Frightful Thoughts (Part I of II)
by Ferris Gluck, October 20, 2023
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BOO! Did I scare you? Nothing like a fleeting fright that’s all in good fun for Halloween, right?! Then there’s another kind of fright performers experience that’s not so much fun. As a piano student facing any type of performance whether for a recital, or just playing for your teacher at a lesson, you may have experienced “stage fright.” This post will lay out the scientific basis for this condition. In a future post, suggestions for ways to cope with stage fright will be discussed.

Stage fright” is a survival mechanism which is triggered by fear. It was initially useful in prehistoric times when animals such as the the saber-toothed cat, the cave hyena, and the cave lion presented a danger to humans. Back then, a person needed a physiological way to gain instant strength and endurance to survive a physical threat.

Fast forward to today – humans are still physiologically wired the same way to respond to fear whether or not there is a cave hyena in the room ready to eat you for breakfast.

Is this situation dangerous?

compared to this?

When the mind feels that it’s in a scary situation, the following physiological changes* may occur to prepare the body for fight or flight:

*Source: Principles of Anatomy and Physiology by Tortura.

Now think about the following things the next time you experience stage fright:

Tell us about your experiences, if any, with stage fright in the comments or by direct email. Describe your symptoms and what methods you used to try to overcome them and whether you were successful. In “Frightful Thoughts (Part II of II) (TBA), we will discuss ways to cope with stage fright.

Until then, a very happy Halloween to those who celebrate it, and be safe out there!

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