|This is a self-help book consisting of several chapters that contain many different techniques, which collectively can overcome performance anxiety. Therefore it is important to become familiar with all the techniques and, after having worked on them, select those which you find most beneficial. In my experience it is very individual.
Chapters 1 and 2 reveal the nature of anxiety and the symptoms attached to it. I describe the mechanisms that take place in the ‘reptilian brain’ level, together with the ‘fight or flee’ paralysis condition and the symptoms connected to it, such as sweating hands, rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, loss of focus, and all the other symptoms that people who suffer from performance anxiety know so well. In my experience, understanding the cause of your symptoms is a necessary link in working with the relevant techniques in my book to solve the problem.
Chapter 3 deals with how to get rid of a negative inner dialogue. In this chapter I go over to cognitive psychology and how you identify your thought patterns and change them by examining their truth quality. I describe a method to visualize the ‘owner’ of the negative inner commentator, here called the monkey. That makes the process easier, faster and often a little amusing.
Chapter 4 is a screening test that helps you become aware of the specific areas to work on in relation to the problems in question; and to highlight how your performance anxiety developed in the first place. The screening test can also be used after working on the techniques to evaluate progress.
Chapter 5 is on ‘grounding’. It is a ‘must’ to read and understand. Lack of grounding is a lack of contact with one’s body, and the reason why many concerts end as a nightmare! It involves many of the physical symptoms that are so problematic for musicians. Moreover it can lead to the experience of standing ‘beside’ or ‘outside’ of oneself, and being out of control. It is in this moment that anxiety and panic attacks happen, but by working with the recommended exercises, over and over again, the problems will reduce and eventually disappear altogether. It is a question of sensing and feeling one’s body, not being stuck in thoughts in the logical/analytical side of the brain.
Chapter 6 is about visualization, where you will learn to pre-programme exactly how you wish the concert to be. It is almost the opposite of what happens when you imagine all the mistakes that may manifest themselves in a concert, and create a chamber of horrors surrounding the experience of the concert platform. Naturally, that greatly influences the body and leads to nervousness; whereas, if you visualise the ideal concert, the subconscious mind believes the imagined scenario, and this improves your performance. In addition this is also a really good method to use when learning a new piece: it helps you to focus and assimilate more quickly.
Chapter 7 deals with the influence of respiration on stress, together with exercises showing how, by focusing on and using deep breathing, you can reduce your anxiety. It is of course particularly important for singers and wind instrument players to be able to control breathing. Some musicians hold their breath at difficult places, which causes deterioration in performance due to a reduction in oxygen intake. Also in this chapter I discuss a technique called ‘centering’, which is coupled to respiration. It will help you to be focused, concentrated and free of physical tension before a performance.
Chapter 8 shows an extremely useful relaxation technique to use if things become too stressful. In a short time it will bring you back to a healthy stress level where you can cope with the situation and focus on what is essential.
Chapter 9 is about techniques that take anxiety out of unpleasant episodes. It is especially useful if during rehearsal prior to a performance you experience problems or unpleasantness. If you take those experiences on to the platform and they remain the focus of your attention, it will attract exactly the same problems as in the rehearsal because you have your focus on them and it will adversely affect your performance. By using one of the techniques recommended in this book, you will be able to erase the emotions attached to that situation. You will of course still be able to recall what happened if you wish, but it will not be stressful to think about it any longer.
Chapter 10 is a summary of the strategies that can help in the different severities of stage fright and performance anxiety.
Chapter 11 highlights how exercise and diet affect energy and performance levels. Your physical condition plays a vital role. There are many musicians who experience pain during practice sessions and in concerts, which ought to be eradicated if more attention is paid to the body's needs. There are also many musicians who continue to play even if the body sends warning signals over and over again. If you develop tennis elbow, chronic tension in the shoulders and neck, or frozen shoulder, it takes a very long time to heal and for you to regain your playing standard. It is also important to be aware of the influence of diet on your performance. Unfortunately, I have seen too many musicians who are simply not conscious enough about the importance of diet and how it influences energy and performance levels. Athletes don’t leave diet to chance. Prior to an important event, they are in contact with a dietician.
I have planned to make this book easy to read and navigate, with tools to handle the mental challenges and problems that can arise before a concert performance. It is my experience that when a performer knows how to handle anxiety, it positively influences their performance: they are able to focus on the music, and enjoy playing.
It is my hope that many musicians with the above mentioned challenges will be helped by my book to achieve a happy and successful musical life.
|Inger Murray is a graduate in psychology. She has developed a special concept for musicians after having studied for many years the problems performing musicians face in their work. She has travelled extensively with her husband Owen Murray, who is a musician, and that has given her the opportunity to observe professional musicians working in highly stressful situations and the problems they face.
This research has also included studying the pressures students face during conservatory education and in examination and competition situations. She has had a great success with her methods and is in constant demand.
Inger Murray holds workshops and also gives individual therapy. She is employed by the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. She has held workshops for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, The Danish Musicians Union, the Danish Flute Association, college music students and members of leading Danish Symphony Orchestras.
Inger Murray is the Director of the Centre for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her work embraces the treatment of people who have suffered traumatic experiences, who suffer from phobias, mental block and the psychogenic muscle tension.