Year Of The Inner Child
“To be an actor you have to be a child.” – Paul Newman
The American Comedian and Actor, W.C. Fields, infamously said in Hollywood “Never work with animals or children”. The idea being they are unpredictable and will “steal the scene”. This is exactly why I believe you should work with them, to observe and learn how their lack of self consciousness or fear of judgment allows them to be free and to play and to express themselves authentically.
For many of us as we became adults we developed coping mechanisms to protect the young version of ourselves, our “inner child”. However, our uniqueness as a human and as an actor lies beneath these coping strategies.
For our purposes I will refer to any experience, event or situation which distressed the inner child as a form of “trauma”. These experiences are relative and can range from having our favourite toys thrown away to being abandoned by our childhood friend or a form of abuse from a parent or guardian. The bottom line is, the experience impacted our playful and younger self.
Your inner child started out hopeful, playful and curious – before learning otherwise. These childhood traumas invented behavioural strategies to protect you, or at very least shield you from the trauma happening again. They are often the root of many of our fears, phobias, insecurities, self sabotaging tendencies and even our desires.
You might ask, how is this relevant for an Actor?
Our connection to inner-child consciousness is exactly where authenticity lives.
Audiences respond to actors who are brave and unapologetic in their self expression. When you consult with your inner child you are able to make the most fearless and authentic choices. As the great acting teacher, Stella Adler said “your talent lies in your choices.”
“To discover your authenticity consult your inner child.” – George Konstand
Here are four exercises you can do to create a dialogue between your adult self and your inner child:
- Look at pictures of yourself as a child
The holidays are probably the best time to reconnect with your inner child. Sounds, smells, lights, the familiarity of it all. Remember childhood traumas, pushed you into a state of defence. Revisiting who you were before you were traumatised is the root of your authentic self – the part of you that liked, disliked and saw the world, differently.
- Recreate what you loved to do as a child
Did you love to dance, or sing or draw or run? Did you like to watch movies or go to the playground, to ride your bike or listen to a particular singer? Take some time to recreate what you loved to do as a child and allow yourself to do it without judgment – think of it as a play date with an imaginary 7-year-old version of you.
- Speak to your inner child
Ask your inner child a question and allow them to respond. For example, what would I do today to have fun? Or, when struggling with daily indecision check in with your 7-year-old self. This will inspire curiosity and open up a world of options. Try not to judge what they have to say, reassure your inner child lovingly and they will come out to play. Side note: just because your inner child might want to leap off the roof does not mean it’s a wise decision, however the childish impulse is enough material to enact a more unique adult response.
- Hand in Hand
There is nothing more healing to the soul than a beautiful friendship and usually we can find humans outside of ourselves to call our “best friend”. I have worked with countless actors and this exercise makes all the difference. Imagine for the next 30-days that anywhere and everywhere that you go, always with you, next to you, sits your 7-year-old self. Before making any kind of decision consult with them first, show them the time and the love and give them the freedom to respond without judgment or punishment. Become your own best friend. There is magic in this exercise!
If Paul Newman is correct and to be an actor is to be a child, then reconnecting with your inner child will allow you to discover choices and moments in your work which are inspired by the part of you that is unique, playful and impulsive.
- Look at pictures of yourself as a child