By Diane Christiansen
When we were kids, we acted on our impulses all the time. We wanted what we wanted and we wanted it NOW! Anyone or anything that got in the way had better be ready for a temper tantrum. But the grown-ups didn’t like that at all. They told us we had to behave ourselves, to sit down, don’t touch, be quiet, just wait, and a litany of other clipped commands. And so we were socialized (or brainwashed) to control our impulses. We were made to think that maturity under the guise of ‘being a big girl or boy’ was the prize. But what the adults didn’t tell us was that impulse control also came at a cost. Controlling our impulses meant becoming further removed from our emotions, our intuition, our gut, and the core part of our humanity that connects us to every other human in the world. So far removed, that as adults we must re-learn to listen to our intuition, to go with our gut, and to follow our instincts. This re-education is necessary because our basic inclination to act on impulse has been suppressed by early childhood socialization. Suppressed, but not extinguished. That’s the good news. Fortunately, the diligent actor can re-connect with her or his impulses, thereby tapping into the human condition. The actor’s courage to act on impulse is our gain because through that action we are reminded of what it means to feel, rather than stifle heart-wrenching sadness, crippling fear, boundless joy, and the full gamut of human emotion. It’s ironic that being authentic to our own wants, urges, desires–our impulses is considered a courageous undertaking, at least for us adults. We grown-ups are supposed to be objective, rational, and responsible. We have to manage impressions and gauge the needs of others after all. Showing emotion? Acting on impulse? Why, that’s taboo! Unless of course, you’re an actor.
As actors, we have license to throw caution to the wind, to wear our hearts on our sleeves, to act on impulse, and basically, to go there. There is where the other adults cannot or will not go, at least not on purpose. And who can blame them? It’s scary to be true to our impulses because doing so requires us to be vulnerable to others’ judgment. But we actors know the secret. We know that when we are truly vulnerable to our impulses is when we connect most strongly to those that might otherwise seek to judge us. Instead, we disarm them with our vulnerability and with our courage to expose ourselves to their judgment, because we know that in seeing our true wants, urges, desires–our impulses on display, they will relate to a similar truth in themselves. Though we are 7 billion unique personalities in a vast multicultural world, our impulses connect us all so that we are never isolated from one another. The actor is the lens through which our infinite connections may be brought clearly into focus. So actors, be impulsive!