Saturday, February 13, 2010
Many of the renegade psychologists of the 1930s and 1940's thought differently [than Freud]. They argued that children are born with a reality principle, and that principle is to seek affection, companionship, intimacy, and a sense of belonging. The search to belong, they suggested, is the most primary of all drives. Society often tempers or represses the drive for affection and intimacy to serve socially constructive ends, but it remains the essential nature of human beings.
That's about the size of it. It is the recognition that the search for belonging and connection is the basis of EVERY SCENE is what is still not widely grasped in many acting approaches today. As Americans, with our national story of rugged individualism and frontier self-reliance, we can have some difficulty with this at first. We are, though, in the final analysis, mammals, and mammals are herd animals. When we get down to what is primitive, visceral and essential for us, it is the need to belong: to belong as a son, a mother, a teacher, a cool kid, a person of conscience, an artist, an athlete, a benefactor, there are many different kinds of belonging we can seek, but belong we must. This yearning, this passion, this appetite for belonging is the source of the energy needed to live our lives. It is this drive that is the "motivation" that acting teachers of past generations were reaching for or groping for. It is vitally important for us, and we know it is vitally important for others as well, and the fact that we know we each have it to give and receive in distinct ways gives us the clout to negotiate with others and fight for what we need. It is, at once, our greatest liability (we are miserable if we suffer from a great deficit of it) and our greatest resource (we can bestow belonging and appreciation others, and receive this appreciation from others). Acting is learning to make this need palpable and visible as we present the push and pull of these negotiations and struggles across every conceivable context. Now that's what I call a vocation.