The Conscious Actor: Giving Up the Idea of Total Control

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Most people feel good knowing there are certain things in life that they can count on. The summer months bring warm weather, children go back to school in September, Christmas is in December, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. We have an innate, deep-seated desire for certainty and control, it brings peace of mind.  On the other hand, uncertainty doesn’t feel so good.  Do I have enough talent? Will I work again? Will I fall in love? Will I be successful?  People do funny things to manage their anxiety around uncertainty. One of them is to slip into thinking that you will be guaranteed what you want if you are more in control and always do the right things. But it is a lofty illusion to think that by enforcing these behaviors, you will achieve your goals. In fact, taking this idea too far can actually undermine your achievements and your ability to be happy.

Being controlling can have a negative impact on your life and your acting career. A great Robert De Niro quote sheds some light on this concept:

“A lot of young actors have the idea that, “I’ve got to do this right. There’s a right way to do this.” But there’s no right or wrong. There’s only good and bad. And ‘bad’ usually happens when you’re trying too hard to do it right. There’s a very broad spectrum of things that can inhibit you. The most important thing for actors – and not just actors, but everybody – is to feel loose enough to create what you want to create, and be free to try anything. To have choices.”

Well said, Robert. But how can one attain this sense of freedom to try anything? How do you let go of fear? How do you let go of not being invested in the outcome?

Consider the negative impact of controlling behavior:

  1. Findings show that having goals boosts happiness, but obsessing over them can cause stress.
  2. Overly controlling behavior lowers happiness because when you want something so badly, you are likely to sacrifice what makes you happy.
  3. Obsessing can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health. Controlling people experience more disappointments because things are bound not to go their way. Constant disappointments can lead to higher blood pressure.
  4. When you’re afraid to make a mistake, you are less likely to be in touch with your intuitiveness.
  5. The need to be right and be in control can have a negative impact on your relationships. Do you want to be right or do you want to be loved?

Consider the positive impact of having less control:

  1. Uncertainty is an important ingredient in spicing up your life. How interesting would a film or television show be if you knew how it ended? Would the Olympics be so thrilling if you knew who was getting the gold medal? Mystery and magic happens when we allow ourselves to be tickled by the process.
  2. Finding more inner peace when you accept reality. You don’t have control over most things that happen to you. Loosening a tight grip can give you more energy for the things that you do have control over.
  3. When you are busy trying to figure out the right thing to say and do in order to be liked, you are stifling what you truly feel in your heart. When you stifle your authenticity, you end up living someone else’s version of your life, not your own. In order to reach your full potential, you must learn to trust yourself.

To be the best version of yourself possible, you must dig deep inside yourself, face your fears, and find the courage to be true to yourself. Here’s to reaching your full potential!


I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop

Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.

Bonnie Katz, MFT is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website.

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