F*ck Gratitude

by emily on May 21, 2012

Ever have one of those days? Where you look at facebook, or twitter and the perfect lives you imagine everyone else living?   Their perfect photos and careers and gorgeous weddings and perfect families.  Those status updates rolling across your newsfeed:  “So grateful for this beautiful day!”  “Amazed by my incredible friends!” “Life is such a gift” “I have everything I could ever ever want ha ha ha I am beautiful and skinny and fit and gorgeous and rich thank you universe!” and think to yourself,

Fuck you.

Fuck you and your stupid perfect life and fuck your gratitude and manifestation, meditation, solution oriented positivity, everything-is-great-can-do-attitude?

Well.  I feel that way sometimes.

I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the years.  From yoga, to meditation, to energy healing to therapy, journaling,  positive intention, gratitude, vision boards and all that woo-woo and not so woo woo stuff.  I’ve done it all.  And I used to have this mistaken expectation that one day – one day I’d get to a place where I felt happy every day.  Where I only had positive thoughts.  Where, even in the midst of chaos I would feel joy and contentment.

Maybe some people live this way.  But I definitely don’t.

And for a long time I was really down on myself about it.  As though feeling angry, disappointment, frustration and sometimes rage, is a bad thing.

Here’s the thing about gratitude, and any of the positive/possible mindset tools out there – you can’t skip the part where you feel your actual feelings, even the dark, ugly, crappy ones.

I used to try to impose gratitude onto my life before I was ready for it.  When I was still feeling disappointment or anger.  I’d immediately jump to, “There’s a lesson in here!” “This had to happen!” “I’m so glad this happened – yay this stupid thing that really hurt my feelings and I feel like shit about it – yay yay yay I am SO grateful, I must be exactly where I need to be.”

I tried to force myself to feel good about things, when nothing could be further from the truth.

All that does is create anger and resentment (which leads to feelings of “fuck all you stupid happy people!”).

What I have come to learn (and still need to re-learn at times) is that you can’t fake gratitude.  And you can’t shove shitty feelings out of the way to jump into a mindset of possibility.  It just doesn’t work that way.  You have to take the emotional charge out of your feelings first, before you can move beyond them and gain a healthy perspective.

And the only way to do that is to actually feel.  Yup.  Deep, dark, scary, painful feelings.

I know when I feel like saying “fuck you” to all the seemingly happy, well adjusted grateful people out there, it’s because I’m not dealing with myself.  I’m avoiding feeling something painful, and the longer I try to shove the feelings away, the more resentment and pain is created.

The good news is this:

All of it is ok.

Whatever you feel (or don’t feel) is one hundred percent ok.

It is perfectly ok to

Get pissed off

Have shitty thoughts

Feel like a fucked up person struggling with issues

Have bad days and want to hide out from everybody

Make mistakes.  Like really bad fuck ups that you wish you could take back but you can’t.

Fail

Feel like a fool

Put foot in mouth

Run out of steam

Take time off

All of it is ok.

As long as you don’t get stuck there.

And the fastest way NOT to get stuck there is to stop pretending that you’re fine when you’re not.

I wasted such a long long time feeling like I had to only think positively.  If I didn’t feel good and accepting about everything all the time, and practice all those visualization, positive affirmations, meditation and align my expectations with my thoughts, that not only was I doing something wrong, but something must be wrong with me.

Fuck that.

Be pissed.  Be filled with rage.  Have a moment.  Let it out.  Acknowledge what you really feel.  Ask for help.  Have a mini meltdown (preferably in a safe and supportive space and not on set).

When you let yourself be what, who and where you really are, you tend to wade through the crappy stuff a lot faster.

It’s those times where you try to shove everything away and spend so much time and energy trying to appear great! fine! wonderful! that keeps you stuck.

The sooner you let out the darkness, you make room for the light to return.

What makes you a great actor is your ability to have such deep feelings, to be empathetic, to find compassion for the people you portray who are flawed and struggling, just as we all are.  So don’t be afraid to have the same empathy and compassion for your own self and your own struggles when you feel less than your best.

