3 Minute Ideas – 4. Name it to Tame it

This is a series of 3 minute videos to help performers be more comfortable, confident and effective in front of an audience. Sharing powerful ideas and strategies in a short space of time.

This video is on the idea of name it to tame it. An idea described by Dan Siegel, it looks as the best way to deal with emotions and manage them more effectively.

Especially for performers, this is a very useful technique for dealing with fear.

(apologies, this one is closer to 4 minutes – I get a bit swept up because I love this topic and then realise I’ve overrun so end abuptly!)


Hello and welcome to my Minute Ideas.

Today’s idea is “Name it to tame it.” This is the idea of Dan Siegel, a psychiatrist who works with children and adults, and an author who’s written several books on the mind and how it works.

The idea of “Name it to tame it” is if we name the big emotions that are taking hold of us, we can start to manage them more effectively. As performers it’s really important we have access to our emotions, and access to the ability to express the emotions and meaning of other people. If our own emotions are overwhelming, especially the emotion of fear – which I’ve been talking a lot about recently – then this can get in the way of us effectively communicating and connecting with the audience. It can also get in the way of us inhabiting another person’s character and emotions.

So how do we deal with them? How do we manage these big emotions? Performing itself can incite those emotions of fear etc, and bring tension and clutter in the mind, and even stage fright at its worst. “Name it to tame it” does three things to help. When we have that initial emotional reaction, that fear reaction, our limbic system kicks in. This is the fight, flight, freeze system, the lizard brain. Evolutionarily speaking it’s earlier than our cognitive thinking brain, our prefrontal cortex. It is basically our knee-jerk reaction. The limbic system has access to very basic memories, it’s designed to get us to safety, put us in a safe situation, by fighting, fleeing, or freezing.

“Name it to tame it” is the process of naming the emotion that’s going on for you. Immediately, the first thing this does for you is it engages your prefrontal cortex, your cognitive, thinking brain. The prefrontal cortex can assess the situation in a way they limbic system cannot, it can go “Actually we don’t need fight flight freeze, let’s calm it down” allowing you to counteract the hormones are released by the limbic system (adrenaline etc) by releasing hormones and chemicals to calm down. Helping you physically.

The second thing it does is it enables us to understand what’s on for us more. Now these fear reactions and the limbic reactions are designed to keep us safe, it’s designed to take us out of danger and you can think of it like a worried child or a concerned parent, trying to keep us safe, trying to tell us what their fears are so that we keep ourselves safe. If we don’t listen to those voices they do one of two things, they either get louder, or they give up communicating with us they don’t give up worrying they just give up telling us what they’re worrying about. If you tune into those voices what happens is, like a worried child or a concerned parent, they calm down because they feel heard, and we can also assess the situation. They might be telling us something useful that we can then do something about, but just being heard will calm them down. The third thing it does is it enables us to show ourselves some empathy. I was talking with a client recently about her worries and she was saying “I’m just trying to think positively,” but if we don’t listen to the concerns then they don’t go away. What we did was we went through the process of me listening to her concerns and at the end she said “I feel more reasonable, that my concerns are rational and understandable.” So we might discover that we don’t need to worry about them, or we might concern realise that we are just reasonable and rational, and we can offer ourselves some empathy; and just as when you offer a child some empathy they relax, we can relax and then we’re more likely to choose to do the thing that we’re worried about, and do it in a more relaxed way. So today’s thought is “Name it to tame it.” When we show ourselves some thought and understanding we can relax and take the adult view as to whether we want to do what we’re doing. Thank you, bye bye.