“It is increasingly evident that the psychological factor has a determining weight in the performance of all those activities that imply reaching a performance level or an external evaluation. In sports, artistic or even work or academic practice, an optimal mental state can help, while a deficient one will always limit us.”
The influence of psychology here is so evident that intuitively we have created certain colloquial expressions to refer to these phenomena: fill up the ball, get plugged, be a pineapple, be on a roll … or the famous stage fright.
What is stage fright?
Scenic fear is a state of high physiological activation that occurs before a performance, or any type of activity that involves the presence or appreciation of an audience. There are artists who say that it is impossible to make a good representation without that “fear”, and that is true that it requires a certain level of activation to carry out any task. That is, to more activation, better performance to a certain point, where the performance begins to decrease if this activation continues to increase, drawing an inverted U if it is represented graphically.
This point is known as the optimal level of activation, and is different for each artist. In other words, there will be someone who gives the best version of himself to an activation of 80 out of 100, and who needs to go no further than 65. To limit this level of activation, there are different relaxation and activation techniques, depending on which is the need to cover.
The most useful relaxation technique in these cases is breathing. By executing a controlled breath we can reduce those more pulsations that can ruin our representation, or make us not enjoy the performance of it. In addition, by attending to the phases of such breathing and the movements of the various organs involved in it, we prevent cognitive anxiety, and prevent our attention to address anticipatory or blaming thoughts (“I’m going to make a mistake”, “I always get it wrong this part, etc. “).
Training in breathing in controlled environments (rehearsals, at home …) will help us to automate this technique, being able to put it into practice quickly any time we might need it, like before giving a concert or playing an important game.
Although the excess is usually the most common cause of the problems of activation, it is worth insisting that a defect of the same can be equally harmful (before a piece that we have always mastered perfectly, or before a game against the last of the table), so it is convenient to take into account the existence of activation techniques, perhaps more rudimentary but equally necessary.
“However, and honoring the colloquial name of this evil, we must not fail to attend to the most emotional component of it: fear.”
The role of fear
Fear, as good emotion that it is, is not bad in itself. It is adaptive, selected to intervene in the survival of the species, allowing us to flee or fight against threats to our lives. However, in our species there has been a cultural selection that coexists with the natural one, and now fear is triggered by situations for which it was not designed. A job interview, an exam, a performance…
That is why, although relaxation techniques help, it is usually good to go further, to unravel what thoughts, what preconceived ideas keep that fear. The fear of failure can be related to one’s own self-esteem, or it can have a social function (fear of being judged, to be rejected) in which case it is advisable to restructure those ideas, break the relationships between one’s self-esteem and the performance of a task concrete, between said performance and our place in society.