When you give yourself the space to go through it, you get to the other side.  And that’s when you find the gratitude, the possibility, the lessons learned.  You can’t skip the part about feeling it all.  As my coach always says, “The only way out is through.”

Make sure you leave leave a comment below. 

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Victor Lee May 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Nicely said. You are the first person in Hollywood that I have seen that has said it is okay to be negative sometimes. So practical – how can you not be with all of the rejection. And then I would feel bad about myself for feeling negative about the unending success and breakthroughs of others while I keep having near misses. I get sick of everyone telling me it’s bad Karma.

What you said makes complete sense. Get the shitty feelings out and let them go. Then I won’t be afraid to move on, tackle the next challenge or even be afraid of failure again. An odd blog entry to find inspiration, but this one did it.

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emily May 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Thanks so much for reading! Yes, it is a relief to know that feeling bad is not bad. It’s just life. Get the feelings out in a healthy way, so they don’t express themselves in harmful or unhealthy ways.

And there is nothing wrong with finding inspiration from knowing that other people have struggles – not just you!

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Juvi May 21, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Of all the blogs you have written, I think this one resonates with me the most. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person. After all, I’m the ‘go-to’ person when a lot of my actor friends need a positive influence in their lives. But it is a relief to know that it’s alright, and even normal, to feel that way, sometimes.

Thank you for the wake-up call!

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emily May 21, 2012 at 9:27 pm

I think it simply proves you are a human being, Juvi (not a bad person!). Most of us are really good at helping others with the very thing we need the most help with. So it stands to reason that what you give to your friends so easily, is likely the very thing you need the most help with. Glad this blog has helped you today :)

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Aurora May 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Nice. Thank you.

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emily May 21, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Thank YOU for reading. You are very welcome.

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Greg Paul May 21, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Emily,
Wow! What a mouthful. Rainy days and Mondays always get me down too.
(Wait, there’s a song in there somewhere…)
You are so fucking right about this.
To deny your actual feelings, responses and intuition about shitty events is
one of the worst things you can do to yourself. Holding all that repressed anger
and/or resentment inside you is an exercise in self cruelty.
Isn’t it ironic how misery loves company?
We just go thru something really crappy and then we’re told by ourself over
and over to ‘just let it go’, ‘grow the fuck up’ or (my personal favorite), ‘try to
find the bright side of this.’
Face it.
Most times there is no fucking bright side to a turd.
Calling a spade a spade doesn’t stop the hurt but definitely starts the
recovery process sooner because you’ve had your say and there’s no denying it.
I agree this should be done in a private way, among friends or confidants and
not as a ‘Network’ moment where you declare your intentions to a full crew with
possible recording devices in hand.
The catharsis of this act and actual speaking out of the nasty, deep, cruel and
unusual ways you’d like to see retribution visited upon the miscreants who have
created this seventh level of hell in your life will offer you solace and comfort for
a moment and bring you to the realization that even if those things happened,
you really wouldn’t want to watch.
Which makes you a pretty good person after all and you can now try not to
fuck things up anymore.
(For this reason I’m suddenly understanding about Mel Gibson)
We all have our dark moments.
And we should.
They are as much a part of the human condition as any and have to be
explored if we are to discover our true depths as actors and as human beings.
Knowing joy is to know it’s counterpart despair.
Never deny or repress your nature. Live it. Breathe it. Say it.
Use some discretion and social conscious when you do, as it will be appreciated.
But own your feelings always. Good or bad. They’re yours.
You’ve got them. You can decide whether you want to share them, and with whom.
Sometimes a good rant and howl is all that’s need to clear out the cobwebs
and start a new day. Or a glorious night of drunken debauchery. Your choice.
Thanks again Emily for the timely piece and continued success.
G

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emily May 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hey Greg – yes, do it in private among trusted friends or loved ones. But still do it! It seems funny to me that we spend so much of our lives trying to make ourselves feel better by beating the emotional crap out of ourselves. Because nothing makes a person feel better faster than shaming them for feeling bad…right? No…?

