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Conscious and Subconscious Mind
Mental Acting Techniques, Lesson 5

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This is acting lesson number 5, of the Power Connection Online Acting Class. If you have reached this page directly, from a search engine search of link, you will need to visit the acting class information page first and complete the intro other lessons before doing this one on utilizing whole mind resonance for the actor. Acting requires a precise balance of conscious and subconscious input. This lesson focuses on when to use which aspect of yourself in the work.

We'll be talking about use of the mind, for the purposes of acting, in today's lesson. In particular, we will talk about two different aspects of mind: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Both aspects of mind have their part in the creation of believable characters. There are other levels of mind but that's for a more advanced class.....

What do we mean by conscious mind? It is the part of you that learns things, for the purposes of this class. The conscious mind can remember things, can learn. It makes decisions based on your conscious awareness and acts from that awareness only. In contrast, when we speak of the subconscious mind, we refer to that part which "knows" things: Our instincts, gut reactions, spiritual sensing and empathic ability.

It is your conscious mind logically goes from point to point in the script, gleaning the over-all meaning. It is the conscious mind that remembers blocking, costume changes, lines, cues, directions given, and basic acting choices. The actor is well served by the conscious mind in these areas. While the conscious mind can be an ally to the actor, but it is more often the biggest enemy. The problem occurs when an actor allows choices made by the conscious mind to freeze the performance into a predictable, controlled characterization. The result is cerebral and distant.

On the other hand, if an actor allows the conscious mind to set only the parameters of the performance and fleshes out the work with moment-to-moment input from the subconscious mind, the result is shockingly different, fresh, original and unpredictable. However, when I say that the conscious mind is too in control for most and often to the detriment of the performance, let me be clear that I am referring to the acting process alone, and not the research that precedes it. When you are the learning mode, you need the conscious mind to be in charge. After you have learned your lines and blocking, you need the conscious mind to step back and let the subconscious take over.

Often times, this is the hardest point in developing a character for the actor who is unfamiliar with calling on subconscious input. I've seen actors hold the script in their hands long, long after having learned all the lines, unwilling to let go. Unwilling to experience what will happen if they suddenly don't know their line. What happens when the conscious mind blanks out is often magic! Consider suspending any decision about how you will play out your choices, and never let the conscious mind decide that beforehand!

One of the best ways of getting in touch with subconscious influence is through improvisation. Because there is no script, and no time to judge or intellectualize your response, improvisational acting forces you to rely on instinct and impulse. What you learn, once you master your fear, is that you can trust your ability to respond in the moment.

Ready for the lesson five exercises?
Go to acting exercises for conscious / subconsious mind choices