Article: Stretching out of your comfort zone

Article: Stretching out of your comfort zone
Inner Vision Orchestra - All on stage

The Inner Vision Orchestra

Is there something big you know you want to do?

If there is something really big that you know you want to do… so big that you don’t even know how to get started? Something that is beyond yourself, beyond what you think you can achieve? Can you imagine how you would feel if you were to begin to achieve this thing… you stepped off the precipice into the unknown….?

The Colours of Sound is a documentary film following Britain’s only blind orchestra, the Inner Vision Orchestra on their UK tour. A celebration of the power of music to transform lives. It is the vision of Marie Cecile Embleton, a Making Moves participant who demonstrates what happens when you truly speak from your “inner vision”.

Cecile’s idea has so many contradictions – of making a visual project about a group of people who cannot see and will only be able to experience her film through their inner vision.

But it is also about our own inner vision or lack of it. A blind person’s inner vision, is so much more acute than ours. When I listen to a truly exceptional piece of music often I want to close my eyes so I can really hear the music. Occasionally we see a blind musician but it is rare.

INNER VISION is a feature-length documentary about the Inner Vision Orchestra, its members and their stories, struggles and triumphs.

With some players born blind and others experiencing sight loss in their life, the heart of this film will reveal intimate portraits of key characters from around the world, and how creativity has helped them overcome the challenges imposed by sight loss.

This group unites players from Iran to Japan, Lebanon to Nigeria and India to Britain. Boasting a repertoire from classical and gospel to soul and traditional Indian ragas, through music they transcend barriers.

Making a film about a blind orchestra

Where did this journey begin?

Cecile: A year ago I met the Inner Vision Orchestra and immediately wanted to learn more about them. How do they rehearse and who conducts? What was their process for learning to play? When Linda – the Orchestra manager – began to tell me about the different characters that make up the group, I realised that they are the perfect cast for a documentary film. Ranging from 34 to 90 years of age and originating from all over the world, they are the most diverse group you can imagine!

Inner Vision Ochestra - Woman singing + MusiciansEach with fascinating, beautiful and often harrowing back stories, and having been born blind or experiencing sight loss at some point in their lives, music has become an integral part of adapting to a new life for these musicians. Linda was keen for me to meet the players. Joining them in their rehearsals I instantly knew that the energy, humour and passion of this group was something that would be inspiring and entertaining for audiences to see on screen.

Interview by Emily Wright

What I want to discuss initially is your practice, your process, or more specifically the ways in which you make a documentary – how you begin to make something.

Marie-Cecile Embleton

Marie-Cecile Embleton

Cecile: I’ve known the orchestra for around a year now. And this has been invaluable time for getting to each of the characters. They are such a diverse group with fascinating back stories and personal interests that lie both within and outside of music.

In the beginning I started filming rehearsals and found it very challenging as I just didn’t know enough about the group to know how to anticipate and what to focus on. So in many ways, an initial period of following them has been a crucial part of research for me. Over time, focusing on particular aspects of some of the character’s lives – Victoria’s synaesthesia, Takashi’s love of movement and dance, Peggy’s first career as an artist – I began to see lots of potential in the contrast between their communal life as an ensemble and their personal ‘inner’ lives that tell us a lot about how they have adapted to blindness in very different and creative ways. Creativity in overcoming adversity started emerging as a theme not only for the group as a whole, but I realised it was also a big part of their personal lives and journeys.


When did you first meet the members of the orchestra? 

Cecile: I met Linda and Baluji (respectively the manager and director of the orchestra) last summer really by chance. I researched ‘blindness and creativity in London’ and found the Inner Vision Orchestra. My interest in blindness came from a year spent living in Madrid for my degree. Madrid is full of blind people. I would see a blind person almost everyday there. I wondered whether the lively soundscape of the city was particularly stimulating and interesting for someone who cannot see.

Since living in London and working on film projects I’ve become more and more aware of the importance of creativity and how it can enrich people’s lives. So meeting Linda and Baluji and hearing about this amazing collection of musicians that come from all over the world and have come together to make music together was really exciting. Here was a group of people that was so diverse you really couldn’t make it up; an Indian sitar player, a Nigerian opera singer, a Japanese viola player, an Iranian singer….Each player with their own powerful, beautiful and sometimes harrowing stories. They each bring something very special to the group. Then the narrative of taking ten blind and partially sighted musicians around the country on tour promises lots of unexpected challenges that would work so well in a road movie.

So it was a really exciting meeting for me and I loved Linda and Baluji’s openness inviting me along to get to the group. It’s this approach of including people and making things happen that’s so great about the spirit of Inner Vision.


Could you tell me about some of the obstacles you faced whilst making this film?

Cecile: I’ve been really lucky as I’ve had many people come on board to help me with the film and I am extremely grateful to them for the time they have put into it. There is no way the project could have come this far without them. But the nature of documentary is that you can’t really tie it down and plan it into your diary months in advance. There have been times when something’s come up to film and it’s been impossible to find someone to come along and help. When this is the case I have to asses whether its worth filming on my own or if I let it slide.

Another main obstacle really is trying to divide tasks up so that the workload is manageable. There is still a huge amount of work to be done and there are so many aspects to focus on whilst keeping hold of the overall picture.


With this film there seems to be an encounter between two art forms – music and documentary film. Yet, blindness is also a strong element to the film. Could you tell me about how these three interact in your film?

Cecile: The really exciting part of making this film for me is studying the individual stories to find a way to portray their relationship with blindness using the visual medium of film. So Victoria for example, despite being totally blind, lives literally a very colourful life as she sees sound in colour – a condition called synaesthesia. Experimenting with different environments of colour for Victoria to sing in has been really fun and interesting. I’m aiming to create a final outcome with an abstract dream-like quality that will portray her ‘inner life’ or in her own words ‘the world that I chose to imagine I live in’. Again, for me this is a fascinating insight into how Victoria has approached adapting to blindness in such a creative way – by holding onto her love of colour aged 7 when she went blind.

In this piece you have made specific use of another’s artistic practice, by documenting the performances of the Inner Vision Orchestra. Is there an element that you want to share their work and perhaps your enjoyment in the process of watching it, with a wider audience?

Cecile: Absolutely! The Inner Vision Orchestra are so much fun to spend time with. Every rehearsal or road trip is peppered with great stories, jokes and limericks (the latter mainly from Rikki Jodelko) and hilarious encounters. Their repertoire makes up a super original and beautiful fusion of different styles of music. They’re the most unusual collection of people you’re likely to see on a stage, but it’s exactly this that makes their appeal. And with the film I hope to capture the amazing energy of this group, as well as an insight into the individual journeys that have brought them together.

Inner Vision Orchestra - Peggy (Mini cinbalist)

90 year old mini-cymbalist Peggy Scott is the orchestra’s most treasured member

Cecile raised all the money she need to make this film – even though she didn’t know how she might do it.

What about that thing you would love to achieve?

Imagine yourself taking a step towards achieving your dream….Imagine it as fully as you can – see it as fully as you can with your own inner vision.

Is there a small step you could take today towards your dream today?

Want to find out what it’s like to tour with a blind orchestra?

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Claire Schrader 2014

Want to break free? If this project has intrigued you, inspired you or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. Your comments may inspire others.

Why we need to get out of our head?

Why we need to get out of our head?

Cop-Head-Black-NeckHow to stop the “cop in the head” from getting the better of you.

Are the cops in your head getting the better of you?

By ” cops in the head” I mean the voices in your head that  tell you it would be a really bad idea and REALLY UNCOOL if you said or did what you wanted to say or do.

And afterwards you chastise yourself for not saying or doing that thing – because it was really IMPORTANT that you said or did it.

Or maybe you long to “let your hair down” and go a bit crazy once in a while – but something in you stops you from letting yourself go in that way. And this means that you are holding back in life in general  that is effecting your career prospects and what you know you could be doing with your life.

Wowed by Bowie!

This article was inspired by Yvonne, a member of  a past Breakthrough Group, who sent this amazing Bowie video to members of  the group after witnessing the “Breakthrough” of Dede – a young African man who was at that time frustrated because he couldn’t express himself in the way he wanted to for all the reasons above. httpv:// This is why Yvonne sent the video to the group:

“I wanted everyone to see specifically what I had in mind when Dede was describing of how he wanted to feel and be. I could feel the waves of positive energy and excitement in what he was describing and it instantly made me think of Bowie. It’s just the intro bit to the song that I was thinking of, which represents what I pictured in my head when Dede was saying how he wanted to share his happiness and reach out to others, which then makes him happy. Check out the smile on Bowie’s face when he touches the crowd for the third time.  That should be Dede’s smile.” Yvonne

I was WOWED BY BOWIE in this video for very different reasons – on top of the fact that Dede’s Breakthrough had been incredible – on top of the fact Bowie is an amazing performer – or any other reason for being WOWED BY BOWIE. I was WOWED BY BOWIE because in this video he shows us what happens when we let the “cops in the head” gets the better of us. And therefore how we can stop them.

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you Augusto-Boal

Augusto Boal – founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed

Augusto Boal and the Cop in the Head

Augusto Boal*, a brilliant Brazilian theatre director – first coined the phrase “cop in the head” meaning the “policemen in your head” that SCREAM IN YOUR EAR that there will be dire consequences if you should say or do what ever it is you want to do and say. And when you show any kind of desire to ignore their commands, they scream even louder and fill you with panic – until you have no other choice than to stop. And stop you do. The “cops in your head” have very good reasons (they think) for needing to issue these warnings and their voices and advice seem very compelling. They are not the kind of voices that you can ignore. (*See more about Boal below) This is experienced by many people. In fact it is generally experienced by the “nicest” people. The only trouble it often gives other people opportunities to take advantage of you – because you are not expressing what you want  to express to them and are generally holding back what you truly feel. As a result you are aware that other people are not getting to see the “real you” but a socially acceptable you that is fooling everybody.

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you

David Bowie and the Cop in the Head

Bowie and the Security Guards

If you watch the intro of the Bowie video above, as Yvonne suggests, and you’ll see why I think Bowie’s performance is so amazing. You will see Bowie shadowed by two security guards who watch his every move – and are not letting him get too far away from them. These guards are like the guards (the cops) in your head  that are watching your every move and are making sure you don’t do anything that would make you look foolish  or would attract unwanted attention from the people who might judge, criticise or ridicule you. This is what Dede experienced and he was absolutely sick of it.

