Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thinking over thinking

I thoroughly enjoyed this video, posted last week by Ze Frank.

In life -- especially in church -- I view people telling me, "Don't think so hard! You're thinking too much!" as a giant red flag. I don't appreciate being asked to turn off my brain.

Phillip Carey summarizes the problem well in the chapter of Good News for Anxious Christians entitled, "Why You Don't Have to Worry about Splitting Head from Heart."

"The new evangelical theology, like all forms of consumerist religion, ... requires you to be afraid of engaging in critical thought, so that you're easily manipulated and easily pressured into wanting to feel what everyone else feels. ... So it's hardly surprising that a misleading piece of rhetoric ('don't split your head from your heart'), which has the effect of making you feel you're thinking too much, is pretty popular in evangelical circles these days."

I often tell improvisers I'm coaching, "Get out of your head!" At first glance, that seems to be the same thing as "You're thinking too much!"* It's not. But I can see them get stressed out when they misunderstand me, because then they start thinking about their thoughts, which is an unhelpful internal spiral of nothing happening.

What I actually mean is, "Think in a different way!" Or, more actively, "Do something! Think about it as you go instead of agonizing about your actions beforehand."

Most players I've coached have been college students at a competitive school. They spend all day at taking notes on lectures, writing papers, doing research, and conducting experiments. They use their analytical brains all day.

When I tell them to get out of their heads, I'm not asking them to turn off their brains. I'm asking them to use a different part of their brain than they use in philosophy class. I'm asking them to use the intuitive part, the playful part. The logical part doesn't disappear, it just takes second chair for a few hours. That the players are smart, logical people makes the play that much richer.

So I like how Ze Frank says this:
It is possible to overthink, but first you have to think and try and talk and do. And after that, if you're still at an impasse, maybe then you let go. 

I also liked this:
Laughter is the release of suddenly unnecessary emotional inertia.
(See this post on why death scenes are funny in an improv show.)

*If I ever tell you you're thinking too much, you have permission to kick me in the shin.

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