The Magic of If

what-ifConstantin Stanislavski teaches the word if has a unique quality- a quailty that produces “an instantaneous, inner stimulus.” Stanislavski,  An Actor Prepares, (Translated by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood). From an acting standpoint Stanislavski says the imaginary use of  if allows the actor to to place himself  into the emotional mindset of a character faced with a certain problem, condition or event. He teaches the actor to use if to get to the subconscious  mindset the character has in his situation. The use of if has application beyond the theatre.

For example a lawyer in a paralysis case can use if to relate to the injured client at the subconscious level. To do this the lawyer asks himself : “What would it be like for me if I was paralyzed?” When done as Stanislaviski teaches this results in the lawyer  personally placing himself into the mindset of his injured client.

Stanislavski says this works because if becomes what he calls a “supposition.” He explains if does not demand you believe or not believe the supposition. Rather the use of if presents a magic hypothetical that causes you to answer the hypothetical “sincerely and definitely.” When used properly if has three consequences:

First, if when used in a Stanislavski supposition “does not use fear or force” or make the lawyer do anything. Rather it reassures the lawyer “through its honesty, and encourages him to have confidence in a supposed situation.” This allows the lawyer to image the if supposition naturally with his own subconscious feeling emerging from the if supposition.

Second, if brings to the forefront the subconscious through an “inner and real activity“-meaning to answer the if supposition we must imagine ourselves in action. This according to Stanislavski leads to mental activity that results in subconscious creativity. Subconscious creativity gets us to our highest emotional level of thought and being.

Third and most important  when used correctly we must  not consciously try to invoke feelings when using the if supposition. Rather we concentrate only on the given circumstances of the situation. When doing this we forget our feelings which in turn results  in  “sincerity of emotions.” This means our subconscious  feelings emerge. These are the  true to life emotions we would have in  the given situation.

Lesson Five-Image with the Magic of If.

    10 Responses to “The Magic of If”

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