The Protection Racket

Like Bowie’s guards, the guards (cops) in your head are doing a very good job of keeping you safe and out of harm’s way. (As a big star with a huge following Bowie needs this kind of protection.) The trouble with the cops in your head is that not only do  they seem very convincing, and  reel of instances when you have suffered appalling humiliations as a result of ignoring their advice, but  they sound like your voice. In FACT they are YOUR VOICE!! We see the “cop in the head” brilliantly portrayed in Bowie’s video – in the form of the security guards who form a tight circle round Bowie and stop him from doing from what he wants to do  – to reach out to his fans. We all have these “cops in the head”  that are keeping us away from what we really want. And whilst these cops believe they are acting in our best interests, in fact all they are doing is keeping us small, stuck and contracted – even when we know better than to listen to them.

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you

The cop in the head – Bruisers and bullies

And they are bruisers these guys. Bruisers and bullies and they just won’t let up. They are constantly on patrol and never take a day off. “But I don’t want to be protected” you say. “Just leave me alone”. But the cops in the head don’t listen – or maybe can’t. They are too intent on doing their job. It seems the more you try to make them go away, the more they stick around. So how do you shut the cops up so you can get on in with your life – and maybe start to enjoy yourself a little?

Stopping the Voices!

This is what Bowie did in the video. Listen to the words that he sang:

“Now you know this ain’t always the right thing to do”.

Yes we all know there are things that are not right to do – this is exactly the problem. It’s all those messages you’ve absorbed from parents, teachers, friends, enemies, bosses, governments and society that tell you what you should and shouldn’t do – and that is why the “cops in your head” have got such a secure hold – because you have probably had some quite horrible experiences in the past that are the very reason why the “cops” will not leave you alone.

Bowie repeats the line with a twinkle in his eye:

“Although you know this ain’t the right thing to do…”

…implying that although we might know what’s the right thing to do, we don’t always do it. Now we’re getting to it.  We don’t always do what we’re supposed to do, now do we?!!

Then Bowie cries out:

“Let’s Go!”

..and makes a dash for his fans, breaking free of his guards (cops in the head) who are unable to stop him and throws himself right into the crowd. (He’s not supposed to throw himself in his crowd of fans. That’s what his guards are protecting him from. En masse his fans could mob him, stampede him or even crush him to death!!! )

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you

Your inner fans are rooting for you all the way – just like Bowie’s!

Bowie’s fans go mad with excitement. Bowie has broken the rules: he has moved from his remote place on stage and  entured into their territory to be with them. This is  their dream. They are half crazy with joy. (Bowie’s fans represent the part of you that longs to break free – and is always rooting for you and ready to celebrate your successes. It is the part of you that DEEPLY DESIRES CHANGE and says a HUGE YES to the changes you succeed in making. This is the part of you that can bring about massive change – if you let it.) Like Bowie, Dede had an intense desire to break free of the “cops” – all the conditioning that was keeping him on a tight rein. As a musician, Dede wanted to let himself go when he was performing, but he also wanted to whoop, and cry out and go a bit crazy when he was out with his friends – or when he just felt like it. He saw others doing this but this was what he just couldn’t do.

Intense Desire

When the desire is intense, as Dede’s was, Breakthrough is inevitable. Dede knew  how he wanted to be. He just needed a space where he could express that part of him without anyone telling him he was looking an idiot and sabotaging his new found freedom. This is powerfully expressed by the way Bowie throws himself into the crowd. His guards (cops in the head) of course  drag him away from his screaming fans who by now are at a pitch of excitement. The “cops in the head” are not going to stop just because you want to get free of them. In fact this often makes them more determined. We see Bowie time and time again breaking free of his guards and throwing himself again and again at his fans.  The guards do everything in their power to keep him away from his fans for his own good – like a mother of an adventurous toddler keeping him out of harm’s way.

An intense desire and the courage to act on it as powerfully as Bowie does –  will produce a powerful shift. (Bowie literally throws himself at his desired goal.) An intense desire with only half-hearted action – will produce some level of shift but will not be the Breakthrough you want – because you have not put your whole self into it. (And you probably know it) An intense desire with no action will produce very little shift – which you may know if you have tried to bring about change in this area but haven’t known what to do. As will a “weak desire” with any level of action. A weak desire with no action will produce no shift – and sometimes the situation will get worse and you may say to yourself “Look what happens when I try to change.”

Breakthrough is an all or nothing business. You have to move towards Breakthrough with everything you’ve got. Even though the “cop in the head” may be screaming in your ear that it won’t work, or it won’t work for you because of …… Dede knew exactly what this felt like. He no longer wanted to be constrained by his internal cop in the head. He was ready to break free – and the moment he walked into the group he declared how determined he was – even when sometimes it was challenging.

Stretching Out of Your Comfort Zone

Over the course of the twelve weeks and with the support of his fellow group members, Dede had opportunity to had opportunities to stretch out of his comfort zone bit by bit so he was letting more and more of his true self out. One of the first things we do in a early stage of the group is to send the “cop in the head” packing. Of course the “cop” is going to want to come back – but you will learn a simple technique that will make it easier to keep the “cop” at bay. Because with persuasion he will leave – just as Bowie’s guards stopped. The “cop in the head” is not a prison sentence. It was something you involuntarily created way, way back (to protect yourself from hurt) – and at the time it was a good strategy but now you no longer need it. One of the things that was outstanding about Dede was the support he gave to other members of the group. If someone was away he would send them a thoughtful text or email. One group member called me up and said she didn’t know who had contacted her but she was going through a tough time and Dede’s text made a huge difference to her. Dede was not only wholehearted in his his willingness to support himself and others too – so no ownder he made such startling progress.

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you

OK I’ll come quietly!

The Bigger Shift

When it came to his “Breakthrough” (the major process we do half way through the course) Dede was ready for the bigger shift – the shift that was going to make a BIG DIFFERENCE. In his Breakthrough Dede got to witness the parts of himself that were holding him back – very familiar parts . However seeing these parts (the cops in the head)  played out literally “blows a part of your mind” – because when you meet the “cop in the head” and recognise it for what it is, there is something that seems to melt. The cop comes out with his hands up. When this is also followed by the ability to take action this can get to those very deep parts that created “the cop” in the first place. Most people when they experience this shift can feel something breaking free within them. It is often felt as deep physical sensations or the person may feel “unreal”. For Dede this happened in a split second – and  he could  celebrate his free self along the rest of the group – who all had the opportunity to “let their hair down”. The joy and freedom that was expressed by Dede was as exciting as Bowie’s video. You will get a feel of it in this photo.

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you

The Breakthrough Process – the joy of Breaking Free

As it was commented by one group member recently, after the Breakthrough the shift is clearly visible in the person. They may appear more relaxed, more at ease in themselves, more alive or as if a weight has been lifted off them.

Getting Free

When  this is achieved, the “cop in the head”, like Bowie’s guards, is no longer the em-prisoner. We see this in the video when the guards stop trying to protect Bowie and pull a “fan”* out of the audience and encourage her to dance with Bowie. The “fan” represents that part of you – that is willing to get free. At first the fan is overwhelmed by the challenge before her,  she doesn’t believe she can do it, her nerves get the better of her. She falls on the floor many times – but she keeps on picking herself up – and eventually her confidence grows, and as her confidence grows she begins to enjoy herself. As she enjoys herself, she starts to shine – and like a bird she is released from the cage to express her true self just like Dede was. And when she sets herself free in this way she begins to WOW herself – and is amazed at what she is able to do. This is what naturally follows when there is no “cop in the head” to order you around – AND YOU ARE FREE TO BE WHO YOU REALLY ARE.

How to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you

The Cop in the Head Becomes Your Liberator

When the “cop in the head” no longer sees that protection is necessary – it becomes the “empower-er” – and it will help you to achieve even more freedom. Freedom you never knew was possible. You can say goodbye to the bullies, the horrible experiences and all those however well meaning influences that have kept you in chains. Now you are free and so are the “cops”. This is what Yvonne saw in Dede. She saw his desire to free himself and his capacity to claim that freedom. And Dede being Dede just keeps on going from strength to strength. He wrote to everyone a month after the Breakthrough Group  ended saying that he was even more confident than when he was during the course – and full of generosity and encouragement for everyone else.  So I can very easily imagine Dede expressing his natural happiness and spreading it to everyone who comes near to him. I hope you find this article insightful, and it will enable to come more aware of the “cop in the head” so you can stop it from getting the better of you – and you can start to free yourself as Dede did.  Like Bowie’s fans I am rooting for you all the way and I celebrate your success with you.

© Claire Schrader 2013

Want to break free? If this article has intrigued you, inspired you or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. Your comments may inspire others. Or you may like to join one of my upcoming confidence courses and learn how to stop the cop in the head from getting the better of you.


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NOTES *Augusto Boal developed a style of theatre which he called the Theatre of the Oppressed as a result of the oppression he had experienced at the hands of the military regime that seized power in his country, Brazil.  He was kidnapped, arrested, tortured, and eventually exiled because of his teachings. His life’s work was about helping people who were suffering this kind of oppression free themselves. When he came to Europe he was surprised to see that whilst Europeans may be free of the extreme political oppression that he had experienced, however exactly the same kind of oppression was going on in their own heads. The “bad guys” were no longer out there…. but inside them. And he discovered that it is in many ways much easier to fight the “bad guys out there” however evil and destructive they may be – but fighting the “bad guys inside the head” was a lot more complicated.  When the “bad guys” are inside you they actually are a part of you –  so in fighting them, you are fighting yourself.  In other words – you are you own bad guy! And that can have a very undermining and dis-empowering effect. Boal called these “bad guys the “cop in the head” – the internalised oppression which is stopping you from doing what you want to do or saying what you need to say, often because there are discouraging voices and experiences from your past that are hindering your actions. The Theatre of the Oppressed was a form of theatre that enabled people to shift this. (I use an adapted form of Boal’s work to help my clients free themselves of internalised oppression and I describe in this article how this worked for Dede and enabled him to free himself.) **The “fan” is of course not a real fan but one of the dancers on the show. It is what she represents that’s important. That potential self that is just waiting in the wings for an opportunity to come out!

