The Magic of If

what-ifConstantin Stanislavski teaches the word if  has a unique quality 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 place herself  into the emotional mindset of her character’s problem, condition or event. He teaches the actor to use if  to get to the subconscious mindset of her character. The use of if  has application beyond the theatre.

For example as trial lawyers we can use if  to relate to our client at our subconscious level. To do this we role reverse with our client and ask: What is it like if  I am in the situation of my client. When done as Stanislaviski teaches this results in personally placing ourself into the shoes of our client.

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

First, if  “does not use fear or force” or make us do anything. Rather it reassures us “through its honesty, and encourages [us] to have confidence in a supposed situation.” This allows us to image the if supposition naturally with our subconscious feelings emerging.

Second, if  brings to the forefront of the subconscious 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 do not try to invoke our feelings when using the if supposition. Rather we concentrate on the given circumstance of the situation. When doing this we reach a “sincerity of emotions.” This is because our subconscious  feelings emerge. These are our true to life emotions in the given situation.


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10 Responses to “The Magic of If”

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