Method Acting & Spiritual Implications

Method acting, informally called “The Method”, is a technique, where the actor, strives to attain complete emotional identification with a character. This means that they completely disidentify with their sense of self, by letting go of their own consciousness, mindset and viewpoints first, in order to make space to “take on” the consciousness of someone or something. During this intensive process, the actor can “lose themselves” – their sense of self – as they have disassociated so much to the degree that their world, is only viewed through the lens of the character, as they embody the channelled consciousness entirely. Method Actors are good at this particular technique of disidentification, as some “may” tend to have, a lack of awareness of their own individual identity and therefore their understanding of self is limited. This most likely manifested through fragmentation, developed in childhood. 

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This technique is based on the system evolved by Stanislavsky and gained recognition in the US in the 1930s. Method acting however was originally developed by Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan. Hollywood actors most well-known for undertaking this process, are the likes of Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and Daniel Day-Lewis

This technique is not an actor using their imagination to “pretend” to be a character, as this would still mean that your interpretation, is driven by your own consciousness. The actor is in fact, taking on “willing possession” which is the same as “intentional channelling”.

The issue with willing possession or intentional channelling, is that whatever stream of consciousness, one opens up to receive, can in fact be detrimental on an emotional, mental, spiritual and physical level. That is why it’s essential that actors, that take on this extremely immersive art, need support for their psychological and spiritual health.

The nature of this technique can cause great harm, to the psychological well-being of the actor. In the acting industry, the cause of death that may happen during filming or after, for a Method Actor – is due to taking on another’s consciousness, where they have played demanding roles, that have a fatal or very dark storyline. Essentially, when you’re streaming another’s consciousness through you, your point of attraction changes around you and therefore this fateful outcome can occur. Method Actor, Stefani Germanotta, (Lady Gaga), who played Patrizia Reggiani, the Italian socialite in House of Gucci, said in Variety’s podcast, “I had a psychiatric nurse with me toward the end of filming, I sort of felt like I had to. I felt that it was safer for me”.

What is fragmentation?

A state of cohesion is when we experience an integrated wholeness. When trauma occurs, if we don’t have the tools to re-integrate the trauma through mental alchemy (from a negative to a positive), as an act of self-preservation, we disassociate from it. At this point, our stream of consciousness splits or fragments. Essentially, our ego goes through a process of fragmentation.

Over time, unlimited splits within our consciousness can occur. We have one body, yet each fragment, has its own identity. Each fragment will have a duality, an opposite – in terms of trauma, the split is between the “vulnerable self” and the self that found a way to deal with that vulnerability, in an attempt to self-preserve and protect the vulnerable self. We always identify with the “protector personality”, however, this means that the personality developed over time, is not reflective of your true self. The personality is not real; it’s a combination of the personalities that strived to keep you safe, in your individual circumstance, in childhood. By rejecting the vulnerable self, the brain makes it “subconscious” and those personalities can be locked away and completely unidentifiable to us.

This duality creates an internal conflict, contradiction and tug of war. This is a reflection of the internal suffering created by us, as there is a disagreement between these fragments. For example, if you really want a love relationship with someone but internally, you view it as unsafe, then energetically, you’ll repel any notion of someone getting close to you.

An example of fragmentation, is where Stefani says in “Actors on Actors” with Jake Gyllenhaal, “I think what I love so much about acting, was since I was a little girl, I was so mercilessly bullied and I had a really strict upbringing so acting for me, was a way to just totally escape who I was and I still suffer from that all the time and I think I’ve done it with my whole career, with taking on the artistic persona of whatever music I’m writing and living inside my art and the sound and whatever I wear or I how I think or how I be, is representative of something that I’ve created and for films it’s different but it’s not” – and goes on to say – “the way that I feel safe, is I feel safe being in pain. When I’m there and I’m with the actor, I know the actor, I feel safe in art. I almost feel I’m safer in art, than I do in life”. In a Variety podcast, Stefani says: “I don’t know why I’m like that. I think that the best answer I could give you, is I have a sort of romantic relationship with suffering for your art, that I developed as a young girl and it just sometimes goes too far – and when it does go too far, it can be hard to reel it in on your own”.

Stefani not only fragmented to escape from herself, using art as a vehicle in which to do so but she also developed an attachment to suffering and pain, as she viewed it as “her safety”. Stefani’s ego has created a state of suffering. The ego’s intention is to avoid a more painful circumstance arising (whatever that may be) because the “vulnerable personality fragment”, feels unable to cope with it so the “protector personality of the fragment” (creator of suffering) steps in.

