Downshifting: Add Meaning

This post references the Acting Metaphors: The Stickshift post.

“Downshifting” is what I call the process of going from a highly personal and deeply behavioral repetition, to one that is more on the surface. If you are going to downshift, which is certainly something that can happen, then know that it generally means that you are losing the inherent meaning in the words (“you’re scratching your face” being less inherently meaningful than “you’re lonely”, for example). Downshifting can be a result of the actor needing to create space to let off steam or to give their partner a break (both of these are not necessary and don’t lead towards the partner). If it happens, then one way to keep the energy level of the repetition at a consistent level would be to increase how personally you take whatever the behavior that you’re downshifting to: if the face scratching in the previous example is in response to the partner being lonely, then it might take on extra meaning.

If you’re downshifting to give everyone a break from the intensity, then I recommend acknowledging that truth somehow in the repetition. Get that need to cool off out on the table and then start again moving towards the partner. It could be that by recognizing the need to cool off, you learn something personal about your partner that will lead you closer together.

Acting Metaphors: The Spacecraft

I’m starting a new series of posts: Metaphors which I use during class. Hopefully you’ll find them useful!

The Spacecraft

One of the ways scientists get information about the composition of the other planets and moons in our solar system is by crashing spacecraft into them and then studying the debris that gets kicked up. The metaphor here is that we want to use our attention and the power of our personal observations about our partner to crash into their surface (although the impact doesn’t necessarily have to be violent). But the real information about who they are comes from how they respond to the repetition (the debris that gets kicked up). Their response to you is going to tell you a whole lot more about themselves than how they behave at the surface.

The Lesson:

Don’t hold your opinions back from your partner. Make an impact on them and you’ll come to a deeper understanding of who they are!

Acting Metaphors: The Stickshift

The idea of the stickshift is that you might start out in first gear: some surface truth (you’re wearing a blue shirt). By adding energy (stepping on the gas), the tachometer starts to go up. At the moment of highest energy, some new behavior, a response to what is going on in the moment, will emerge. Now the repetition shifts to that new observation of behavior, which is probably deeper (a higher gear) than the surface truth. The RPM might go down, but the energy level is maintained because of the increased inherent meaning in focusing on the behavioral response (instead of on a new surface behavior). Adding more energy to the repetition brings the partners into the red again, which leads to another shift change. The process continues until the partners reach an end point (hello or goodbye) or one of them downshifts. As one of my teachers put it: Always trade up in terms of meaning. Always go for the more meaningful behavior.