Article: Is it the Nasty People who get ahead? The power of natural authority.

Article: Is it the Nasty People who get ahead? The power of natural authority.

Dog's faceHow to claim you’re natural authority and hold your own against dominant people

We’ve seen them in films, on TV, we’ve read about them in books – nasty guys who get to the top and throw their weight about – and make everyone else’s life a misery. They’re the dominant types, the alpha types, the bullies that make a lot of noise and we love to hate.

But we hate to work for them, be around them, be in relationship to them, have them in our family – and we breathe a sigh of relief when we finally get shot of them.

Unless of course you’re one of them yourself or you get a buzz from challenging and engaging with this type. You thrive on their energy and determination – they inspire you to succeed.

It’s the Nasty People that Get Ahead?

Many people as a result believe that being nasty is necessary for success because they see the people who are prepared to throw their weight around: get promotion, get rewarded for the hard work of others, get away “with murder” and win all kinds of other advantages for themselves.

In fact it’s what I used to believe myself. I saw these kind of people achieving things that I couldn’t, and I gave up any hope that I could excel in this kind of way.  But I didn’t want to be like them. I didn’t want to play their game – I just didn’t really have it in me.

I couldn’t in my wildest dreams see myself behaving anything like that – and I would have hated myself for doing so. And even if I hadn’t, I know that if I tried to behave anything like this, it would have back-fired on me, lost me friends and I would be worse off than before.

Status exercise

Most of us are fed up with the dominance/ subserviance games that we all play at times.

And I was fed up with them undermining me, walking all over me, taking advantage of me, manipulating me, dis-empowering me  and generally dominating me.  And I was also fed up with feeling angry that they could get away with this behaviour, or angry with myself for giving my power away to them, failing to be assertive once again and for losing my own self respect. It was yet another nail in the coffin of my crumbling self-esteem.

But is it really the nasty types that get ahead – in the long term? Does being nasty, bullying and overpowering people really help you win friends and influence people? Or does it in the end back fire on you?

In this article, I hope to show you that you don’t have to be nasty to get ahead. In fact you can get much further by not being nasty. But you do need to know how to play the game  which does not need you to resort to anything underhand. But it does require you to make a shift within yourself.

Another Way to Build Confidence and Self Respect

Giraffe & ZebraMuch later in my life I discovered there was another way of interacting with these people that was a lot more effective – and helped to build my self respect and confidence – and meant that these kind of people whilst unpleasant to deal with and be around, didn’t get to dis-empower me. It also meant that they wouldn’t even think of approaching me to do the menial tasks that no one else wants to do.

Here’s an example of when. There was a very difficult man at the place I used to work with. He was really a very unpleasant man and everyone loathed him. Other people that I worked with got into terrible battles with him and somehow he always got his way which meant they hated him even more. I had to deal with him on a regular basis and although I did find it hard, since I have never been very good conflict – but I found a way of standing my ground and quietly asserting what I wanted. I can’t say that I felt terribly good about it.

But this man did offer me all sorts of advantages and it was only much later that I discovered that he treated me with a lot more generosity and respect than my more assertive colleagues.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I was drawing on behaviour that I’d learned in the Keith Johnstone improvisation classes that I’d done years ago and that I now teach to my clients. So I now see them achieving in areas that previously they found very difficult.

Interview Success!

One young woman came back triumphant from a job interview. She said:

 “I could see the guy interviewing me was doing a “high status” thing on me and I could feel myself shrinking and started to feel that the interview wasn’t going very well and that I was losing confidence. I didn’t like the way he was making me feel but because I know what he was up to, so I started raising my status – and the effect was amazing.

I saw him visibly shift in how he was relating to me. He started to take me a lot more seriously and as a result I felt more confidence – and I walked out of the interview feeling great because I hadn’t let him get the better of me.”

She had done exactly what I had done with the horrible man at work. I had raised my status – so that he now began to view me in a different light. He didn’t know why he was viewing me differently and why he now saw me as an equal and an ally – and someone he wanted on his side. Another participant used it on what was normally a difficult interchange with her boss and came back thrilled at how raising her status had achieved a dramatic shift in  with how much better she felt about communicating with her boss.

Playing The Game

So what is this raising status business and how can you apply it in the situations in you life that you find so difficult.

6 master nervous

Status is a game

Status is a game – a game that it being played out everywhere. You see it in the street, in the tube, at work, amongst your friends, in your relationships and particularly in your family.

It’s almost certainly  at work when family member always manages to get their way – irrespective of their actual position in the family. It’s at work when someone in accounts has the directors dancing to their tune.

Ancient Roots

The roots of status are ancient. Status is played out in the animal kingdom and human’s have played this game out since time immemorial. One of the reasons that this game has such powerful impact is because it is also the game of survival – and this is where it gets confusing – because as a result many people find themselves believing that winning at this game is absolutely crucial.

Out in the wild, dominance rules and it is the less dominant that is driven out, rejected – and may possibly die. Deep down at an unconscious level most people believe that we have to win at this game even though our survival no longer depends on it – and even though they may also hold other more worthy beliefs and values.

One man wrote on my blog demonstrating how potent these dynamics are and how they influence us at the deepest level:

I’m a male and i found myself comparing myself to other male in terms of physical appearance. I always believed that people with strong physical posture (e.g height , body mass, etc) has an advantage in attracting attention and respect both in general settings or in relational ones (especially from members of the opposite gender).

No wonder this is an area of such deep anxiety for many people.

Social Influences

This is complicated by the fact that over the millennia humans have become socialised and these social pressures are far more important. Jane Goodall in her study of chimpanzee discovered that the dominant chimp was not the biggest and strongest – but the one who had won the allegiance of the other chimps in the group. This is the same for humans – we seek social acceptance and the more accepted we are by others, the more likely we are to thrive.

On top of this, it may be that in your family you won acceptance through dis-empowering yourself and so this becomes a very different way of surviving that is equally powerful. Indeed most people find it is very difficult to stop dis-empowering themselves when they move away from their family. It has become a habit – and you have to unlearn those habits which have become second nature.

Thus these two influences of dominance and socialisation are competing against each other – and causing significant confusion.

Learning Status

Hyacinth' s face


When people come to my improvisation classes they learn how to play both high status and low status. High status wins you authority and respect and low status wins you friends and supporters. In actual fact, both are crucial because there are some situations where playing low status can be very beneficial – and others where raising you status can shift some of the very powerful programming that can keep us stuck in unhelpful roles.

Most of us tend to play one more than another as a default mode. Some times it works for us to do this and sometimes it doesn’t. There are downsides to both. High status can get you trapped in ego battles and one up-manship and the stress of having to keep up appearances. Ultimately it’s a lonely position that maintains hierarchy and keeps yoou remote from other people. Low status can keep you stuck in the victim position and low self esteem.


Chris was the only girl in a family of three other brothers. She describes the dynamic of her family experience in this way:

When I was a child my mother was in a very positive high status looking after the family. She lost it and felt failure guilt and shame when criticized, blamed and rejected by my father. Then I replaced her to look after the family and I was in a positive high status trying to please and serve my father. Later, the same way as my mother I was criticized and rejected by my brothers.

Frustrated by her relationships with the very dominant men in her family, Chris had developed a strategy for coping. She escaped her country of origin, built a life of her own and became a free spirit.

But this did not help her when it came to dealing with her brothers. Years later she was still being undermined and over powered by her brothers and paying out the same victim role she had seen her mother play.

A Big Shift

Chris had been coming to my workshops for years and she had made all kinds of progress – but she had remained an adept and very appealing low status play and as a result still struggled in her relationships with other people. The  shift that Chris made during the status exercise was really quite remarkable.

When it came to doing the high status exercise, because Chris was through her experiences in her family, a low status specialist, she did not choose the easy path. She could have chosen a higher social position in the exercise and raised her status over her partner through this simple fact – but high status is not just about social position (although it can be). Chris chose a much harder route in taking the lower social status – but she raised her status in much more subtle and powerful ways – ways that did not alienate her partner and produce an ego battle. She did it in a way that won his respect and he could feel he was losing ground against her.

In fact Chris knew exactly how to do this – even though she didn’t know how she did. She did what she had learned from her brothers and father – and she also added something that they couldn’t do. She raised her status in such way that she didn’t threaten her partner. Therefore her partner did not respond by getting combative – but instead found himself feeling impressed by her and marveling at her skill.

When she came back to the next session, Chris walked into the room with a confidence and authority that I had never seen in her before. She was a different woman. She was full of energy and aliveness and she was holding herself in a way that automatically won respect and yet also didn’t threaten others. This is what I call “Natural Authority”. She had absorbed what was useful about playing the high status game and integrated it into herself – so she both looked and felt great.

Natural Authority

When you have natural authority, other will recognise you as their equal and they will acknowledge that you have won their respect. They won’t say this so much in words. They will do this in much more subtle ways – through body language, through the tone of their voice and by choosing a different way to relate to you. It would not occur to them to behave in all the underhand ways that I have described above. They will choose to deal that out to people who bring out the dominator in them. Not you.

Natural authority also means that you are being the “real you”. You’re not putting on airs and graces that make others feel uncomfortable or bring out the competitive or aggressive side of them.

Giraffe eating

The giraffe, a gentle animal, is naturally empowering itself – and you can too.

Empowering Yourself

As Chris raised her status through shifts in how she was holding herself and using her own natural strengths – her survival strategy of becoming a free spirit served her well.

Instead of using it to set herself apart as a non-player – because she didn’t want to play the dominance/submission game – she was making use of her natural skills which did even more to disarm her partner, so he didn’t even mind that she raising her status above his. She wasn’t dis-empowering him – because she was empowering herself. And this was the key.

One of the reasons that nasty people get ahead – and occasionally it is because they can do the unpopular jobs that will make them even more unpopular  – is because they have natural authority. Their demeanour, their way of expressing themselves is authoritative and empowered – it makes other people listen to them and so they naturally have the ability to lead others. They have energy and they make waves.

But you can achieve this without being nasty. You achieve it though being your Real Self – your self empowered self – and then you will inspire others and others will be naturally drawn to you. Continue to do this over a period of time and you will attract notice and respect – and other will begin to shift how they view you. And you will get that promotion

When Chris walked into the class the next week with so much energy and aliveness – who wouldn’t want to listen to her, pay attention to her, engage with her and want to find out . She inspired us and this is the secret.

