Defeated, discouraged, depressed…These are just a few of the “state of mind” emotions that can result from what many people now term, “stinking thinking”. Stinking thinking, otherwise known as thinking negative thoughts or negative self-talk, is a common but unproductive pastime, especially for actors. Just imagine how much extra energy and creativity we would have if we weren’t continually bogged down by thoughts of doom and gloom! Our chosen field of work is filled with subjective opinion and oftentimes we hear the word “no”. That’s part of the business of being a voice actor. You need to be prepared to hear the word “no” a lot…And yet, not let it discourage you! If you find that you are unable to cope with rejection, voice acting is definitely not the right career for you.
It’s true…We all tend to think in extremes, but for some of us, this extreme thinking somehow becomes distorted and unhealthy. There are many reasons why we may practice this distorted thinking. Often, we may simply be tired or hungry. Sometimes, we may be experiencing the effects of depressants such as alcohol or crashing from stimulants like caffeine or cigarettes. Or, in severe cases, we might be suffering from depression, and our brain may not be producing or utilizing serotonin or dopamine correctly. Following are some common forms of “stinking thinking” (from Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.). Take a look and see if any of them are getting in your way.
- All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black and white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
- Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
- Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
- Disqualifying the positive: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. You maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
- Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
- Mind reading: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you and don’t bother to check it out.
- The Fortune Teller Error: You anticipate that things will turn out badly and feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
- Magnification (catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or the other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
- Emotional reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
- Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
- Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him, “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
- Personalization: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which, in fact, you were not primarily responsible.
We’ve all done it! You can’t be involved in a highly subjective and creative field such as voice acting and not stumble into “stinking thinking” from time to time. The dangerous thing about “stinking thinking” is that it can spiral out of control and, once it does, is very difficult to recover from. As voice actors, it is important for us to quickly identify any negative thought patterns, break the pattern and get our minds and thoughts back to a “good” place. Every voice acting coach will tell you, “the mic never lies”. If our heads are filled with negative thoughts, the resultant emotions will “spill out” of us and into our reads. Not at all a desirable effect.
So what’s a stinky-thinker to do? First, when you find yourself caught up in negative thoughts, you need to immediately stop, step back from the situation and write some of those thoughts down. Next, start with one of the thoughts you’ve written down and try to identify what it is specifically that is making you think that particular thought. You need to try to pinpoint the reasons behind why you’re feeling badly. Finally, you need to compare your thought to the likely reality of the situation. Be truthful with yourself…This can be difficult to do especially if you are feeling “stuck” in a mood. The reality is, however, that by identifying the reasons behind your thoughts, you can improve your mood and begin making healthier decisions. This will translate into a much more positive attitude which, in turn, will be “heard” in your work.
If you find that you’re having trouble reasoning through the thought process or if you just can’t seem to break the negative thought pattern, then ask a close, trusted, positive friend or a therapist to help you. Sometimes a more subjective perspective can be invaluable!
David Lecinski is one of the founders of Windy City Voice Talents located in Chicago, Illinois and the Casting Advisory Manager for Voice123. David is also a voice over artist and does voice overs for IVR, radio & TV ads, Flash movies & presentations, documentaries, eLearning, audiobooks, social media advertising – you name it, he voices it! For more information, please visit http://windycityvoice.com