Pain can be experienced as pleasant, as a sense of relief, reassuring or soothing, if something that is predicted to feel worse or more painful has been avoided. As an example, even if a person desires connection, they may cause their own suffering, by pushing other’s away because their belief, is that they’ll ultimately abandon them so it’s easier and safer, to create and keep themselves trapped in pain, as the alternative of potentially losing someone, may be perceived as far more painful. The ego may seem self-destructive or self-sabotaging but it’s in fact trying to serve you, with positive intention (even though, self-destruction is caused).

Why can willing possession or intentional channelling be detrimental?

Channelling is the act of translating messages from another consciousness (this can be from anything, as everything is consciousness “dead” or “alive”). Already, we need to consider, that it is merely a “translation”. This stream of consciousness can reside within another and you can visibly see that person’s mannerisms, movements and sometimes even voice and appearance change. You may have seen TV personalities that are able to do this, where they channel people’s loved ones. However, no one can ever be sure of what they are channelling so this is where great care needs to be taken into consideration. In the world of spirituality, channelling is often used to translate messages, from beings outside of the 3D reality. The important thing to note here, is that due to “channels” connecting with beings in “higher dimensions”, the receiver of the message, may view the guidance and advice given as the “truth” – however, all beings have their own limited perspective and agenda. Additionally to this, these streams of consciousness are multifaceted in nature, as we are, meaning that they indeed may be utilising a person for their own gain. These streams of consciousness; beings, spirits, entities, like everything, have duality and therefore, the intention behind them being drawn to you, if you are opening yourself up to receive them, may be harmful. They can come in disguise as a positive being and can be shape shifting in nature. There in fact, may be multiple streams of consciousness being channelled through someone, negative and positive. For Method Actors, this can be applied to fictional characters too. For example, if the actor wishes to stream an aspect of consciousness, as a portrayal of the persona, then this particular energy can be channelled. The crucial thing to consider, is if the fictional character, has a “dark side” so to speak, the consciousness being willingly possessed by the actor and embodied, can cause serious harm. For example, Heath Ledger’s role as the Joker. If you are opening yourself up to willing possession or intentional channelling, then you must be aware of the impact upon your spiritual and psychological well-being.

In “Actors on Actors”, Stefani’s response to Jake when he uses the word “pretend” is: “every time you say pretend, I can feel my heart jump out of my chest and go like, no, it’s not pretend – it’s not pretend, it’s real, it’s my life – but I know it’s a set, I know that it’s a script, I know there’s a director… but I know I lived that woman’s life”.

Stefani continues to say, that she had to drop the character, of Patrizia Reggiani fast: “I had to because she was a killer and there were some things about the transformation for me, psychologically that were really, super challenging. When I watch the movie, it looks like I’m watching a montage of my life, it doesn’t feel like I’m watching a film”.

In the scene where Patrizia is served divorce papers, Stefani, studied the panther, Stefani said: “because the panther moves slowly but then when it kills its prey, it is really violent and it’s really ugly and then after it cries – and I did that to make sure the accent was in my body, the physicality was in my body so the dialogue could just fly… but what I feel in that moment, is what she is feeling”.

In an interview with extratv, Rami Malek who played Freddie Mercury said – the most important thing is your soul merging and then something new happens which we haven’t seen before. This advice of allowing “soul merging”, is what Rami shared with Austin Butler, who played Elvis.

Elvis portrays the biopic about the life and career of Elvis Presley – Austin was so dedicated to channelling and embodying Elvis, that he confessed to being unable to differentiate between being in character and being himself and lost touch with his own identity. The day after filming ended, Austin was rushed to hospital and described it as his body “shutting down”. Austin ended up being bedridden for a week, after he was diagnosed with a virus simulating appendicitis. As soon as he recovered, Austin started filming Masters of the Air which involved participating in a mock military boot camp. Austin shared that he was convinced, that Elvis was still being channelled through him, even in his new role.

Spiritual well-being can be overlooked in Western Medicine, however, it’s the most fundamental piece of the puzzle, in understanding how to restore, one’s personal power, vitality and health.

If you are a Method Actor and require spiritual and psychological support, this can be provided via Melissa’s Zoom Talking Therapy.