How Can You Raise Your Status?

In the status exercises, participants learn how to both raise and lower their status and to do this consciously. The fact that most of this behaviour is unconscious and automatic is what makes it so hard. Practicing doing this in a safe environment is important where others are going to support you – and where it won’t be the end of the world if you make a hash of it.

Being able to play the status game well relies on other skills too and this is why I don’t teach it at the beginning of the improvisation class. You need also to unlearn some of the habits that keep you stuck in your head and master other skills that enable you to respond in a more natural way.

As Chris said:

Your improv course gave me a chance to live from my solar plexus (instincts), rather than from my conditioned mind, through my body, my emotions and by being spontaneous.  This was possible because of the safety and encouragement of the group. So I could practice being my Real Self in relation to other people, which I could not be before I joined the group.  in the weeks in between each session, I did experience the flash back of feeling completely sick in relation to other people. and it was healed every step before I would come the week after to the group.

She couldn’t have achieved this kind of shift without making other shifts from the earlier classes. So I offer this exercise with the proviso – that it is far from a simple thing to raise your status in relation to challenging people but this exercise will get you started.


Think of  a situation where other people succeed in making you feel small or dis-empowered. You may consider these people nasty or people who are dominant, alpha types. Remember the situation in as much detail as possible. What they said and how they said it, their body language – and what happened as a result. You may want to write this out – so you have a clear picture of how these people behave and the impact it has on you. i.e When my boss puts me down, I notice she has a very strident tone of voice, and I immediately feel as if I’ve done something wrong, and I find myself feeling defensive.

As you reflect on this notice in more detail how you are feeling as you are on the receiving end of this treatment. Notice if this triggering any memories from the past when you were disempowered. i.e I feel myself shrinking inside and I feel like a small child who’d being told off. I feel furious that she’s making me feel like this and furious with myself because I’m letting her put me down

Feel into your solar plexus and feel the power that lives in you. Let that build.

Imagine you are standing opposite the person and observing all the things that enables them to put you down, and feeling all the things that usually cause you to feel disempowered. You may mirror that in your body so you become familiar with how it feels and so you can recognise it the next time you experience it. Now begin tuning into the powerful feelings in your solar plexus and begin shifting your body so it aligns with that. i.e You may find yourself subtly adjusting your spine, stregthening your neck, relaxing your shoulders, relaxing your facial muscles. Play around with this until you find a bodily emotional position that is equal with the other person. NB You’re not trying to put yourself above them or to diminish them or to say “I’m better than you”, you are just standing tall in who you are and you are feeling good about yourself and your actions.

In your imagination observe their diminishing behaviour alter in relation to yours so you are both empowered. You may want to imagine them acknowledging or recognising you for meeting them as an equal.

Practice raising your status when you are in confrontational situations with others. But start in a small way rather than on a really challenging situation. Small successes practiced regularly will build your confidence so you can eventually be successful with the situations that challenge you most.

I hope you find this exercise helpful, and it will enable to start breaking the habit of dis-empowering yourself in relation to more dominant people – so you can start being the real “you” and relate to others from a more empowered place.

 © Claire Schrader 2013

If this article has spoken to you, or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment below. Your comments may inspire others.

Want to learn how to build natural authority

You may like to sign up for my next Improvisation for Self Confidence Course in London to enable you to learn these skills.

A special group to learn the basic tools and technique of improvisation. Get out of your head, build confidence and discover how to be witty, playful and humorous in social situations.

This is more challenging than my other groups however for some people it is absolutely the right first step. Contact me if you are uncertain if it would be right for you.

Find out more


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How did Laura Robson do it? The power of inner confidence

How did Laura Robson do it? The power of inner confidence


Laura Robson confidenceHow to get confidence and overcome performance nerves

How did Laura Robson win against Marina Erakovic on Saturday 29th June 2013?

Discover what it takes to be a winner and achieve your goals when the chips are down and your confidence is at its lowest ebb – whether your playing tennis, speaking in front of a group, making a presentation or in any other situation when your nerves have got the better of you.

Get some tips about what the pros do in this 9 minute video.

It was my great delight to create it for you.

Are You Really Lacking in Confidence?

Many people believe that they are lacking in confidence – in fact its not confidence they lack but the ability to connect with their confidence.

So how do you connect to that confidence when the chips are down?

Learn how to connect with the powerful self confidence that lives within you – and improve your chance of success as Laura Robson did – in those moments when that vital confidence eludes you.

I’m rooting for you all the way.

© Claire Schrader 2013

If this VIDEO has spoken to you, and has enabled you to connect to your inner confidence  – so you can start being the real “you”.  If you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment (scroll down). I love to hear from you.


I offer a wide range of Confidence Building Courses aimed at beginners for different levels and abilities in London.

I usually suggest the Breakthrough Confidence Course or Express Yourself Workshop as a good first step or The Finding Your Voice – Speaking with Confidence Course if speaking in front of  groups is a priority.

Find out more

How to get started

The easiest way to get started is by subscribing to my free e-book “The Self Confidence Myth” and discover how you can break out of your shell the fast, fun and easy way.

Or check out my How to Get Started Guide.

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Speaking with confidence – stop comparing yourself to other people

Speaking with confidence – stop comparing yourself to other people
Woman wearing Mask

When you stop comparing yourself to others, then you stand much more of a chance of being seen and heard by other people.


Annabel  was one of those powerful, successful women that I believed I could never be like. Every time Annabel stood up to make an announcement about something she was doing, it seemed everyone sat up and listened.

Annabel had a natural authority that anything she talked about seem like absolutely the “thing” to be doing/participating in. If Annabel was into it, it had to be amazing. She also had all the material things that also seem to impress people: money, career, property, the “right” friends.

Not Being Heard

When I stood up and made an announcement, no one listened (it seemed) – not in the way they listened to Annabel – even though what I was speaking about was probably just as great. I believed that if I had any chance of being successful in the way I wanted to be, I had to be more like Annabel. That was what the voice inside of me said.

And all the time I compared myself to Annabel and women like her.

This is what I believed and it seemed, what other people around me believed too….

I Was Never Going To Be Like Annabel

The only trouble was I was never, ever going to be like Annabel. Never in a million years! Even if I studied every nuance of her voice, her every gesture. If I tried to sound like Annabel I would look ridiculous.

Do you find yourself like me, looking at other people and comparing yourself to them – believing that they “have what it takes” and you just don’t… maybe because they are more extraverted than you are, have a louder voice, are impressive when standing in front of a group – and just don’t seem to suffer in the way you do when it comes to speaking up for yourself or “putting yourself out there”?

Disempowering Myself

I would like to suggest that when you do this, you are putting out a message to the world – something like…..

“I know I’m standing up saying these words, but I’m not Anabel so I know you’re not going to be convinced by what I’m saying.

I know you would listen to Anabel but you’ve got me so you might as well stop listening right now.

And I’m not even sure if what I was wanting to say was so important now – so I might as well stop….”

This was my experience on a regular basis, and I was totally unaware of how much I was dis-empowering myself – and undermining any chance of being heard by others. In fact I was so used to not being heard, that now I had the opportunity to be heard, I was sabotaging my opportunities so I could stay in exactly the same place.

And this was painful.

I may have moved a giant step forward – I now had the courage to speak out – but I was still was not allowing myself to be heard. And this plagued me for many years,

Handler ash

I was putting up a smokescreen between me and the world.

The Smokescreen

Looking back on it now, I realise that my admiration for Annabel and women like her meant I was putting up a smokescreen between me and the world. I was fixated on the fact that I believed that Annabel was the way to be and I was constantly finding myself lacking.

The image of Annabel was always in front of my eyes and standing between me and the world – so no wonder people had difficulty in both seeing and hearing me.  And I was so busily engaged in maintaining the smokescreen so they couldn’t hear or see me, that no wonder all they could see was a blurrrr!

In fact I had disappeared. Whilst I was putting all this attention on Annabel. All they would have seen if they had really looked was Annabel – or my fantasy of what Annabel was. They couldn’t possibly see me.

And the only person that doing all this was me. And I was masterful at it. I was staging a war against myself then kept me in hiding.

If I had put the same amount of energy into being heard, as I was putting into not being heard, my voice would be megaphone blasting from the rooftops!

Being A “Not”

And the truth was whilst I was putting in all this effort beating myself up for not being Annabel, I couldn’t be me. And if I wasn’t being me, who was I being? I was being a “NOT ANNABEL” – and it is very difficult being a “NOT”. Believe me.

Do you see how I was driving myself crazy?

So if you feel if in any way, comparing yourself to another person, wishing you had skills and talents that you don’t have, I suggest that you… STOP.

And notice what happen when you stop comparing yourself to others.

You may notice it seems VERY QUIET. It may seem uncomfortably quiet without all those voices in your head chattering away. But after a while you may notice how relaxed and peaceful you feel. Notice how good that feels.

And the reason that you may be finding it so hard maybe because you were brought up in a very critical environment where it was believed that criticism will enable you to change undesirable habits and behaviours. In fact in only a few cases that this works. The majority of people become very good at criticising themselves – and never really improve and develop in the  areas that they want to. They just stay very stuck – only beating themselves up more because they can’t make progress in the areas of their life they feel the most stuck.

Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Stop sign

Notice what happens when you stop comparing yourself to others

I don’t often like working in negatives – but this is a case if I see someone is heavily comparing themselves to others at the detriment to their own expression, it is time to stop. Pretend you have come to a no-entry sign and turn back right away. And forgive yourself (as its very natural to compare yourself to others – particularly people that have an exceptional talent). Instead  start appreciating your own positive qualities and talents – the things you are good at – no matter how unimportant they may seem to you.

See the talent, beauty and skill in the other person and admire them for it – but don’t compare yourself to them.

(Hang on – because I’ve got an exercise at the end of this article that will help you use your admiration for people like Annabel for YOUR BENEFIT.)

Being Seen

When you stop comparing yourself to others, wishing or pretending to be like them, then you stand much more of a chance of being seen and heard by other people.

Because in doing this you have also removed the smokescreen that you have put between you and other people. And then people really can see you.

You will also find yourself with no other option than to live in the present, present and aware of what you want to communicate – and so it’s just a question of taking a deep breath and speaking from the heart – and you will find the words will naturally come to you without you needing to plan in advance.

