[This is my fourth post in a list of ”What improv gives us?”]
For most of my life I’ve coupled together anxiety and uncertainty. When there’s uncertainty of how something’s gonna pan out, anxiety gets pulled right along the tracks with it. I’m realizing recently that they can be uncoupled. Uncertainty doesn’t have to bring anxiety along for the ride.
If anxiety is wedded to uncertainty we often will try to (key words: try to) reduce uncertainty in our lives, because anxiety doesn’t feel so great.
When we enter into an improv game or an improv scene we don’t know how it’s going to turn out. We don’t know where the story will lead.
Let’s say we are doing a Word-at-a-Time story with a group of nine people. We’re standing in a circle and one person starts by offering a word. Then the next person offers another word, and it goes around the circle with each person offering a word to tell a story.
“Once.. there.. was.. a ..mouse.. who.. lived.. in.. the.. wall.. of.. a ..cafe. ..Every.. night.. the.. mouse.. would.. come.. out.. and.. eat.. all.. the.. crumbs ..that.. the ..barista.. swept.. in.. the.. corner..of..the ..back..room. Until.. one.. day….”
All nine of us may have ideas as to where we think the story will go. But none of us can be certain, and we only have a small say in where the story goes.
You may experience anxiety, to the degree that you want ”your story” to be told, and are coming to terms with the fact that you really don’t have control over it.
OR you could experience a sense of curiousity and discovery and joy, because though you have a thought of where it may go, you are holding it lightly, expecting that it will take twists and turns that you couldn’t have fully anticipated.
These are two very different responses to uncertainty. And here’s the thing, we can’t just read this and go okay cool. My belief is that we need to actually participate -with our bodies and minds in improv games such as these, to begin to create new neural pathways, to begin to loosen the grip of anxiety over uncertainty.
And the gift we’ll receive is the experiential knowledge that we don’ t have to know how it will turn out; we don’t have to be in control; we don’t have to be anxious, to be curiously involved in the wondrous improvised drama of life.