This is the second part of my series about the nervous system. To read the first part, go back here: "The nervous system and its significance for practice, learning from memory, and stage fright"

Neurologist Hughlings Jackson made a discovery in the 19th century, which still serves as the basis for virtually all models of the nervous system. He observed that when the brain is injured or stressed, it resorts to a less differentiated, evolutionarily more primitive functional level. (Here I quote the trauma researcher Peter A. Levine.)

Excuse me, what? I will express that statement in my own words: Jackson found that when people feel unsafe, their system reacts automatically and they have little control over their impulses. This means that situations are no longer driven out of conscious thoughts, but out of unconscious thoughts and body reactions.

Say: Reactions such as playing errors in the most unthinkable places („I'd never had any errors there!"), Or: practicing a lot and yet not memorizing the piece safely, or: being unable to get stage fright under control despite good thoughts and intentions. This occurs, to put it simply, because we combine a question in one, conscious, nervous system with an answer from another, unconscious, nervous system: these are different languages, it’s like talking past one another, there's no agreement between the two.

However, the conscious brain and the unconscious brain have one thing in common: they are capable of learning and developing. The conscious can become unconscious and vice versa. So, with practice and experience, we can provide the body with the response we want in a certain situation, as a spontaneous decision.

This, and I notice it now in writing, is the essence of my work, which I have taught myself over the years and with which I accompany others, musicians and non-musicians. That when we go on stage and there is nothing but us and the music. Then we don't have to think anything special, we don't have to do anything special, we don't have to be anything special. It’s just ourselves.

Whether we like it or not, we are always ourselves on stage. However, we can change who gets on stage over time.

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