I’m not saying this is easy, particularly if you have a lot of negative experiences in the past.  I’ve seen people who had considered themselves “complete lost causes” achieve this with relative ease without having to struggle too much.

When you remove the pressure from the need to conform to the expectations of others, then you will suddenly start feeling there is an awful lot of space around yourself. You will start to breathe more easily and you will start to feel freer.

What Happened To Annabel?

Funnily enough, Annabel kept on showing up in my life. I was never more surprised than when years later, Annabel started to seek me out more and more and seemed to want to be my friend.

I discovered that as I got to know Annabel, that in reality, she was far less self-assured than I believed her to be. She was constantly asking me how I felt she was coming across. It seemed that not everybody liked her communication style – and some found her rather controlling and bossy. Annabel seemed to genuinely appreciated my honest opinion, and suggestions as to how she could communicate in a gentler way.

This was a complete shock to me. And as Annabel opened up to me, I warmed to her and began to see her more as a complete human being.

She Aspired To Be More Like Me

Gradually I realised that Annabel was appreciative of my gentler and more diplomatic style and even would rather like to be MORE LIKE ME.

How could I have thought that her style was “the only way to be”? It was quite plain that there are many ways to communicate a message – and the authoritative style is just one way. Not everybody responds to the authoritative style – and some people can have a negative reaction to it.

Speaking With Confidence

I wasn’t aware that over time quietly, steadily and surely I had been developing my own communication style. It was a quiet confidence – a confidence that didn’t need to scream and shout from the rooftops. I had built an authority that was as impressive as Annabel’s, but in a different way … And gradually people had come to trust in me because I wasn’t trying to impress them or force anything on them. I was just speaking what was true for me. I wasn’t trying to ape anyone else. And this seemed to appeal to Annabel too.

Public speaking - Claire

I have no trouble with communicating my message to large groups of people.

Annabel had shown me how far I had come – and also that I could communicate my ideas just as effectively as she could. Now I am glad to say that I have no trouble with communicating my message to large groups of people.

And I have stopped of course wishing I was more like Annabel. I am quite happy to be myself just the way I am.

So I would like to suggest that the people that play a similar role in your life that Annabel did in mine, are there to show you, qualities and gifts that live in you and in time will come forth – if you continue to nurture them.


Instead of comparing yourself to others – do this exercise and see if you begin to see yourself differently.

Choose someone in your life that your normally compare yourself to. Notice in what ways do you compare yourself them. What are the sort of things you say about them, and what conclusions do you draw about yourself as a result? Be honest. It may be very hard to see these things written down.

If you weren’t comparing yourself to this person, what would your experience be like.  What would you be doing less of or more of. e.g If I wasn’t comparing myself to Annabel, I wouldn’t be so critical of myself when I was speaking to other people. My mind would not be full of those thoughts, therefore I would be more able to focus on what I was saying. I would feel more open. I would believe that people wanted to hear what I had to say.

Identify the qualities that you admire in this person. As you identify each quality, take a deep breath and allow this quality to land in you. Let this quality grow in you. In your imagination see how you life might be when you have fully developed this quality. Realise if you continue to develop in the way you are, you cannot help but develop this skill or talent e.g Whilst I was never going to be as authoritative as Annnabel, in fact what I was seeing in Annabel was qualities that were just beginning to develop in me. It was going to take a few years before those qualities would fully develop in me – but when they did, my life was going to be very different and I would be able to achieve things that I would have considered an impossibility.

I hope you find this exercise helpful, and it will enable to start breaking the habit of comparing yourself to others – so you can start being the real “you” and live your life from a more empowered place.

© Claire Schrader 2013

If this article has spoken to you, or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. I love to hear from you.

You may like to attending out my upcoming events to help you break you out of behaviours and habits that are keeping you in your shell and holding you back in your career or your relationships.

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Feel the Fear – how to overcome fear without paralysing yourself

fearFear is powerful. The fact that fear is not real in most cases, makes it no less powerful.

Fear can grip you around the heart, paralyse you, run you into the ground and make all action impossible. Most of the things you fear are inside your head, and produce similar physical sensations as if you were facing a raging bear.

I know what it is to feel this emotion. Fear has gripped me many times. I have known its paralyses and seductions.

Doing More Harm Than Good

Feel the fear and do it anyway - BookFeel the fear – and do it anyway is the title of very popular personal development book by Susan Jeffers (who died recently). And this is what many do to conquer their fears.

Whilst I have experienced the thrill of overcoming deep inhibitions by taking actions that are out of my comfort zone, there have been times when forcing myself to break through my fear barrier has been  extremely unwise. And I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.

“Feeling the fear and doing it anyway” can actually do more harm than good. I can still remember vividly how I felt twenty-five or more so years ago when I was an actress and made a series of calls to casting directors (because I was told that was what you needed to do to get work). I made the calls feeling the fear intensely, not knowing really what to say other than the lame thing everyone said and received a curt, impatient response from the string of irritated casting directors who all were clearly regarded such calls as a nuisance.

I put down the phone my self-esteem down in my boots and feeling deeply humiliated and it took me weeks to get over it. Now I see there was absolutely no value to me in breaking through my fear barrier – I would even say that it was detrimental to me.

Introverts Hate Cold Calling

And I put this down largely to being an introvert. An introvert is one who’s response to stress is to go within, take stock, whilst an extravert goes out – needs to communicate with others in order to regroup.

When I look back on my own experience with the casting director, I realise that I did not “want” to make the calls. I felt I “ought” to make them because at the time I was doing a lot of workshops which focused on breaking through fear barriers. My intuition knew that that was not the way forward for me as a still relatively shy young woman, I was bound to fall flat on my face. And I did.

telephone photo

Cold calling is pretty tough for most introverts

Cold calling is pretty tough for most introverts. We hate doing it – and in most cases, the fear and distaste for it means we’ll do anything to avoid it.  This can have a great cost to us socially and professionally.

This has all to do with the alpha brain waves in the frontal lobe of the brain. Introverts have considerably less alpha brain waves than extraverts – so it’s a physiological thing. Because of this too introverts also dislike situations where there is a lot of stimulation, whereas extraverts thrive on it. It is what makes them hum.

This is why to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway” works brilliantly for extraverts – it puts them in touch with their greatest ally – their ability to think on their feet and talk their way in or out of any situation. In general extraverts have a much easier relationship with fear, except those who have experienced a lot of trauma in their lives – in which case their response is very similar to introverts.

Primitive Responses

Fear is a very primitive response to danger and is produced by your endocrine system. It is the flight-fight response, so that if you choose to fight your aggressor, you have maximum strength and often superhuman energy to overcome your enemy or if the enemy proves too dangerous, to flee, and to survive that way.

However in our modern world – most people don’t fight their battles physically, nor is true flight often an option – it looks too much like cowardice. Instead this massive energy churns away inside you – and produces PSYCHOLOGICAL fear – fear that is inside the mind (as opposed to fear of a real danger).

In many cases you don’t even know that you’re frightened – you just know you must be.  A man wrote to me once: “There’s massive fear, fear I can’t even feel, it’s buried so deep. It’s not a case of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”  because I don’t feel the fear.”


This is because that when fear has nowhere to go, after a while your system cannot tolerate it – and so it goes underground. This leads to paralysis. When the fear is suppressed it is no less active – but that activity is happening at a deep level within you so you don’t experience it at a conscious level.

But on the unconscious level, it is felt acutely. And it takes a huge amount of energy to keep all this activity in check. So no wonder many people feel so exhausted.

Stone Statue

People who experience shyness have also often experienced high levels of shame, mockery, ridicule or bullying and rather than face that again they have literally turned themselves into stone – so they won’t attract that kind of attention again

I call this kind the paralysis “The Medusa Effect”  – a state which is experienced by many shy, reserved or inhibited people. Medusa was the gorgon in Greek myth who turned those who saw her into stone.

People who experience shyness have also often experienced high levels of shame, mockery, ridicule or bullying and rather than face that again they have literally turned themselves into stone – so they won’t attract that kind of attention again. The would rather exist in this frozen state because at least then they are safe from an unpredictable, outside world.

This is a valid and successful survival strategy in nature – playing possum. Some animals have developed the ability to “play dead” – as a way of evading capture. This is the way shy people attempt to stay safe by not appearing to pose any kind of threat to others.

However when it comes to reversing this process, it is not easy, particularly if you have been under the influence of the Medusa Effect for any length of time. Being frozen becomes a habit. It can be achieved but it will take skill, patience, understanding and time for the paralysis to slowly release. (I recommend usually a combination of my groups, individual sessions, followed up by my more advanced workshops to keep you on track and prevent the old patterns from reasserting themselves.)

Fear is Good

However in his book, The War of Art, another author – Steven Pressfield tells us that FEAR IS GOOD.

He says: “Like self doubt fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to have to do. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”

And this is the same for introverts and extroverts alive. When I experience fear I know it is a good thing – even if the fear feels totally unmanageable. My inner self may be panicking – but deep down I know the fear is unlocking deep levels of paralysis and self-imposed limitations.

When I experience this kind of fear, I have to remember – this is a part of me that wants to grow – this is a part of me that is ready to expand, therefore it is safe to come out of my hidey-hole. I have something in me that is bursting to get out – how can I find the best way of helping it get out?

Newborn held in a hand

So long as I do this gently, as a midwife would in helping a real baby come into the world, then the birthing of my new self will happen with ease

And so I am in a sense a midwife to myself – to the potential self that want to emerge. And so long as I do this gently, as a midwife would in helping a real baby come into the world, then the birthing of my new self will happen with ease.

Being in a Solid Place

For me also it is important  that I am sitting on a solid platform within myself when I cross the fear threshold. By that I mean that I am coming from a good place within myself – that I feel good, slightly excited and ready for anything. Then I will move into the new area with awareness and confidence, a bit like the hunter approaching his target with intrepidation, caution but also total focus. There is an element of risk but this is balanced with groundedness.

So in the case of my experience with calling the casting directors, when I look back on it now, instead blithely calling people who didn’t know me from Adam, and are unlikely to think of me for castings, I might want to think of other ways I can achieve my objective – and to use the skills and talents I do have. Can I put my great brain to a strategy of advancing my career prospects in ways that no one yet has done?