Love this, “Knowing joy is to know it’s counterpart despair.”

Always good seeing you on the “interwebs.” Glad you found value here.

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Wayne Willoughby May 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Emily, you offer folks a lot of good advice. It’s a shame I’m not in your line so I could learn more. As for me, I’ve put in enough days on Earth that I’ve reached the point where I don’t waste any more time beating myself up for being human. If I’m feeling down or angry, then I’m feeling down or angry, no more/no less. I don’t try to hide it except when I’m on my stage (i.e., in the courtroom or testifying before a legislature). Whatever it is (joy or distress) it will pass in time whether or not I try to rationalize it away (i.e., “there is a lesson in here” or “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, etc.) while passing through the experience. After I’m again in balance i do a look back to see what can be learned from the experience.

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emily May 21, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hey Wayne,
Ahhhh…such a freedom in that. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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Ron silver May 21, 2012 at 10:20 pm

I try mantras and other stuff to feel good even when I’m not feeling bad. It works even a sentence or two. Like ( I am asserting the mastery of my real self)
It doesn’t sound like much, but if you knew how much time I spend going around as not myself, just being a crowd pleasing dolt you would know that this works, at least for me. I’ve found that when I being myself I believe i can move mountains. When I’m not living in my heart, I’m angst, tense, and don’t know if I’m coming or going. When I’m in my head with all what’s wrong and poor me, Its all over but the crying. And glad is better than sad. Ronnie.

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Rene Carrasco May 21, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Hi Emily – thanks for the emails – this topic – man, it hits everybody sometimes. Please don’t think this is cliche…but goin for a run, Martial Arts, even pumping iron, getting the endorphines goin ..makes ya feel great if yer down. YA FEEL LIKE A MILION BUCKS ! I even read a Drama-Logue article ( before it became Backstage West ) and ….there was an interview of actor John Saxon, who said that doing Martial Arts was a good MORALE BUILDER for him when he was coming up the ranks in acting ! I really like your videos Emily – you have THE COOLEST VOICE ! (-not bad lookin too ! )….keep up the good work ! -Rene.
http://www.renecarrasco.com

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paris May 21, 2012 at 11:38 pm

thank you for this wonderful article. always enjoy reading them, they are very inspirational!

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emily May 22, 2012 at 12:13 am

Thank YOU for reading. Glad you are finding it inspiring.

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Relly May 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Emily,

Of course, it’s OK to feel those negative feelings. I went through 17 surgeries…3 major….. that ended in my losing 1/2 my upper lip to skin cancer….not the best outcome for an actor!!! Upon each return of those little buggers, I allowed myself 24 hours of unadulterated self pity…crying, moaning, bargaining with God, eating …you name it…and by the end of that 24 hours I was over it!!! …..and grateful to be alive and have a face..of sorts.
The purpose of gratitude is to realize how blessed you are. Christ said in his parables, that (I paraphrase,) “To those who had much, more will be added. To those who have little even what they have will be taken away.” I used to think, “Well, that’s a bummer!” But, I’ve come to believe it’s all about being grateful for what you have. It’s taken me a long time to learn this……I share it for those of you who are slow-learners like me. Hope I’ve given you a leg up.
I started a gratitude journal…..for the 10th time…about a month ago and I am beginning to see a change in my outlook and blessings seem to be coming my way…nothing huge, but blessings never the less. When you are looking for the good stuff, your life runs more smoothly.

Blessings to you all.

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emily May 22, 2012 at 12:14 am

Hi Relly,
Yes, the more you appreciate what you already have, the more will come your way. The more you lament about never having enough, it is doubtful that more will come your way. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.

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Joe May 22, 2012 at 12:22 am

Hi Emily, What you’re saying has a lot of validity, or course we all struggle with certain things and have bad thoughts but just remember you can never take something you said in haste back and will always have to live with the consequences of our words and actions. Choose your words and actions carefully.

