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Monday, April 13, 2009

Inhibitors & Promoters

When improvisers begin classes - especially at SAK, but surely anywhere you might take classes, one of the first lessons is the classic "NO Blocking." Its compliment is "Yes, or yes, and."

This is the classic and foundational inhibitor-promoter pair in improv. Many weeks are spent on developing the yes mentality. But generally we start with the "No Blocking."

Something that begins in us very early in life develops this blocking mechanism. I used to think that as children we are free of this and that as we progress through life the pressures and demands of the world and the people around us squish and squeeze the yes freedom out of us.

But when I had kids I realized how early quickly and easily the "no" factor becomes apparent. It seems to be ingrained in us somehow. A core human condition. I believe it is a survival instinct based on fear.

I have observed that there are two basic reasons people give the no so quickly and both relate to a loss of control and generally involve feelings of safety and security.

It seems the no is either a play for power or a play for safety - a survival instinct. The survival instinct is the most common. I'm afraid I won't know where it will go so it is better (safer) to stay put. Many times we even think we are willing to adventure, but the no comes very quickly and very definitively. There is also a lack of confidence that if I let it go somewhere (without dying or getting hurt) that I will have the wherewithal to get out of it or get on to the next thing.

The problem is we end up doing nothing, or vacillating back and forth between doing nothing and almost doing something, but then actually doing nothing.

The power play is actually two-fold, one being equally fear-based. That is the notion that I don't trust where you might go with it, or that it will be fun or fruitful, it is better for me to send us forward.

The problem is we end up doing nothing, because in improv you can't have just one partner making all the moving forward choices. It has to be a partnership between two people. Partner. Partnering. (See the key word?) Unfortunately some think there is partnership in follow me, I know exactly what to do, but there is not.

The other, more unfortunate part of the power play is still fear based, but not survival fear based. I don't want to follow your stuff. I want to follow my stuff. I don't want you to get accolades, I want to get the accolades, the glory, the credit. This selfish motivation is still fear based at its root because it says I won't (or can't) survive if I don't get the glory.

The problem is we end up doing nothing, or we do something but it is very stilted and one-sided, and doesn't look like co-creation (because it's not).

The first thing an improviser needs to learn to do is let go. Relinquish control. Stop blocking. (Isn't it ironic that to progress in improv we have to block the instinct to block?)

Once an improviser learns to do this, the skill will develop into an ability to do amazingly more than they every dreamed, and in fact far more of what they want in the first place.

Herein is described the improv inhibitor of the highest magnitude. An improviser who is able to minimize this inhibitor has made a major breakthrough. The Master improviser, however, will learn to minimize many other inhibitors. What are those inhibitors? Undoubtedly you can think of several yourself. Others will be discussed in future posts. But we won't just focus on inhibitors, although minimizing them will clear a great path for improv success - we will also look at promoters. Skills and techniques that will super charge the improviser and arm them with awesome tools ready to help them advance to the next levels of creativity and improv prowess.

As always your questions and comments are highly encouraged.


Anonymous said...

Great blog! I enjoy your definition of improv inhibitors/promoters. I look forward to your next blog!