I’ve been on stage quite some times in the past, mostly for improv shows.
I remember the thrill before stepping onto the stage, the pressure and the excitement when we played all together.
Improv teaches you how to handle the unexpected and enjoy the process. To me it was very stimulating, a creative process, and I loved every bit of it.
When I look back at those times I can’t help thinking about what it took to perform some emotions on stage.
Specifically: Rage and Joy.
Rage is such an easy emotion to express. It’s quick, it’s cheap. You might say that expressing rage without shouting is more difficult, and it would be true, but at the same time we can’t deny that we can instantly get into a “rage” mood with little or no effort.
Joy, on the other hand, is extremely complex. People see it you’re faking it, all the time and it’s also hard to represent on a stage.
In the book “The art of learning”, Josh Waitzkin listed some examples of how high-performance people (we’re talking of Olympics athletes for example, so the top 1% probably) entered their state of mind before a competition, being it a creative state of mind or a focus/skill one.
One of the techniques is to find an anchor that recalls your memory into a moment when you had that state. The anchor can be anything, a song, some moves to do, whatever, but it must be a real anchor. It must be something that each time strongly evokes that moment.
I believe this is part of the reason we can easily evoke rage. We have strong anchors because rage often relies on of internal inputs that don’t change, while joy also relies on external changes that we do not control.
Internally, rage is fueled by our prejudice, misconceptions, misunderstandings, the way we see and expect the world.
These things hardly change over time (unless you truly want to change them). Also we can easily recall every raging moment because it’s so strong and it permeated our body.
We underestimate joy and that is also the reason why we don’t have as many strong joy moments as the rage ones. Also, we don’t have many anchors so we can’t find an straightforward way to get to that state of mind.