Headspace: Personal Analogies

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Postby Spots » March 16th, 2011, 7:46 am

OK ratliff, NOW I accept your apology.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 16th, 2011, 8:49 am

Spots wrote:OK ratliff, NOW I accept your apology.


see? i bring people together!
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Postby mpbrockman » March 17th, 2011, 12:35 am

ratliff wrote:
mpbrockman wrote:I suppose that isn't an either/or question - it's probably some of both. Nevertheless, you also have been in my shoes (chair, bench?). What did you think was going on in your head?


If I understand your question, you're asking whether I think the experience of getting out of your head playing music is transcending rational processes or is just speeding them up to the point where the same brain that's doing the work is no longer capable of registering what it's doing.

Short answer: I don't know.


I don't either. That's why I threw the question out there. :?

ratliff wrote:Whereas if I approach creative work by working as hard as I can to build up my skills and then surrendering to the process...


Agreed. The best part of cramming your head full of theory and your hands running endless scales is the bit when you can "forget" about it and just roll. It's also the hardest effing thing to communicate to students.

ratliff wrote:Addendum: some experiences are available to you only if you actually believe they're possible (cf. William James, "The Will to Believe"). I think there's a good chance that if you've ruled out communing with something larger than your own brain, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. But that may be peripheral to the question at hand.


It's also true in my experience that street runs both ways. If you're open, even searching, for a communion of that sort that never materializes - you may not be caught in a self-fulfilling prophecy, but instead simply not wired for it. Thus it remains unavailable.

Actually, I tend to reject most of James' theses as he generally seems to think reason is a lattice we construct to support our emotional responses and beliefs. This gives reason an almost unsavory connotation as it suggests logic is a matter of convenience and elevates emotional responses to the level of some sort of elemental truth (subjective though it may be).

But now we're way off track... sorry.
Last edited by mpbrockman on March 17th, 2011, 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mpbrockman » March 17th, 2011, 12:34 pm

double post...grrrr
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Postby ratliff » March 17th, 2011, 2:23 pm

mpbrockman wrote:Actually, I tend to reject most of James' theses as he generally seems to think reason is a lattice we construct to support our emotional responses and beliefs. This gives reason an almost unsavory connotation as it suggests logic is a matter of convenience and elevates emotional responses to the level of some sort of elemental truth (subjective though it may be).


I don't think reason is unsavory, just overrated. While we all acknowledge the subjectivity of emotions, most of us also believe that we're capable of making purely rational decisions, when the vast bulk of scientific research done on this (irony alert) shows pretty clearly that we can do nothing of the sort.

It always amuses and/or irritates me when people pour scorn on the irrational beliefs of others as though from a great height, apparently believing themselves to be free of all bias, blind spots, and prejudice. They're not. To be human is to be limited (and, by implication, to never fully understand the nature of the limits).

The psychologists who've done the most work on this (e.g., Antonio Damasio) seem to generally agree that both logic and emotion are "elemental" in the sense that you need both of them to fully function as a human being. (Ex: people who've suffered damage to the parts of their brains that process emotion who as a result are rendered incapable of making even trivial decisions.)

I think reason is a supremely useful tool, but that's all. I wouldn't give it up, but I wouldn't want it as my only yardstick, either.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 17th, 2011, 3:09 pm

ratliff wrote: I think reason is a supremely useful tool, but that's all. I wouldn't give it up, but I wouldn't want it as my only yardstick, either.


yeah. this. always this. a hundred times this. 8)
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Postby ratliff » March 17th, 2011, 3:13 pm

Also, I want to make it clear that my unflattering depiction of people who think they're logical all the time is emphatically not directed at anyone on this thread. As far as I know nobody here fits that description.
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Postby KathyRose » March 17th, 2011, 3:27 pm

It seems to me, the central question is: how do you conquer (or protect yourself from, as Jesse's "castle" suggests) the fear and self-judgements that stifle unfettered joy and creativity on stage? No matter how much you've prepared for the moment, your own "headspace" can undermine all that work so easily.

