Research Shows Psychological Vulnerability in Actors
A recent study by California State University looked at the psychology of the sort of people who choose to become actors. The results imply that these people tend to be imaginative but also emotionally vulnerable.
Paula Thomson and S. Victoria Jaque wrote in the Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity and the Arts journal that “Our study adds to the body of research that suggests there is a psychological cost for participants engaged in the creative arts”.
Their study looked at 41 professional actors living in Cape Town. Toronto and Los Angeles and compared them with people from other artistic groups such as athletes and art lovers.
What they discovered was that, “Even though there was no difference between the two groups for past traumatic events, more actors were unable to maintain narrative coherence when discussing memories of past trauma and loss.” The actors struggled when attempting to discuss past traumas which the researchers felt suggested that they find it harder to resolve these traumas.
The researchers illustrated how the actors had an increased ability to “remain engaged, regulated and coherent during the interview process”, however, they were also more likely to show signs of confusion, prolonged silence or “unsuccessful failures to deny a traumatic or loss event”. Thomson and Jaque argue that this suggests “a greater vulnerability for psychological distress”.
Thomson and Jaque give a note of caution to those thinking of an acting career in therapeutic terms: “Actors may have enhanced their imagination through the practice of acting or they may have entered a career that supports their heightened predisposition for fantasy.”
For those who do choose to become actors, there is psychological support available in the form of talking therapies such as psychotherapy and counselling. This can help develop an understanding of past traumas and resolve feelings surrounding them.
The psychotherapists at The Cavendish Psychotherapy Practice on London’s Harley Street, work with people of all backgrounds, including members of the performing arts who struggle with emotional and psychological problems.