You might have heard Jerry Seinfeld’s joke that at funerals, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving a speech.
Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Sigmund Freud pointed out something fascinating: he said that it is anxiety that produces repression. Anxiety is a repressive mechanism initiated by the projection of a past trauma or a fear of trauma onto a current situation. When we are scared and there is no actual physical danger present, we are in a state of projection.
When we are afraid to speak publicly, we subconsciously project onto the audience what we believe is “off” or “detestable” about ourselves. We are projecting into the future what we believe is the worst thing that could ever happen or has happened to us earlier in life. Our mind is having a field day with it; hallucination is the correct psychological term here.
Mind is always fear based as it keeps scanning for danger and analyzes all situations and content of situations from that perspective. It is very useful to know. The stage grants you the freedom to step back and observe or contain what is happening to you.
The very first thing to do is to recognize that you are in your mind. Ownership and accountability go a very long way in cases like these. It is a huge step! Emotion is “energy in motion” and so is anxiety or pressure. If you deny it, it will intensify.
The second thing to do is to check back in. You took a trip in the past or the future, and now it’s time to come back and touch ground again. Come to realize that your mind will keep “projecting” and that there is nothing you can do about it, except own it and contain it.
Shake hands with someone before you go on stage or before you begin your speech. Touch objects such as furniture, the podium, anything that belongs to the physical world. The physical world is NOW, for it brings us back and anchors our performances. Gravity, balance and breathing are your best friends when things go wrong. Feel the weight of your body, breathe deeply several times consciously, and realize that the mind should only operate in the background at the service of your body.