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Yes, Joe I absolutely agree. Fall apart in private with people who love and support you, whom you trust completely.

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Jonnathon Cripple May 22, 2012 at 12:53 am

O My God! Emily, I love the way you write! True and straight from the heart! This was an excellent post and something that so few have the courage or ability to put into words.
Yes we are too focused on ‘seeming perfect’ to others as well as ourselves…but we are actors. Our purpose is to actually bring life to roles. How can we do so if we don’t allow ourselves the actual emotions we are hopefully portraying in our most sought after roles?
This is NOT to say wallowing in self pity or hoping that anything will change without our working to do so is fine and great. I think it is important to remember that to move ahead we need to look ahead. How can you move forward toward a goal while looking backward? At the same time-How can you portray feelings that a character has if you are not willing to feel and recognize them for yourself?
It’s walking on a knife edge…sometimes painful, but always exciting….
Anyway- Thanks, Emily for a great post!
Jonnathon Cripple

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Thanks, Jonnathon! Glad you enjoyed it. Yup, actors have to be willing to go there, just in a healthy way.

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Spike Spencer May 22, 2012 at 1:24 am

It I so funny that I would stumble across this post. It was in my spam folder and I almost never look in there. I have been saying this for years. I am in the same boat and as a matter of fact in the process of writing a book in the same vein. I went through all kinds of hell in the not so distant past so I sought out every self help “Secrety” thing there is and built myself back up and woo-wooed the hell outta myself! Still haven’t achieved the tooty fruity perfect everything that comes from my saying it is so. BUT I’ll get there in due time. And let’s not forget that everything that goes wrong is my fault due to my mindset… Yep. Apparently I left out a koombaya somewhere. Oops.

But like you said, it’s alright to be upset from time to time and it’s healthy to be honest about it. So I’m glad you are out there saying it too! Being positive is awesome! But being positive when you are not feeling it can cause even more stress and it’s just doggoned annoying sometimes.

So good on ya, and I wish you all the luck and success in the world. And I know I was supposed to be here right now because there are no coincidences and I magnetized myself to you and… Damn! There I go again.

Koombaya, baby, koombaya.

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Hey Spike, Well these coincidences do happen for a reason :) I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I think a ore powerful way to think of it is that you are responsible for your self, actions and results (as opposed to thinking it is your “fault.”). Either way, thanks for being here!

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phillip May 22, 2012 at 2:32 am

Emily, all these conflicting emotions just means you’re a whole human being. ‘Putting on a happy face’ and walking into a room of people takes an enormous of effort even for an actor or actress. Our astute observers always know when we do. Being ourselves isn’t always the main thing either.

Goal obsession is not a flaw. It’s a creator of flaws. It’s the force that distorts our otherwise exemplary talents and good intentions, turning them into something we no longer admire. It comes from misunderstanding what we want in our lives. It also comes from misunderstanding what others want us to do. Is it any wonder our values get mixed up? Goal obsession has warped our sense of what is right or wrong. We start out with a road map heading in one direction but end up in the wrong town.

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Thanks for reading, and being here, Phillip!

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Mary Riitano May 22, 2012 at 2:38 am

Nice to not be all pretty roses and sunshine and pooping rainbows- just revel in those darky sucky emotions until I’ve had enough of it – feels self-indulgent but really… realized same thing as you, can’t evolve what I don’t let myself feel. Getting that honest is cool and def opens up possibilities when I’m willing to clear out the junk.

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Oh hey, just in case it wasn’t clear, I DO poop rainbows, so… :p

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Tanya May 22, 2012 at 9:07 am

I think this is the only way to live! To be an artist is to be true to yourself, to be genuine! You can still be positive & optimistic but also aware of your own feelings & grow from them! Thank you for having the courage to post this!

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Thank you for reading!

