Barkó Judit
Barkó Judit
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Stage Fright

Stage fright is a type of social phobia, the manifestation of the anxiety of public appearances. Its typical cause is that one doesn't think oneself good enough: he wants to do adequately at an exam, presentation, interview or application but he is afraid he will fail. The inner explanation of anxiety is unequivocally the need to fit in. The consolidation of certain feedbacks in the past from authority figures such as a parent, tutor, teacher, relative, acquaintance, etc. can play a role in its development.

A person feels or believes that someone who errs cannot be loved or only partially. We all wish to be loved unconditionally without a reason. However, if a personal idea has already developed that I can only be loved conditionally (if I do well, if I don’t make mistakes, if I am the best, if I make someone proud, etc.), then a new empirically consolidated belief is also developed: if I am not good enough then I am not valuable; and if I am not valuable then I am not lovable. We subconsciously feel the latter as unbearable. The manifestation of the dread coming from this can be stage fright.

Every encouragement to imagine lattice-heads is useless, the already over-surged, extreme fear takes over people in many situations when they feel that others are judging their performance or acts.

Stage fright is a fear of making a mistake in front of others or that they are going to think badly of us. Several international surveys prove that we are more afraid of getting ashamed than anything else. Artists, politicians, scientists, businesspeople and everyone who is often in the limelight is quite familiar with this feeling. A certain amount of anxiety might be natural, moreover it enhances performance - as during this time our body produces more adrenaline which make us more alert and motivated - in extreme cases the typical symptoms appear: anxiety attack, dry mouth, lump in throat feeling, weakness, shaking, rapid pulse, shivers, sweating. As anxiety takes over, all attention is diverted to counter it. As a result, a vicious circle is formed, because this way energy is being diverted from the tasks and logical thinking will prove even harder as is being present and to concentrate.

The anxiety of stage fright can also affect social relations. Somebody might not dare to speak and so will become introverted in the company of those who mock a lot and are typically cynical. Because of the fear of failure and unfavorable feedback the child and later the adult is unable to manifest his will. Or if he still manages to, he will experience others disregard for it. This leads to conflict in various situations. If anxiety amplifies it will become a phobia; and a person with phobia is prone to avoid any situations that fill him with fear.

Stage fright is a so called multifactorial (consisting of multiple causes) symptom which can be healed by personalized training and practice. With the help of this one’s public appearance can be light-hearted and joyous in any situation.


What happens in the body during public appearances?

"Public appearance warrants effort, for which the body automatically provides the excess energy. The primordially inherited mechanism of automated neurological and hormonal regulation makes sure that every organ is sufficiently ready for the task in hand. While the performer waits for his cue behind the curtain, in the body the organization of the measures to provide a heightened metabolism commences. In the first step, the cerebral cortex records and processes the information that is relevant to the situation, then it forwards it to the primordial vegetative center in the network system of the brainstem. The organization of the state of alert starts from the neuron paths branching out from here. The alertness and wakefulness zones of the cerebral cortex (the arousal-system) and the centers of emotional functioning along with biggest “mystery” of the unconscious regulation, the hypothalamus receive stimulating impulses.  All further measures spread out from here to all parts of the body.

The hypothalamus instantly mobilizes the sympathetic nervous system, which is tasked with creating a heightened energy distribution in the heart, liver, spleen and all relevant organs. The medulla of the adrenal glands which helps “heat” the body with heightened adrenalin production also receives a command from the nerves. Besides these, the hypothalamus also sends the message to be prepared to its “subordinate” the pituitary gland by discharging tiny hormone surges into the bloodstream. After this the pituitary gland gives its own hormonal commands to the adrenal cortex to start producing hormones that helps stress resistance. At the same time it notifies the thyroid to dump its powerful hormones that speed up metabolism into the bloodstream. All these neural and hormonal emergency measures utilize every organ. They stimulate blood flow, deepen breathing, pump blood from the storages of the spleen, extract sugar from the liver, elevate blood pressure, speed up metabolism, stimulate the nervous system and increase the blood supply of the muscles. The burning of phosphate compound energy sources quickens in the microscopic “atomic pyres” of the cells. The body assists the undertaking of this extraordinary task with brilliant organizational skills. The result of this is a beneficial anxiety; enthusiastic, upbeat emotional state; keen awareness; quick reactions; soft, warm hands. This is the much coveted “good” stage fright, which enables the performer to the utmost performance.”

Dr. Zsuzsa Pásztor, music teacher, lecturer