Self Protection

I was recently pointed in the direction of a wonderful resource for actors called “Hollywood Happy Hour” by my lovely friend, world-class casting director Marci Liroff . While there, I saw the following question by a generous actor, Devai Pearce, who has so kindly given me permission to print our exchange. I have edited out a few extraneous paragraphs. This is the fourth or fifth time I’m been asked how to deal with this issue. I always get this question from actors who aren’t studying with me. Perhaps they might want to reconsider…..
Devai wrote:
Hi comrades,
I am working on an intense scene that involves sadness ( serious grief ) and anger, and some times after I do the scene, I end up with a migraine headache, due to the intensity of the emotion. In feeling this scene fully, a headache is often the result. Any thoughts on this? How to remedy it? I tried various forms of meditation afterward to no avail– well, it did help me cope with the pain, changing my attitude toward it, but ultimately the pain triggered by the scene sometimes remains, and even gets stronger. Any thoughts? Anyone lift weights to counter the aftermath of an emotionally rigorous scene?
I welcome your thoughts.

I responded:
Dear Devai,
I understand your question. In fact, I suffered a similar headache trying to figure out how to respond to your question. I have two very simple, yet profound suggestions for you to consider. In order to clear whatever emotions that the circumstances of the character or the material bring up on:
a )the physical plane – make sure that you make a ritual of putting on and taking off the characters clothing (especially their shoes). NEVER wear the same clothing that your character wears. Also washing your hands and drinking some water afterwords proves to be very helpful.
b )the Spiritual plane – Say a prayer, affirmation, whatever you like to call it before entering the emotional state. Remember, we as actors are entering a form of trance or self-hypnosis. If you set the intention prior, along the lines of “Spirit, I am about to enter into some dark and painful territory. I ask that you protect me as I use my body, mind and senses to embark on this journey in order to heal myself and anyone who may witness my work. Please protect me and return me to radiant health and well being upon completion of______. Allow only that which is for my highest good to remain.” Or just surround yourself with White Light before working.
I have found both of these techniques to be very helpful for my students and myself.

On a personal note, I find that pain usually comes from resistance and holding back. I urge you to really let fly with whatever comes up IN THE SCENE – so there is nothing residual at the end.

Please feel free to visit my website at
Jeffrey Marcus

Two days later, I got this….
Thank you all! I rehearsed the scene today (as a mother of a recently deceased son) sans headache! Woo hoo! I will re-read all of your fine suggestions too, just to see if there’s something I missed! You guys are the best!!!

Told you so….

Published by jeffreymarcus

I am an actor, acting coach, acting teacher, director, media counselor living in Los Angeles who raises astonishing dogs and can cook anything.

4 thoughts on “Self Protection

  1. This is great! Good for you for “getting into the conversation” and giving such great advice. Hollywood Happy Hour is really a great place to get lots of questions answered and have a great dialogue with all kinds of professionals in the business.

  2. I totally agree with Jeffrey on this.. the headache
    is probably do to holding back…the full emotion from taking over in fear of maybe going to far… I find surpressing the image or the overwhelming feeling will cause this. If your using a true person close to you or experience you experienced in the find truth…..holding back that emotion you wanted to let out may cause this as well. It seems as it is hard for you to get rid of because its an actual connection with someone you know? I mean if I’m understanding what i’m reading correctly. I have similiar issues … I use opposite imagery and this usually causes a different emotion far from the one I just experienced. For example If I’m playing a soldier who’s fellow marine dies in my arms.. after the scene I will take deep breaths and go to a place I use to explore and hike as a bring a happy relaxed comfortable emotion. This works for me…otherwise as a fellow actor..I’m still working to control and conquer this as well..your not alone. Also I also agree about the shoes and clothes of the character… If you ever have a chance Stella Adler talks about this in her books..which you can get at samuel french. The clothes help you to incompass the character and be that character. it is a tool in obtaining the complete package. The way you dress and how you dress as that character needs to be taken seriously and with pride. Steping out of the clothes of your character restores you to you. About the washing of hands I would love more in depth on what that means from jeffery..but may have to wait when I take his class.

  3. I wish I had come across this blog sooner! I kept a blog while going serious training with the Meisner technique and no exaggeration, my body was physically depleted afterwards because I was scared of emotion. Looking back, the resistance of the emotion cost me the most.
    Thank you so much for your suggestions of prayer and wearing different clothing.
    check out my blog if interested!

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