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Steven Harvey Hirsch May 22, 2012 at 10:21 am

Great stuff, Emily. It’s ultimately simple, isn’t it? Be honest, especially with yourself, and then, see if there isn’t some way to get over it.

I’ve been unemployed since a lay-off last November, my wife’s got a chronic progressive illness, and some days at the moment feel pretty sucky. I don’t particularly want to wallow in it, but for now, I’m up to my thighs. Wait, Lucy – let me ‘splain.

Whether it’s that ‘through’ that is the only way out mentioned by your coach (I’ve always envisioned myself midway through a field of deep muck in some decent boots — I might as well go on because it’s the same distance backward through the same damn muck and I already know what’s behind me!), or whether it’s a lovely little formula I heard somewhere I don’t remember: “Name it, Claim it, Let it go”, there are steps one and two that have to come before step three. The naming it and the claiming it have to come first, and then once I let it go, there’s an opening for an attitude of gratitude to come back into my heart. As long as I have another day to make something of, and as long as I don’t throw in the towel, there’s always that chance.

Thanks for this one.

Steven

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Thanks for sharing your own formula, Steven. And keep going. Sending you and your wife good thoughts.

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vanessa aranegui May 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm

this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time!

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Glad to hear it, Vanessa!

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Philip Goldacre May 22, 2012 at 7:02 pm

Thanks Emily. I really needed that. I loved your quote from your coach at the end. Sir winston churchil also said it very well when he said, “If you’re going through hell – keep going!” As you quite rightly said the worst thing you can do in that frame of mind is to stay there.

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emily May 22, 2012 at 7:22 pm

Thank you, Philip! Yes, it’s important to let it out so you can move on. Repression only makes the process longer and more painful. Glad this helped you out!

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v clay May 22, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Hey, just responded to your email on this and said I would come here and read this blog so here I am. I skimmed most of responses and feel most of what I am thinking would be redundant. In the hopes I am not repeating what someone else said already, the only thing I want to add is this:
We used to read a lot of self help articles espousing venting anger. Now the prevailing wisdom has changed to trying to remain calm as possible. The theory being once one starts venting it is too easy to get carried away and increase both the level and the duration of one’s anger. That in turn, can affect physical health negatively.
In a nutshell, try not to vent , even as you recognize and own your anger or disgust or whatever but if you do let it out, concentrate on not going overboard or getting carried away.

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Debbie May 22, 2012 at 10:31 pm

This a very interesting commentary. It is what I’ve tried to tell my daughter (minus the bad language) — that the bad days, experiences, and having things go wrong really do help her to become a better actor. She’s been having a very bad day today, and while I don’t advocate this sort of language for a 15-year-old, I had her read it, and she did identify with what you are saying, and the language and perspective did soliticit quite a few chuckles from her.

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emily May 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Glad to hear it Debbie! Yes, please tell your daughter that all the obstacles and disappointments, while they don’t feel good at the time, truly contribute to making you a better actor. The more human your experience, the more truthful your work will be.

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Tatiana Dellepiane May 23, 2012 at 2:47 am

The best blog post by far! I am all for being real and feeling what you feel at the moment. No apologies!

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emily May 23, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Thanks so much Tatiana!

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Rebecca Morris May 23, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Serendipitous! Thank you for the reminder that no one is perfect and no one is alone.

Amen to all that.

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emily May 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm

You are very welcome, Rebecca.

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Scott Huard May 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Thank you. I was a little ‘put-off’ at the title of your email, but you’re right. If you allow yourself to HAVE and OWN those feelings, they take so much less time OUT of your life.

Thank you for acknowledging that and passing it on….glad I forced myself to read that email and then go to read this blog.

Or as George Carlin would say: ‘What if I want to have a crappy day’?

Thanks!!

ps. sometimes a punching bag is the best therapy….

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emily May 23, 2012 at 9:27 pm

So glad you pushed through AND found it valuable!

