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Welcome to Theater of Self

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

Hi. My name is Bradley Denis. I want to talk to young people and their parents about anxiety and depression.

I have been a personal coach, a theater teacher, and a scholar of depth psychology for over 30 years, but, like many others, have been truly saddened and dismayed at the sudden rise in statistics of teenage depression and anxiety. I realize the irony of bringing this message to you on the internet, given its role in perpetuating some of these conditions, but if you want to teach people how to swim in the ocean safely, you go to the beach.

In my work teaching drama to young people, my focus has always been on the students’ experience of themselves in the moment. We're talking about presence, and about how it is cultivated. The American sociologist Erving Goffman wrote a book called The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life where he compares our daily experience to that of a theater performer playing different roles and wearing different masks depending on the situations in which we find ourselves. It occurred to me then that the very tools young people were using to succeed on stage were not only applicable to their everyday lives, but would help them avoid the pitfalls of ideation of the past and of the future–the realms of depression and anxiety respectively–and would help them to live fully and experience the potential of the moment. This is where Theater of Self was born.

I do offer workshops and courses and an accompanying ebook, but it became vitally important to me–especially as the father of two young people myself–to offer these tools widely and without cost. In just a few weeks, you'll be able to download a free workbook which contains many of the tools and practices we use in the program to help bring imagination out of the past and the future, and into this present moment, right now, where we can actually do some creative good for ourselves and the world.

As of this post, there are a rising number of resources available that address this issue, from Haidt & Lukianoff’s book, The Coddling of the American Mind to Nir Eyal’s Indistractable, and many more. All of which are important and relevant to this work. In addition, the popularity of CBT, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a valuable tool. But for those who might not be able to use these resources, I suggest Theater of Self as a meaningful and effective alternative.

Life is often lonely and scary. But it doesn't have to be lonely or scary. By putting yourself in the director’s chair you discover that there's always a new possibility. We have only to commit ourselves to this moment to discover what is possible.