Atoning the split mind – an artistic approach to performance psychology

Nils Harald Sødal – Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Academy of Opera

It often strikes me that it appears to be two persons living inside the artist: One part is characterized by a self-observing and judgemental mental activity, striving for control. This mode is associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice and concentration and it is activated by high-pressure moments.
The other part express itself in a non-mental, creative and playful way. It operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. Many of its activities are hidden from the consciousness and it is therefore often referred to as silent knowledge.
When these different parts of the body-mind are not on speaking terms, tension and muscle conflict build up inside us, preventing us from tapping into our natural abilities. We end up thinking too much, trying too hard, unable to connect to our creative sources.

Through a performance psychological approach, I will in this project develop a methodology that can help artists avoiding the dangers of a split mind. Connecting the two antagonistic forces in the body-mind can allow natural artistic ability to flourish and at the same time reduce performance anxiety. This process contains two essential steps: quieting the mind and trust the silent knowledge. These steps aren’t necessarily sequential because trusting the silent knowledge is often a key step in getting the mind to be quiet.

Once I have established the methodology, I will put it to the test through workshops and case studies, working with artists from different fields.