Well... I think Brene Brown addresses this topic quite beautifully and comprehensively in her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. I believe she touches on all the points made in this discussion, so far.
What is to give light must endure burning. - Viktor Frankl
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Postby Spots » March 17th, 2011, 7:08 pm

Even though I sort of lost track of the convo while music was being discussed, I think I picked up on a few things intuitively. Now I realize I'm jumping to conclusions and apologize in advance. These are whimsical, awkward words typed during a caffeine buzz.

ratliff: You needed to flesh out the narrative you have about "getting out of your head." Which I totally agree with. Rationally, maybe you felt "I have to argue against the theory of the head overall because I do not want to encourage him during my performances."

I also do not want my head to interfere during performances. I am my own worst enemy in that sense. Hence the castle analogy. Because you are ceaselessly arguing FOR the right brain, I think we play from a similar place. However I think the difference between us may very well be that logic has no effect on whether I'm living in my left or right brain. (except that it does NOT help at all when stuck in my left brain) There IS a conscious partition between the L&R brains for me, but it is strictly dominated by my sense of comfort and other emotions.

The left brain does NOT empower me, but it does empower other improvisers. (an idea I feel you should become open to)

I'm always trying to escape my left brain by disregarding my sense of reason (such as excuses, tastes, or my sense of quality). I focus instead on the people around me or the overall sense of community & comfort I should be feeling. This can be difficult while experiencing anxiety or rejection, and you may realize I'm in this state if I come across as cold or distant. To summarize: while left braining, I lose my sense of self in a bad way.

But I don't worry about being conscious ABOUT the partition. Because I won't pop out of the castle by just being aware that it exists. There has to be an emotional catalyst first. If I suddenly panic about being in my left brain indeed I will then become fucked.

But really, there ARE many people who play strongest from their left brain. Even though we want to make generalizations and arguments for our own benefit, you have to respect those differences, right?
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Postby ratliff » March 17th, 2011, 8:29 pm

jesse: i argue ceaselessly for the right brain because (a) i feel it's underemphasized in most discussions of improv and (b) i am in absolutely no danger of my left brain ever shutting up/down.

somebody controlled entirely by their right brain might have to take the opposite approach. but as mentioned, i don't know many improvisers like that.

i agree wholeheartedly that everyone should do whatever kind of improv they want to do and only listen to me (or anyone) to the extent that it helps them do that.
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Postby mpbrockman » March 18th, 2011, 5:08 am

Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:
ratliff wrote: I think reason is a supremely useful tool, but that's all. I wouldn't give it up, but I wouldn't want it as my only yardstick, either.


yeah. this. always this. a hundred times this. 8)


Well, we may be straying into a discussion of personality traits here. While I know people who "trust their gut", years of (sometimes) painful experience has taught me that this is a very bad idea for me. I acknowledge emotion (I'm actually quite an emotional person) but I run it through the logic filter first (and second, and maybe again...)

For me, that's what rationalism is all about. Not passing judgment on what I consider to be irrational or unsupported beliefs (although I occasionally enjoy a good intellectual brawl). Instead it means doing my utmost to set aside personal bias, questionable emotional responses and first instincts, trying to be aware of my blind spots and act accordingly. Do I execute this process perfectly? Of course not - but I continue to practice like mad. I find my intellectual "yardstick" to be far more accurate and useful than my emotional one.

I'm actually quite jealous of those who "follow their heart" and always seem to land on their feet. Such folk continually amaze me.

I really must address the actual subject of this thread at some point...
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Postby Spots » March 18th, 2011, 5:26 am

ratliff wrote:somebody controlled entirely by their right brain might have to take the opposite approach..


