Change your body posture, change your life.
There is something really powerful about performance. Jodorowsky knew it.
Alejandro Jodorowsky was born in Chile in 1929. He started his long and fascinating career as a pupeteer and mime artist, working with Marcel Marceau in Paris. He got involved with a surrealist group there and founded the “Panic Movement” as a tribute to the god Pan. He is a writer, film director and perfomer extraordinaire. In 1970 he filmed the cult classis “El Topo” and two years later “La Montana Sagrada“. In 1975 he was asked to direct “Dune” based on the books by Frank Herbert. Jodorowsky intended to cast Orson Wells and Salvador Dali amongst others to create a deliciously epic saga, but his surreal vision never came to life as the project was given to David Lynch and the movie “Dune” as we now know it was filmed a few years later in 1984.
Dune poster. 1984. David Lynch.
Amongst his many fringe productions, Jodorowsky wrote a fascinating book called “Psychomagic“; in it he tells of the performance technique developed through his years as a theatre performer and the development of what he called ‘poetic actions‘. Through them, he was seeking to understand the symbolic language of the unconscious and through his many experimentations he later developed ‘Psychomagic‘.
Psychomagic is based on the idea that in order for us to communicate with our subconscious, we must do it through its own language: the language of symbols. And the best, most impactful way to do it is through enacting symbolic actions that speak directly to the subconscious mind. So Jodorowsky used this technique to ‘cure’ psychological ailments his clients had.
He would begin by understanding the ‘psycho-afective terrain‘ of the person. This meant that his patients would have to confess and divulge all their secrets and most hidden experiences, so Jodorowsky could get an understanding of the psychological dynamic of the person. He would then prescribe a solution (or psycho-magic action) to be carried out following very precise and detailed instructions.
“Poetry is an action”
For example, one of his patients came with a problem. A young man complained that he was always ‘living in the clouds’ and could never be ‘grounded on reality’ to achieve financial independence from his family. Jodorowsky, then prescribed him this action: Take two gold coins and stick them to the soles of your shoes, that way you will be stepping on gold all day. He is using symbols like the gold coins to tell the subconscious that being grounded on reality brings him financial independence.
As surreal as these actions are, they all seem to work. Jodorowsky describes how his patients report back amazing results all because of these seemingly illogical performances.
I decided to try this technique and designed a healing performance of my own. For a few years I had terrible panic attacks just before public speaking. Because of my work as a designer I was doing quite a few of them at the time and I wanted to enjoy the experience rather than dread it.
My father (he has passed away now), was a successful civil engineer who during his peak was the president of the Civil Engineer’s Association in Mexico City. I remember him as an incredible public speaker and a great orator. Since I was a kid, he would coach me when I was preparing to do a school spelling bee or a poetry reading. He was a natural public speaker. Confident, calm and in control. I thought that as my father had been such a strong speaker, I should have those qualities in me aswell, and my panic was an imbalance of the natural order. So I decided to try my own ‘psycho-magic’ ritual.
I took old photographs of him on the stage when he used to give speeches to the civil engineers. I specifically chose the ones where he looked particularily confident and grandiose. I took pictures of the pictures and printed them on thin print paper. Then, on his birthday, I created an altar with all the pictures of him as a public speaking figure. I lit candles and asked him to pass on his gift to me. I then took the sheet of thin paper I had printed out before and tore it in small pieces. I then ate them whilst gulping down a glass of red wine!
Weird right? But, since then I have done many more presentations and speaking events and I must say, I enjoy them. The nerves are still there and probably will always be, but the panic has gone. I am in control now, just like he was. The symbolic gesture of eating his image, was for me, a way to absorb his ‘gift’. It also made me feel very connected to him and his memory.
I encourage you to design your own rituals, be creative and really get into it. When you perform symbolically, you speak to your unconscious in ways it understands and have accessed huge potential.
A similar approach comes from social psychologist, Amy Cuddy. In her now famous TedTalk, she describes how our body postures affect us psychologically, and she gives a great 2 minute tool for instant empowerment called Power Posing. Check out her talk below.
Enjoy your performance!
Diana Simpson hernandez
Designers for Humanity