looks impervious to performance anxiety. He says he has it too although not as bad as mine. Some peoplebwe know seem never tomget it although perhaps I am wrong.
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by DevonBadger » Tue Aug 08, 2017 5:38 am

Is performance anxiety the same as being nervous or is it more extreme?

Almost everyone gets nervous in any situation where they have an audience, whether it's public speaking, playing sport, acting, etc. I think it should be seen as the norm. I know I always assume that I will be nervous in a performance situation (excited is perhaps a better way to think of it) and this helps to not focus on it quite so much.

The mindfulness technique of observing our feelings in a slightly detached way is also helpful... "oh look, I'm feeling nervous. How interesting". And that our internal feelings do not define who we are or determine how we behave or how well we will perform. Our feelings are not the truth, even when they tell us they are.

Clearly some of us get more nervous than others. I suspect it largely stems from our early childhood when our sense of identity and self esteem is first defined. Babies and small children need a lot of reassurance about the scary world they are encountering for the first time. Parents often lack the patience or energy to give children the complete reassurance they are looking for, especially first time parents who are frazzled and petrified themselves (parents tend to become more chilled and confident the more children they have, which is why first born often have more confidence issues than their younger siblings).

It's an interesting idea about autism. But does that mean that sociopaths and psychopaths should experience less nerves than us normal folk? Notice that I don't say perform better... I don't think there is a correlation between anxiety and performance.

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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by PeteJ » Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:34 am

Well, some good news. At least my anxiety is a sign of an absence of autism. It seems to me that CG is a particularly difficult instrument to play while anxious. With an electric one just gets stuck in and blows the nerves away, but CG is so damn delicate. A slight hand-tremor or a bit too much tension and you're dead in the water.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:42 am

Can anybody explain why children mainly seem to be less subject to nerves, and yet adult pupils can fall apart in music exams, etc?
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Re: A new take on performance anxiety

Post by wchymeus » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:21 pm

Adrian Allan wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 11:42 am
Can anybody explain why children mainly seem to be less subject to nerves, and yet adult pupils can fall apart in music exams, etc?
Fear of being judged... as you age this grows unless you are not of the 'norm' :mrgreen:

Adrenalin, anxiety burst are defensive mechanisms. Fear is the cause. Fear of what? Well, being judged possibly, screwing up also. I have seen true artists fearing to not move the audience more than being judged. The point of playing music is to entertain (may not be the best word though): source has to give material to destination to be entertained. If this does not happen, miss. Anxiety is imho the fear of missing that target.
I think the lamp is a good way to not get the audience feedback.
Like you, I am a victim... I worked on it and it improved. But I always feel it coming back when I see folks whispering in the audience or some body language I interpret in a negative way. This destroys my playing, not my focus (or maybe it does too). And fyi, I consider myself as an introvert :mrgreen: (my best friend calls me "Spock" for that reason I guess)
Last edited by wchymeus on Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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