Batting Away the Snowball of Nervousness!

A former client requested that I share his success story in my blog. So here it is:

stage_spotlightRodney** came to therapy with a simple issue:

“I have a gig next week, and I want to be able to play the bass with greater ease.”

He wanted to know whether I could help him with his anxiety that caused him to give up opportunities to perform front of a live audience.

I asked Rodney whether he knew the difference between being nervous and being excited. Rodney said that he felt nervous when he thought of playing the bass in front of others, but excited when he thought of skiing down a slope.

skiingI asked Rodney to picture skiing down a slope, and to state what sensations he could feel in his body. Rodney described his heart racing, being a tad breathless, his spine tingling, and feeling light in his body.

Next, I asked Rodney to picture playing his bass in front of a live audience, and to notice what sensations were apparent in his body. He noted that his heart was racing faster, still breathless, spine tingling, and feeling heavy in his body.

I asked Rodney whether he was aware of the similarity in the physical sensations. He agreed. I wondered out loud whether changing the name and the narrative might change the sensations.

skislopeRodney agreed that it was worth a try. So at first, he pictured himself standing at the slope ready to ski. He described out loud the crispness of the air, the pine trees, the feel of the snow under his skis and his excitement. I encouraged him to enhance the sounds of other people, the ice crunching underneath, as well as the tingling in his spine. When he had pictured himself skiing all the way to the bottom, he said, “Whee! I want to do that again!”

I asked him if he could imagine his band-mates setting up their musical equipment for the gig at the edge of the snow, while he skied down the slope this time. Rodney agreed to try it, and found himself quite exhilarated this time around as well.

bassFor the third round, I asked Rodney, if he could picture playing a few notes on the bass while standing at the edge of the slope, before he skied down. This too came relatively easy to Rodney.

I asked Rodney to now imagine playing with his band at the edge of the slope. Rodney said that the excitement was turning to nervousness and felt heavy in his chest. I asked Rodney if he could picture the heaviness in his chest as a snowball, and set it next to his feet at the edge of the slope.

Rodney agreed to give it a try, and found that he could picture playing a whole song without any nervousness, as long as he focused on keeping that snowball next to his feet. But that when he tried to play a second song, the snowball began to grow and threatened to knock him off his feet.

I asked Rodney what might be helpful. He said: “I think I need to picture taking the anxiety out of my body and turning it into a snowball, and then I need to use my bass to bat the snowball, so that it explodes into nothingness.”

And so it was, that Rodney learned to bat away his snowball of nervousness before each gig!

So how do you experience the difference between nervousness and excitement?

** Names and identifying information have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
**These results are not typical, and may differ from your experience in therapy

photo credit: dburka, marfis75, -Jeffrey- & via photopin cc

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