I suggest this exercise:


STEP 1 If you feel you should be doing a certain action to achieve an objective – because that’s what everyone else (usually extraverts) do…. then pause. Brainstorm all the other ways you could achieve your objective – even the crazy ideas. Brilliant ideas can come to you in the shower/bath or just as you’re going to sleep.

STEP 2 Then choose the one that you can see yourself doing. Visualise yourself doing this and achieving your aim with ease. Have fun with this. (What can help also is recalling all the positive qualities you have – if you’re not sure what your positive qualities are ask your friends. Keep recalling your positive qualities and your greatest achievements until you feel really good about yourself. Whenever you find yourself doing negative self-talk, recall as many of your positive qualities as you can – and see how you feel. Notice the impact you are making on other people – without needing to tell them how wonderful you are. They will naturally start viewing you in a positive light.)

STEP 3 Seek out opportunities to put this into practice in a small way. You may want to try your idea out on low impact areas. Let go of any ideas of being successful – THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  Notice what works. Build on your success – this will build confidence and belief in yourself. The start moving towards your real goals and objectives.

STEP 4 If you fail – give yourself a BIG REWARD for failing. It takes a lot of courage to fail. And get back in the saddle as soon as you can. (Failing btw did not stop Abraham Lincoln from becoming one of the greatest presidents of the USA.) If you succeed, reward yourself too and then find other ways of stretching and putting your new skills into practice.

False Expectations Appearing Real

In most cases the fear that we feel is not relevant to the current situation. It is a habitual response to a past event – but even though the situation is never quite the same – we believe that that terrible experience is going to happen again – and we will do anything to protect ourselves from it.

So it is important to remember that the fear response however strong it may be, may not be as real as we imagine. in most cases it the the acronym of F E A R –  false expectations appearing real. It is an old script which is quite frankly out of date.

Moving Towards Fear

So the way to go with fear is towards it. Going towards fear is at first terrifying, but as everyone who knows who has bungee jumped or sky dived, going through your fear threshold can be enormously exhilarating. And traveling through that barrier for something that calls to you at the deepest level, is hugely fulfilling and facilitates the emergence of a totally new self. The old skin falls away effortlessly, along with the limitations that went with it. Life can never be quite the same again.

Smily face wearing a hat

So long as I do this gently, as a midwife would in helping a real baby come into the world, then the birthing of my new self will happen with ease

So there is an aspect of fear that is purely pleasurable – as so many people discover when they come to my workshops and groups. In doing something you never thought you could, like performing in front of other people, overcoming your fear of exposure and looking foolish and instead you actually find you are enjoying yourself!

In fact you’re not even worrying what your doing or how it looks to other people  – because something else has taken over inside you so it is hard to know afterwards what you have done. You just feel the exhilaration of  liberating yourself,  with almost no memory of quite what has happened – you just know you feel very good. Over time this sends very positive messages to the fear response. And gradually that fear response will simply dissolve – to be replaced with an eagerness to repeat the experience again – in the same way as children queue up to ride the roller-coaster!

If you want to read more about how this works in practice – see an article written by Catherine who courageously faced her fears when she joined one of my groups – and what she achieved as a result – fulfilling a life ambition to make a film. Seeing people transforming their creative yearnings into reality is immensely rewarding for me – far more rewarding than my abortive acting career!

© Claire Schrader 2012

Want to feel the fear and do it anyway?
If this article has intrigued you, inspired you or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. Your comments may inspire others.
Or you may like to join one of my upcoming confidence courses to help you gently move through the fear barriers  and will help you overcome the obstacles to living a life without fear.

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Overcoming writer’s block: how to write like a dream even when you think you can’t

writers-blockMany people struggle with writing or experience writers block. And it’s not surprising.

As a child you are taught how to form the letters, about grammar and how to construct sentences  – but after that you are expected to be able to write.

It’s like teaching someone how to do the basics of arithmetic – and then expecting them to do advanced logarithms. No one would expect that.

And yet when it comes to writing you are left on your own. No one teaches you how to get what is within you out into a written form. You either have writing talent or you don’t. You are either gifted or not. Lump it or leave it.

I am living proof that this is not true. I was someone who went from a stuck wannabe writer with very little talent – to someone who was winning accolades for my writing. How could this be possible?

Wanting To Write

Writers block creative

Writer’s Block – It was all happening inside my head but I couldn’t get it down on paper

I had always wanted to write. Right from childhood I had written stories, and even though I knew my stories weren’t very good, I still wrote them – until my father discovered one of them and then teased me mercilessly about them. So I had all the more reason to think that my writing was pretty poor and it was pointless thinking that I could ever be a writer. But I kept writing – even though it was hard work, even though I laboured with every sentence and could never find the “right” word. Sometimes it was like squeezing treacle out of a stone.

There was this spirit in me that wanted to write. In my head my writing was marvelous – it flowed like a dream. In my head I could be a DH Lawrence or a Mervin Peake. In my head I created a whole world of characters, places and situations. The story unfolded in a wonderful ways, the characters had intense and satisfying dialogues in my head – and I couldn’t wait to get it all down on paper.

Except when I got to writing it down, it didn’t flow in quite the same way. I couldn’t access that spirit of inspiration that I believed real writers had.

The image of the writer I had seen in films where the typewriter rattled away in a fury of writing, as if the writer could scarcely keep up with the flow of what “had to/needed to be expressed”. It wasn’t the writer writing, there was something much bigger at play. Inspiration.

Chasing The Muse


Gustave Moreau, Hesiod and the Muse (1891)—Musée d’Orsay, Paris

The poet’s called it their Muse. It was a thing, a force that possessed the writer and took them, carried them to expressing something that was much bigger than their little minds could conjure up. The Muses were the nine Greek Goddesses and the writer was totally at the mercy of  the whims of his Muse. She could drop him as quickly as she would pick him up. And when she dropped him, it was awful.  He could no long create.

The Muse was his lover – she got inside his soul – and she could abandon him and leave him utterly dejected.

In my experience the Muses evaded me almost on a permanent basis. There were hundreds of people like me, writing boring uninteresting stories, plays and books. I might as well resign myself to the truth and forget about writing.

I would never have believed it if someone had said – you’re going to write plays, novels, poems and books and one of your plays is going to be nominated for numerous awards.

How Did I Do It?

Well it wasn’t through going to a writing workshop. I found myself participating in an improvisation course because it was a skill I knew I needed for my acting career and because I found improvisation quite utterly terrifying.  In fact I did quite a few improvisation courses – and found this very liberating on all levels – not just in terms of my career – but also in my personal life..

And then as it happened I did find myself at a writing workshop given by Tony Craze who was then writer in residence at the Soho Poly Theatre. At the time I was recovering from a mini  breakdown –  and I just thought it sounded interesting. I had no illusions that I could ever be a writer of any kind.


Corryvreckan, the play that I wrote out of this process

Except it wasn’t the normal kind of writing course. Tony got us to write scenes based on improvisations by actors. When my scene was read out, I was stunned and so was everyone else. There was something in the scene that could not be defined by the words on the page. Tony invited me to finish the play and gave me a date when my play would have a professional reading at the Soho Poly. A great honour.

Every morning I sat down to write. Almost effortlessly I was accessing a very powerful place that enabled me to write the play like the dream. This was the same place that I had accessed during the improvisation classes. Writing was really no different from improvisation. The play quite simply wrote itself.

When the play was read at the Soho Poly, it was clear that this was a very unusual script. This play went onto become Corryvreckan and was produced at the Old Red Lion Theatre. It was shortlisted for Best Play, was nominated for three and won one award at the Fringe Theatre Awards, and two top literary agents wanted to represent me. Suddenly I was playwright with an interesting and unique voice.

How Did This Happen

I believe that what made the difference from being someone who wanted to write to someone who could, was being able to access my powerful and creative right brain.

The funny thing about writing is that it seems that you are writing from your “head”, but in fact writing requires to operate from both the right and left sides of their brain. In adult hood the right and left sides of the brain become more separate – and this accentuated by the kind of education that most of us receive – which makes us left-brain dominant.

Thus most people when they write go in their head and thus are operating solely from their left brain. They cannot access their right brain because their right brain is not accessed through the head and through thinking. It can only be accessed through the body and through feeling. A few really brilliant people are able to access it because they have a unique ability to access the right brain – and these of course are the really great writers, poets, musicians and artists.

The tricky thing about writing is that its mode of expression is in words which is a left brain activity and requires thinking. The right brain is completely non verbal.


The creative brain

Improvisation had taught me how to access my right brain – but then to channel it through the left brain. This is tricky because it is so easy for the left brain to take over – but with practice there can be an easy interplay between right and left brain in which the right brain is dominant. In fact you hardly notice that you are using your left brain.

So when I came to write I was so practiced at this interplay between right and left brain, that it was as natural to me as breathing. During the improvisation course also I had an opportunity to see all the ways in which my left brain was blocking me from accessing the creative spirit that lived within me.

I had learned as I let go of the left brain’s desire to control everything and to know exactly what I was going to say and do – I could let something truly creative to emerge. And the more I did this the more surprised I was at what was being expressed through me. I see this all the time in my improvisation groups, people who consider themselves completely uncreative – suddenly discovering the unlimited creativity that lives in their right brain and that is also totally unique to them.

Accessing The Unconscious

In truth what is happening was that through the right brain we are getting direct access to the limitless creativity that lies buried in the  unconscious. Much later when I began to understand about the healing power of the unconscious – I reflected on all the bizarrre ideas we had been expressing in those improvisation courses. If we had begun to analyse what we were expressing we would have been seriously worried about what we were revealing about our inner workings. By not analysing these things and letting them flow, we were actually liberating ourselves in far more powerful ways.

We were giving voice to this deep part of ourselves and we were liberating ourselves from deeply entrenched patterns of thinking – and we were opening ourselves up to the real voice that lives inside us. And though doing this an authentic creativity was being expressed.

Keith Johnstone and Writing

untitled4It is no surprise the skills of improvisation helps writers to write better. Keith Johnstone, the founder of Impro, was brought in by the Royal Court Theatre to help their writers develop their talent. What he came up with was improvisation – and he achieved his objective superbly well. From then on Improvisation has gone on to develop and flourish to become an international phenomenon, but not many people remember it started out as a tool to help writers. And I highly recommend Keith Johnstone’s book Impro.

