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Backstage Experts

Why Actors Need to Break Free from Social Constructs

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Why Actors Need to Break Free from Social Constructs

Construct: an idea containing various conceptual elements; typically one not based on empirical evidence.

We have so many constructs built around life: what success looks like, what love and happiness look like, how shot business works, etc. But what if we realized that those very constructs can also be part of the paradigm (and prison) that keeps us from actually enjoying—and living—the lives we have now?

I guess it’s human nature. From an early age we’re painted pictures and spoon-fed images of what our future is supposed to look like. Once we get there everything we’ve been taught when we’re kids will be fulfilled, and we’ll live happily ever after.

But what if those constructs are illusions? At one level, they can be positive because they keep us on target for creating goals and having a vision and pursuing our dreams.

But at another level, they can have a negative effect because they make us denigrate what we currently have in favor of some future thing. They make us compare and despair, and live our lives constantly chasing the construct rather than celebrating what is in our lives now. This can show up in life in the form of complaining, feeling depressed and hopeless and self-critical, to becoming cynical and jaded, and eventually just giving up.

Constructs can lull us into this anesthetized state of taking things for granted, so we end up ignoring what we do have in favor of constantly focusing on what we don’t.

Life, however, can equalize those constructs. Battling a serious illness will do that, getting older, watching a parent decline, losing someone, witnessing tragedy. These life events generally shake us awake into living and fully celebrating our lives right now rather than waiting for some idealized future.

But why must it take these kinds of events to wake us up?

The art of acting is a great teacher of life, as it reminds us that in order to fully embrace each moment as it happens, we have to first be there to receive it. It works exactly like the mechanics of life itself—our constantly being distracted by the ideas of a moment or how to say a line or what we think a character looks like or how we want a scene to go—puts us in our head trying to fulfill constructs that are never as good (or real) as the real thing. The work is to get out of our heads and live the moment.

The more we become aware of how much our constructs—in acting and in life—keep us from really being free, the more free we become.

We stop waiting for the future to create and we start giving ourselves permission to do it now. We stop comparing what we have in front of us to what we’ve been told we have to have to be happy. We stop beating ourselves up for where we’re not and instead start investing fully in where we are.

Spiritual teacher and author Byron Katie puts it best. “To believe that you need what you don’t have is the definition of insanity.”

Break free from the constructs that prevent you from seeing what you already do have and watch how your life will open in ways that are much more magical than the construct anyway.

Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Anthony Meindl is an award-winning writer, director, producer, and artistic director of Anthony Meindl's Actor Workshop (AMAW) with studios in Los Angeles, New York, London, and Vancouver. It was honored by Backstage three years in a row and named the Best Acting Studio in Los Angeles (Best Scene Study and Best Cold Read).

Meindl's first feature film, “Birds of a Feather,” won the Spirit of the Festival Award at the 2012 Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival, and he won Best Director at the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles. It releases on iTunes and DVD in March of 2014. He is a regular contributor to The Daily Love, Backstage, and various spirituality podcasts. He has been featured in ABC News, Daily Variety, LA Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, and CW KTLA. He has been a guest speaker at the GATE 2013 Story Conference, founded by Jim Carrey and Eckhart Tolle, and David Lynch's Masters in Film Program (Maharishi University of Management).

He is also the author of the best-selling creativity book, At Left Brain Turn Right, which helps artists of all kinds unleash their creative genius within. Check out Meindl's free smartphone app on iTunes. Follow Meindl on Twitter @AnthonyMeindl. 

Meindl's 2nd book, Alphabet Soup For Grown-Ups, is available now on Amazon.com.


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