Acting, emotion and personal growth

By guest author Carmen Lynne

After spending the greater part of my life as an actress and performer, I became a therapist in early 2007.

While I still do a little bit of acting when I have a chance, I now mainly spend my time helping other people to fulfill their creative ambitions or to just learn how to be happier.

The interesting thing to me is how valuable my years as a performer have been in helping others with their issues.

There were things I learned as a young actress years ago that have been incredibly helpful to me throughout my life, many of which I can pass on to my clients.

For example, I had a wonderful voice teacher at drama school, who turned out to be so much more than just a voice teacher and who eventually became a lifelong friend – Mary.

One of the things she used to say was “use it, darling, use it” whenever I was experiencing a strong emotion, particularly something uncomfortable.

What she meant was, remember how it feels to be angry or grief-stricken, so that the next time you need to access that emotion for a role, you can bring it up and associate it to the event that precipitated the emotion.

The reason this is useful for my therapy clients is that I can demonstrate to them that it really is possible to control one’s own emotions – you don’t need to be an actor to do that, although actors get facile at doing it because emotions are their “stock in trade”.

Most ordinary people believe that emotions are something outside of their control, and yet if a person can learn to induce an emotion at will, they can also learn to let it go.

When you’re getting angry but you don’t want to have an outburst you count to ten – isn’t that an example of doing that?

Another exercise we learned at drama school that I’ve found useful later on relates to my own self-identity.

Mary recommended that we spend one day thinking of ourselves as beautiful and noticing how others responded to us. So I put my hair up and wore my best dress and rode around on the London Underground with this mantra in my mind, “I am beautiful, I am beautiful.”

To my amazement, my normally shy timid demeanor was replaced by an aura of confidence and poise and people literally stared at me and paid me a lot more positive attention than usual.

This demonstrates that your beliefs about yourself really do transmit themselves non-verbally and in very subtle ways, to others. Try it sometime!

By the way, I also tried this out in a different way, when I was part of an improvised Italian street theater. I was in my late twenties pretending to be an old “bag lady”, a deaf and dumb beggar who lived for scraps.

Again my perception of myself and my projection of what I believed myself to be got an appropriate response from the people around me – many of whom didn’t even realize that I was part of the street performance going on, and who thought I was the real thing.

Another trick that Mary taught me was, when something is uncomfortable, do it more. When you can accept totally a situation and become comfortable with it, the situation no longer holds any fears for you. That is the premise behind the expression: “What you resist persists but what you befriend will surely end”.

Although everybody is born with a certain predisposed temperament, you can also train yourself to develop a different and more effective personality.

For example, I was a very shy child and young adult. And yet I managed to train myself to be an extrovert.

It felt at first like a new coat that didn’t quite fit, but eventually one day this new persona felt like the real me. I remember how incredibly delighted I felt when my boyfriend’s mother remarked how she couldn’t imagine me being shy!

People tend to believe that their personality is something inevitable, that they cannot change. But in fact you’re personality is remarkably fluid and a lot of it is within your power to choose.

The personality, like the brain, is constantly changing throughout life, and that’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s a good thing for your personal growth.

I remember as a teenager feeling that I could be anybody I wanted to be, and to a large extent I was right.

The thing is, I can still be anybody I want to be.

If I start behaving radically differently of course the people closest to me will be surprised and possibly also discomfited and confused, but that is something I can choose to deal with, and they will eventually learn to accept the changes.

The fact is – and this is a fact – every one of the 50 trillion cells in the human body is discarded and replaced every seven years.

That means that we are literally a whole new human being every seven years. So if I want to recreate myself inside as well as outside, I can.

It may take some willpower and persistence to counter old habits, but it is possible.

The only thing that keeps us locked into our old personality, is the force of memory and habit. They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, so you have to stick with it. and believe it’s possible.

Have you ever looked at an old photograph of yourself and thought to yourself “that doesn’t feel like me, it’s as if I’m looking at another person”?

That’s because you literally are looking at another person, a person with a different set of 50 trillion cells. But your memory is the thread that binds you to the past.

Actors are very fortunate, because they are used to creating themselves anew – it’s what they do.

An actor knows how to use his emotions, channel his energy, take control of his body and mind.


Carmen Lynne is a long-time resident of Redondo Beach and an empathetic and inspiring group leader. She is a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Guided Imagery Facilitator, who graduated from HMI in 2007, and a Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Group Facilitator with the NACBT. She is currently studying for her MA in Psychology and plans to gain licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist.

Carmen currently works in two chronic pain clinics as part of the therapeutic team: Comprehensive Pain Relief Group under Dr. Gregory Smith, MD in Redondo Beach and Care Center for Rehabilitation under Dr. Brenda Klass, PhD in Encino. Before becoming a therapist Carmen worked as an actress, singer, dancer, writer and producer.

Mind Over Mood groups

What does “Mind Over Mood” really mean? It means that your thoughts and emotions – which may feel like rebellious undisciplined children – can in fact, be controlled, with a few simple techniques and tools. Your skill and training as an actor makes you uniquely qualified to employ these very techniques. You do it all the time – you just need to learn how to do it in everyday life.

Mind Over Mood is a course that will literally train your brain. In the same way as physical training develops your muscles and makes you stronger and healthier, this kind of brain training makes you emotionally stronger and healthier by training your brain and giving you the power to control your thoughts and emotions.

If you’re afflicted by thoughts and emotions that hold you back and keep you from fulfilling your potential in any area of your life – here is your opportunity to change that. It’s like being handed the keys to your own power, the control of your own thoughts and emotions.

For more information about the Mind Over Mood groups, visit

Article provided by the author.


Related Talent Development Resources sites:

Depression and Creativity

Personal Growth Information

Nurturing mental health: acting – quotes, books etc

Also see Change, growth, coaching articles.

personal growth development, personal development, self growth, emotions and personal growth, acting and personal growth

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