More details

I hope this article will help you to understand why improvisation is so powerful in releasing the inner writer in you – whether you are someone who has ambitions of writing professionally or you want to take the struggle out of writing emails or essays! And of course improvisation helps with so much more than writing – it helps with verbal communication, public speaking, self expression, spontaneity and with having more fun in life.

To me improvisation is a fundamental skill for a happy and successful life. We should all be taught it in school! See my article Is living in your head doing you any good?

© Claire Schrader 2012

If this article has intrigued you, inspired you there’s something you’d like to share please do leave a comment. Your comments may inspire others.

Want to write like a dream?
Check out the Improvisation Course which I run regularly in London and discover the surprising creativity that lives inside you and then watch, like me, your writing experience take off like a rocket. From time to time Robin Shohet  and I run Free the Writer Within Workshop.

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The Courage to Speak Out

Article on How to Find Your Voice and Be Heard Loud and Clear!

cheak with an open mount - Speak up

This little bird knows it has to make a noise in order to survive? But as humans we know better – if we make too much noise we may be punished – and in some cases silenced for life”

“It’s wrong! Someone should say something about it. Everyone can see it’s pure madness!”

And your friend turns to you and says, “Maybe you should – since you feel so strongly about it?”

And as strongly as to feel about the issue you first instinct is fear – fear as powerful as if a wild animal had crossed your path.

“Oh no  not me! I couldn’t! Someone else can do it.  I don’t want to be their whipping boy,” a voice from deep inside you says.

But no one else does say anything, and now everyone is grumbling including you. Why didn’t you say something? You really should have. It takes courage to speak out, and as you tell yourself – you just don’t have it.

But is that true? Is it lack of courage why many people don’t speak out? Or is it something else?


This was Mark’s experience. How many times had management brought in some stupid policy that was complete madness and how many times had he bitten his tongue – but felt angry and resentful. No wonder he was looking for another job, because this resentment had built up and he couldn’t wait to leave.

Mark was a nice guy. He was liked by everyone – he had a friendly manner with bright, humourous eyes which made people feel at ease. No one would know that behind his mask of friendliness was a terrified boy who found socialising acutely difficult – who broke out in the sweat at the thought of approaching a stranger.

Headless man - Being Invisible

The Invisible Man seems to be there but isn’t.

And this terror was getting in his way. It was holding him back in his career, and made it impossible for him to speak out. It was as if he lived behind walls – walls that he just couldn’t get through. And so how could he possibly speak out. He was the Invisible Man in spite of his apparent visibility. He was seen and yet not seen. (See my article The Curse of Being Invisible)

He’d done a lot of work to break down those walls and escape. He knew all the reasons why he was like this. In his teens he had had a traumatic experience which had left him crippled for life – well it had crippled his life up to now.

Taking Action

Time was ticking by and Mark knew he had to do something. He found his way into one of my groups. He found it hard but he knew he had to push through this wall that was keeping him enchained. For many weeks he felt very stuck – but although he felt the immovability of the walls around him, it was easier experiencing this in a physical way than when it was in his head. It felt more real.

And gradually the stuckness began to release. He started to relax, found himself able to interact with other group members instead of feeling locked in his own world. He began to enjoy playing – something he would have thought impossible only a few weeks before

Success – The Courage to Speak Out

About half way through the group, Mark had had a remarkable success story. Exactly the same situation had happened at work. Management had brought in this stupid new policy and instead of keeping quiet, Mark went straight to his line manager. He explained why he objected to it and the impact it would have on clients and his colleagues – all the time fearing that his line manager would laugh in his face, would tell him to shut his mouth.

But Mark felt too strongly about it. He knew he had to speak. There was a spirit in him now that was unstoppable. And although it did come out a bit garbled – he was nervous. But that didn’t seem to matter. Much to his surprise his line manager listened. Then he said:

“I see what you mean. I think you’ve got a point.”

Mark breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t been laughed at or ridiculed, he had spoken out – and he felt a huge sense of achievement. He was beaming all day. He didn’t like to admit it but he felt pride – pride in himself – and this grin just wouldn’t leave his face.

Going to the Top

A few days later his line manager took him aside. “Oh no, I’m for it now!” the little voice inside him said. But his line manager said he’d discussed it with his superiors, and they were taking it very seriously. It had gone to the CEO.

Man gagged - Red tape on

Could you speak out if you were gagged and bound?

Mark was flabbergasted. The CEO was taking his objection seriously! How could that possibly be true? His opinion had gone right to the top. He was no longer invisible and never had been.

He had just been gagged, silenced. And now he no longer was – he was free to speak. He didn’t need to shout and scream about it. He had the power within him to express what he felt, in a way that other people could hear it.

Plenty of Courage

And that old experience that had kept him locked away – was no longer holding him back. The truth was that he had plenty of courage. It had taken massive courage to survive this trauma. It was as if he had been taken hostage by terrorists. In fact he experienced many of the things hostages do. When he was terrified of going out and facing the world, it was as if he had been locked in a tiny dark room somewhere in Lebanon – bound, gagged with no hope of ever escaping.

He had literally lost his ability to speak.

If he had been an adult, he probably would have survived – but as a young teenager, he didn’t have the ability to express the complex emotions going within him. If you’re familiar with most teenagers, one of the thing you will often notice is their inarticulacy.

Getting to the Unconscious Root

The work he had done in the group, however had got to the root of what had kept him silent all those years. This is the beauty of working with myths, stories and metaphor. They get to the unconscious root of the problem using the language that the unconscious understands – images, metaphors and stories.

That’s why we dream. In our dreams we re-enact the stories that are locked in our unconscious.

In most trauma – there are parts locked in the head – and there are parts locked in the body. It is a little easier getting to the parts locked in the head because we have overdeveloped rational brains – and we love to figure things out. But much harder to reach the parts in the body.

Mark had no idea he was working on his problem when he was enacting the myth. He found it hard just because he felt inhibited expressing himself in this way – but after a while he found, helped by the support of the other group members, he could actually do it. This gave him confidence, and with confidence more of his natural courage came out.

How It Works

You see the unconscious doesn’t know the difference between real life and make believe. When you act something out in your make-believe world, the unconscious thinks its real. This is why the making moves approach is so powerful. When you act it out dramatically – even if you are just play-acting, just pretending, the unconscious thinks it as real as if it was really happening.

And what’s more if you do this using the language the unconscious understands, (metaphor, myth and story) the more it feels seen and heard just like you do.

So when the unconscious saw Mark feeling stuck. It said “That’s it! That’s exactly how I feel!” It registers that’s the source of the trauma. It feels it and it feels real.

Person jumping off

His expression was coming from a powerful place within him.

And then later when Mark started having more positive experiences – the unconscious said ” I like this! I want more of this! This is when the healing begins to happen. This is what unlocked Mark from his painful experiences in adolescence – and gave him back his voice.

It wasn’t a technique he had learned. His expression was coming from a powerful place within him – even though he was feeling nervous. This why he sounded so authoritative and why his line manager took what he said seriously.

You can have an absolutely brilliant idea – but if it isn’t expressed clearly and with authority, it can sound unconvincing. This is how politicians manage to pull the wool over our eyes. We believe what they say because they make it sound so impressive. (They abuse their position by not telling us the whole truth and using their charismatic power to deceive us.)

How to Find Your Voice

This is is how and why Mark found the courage to speak out – and it is how you can. Your situation may not be the same as Mark’s but the principle is the same. It is not because you lack courage – even if it feels like that – it’s just a part of you is being held hostage. You need to find a way to release this part from its prison.

When you do – there is freedom, a powerful voice and self respect.

Start in a small way. Instead of saying “yes” to something you don’t want to do – say “no”.  See how this feels. Instead of saying “no” to something you’re frightened to say “yes” to, say “yes” – and see what happens!


© Claire Schrader 2012

Want to find your voice
oin one of my upcoming confidence courses to help you gently move through the barriers that are holing you back from speaking up and out or book an individual session either in person or on the phone.

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Please do leave a comment if this article has intrigued you, inspired you or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share . Your comments may inspire others.

The real reason why you hide away

Marianne Williamson tells us that, “ our “playing small” does not serve us or the world. She encourages us that in shining our light  “we are liberated from our own fear”, and that in doing so we “automatically liberate others”.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? But if it was easy to come out of hiding, wouldn’t you have done it long ago?!!!

I hope in this short article to give you some insight into the real reason why you hide away, and how to overcome the blocks that are keeping you from being seen.

Living in Hiding


Living in Hiding

For many years I lived in hiding. There were two Claire’s. There was the Claire I showed the world and then there was the “other Claire”. What the world saw was someone who appeared to be OK, who did a pretty good job of pulling the wool over people’s eyes, but they wondered why they didn’t feel quite comfortable with me, why they didn’t know quite what to say to me and why they kept their distance.

In fact I didn’t pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. They all knew I was in hiding but they didn’t know how to get me out. Neither did I?

This is why receiving the call to come out of hiding, isn’t enough.

I had been telling myself for years that I should come out of my shell.

The Secret Agent

I didn’t know about the other Claire – THE SECRET AGENT.

The Secret Agent is a shadowy figure that remains permanently undercover, but is always there – watching every move that you or anyone else makes.


The Secret Agent is constantly negogiating on your behalf.

The Secret Agent is one of those undercover agents that governments pay to keep an eye on their interests, ready to report back should they spot any activity that threatens national security.

The Secret Agent is constantly negogiating on your behalf. You probably set up your pact with the Secret Agent long ago, and even though many things have changed since then, the Secret Agent is still operating on those old instructions.

You will know the Secret Agent when there’s an opportunity to shine or to show yourself, that you instinctively shrink back.

For many people this is a very physical thing. They can feel the whole body contracting, often in the solar plexus area – as if you’ve just been given  a punch. Sometimes this can feel as if your whole skin shrinks, so there’s an awful lot less room left in your body. Everything is packed close in.

This can be particularly powerful if you are in introvert, or fear the spotlight, or have had traqumatic experiences that caused you to shut down. You have probably experienced this many times.

Maybe you are like many people, you are so used to repressing how you feel, that you don’t even notice that you’re doing it. You’re so numb that you don’t know how shut down you really are.

This is another way in which you know that The Secret Agent is at work. The Secret Agent much prefers it when things remain hidden and unknown – deep in the realms of unconsciousness. That way he knows he is doing his job.