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Allison May 24, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Wow, Emily… this post made a huge difference for me. For such a long time I was trying to make it in commercials because someone told me that I needed to prove myself there before I could get into tv, and I needed to prove myself in tv before I could do indie film, and I needed to prove myself in indie film before I could do studio films. I exhausted myself trying to book commercials and started feeling hopeless. Your post nearly brought me to tears… thank you.

-Allison

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emily May 29, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Hey Allison, so glad it resonated with you. Go directly for what you love. Always.

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Lenka May 27, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Very well said. I think it is so important to allow ourselves to feel what we feel and experience at that given moment. Especially us actors, we need to be as open and raw as kids are, not having our minds locked and being brainwashed by some practices (be it positive thinking, The Secret and stuff like that) that take that away. Yes, sure, its good stuff to take you out of that bad day and overall it’s good to think positively and be a happy person, yet there is nothing wrong in having a bad day either. Thanks for sharing this, Emily.

- Lenka

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Michael May 29, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Great post, Emily. I’ve worked on all sides of the “process” for more than 20 years – writer, casting director, director, producer, DOP, and actor. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t hide from your emotions. We are emotional creatures. If you drill down deep enough you’ll discover that everything we do is driven by emotion – especially storytelling. And that’s what an actor really is, a storyteller.

2. Take some of that time and energy you burn coveting other peoples’ lives and use it to discover and nurture your own gifts. Really get to know yourself and your strengths, and play to them! Funny how we’re always encouraged to work on our “weaknesses” rather than develop our strengths. A rare few of us will ever be good at everything, and that’s all right. Just look at the rest of the animal kingdom – all specialists.

3. This third one is a bit deep, but I’ve found it immensely valuable, so here it goes. Don’t carry the weight of the universe on your shoulders. Let’s break it down. We are essentially primates clinging to a giant rock, which is hurling through cold, dark space. Our existence lasts a fraction of a blink of an eye, in the grand scheme of things. Really, it’s a miracle we exist at all. Where am I going with all of this? Don’t worry about impressing the universe, it doesn’t care. Drop that burden. Focus first on impressing yourself.

4. Film, television, acting,…life is a series of beats, moments in time. We often get too caught up in the big picture, grand arc, ‘where is my life going’ stuff that we forget to truly feel the moments. The moments are what connect us, it’s where change happens, for better, or for worse. It’s really all that we have to work with, both in acting and in life.

Hope you find this useful.

- Michael

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emily May 29, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Love this, Michael. Thanks for sharing it. I’m taking a pause to enjoy this moment and stop trying to impress the universe. :)

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Holly July 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Thank you! I am a dreamer hidden by realism sometimes and I can get very frustrated when others jump to the conclusion of ‘just change your attitude’ type stuff. Duh. Like I don’t know that. I am optimistic by nature, but I am raw and truthful (or try to be as I don’t want to be a liar) about my emotions. Plus, like you said, it makes us a stronger actor. I tried to explain how my experience with rage about this one ex-friend (The Queen BC) could provide fuel for any dark dramatic scary characters to play. It’s not that I want to sit in those feelings, but letting go completely is false. I haven’t healed completely. She’s not around and doesn’t care to apologize on her part for the failure of the friendship, so it’s tough. Anyway, overall pretending to ignore the actual truth of the moment is contradictory from actually learning from it. It’s like when people pretend not to have regrets. If you learned from your mistakes and they made you who you are, then you would know to do things differently if you could. If you’d repeat the same mistakes, then you haven’t learned your lesson. Ya know. So being okay to feel crappy and admit it is actually helpful for finding the joy and positive in the following moment. To look for what you’ve gained and to see the next moment/day/week as an even better opportunity to discover hope, joy, love and so many of the better emotions to experience.

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Carrie Grove July 12, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I love this post Emily!
You are SO right on this. I try to be a positive person for the most part and look at life with a “glass half full” type of attitude BUT sometimes you really do need to take a moment (or a day or two) to just be angry, scream and shout and feel those bad feelings. THEN . . . get over it and move on. :-)
Carrie

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