When we begin the work in Foundations, which asks us to open up to the expression of truthful feelings, many of us encounter a habitual response: an automatic redirection of our emotions. When a truthful feeling comes up, we don’t naturally express it: we redirect it, push it down, or block it out entirely.

When we redirect a feeling, for example, a wave of anger instead comes out as a laugh. When we repress a feeling, it wells up inside but is stopped before anyone sees. When we block a feeling, we block it entirely: not only from others, but ourselves as well, only visible in tension or a twitch in our body.

These responses are coping mechanisms that we’ve developed in order to protect ourselves; they are methods to avoid the feared repercussions for allowing our emotions to be visible. But these coping mechanisms also impede the connection to our full, truthful expression. Even when we know we’re safe intellectually, our habits kick in and we find ourselves unable to let our natural impulses flow.

In Foundations II we work to overcome these habits. It’s difficult work, it’s the yoga class of the personality: every week you are stretched, pushed and pulled. We don’t allow ourselves to arbitrarily follow our surface feelings. We peel back the layers of emotional suppression instilled in all of us. We work to obliterate falseness, superficiality, and self-deception. We go for impulse. We go for instinct.

A good actor doesn’t create masks to place on top of their existing personality. A good actor learns to delve inside themselves and relax into all of who they are as a person. You leave the manicured personality behind, you peel back your defensive, controlling, avoidant, superior or inferior selves, whatever those layers may be. Then you can evolve into a more effective actor: one who is able to make choices with liveliness, intelligence, and a sense of humour. You develop the ability to access and follow through with your creative and emotional impulses. You feel your vulnerable truth.

If you understand that, then you understand what Sanford Meisner meant when he said “It is my belief that talent comes from instinct.”