Likewise he may be controlled entirely by his left brain. And he is simply wired differently. Lower EQ or higher on the autistic spectrum etc. Maybe this person analyzes their way through the scene pixel by pixel. I'm not positive anyone in the community does indeed do this. Although most tend to avoid the craft of acting, we know people like this exist. (my dad comes to mind)

Obviously I prefer the moments where improvisers get sucked into their own intuition. And they "channel" their character. But prescribing non-applicable methods 24/7 will make a person feel like something is broken.

Certain folks don't have the intuition gene. The best thing to do is try a boatload of exercises and see which kinds they respond to. We've yet to hear from someone like this, and I'd love to hear an analogy since I understand so little about it.
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Postby ratliff » March 18th, 2011, 8:11 am

Spots wrote:Certain folks don't have the intuition gene.


I'm pretty sure this isn't true. I know you're using a figure of speech, but I think this gets to the heart of this discussion: if you think that intuition is something that certain people are just awarded at birth, you don't have much motivation to work on developing it. It's like believing that certain people are automatically going to heaven and others aren't, so why bother?

It reminds me of when people talk about your work by saying, "I wish I could do that; I'm not creative." They think they're paying a compliment, but what they're inadvertently doing is suggesting that you were just born with this ability, as opposed to the truth (for most of us), which is that we had to work pretty hard to develop it.

There are some people who are naturally intuitive, but even those people have to learn to trust it in a culture that doesn't, and most of the rest of us have to work really hard to access it at all.
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Postby ratliff » March 18th, 2011, 8:16 am

And Michael, I see what you're saying; I do the same thing. I think I muddied the waters permanently by (a) jumping back and forth between improv and daily life and (b) not making a clear distinction between emotion and intuition, which are different.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 18th, 2011, 10:10 am

Spots wrote:There IS a conscious partition between the L&R brains for me,


also, a corpus collosum. ;)

mpbrockman wrote:
Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell wrote:
ratliff wrote: I think reason is a supremely useful tool, but that's all. I wouldn't give it up, but I wouldn't want it as my only yardstick, either.


yeah. this. always this. a hundred times this. 8)


Well, we may be straying into a discussion of personality traits here. While I know people who "trust their gut", years of (sometimes) painful experience has taught me that this is a very bad idea for me. I acknowledge emotion (I'm actually quite an emotional person) but I run it through the logic filter first (and second, and maybe again...)

For me, that's what rationalism is all about. Not passing judgment on what I consider to be irrational or unsupported beliefs (although I occasionally enjoy a good intellectual brawl). Instead it means doing my utmost to set aside personal bias, questionable emotional responses and first instincts, trying to be aware of my blind spots and act accordingly. Do I execute this process perfectly? Of course not - but I continue to practice like mad. I find my intellectual "yardstick" to be far more accurate and useful than my emotional one.

I'm actually quite jealous of those who "follow their heart" and always seem to land on their feet. Such folk continually amaze me.

I really must address the actual subject of this thread at some point...


i always tend to follow my heart...it's rarely ever allowed me to land on my feet. ;) more often i wind up stumbling, falling, bruised, battered, scraped up and burned (metaphorically, of course...Icarus as slapstick. :p )

in fact, i think the reason i tend to overanalyse, rationalize and get stuck in my head so often in life is that i'm naturally a very emotional, intuitive, heart on my sleeve, feel everything 300%, go with my heart/gut/crotch kind of guy. so i overcompensate a bit. the challenge for me in improv now is almost REcompensating (or, i suppose, decompensating, but that's not what it feels like), abandoning those intellectual processes a bit and embracing my instincts, gut reactions, emotional biases, irrational fears, joys and wonder.

it's odd, because in real life where i have no control over my circumstances, i've had to develop such a voice of "don't dive straight in, hold back a bit here, think this through for a bit, whatever you do don't say THAT!" just to function in the world...but in improv, where i can control circumstance and bend reality, i struggle to let go of that voice and not only LISTEN to my heart (fuck, i'm gonna have Roxette stuck in my head the rest of the day...), but TRUST it as well.

(sorry to ramble...this was actually a slight epiphany for me. 8) )
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