My Secret Agent was constantly doing deals on my behalf. So whilst I knew I needed to come out of my shell, my Secret Agent had conditions.

These are the kind of conditions that the Secret Agent can have:

 I want to come out of hiding but I don’t want to be one of those awful, egotistical people who are always bragging about themselves, and so pleased with themselves and who everyone else thinks they’re embarrassing.

I want to have lots of money but I don’t want to one of those people who doesn’t know who their friends are.

I want to be very successful but I don’t want to be like XX.

 LOOK  at some of your goals/aspirations and the conditions that your Secret Agent puts on them.

“I want to be/do……….. but I don’t want to ….. if it means that I ……”

Note them down, and know that this is the voice of your Secret Agent. Get to know your Secret Agent’s voice, so you can distinguish it from your own.

My Secret Agent is Freaking Out!

I have just finished writing a book on Ritual Theatre – and my Secret Agent is literally freaking out.  Whilst there’s a part of me that is very excited about the book, there’s another part that is feeling very exposed. What will happen when the book is published? To the Secret Agent this sounds like a very threatening situation.

In the past that part has been very good at sabotaging opportunities that have come my way.

A very good example of this was a play reading I had when I was a playwright. There was a part of me that of course wanted the play reading to be an enormous success and for everyone to be raving about the play – the next West End sensation! I knew the play was very good and so did my agent.

Being Protective

But there was another part that felt very protective of my play, the Secret Agent. It had been such a profound inner journey writing the play, and whilst I was keen to show the play to the world. the Secret Agent part of me was not so sure that was a good idea. What would happen if the play was a major success. Would I be Claire any more? The Secret Agent was going to make sure nothing like that happened.

There was a very good turn out for this reading. Far better than expected. It seemed the most negative and critical people from miles around had turned up for my play. And they had a field day tearing my play to shreds. I was gob smacked and totally traumatised. Why were they saying these terrible things? Had they even listened to it? Why did they fail to see what the play was really all about?

A few weeks later when I went to another play reading – where the play was vastly inferior to mine, and people were positively kind, failing to pick up the most glaringly obvious faults in the play – I realised what had been going on. My Secret Agent had drawn all those critical people from miles around to attend my play reading, so that the real “light” of my play stayed protected and hidden from view. It wasn’t just my play that was protected, it was me too.

If this had happened once, I would have thought it grossly unfair – but in fact similar things have happened on many other occasions.

My Secret Agent was a master saboteur, keeping me from losing myself, and keeping my identity firmly intact. This is deep unconscious programming, that is powerful in its intensity, for which there is very little rhyme or reason.

Once you have understood how your Secret Agent operates, you can begin to unravel these powerful unconscious forces.

Try this exercise which will help you to uncovers some of the forces that keep you in hiding, and see what begins to shift.

Coming Out of Hiding Exercise

Think of an area in your life where you would like to be seen or where you instinctively know you are hiding. This could be an area of your career, relationships, family, or social life.

Close your eyes and allow yourself to connect with this area of you life. Notice the part of you that wants to be seen, and the part of you that wants to hide away.

Example. I notice there’s a part of me that’s really excited about the book, and  but then I feel the part of me that’s hiding – and that’s really quite powerful. It feels like a scrunching in my solar plexus. As I go deeper into that I feel it’s as if I’m holding my arms up, as if I’m pushing the world away

Focus deeper on the part of you that’s hiding. If you can physicalise this – this is all the better. How does your body want to express this? What emotions are you noticing are there, as you do this?

Example. As I focus on the part of me that’s pushing the world away. I feel how much force there is in me. I feel my mouth turning into a growl – as if I was an animal protecting something. I was expecting there to be fear there, but there also seems to be a lot of anger there. I feel very fierce.

Be a little curious as to what this is all about.

Example. Hmmm this is a bit of a surprise. I see I’m still quite angry about all the times my work has not been understood and I’m still carrying this around with me. Therefore no wonder I want and need to protect myself from these experiences.

Turn your attention to your Secret Agent- what is he/she doing or saying.

Example. My Secret Agent is a bit like someone in an action movie. He’s hiding behind a pillar and he’s pointing a gun, and he knows that there are enemies all around him. But I’m rather pleased he’s more like the “good guy” in films who wins out in the end. He’s saying “I’m going to get them.” But then I wonder if that’s a good thing? Does that mean my Secret Agent is indestructible and I’m never going to get rid of him!

Ask yourself what that’s all about?

Example. I notice I’m quite pleased that my Secret Agent is a good guy, and clever and rather inscrutable. There’s a positive side to that. I rather like this secret agent. I think he’s telling that it’s as well to be prepared and not be naive. There are people out there who get a kick out of decimating other people. I’ve had enough experience of these people, to be wise to their games. This is why I need the Secret Agent!

Let the light shine on your Secret Agent and see what happens. Ask what is the higher purpose of your Secret Agent and how they can support you in coming out of hiding.

Example. As the light shines on my secret agent, I realise they are becoming more and more like a hero and that I could really do with a Secret Agent like this. I feel less alone, less exposed. It means that I can go forward with a lot more confidence – and maybe if that old sabotage pattern should turn up, my Secret Agent could take a pot shot at it.

Make a note of what you have learned from this exploration and what next steps you are willing to take. What is the best way you can support yourself in coming out of hiding.

Example. This exercise was hugely powerful for me. The next day I discovered I felt very different about my book. I feel the presence of my Secret Agent and I’m really glad to have him on my side. It feels like we are a really good team and as a result I feel less exposed and more prepared of what is to come. But I feel too it will be important to seek out some extra help and support with the part of me that sabotages my opportunities!

I hope this exercise was valuable for you and has given you some insight of what is  going on for you when you instinctively hide away – and how you might resolve that[hr]
If this article has spoken to you, or if you have any questions, or there’s something you’d like to share do leave a comment. I’ll respond as soon as I can.

© Claire Schrader 2011
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Shining Your Light – promote yourself with ease

follow-your-blissHow to Promote Yourself with Ease

You’ve got enormous amount of talent – everyone tells you how gifted you are, you’ve got numerous qualifications/letters after your name,  you’ve trained in something dear to your heart – but you’re not doing anything with any of them.

Or you have an idea to start working for yourself or to go off in a new direction and to stop being a wage slave for someone else who doesn’t even appreciate what you’re doing for them?

You know what you want to do, but you can’t do anything. In fact you’re terrified to death of doing anything. You’re literally frozen. Because you know you’re going have to go out there and promote yourself.

And that’s a huge stretch.

That Quote!

You’ve seen this quote by Marianne Williamson hundreds or times and it still gets to you.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson

Why You’re Hiding Your Light

Because you know you’re hiding your light? You know you’re playing small, and shrinking has become such a habit – like any drug it’s hard to give it up. You’ve never known quite how to promote yourself.

And there’s all sorts of reasons you’re hiding your light. You’re afraid you might fail. You’re afraid you’ll get in a financial mess (or you’re already in a financial mess and can’t see a way out of it). You’re afraid that everyone will think you’re a big fraud.  But perhaps you’re like a lot of people, you’re afraid of being seen.

And so you hoard. You hide away and your hoard, like any miser, you hold onto what you’ve got, afraid that if you let it go you’ll lose everything.

And it is daunting, no doubt about it – moving into the light, really allowing yourself to be seen, taking those brave steps into the unknown. I’ve been and done all those things I’ve described so far. I’ve hidden away. I’ve been fearful. I’ve been in black holes and I’ve been absolutely terrified of being seen. 

You Are Not Your Fear

fearBut I know too, I am not my fear. As I’ve said before, often fear is not fear at all. It’s just the first thing that shows up when you start on a new path – when you dare to break out of our box and start to do something different.

This is an excerpt from a  previous newsletter:

“Fear is powerful. The fact that fear is not real in most cases, makes it no less powerful. Fear can grip you around the heart, paralyse you, run you into the ground and make all action impossible. Most of the things we fear are inside our heads, that produce similar physical sensations as if we were facing a raging bear. I know what it is to feel this emotion. Fear has gripped me many times. I have known its paralyses and seductions.

However in his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield tells us that FEAR IS GOOD.

[quote]“Like self doubt fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to have to do. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”[/quote]

So the way to go with fear is towards it, (and I am not of course talking about the fear that protects us from real dangers). Going towards fear is at first terrifying, but as everyone who knows who has bungee jumped or sky dived, going through your fear threshold can be enormously exhilarating.

And traveling through that barrier for something that calls to you at the deepest level, is hugely fulfilling and facilitates the emergence of a totally new self. The old skin falls away effortlessly, along with the limitations that went with it. Life can never be quite the same again.

What I have found that has worked for me, is to “feel the fear”: to become acquainted with it.

Try this exercise and see if it helps to become more acquainted with it.


STEP 1 Take a moment and get connected with your fear. Ask : What is the fear telling me?

STEP 2 Sit with it. Listen to your fear. Wait till you know absolutely what action you want to take or can take – in this present moment.

STEP 3 Take that action.

Fear is a biological response designed to protect us from danger and propel us into fight or flight by flooding our system with exciting adrenaline.There is an aspect of adrenaline that is purely pleasurable as I have described.

This is what happens in many Making Moves workshops and groups. The fear that comes just before you’re about to participate in an exercise or about to to make a big breakthrough. This is what makes it so empowering. It takes you through your fear/doubt/resistance so you can move out the other side.


basking - SpotlightFree E-Course “Basking in the Spotlight”

I have put together a 5 day e-course to support you in shining your light, and to face your fear of being in the spotlight – so you can truly allow yourself to be seen and your voice heard.

The purpose of the e-course thus is to:

  • Give a deeper understanding and insight into why we fear the spotlight and withdraw into our shell
  • Describe my own journey of being a shy introvert and how I effortlessly emerged from my shell
  • Provide tools, resources and exercises that will put you on a track to coming out
  • How to shine your natural radiance
  • Why most approaches don’t work or have only partially work for you
  • How and why myth-a-drama is the fastest and most effective way of coming out of your shell

For more information and to subscribe: Free e-course: Basking in the Spotlight and overcome stagefright
I hope you have enjoyed this article. I am also always delighted to hear from you for any reason so do write to me if you have any questions,  comments or just want to share anything. I’ll answer as soon as I can.


© Claire Schrader 2011
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