Monday, February 28, 2011

Noticing Tension

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Photo Credit: Gabriela Camerotti
As an actor, I'm always learning and growing as an artist, but who knew that I would also be learning and growing as a human being? One of the areas of growth I've been addressing is this idea of tension. One of the most frustrating things about tension is that fact that I hardly ever know it is happening until someone tells me. And then the fact of merely noticing it makes me even more tense. Telling ones self to relax is kind of like saying, "Don't envision pink elephants" - it's nearly impossible because your tension is related to so many factors, not the least of which are both physiological and psychological.

So, I have written an article on this topic talking about my struggles as well as an "aha" moment, and the article was published over at The Green Room Blog. To check out the article, click the graphic below. (If you like the blog, please consider leaving a comment!)

Erin Cronican's career as a professional actor and career coach has spanned the last 25 years in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego. She has appeared in major feature films and on television, and has toured nationally with plays and musicals. She has worked in the advertising & marketing departments of major corporations, film production companies, theater magazines, and non-profit acting organizations. For more information, please visit


  1. Erin--

    Here are some thoughts in response to your 'Green Room' Blog.

    I think it’s important to think of yourself not as a “tense person,” but just as a person. As you say, we all deal with a degree of tension each and every day. But it sounds like once you become aware of tension in one section of your body, you chase it from one part to the next. You become tense about being tense.

    Tension is a difficult thing to manage because we cannot vanquish it completely. A certain amount of tension is required for us to function as human beings. Think about a body that holds no tension. The skeleton and containment created with the fascia and skin alone would not be able to hold it up. Without engagement of the muscles in the body, it would collapse. Tension in our bodies, as well as in our emotional and professional lives, creates a certain amount of structure and stability that we can build on and move around. It helps us create goals and move forward when something is on the line. It allows us to sing and project our voices when we engage the diaphragm and lower abdominal muscles to move the sound/air out. Without enough tension, we can’t support the breath, can’t support a note, can’t get through a line of dialogue. It lets us dance. Without tension, we wouldn’t even be able to walk. Tension, in fact, can assist in showcasing us at our best.

    It's when tension becomes excessive that it can become problematic, just as anything in excess creates an imbalance in our lives. And another area for concern is when we place tension in parts of our body it needn't be when performing certain actions.

    Say we try to lift a heavy box and as we do we lock our jaw. We need tension in our legs, arms, and abdominal muscles to lift it. How did our jaw get involved? How will that help us lift this box? We have placed tension in an area of the body that is not assisting us. Now let’s say we pick up a lot of boxes, over a period of days, and we never bother to stretch afterwards. We never release the extra tension we’ve been creating in order to move all those boxes. What happens? We stop moving boxes, but find our legs are still tight, they hurt when we walk up stairs, maybe we even feel a strain in our jaw. We have been engaging in a habit where more tension was required of us, but because we never released it fully, some of it got stuck in our muscles. This action got compounded over time (we have moved A LOT of boxes), and so did that excess tension. So now we’re tight and we hurt…and we are tense.

    This example found on the body can be extended to our emotions. When we love someone, we are open and available. If our heart gets broken, we become closed off. For the sake of immediate survival, this is often necessary, and as you say we sensitive types need to be somewhat closed off—otherwise any little jostle would have us crying down the streets of this city every hour of every day. One subway ride alone could be enough to destroy us. So we close off and get by. But, as with the boxes, the extra tension builds up over time, becomes restraining, and suddenly we can’t be emotionally available on stage, let alone our own lives.

  2. Just read the article at the Green Room blog and I related to it so much. Definitely something to think about and work on! Thank you!

  3. Thanks, Lenka. Glad you found it useful! :)


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