The Inner Monologue

When you are an actor your job is to attend auditions.  So, much of your time is spent preparing for upcoming auditions in the weeks ahead.  This involves finding great cuts of music to sing (you usually only get to sing 16 bars of any song) and trying to find that perfect monologue, as well as, hitting your voice lessons, voice coachings, acting classes, monologue coachings, on-camera classes, and so on, and so on.

A monologue is an excerpt from a play that can stand on its own.  It is usually a long paragraph or paragraphs in which a character yammers on and on with very little interruption.  If another character interrupts it is only to spur the monologue on and keep it going.  Monologues are an awful way to judge someone’s talent, but honestly there are very little other ways to quickly see if a person has any acting chops, so thus the monologue audition lives on in the industry.

Very early on in my career I noticed actors using the term, “Inner Monologue.”  This was usually jokingly stated as something like, “I just looked at him and smiled, but my inner monologue was thinking, ‘What a jerk!’”  Or, “As I was performing that scene, my inner monologue was like, ‘What is going on?’”

We all have an inner monologue going on as we go about our day.  Actors tend to tune into it as we are constantly asked as we go to our coachings, classes, or rehearsals what we are thinking about as we deliver a particular line or scene.  There is always something more going on behind the words a person chooses to speak.  It’s that voice inside your head that endlessly chats to us about our preferences as we go from situation to situation within each day and usually contains the words we choose not to say out loud.

About 5 years ago I was working at one of my favorite theatres in downstate Illinois, performing in the last two shows of the summer season.  I had worked at this theatre a ton throughout my career and still have some great friendships that resulted from the work there.  For one of these shows I was sharing a dressing room with one of my greatest friends.  When we first met I’m sure she thought I was just another young, silly actress, as I am roughly half her age, but as the show progressed we found we had much in common.  Yoga, meditation, and metaphysical principles   were common topics as we got dressed and ready for the show.   And towards the end of the run she gave me a copy of Louise L. Hay’s, “You Can Heal Your Life,” as a parting gift, stating, she could not believe I had not read it yet.

When I first took the time to sit down with this book I must say I wasn’t really that impressed.  It seemed like every other metaphysical book out there.  They all say the same thing, but have different ways of saying it.  But this book is easy enough to get through.  When it was done it was done.  I put it in my bookcase with the thought that it was fine, but nothing special.

But for some reason a few months later I was drawn to pick it up again.  As I started reading the first couple of chapters I realized I had read the words, but didn’t put them into action.

The part of the book I was most drawn to was what Louise Hay calls, “Mirror work.”  She asks that every time you look into a mirror you look directly into your own eyes and say something positive to yourself.  Simple enough, right?

Wrong.  I practiced for the next 24 hours and realized how much my inner monologue, that inner voice inside my head, said so many awful things about me.  As I was getting ready for work, when I passed by a window, or stopped in a public restroom I began to realize how critical this voice was.   And then the ultimate test – noticing what my inner monologue was as I went through a 90 minute Bikram Yoga class in which you are supposed to be staring at yourself for the entire duration.  I was amazed how many negative thoughts popped into my head.

But that was a real turning point for me.  From that moment on I realized if I combined mirror work with my Bikram practice I would start to heal in a new way.  I would have to sit with myself and no matter what happened be content with the way things were.  The way I looked that day, the way I felt that day, the way I thought others might perceive me.  I had to turn my inner monologue into one that supported me, cheered me on, and told me I was strong and beautiful.

This is no easy thing.  I still have days where it would be easier to beat myself up for 90 minutes instead of cheer myself on.  But the reward of switching the voice in your head into one that supports you is invaluable and will transform your practice and your life.

So, this week I challenge you to start paying attention to how you talk to yourself not only in the hot room, but throughout your day.  If you notice you are too critical or hard on yourself try and turn it around  – I guarantee it will change your life in a profound way.

I would love to hear if you give it a go or if you have discovered this part of your practice for yourself!  Breakthroughs in the hot room are not just limited to physical goals…

11 thoughts on “The Inner Monologue

  1. Years ago I decided to stop calling myself fat and to stop talking about ‘how bloated I am” to others (that typically have the same conversation) – and that was a big step in my life towards being kinder to myself. I’m surprised when i read about people complaining about how others look and/or dress in the hot room because I’m so intent on my own practice that I don’t even notice if someone has cracked heels or a small amount of clothing… I do watch when people come in b/c I’m fascinated with people’s routine in preppring for the hot room.

    I’ll try to take what you wrote and give it a go. I typically stand in the second row because I’m not quite front row material but if I stand too far away, I can’t see well enough (I wear glasses for distance only). I tried wearing my ‘script sunglasses (knowing they’d be fine with wet since I swim with them) – and it was shocking how disrupted I became when I could see myself clearly – all the rolls, imperfections etc…so I decided to not wear my glasses and be more kind to myself – I like myself with a little blurr around the edges to soften it up. My instructors always encourage a soft and non judgmental gaze – and also smiling – It makes a world of difference in how much I enjoy a class.

    • I would love to hear how it goes! And you’ve been practicing for quite some time – I think you are front row material. Move that mat up and see yourself in a different light 🙂

      • Hee hee… I have been doing silent classes – and that was an honor in itself – but I’m not quite ready for the front row! I still have to sit through Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose (my fav), Triangle Pose & Standing Separate Leg Heat to Knee Pose b/c of a hamstring injury – maybe afterwards I might… and thank you for your faith in my abilities!

        I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

    • Personally, I think anyone who isn’t brand new and unfamiliar with the sequence is front row material if they want to be. As you say, most people are focused on themselves whether in front or back rows so if you think you would enjoy practicing in the front row give it a shot. Nothing to be bashful about and certainly no need to be any more or less “perfect” than you are that day that class.

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