A few hours ago, I had a very odd elevator ride. Well, maybe not so odd, actually.

An older woman was really not wanting to ride the elevator, but she couldn’t find stairs. She made sure to say to those of us waiting in the lobby that she really didn’t want to get on the elevator. She’d once gotten trapped in one.

Immediately, a man said to her, “Oh, yes! Me too!” and went on to tell in great detail the story of the time he was trapped in an elevator on a cruise ship as the water was especially rough.

Of course, I thought back to when I was trapped in an elevator. It was more than 25 years ago and the elevator was very old, very small, and I — already claustrophobic and prone to panic attacks — did not ride an elevator after that for a long time.

But a few hours ago, as that memory came flying back vividly, I quieted it quickly by thinking about how many tens of thousands of elevator rides I have had that are NOT represented by the memory that this lobby convo was conjuring.

These folks continued to talk about the horrific experiences they’d managed to live through in elevators that had trapped them in the past as we all boarded the elevator together. I did my best blitz through all the things I control about what I’m thinking/feeling and therefore attracting (woo-woo lovers, read about how I do this, step by step, here) when patient zero for this contagion turned to me, desperate for me to participate in the convo.

“I mean, I’d just HATE for us to get trapped in this elevator,” she said to me as the doors closed us in this deathtrap together, “Wouldn’t YOU?!?”

To which I replied, “Welp, I prefer to focus on the bajilliondy uneventful elevator rides I’ve had, personally.” Of course, I also smiled.

“WELL!” She exclaimed, cutting a look at the dude who’d been trapped in an elevator on a cruise, which he of course, returned, eye-roll style. And she then concluded the conversation with, “It only takes ONCE!”

And y’know what? She’s right!

If you’re a catastrophizer, it only takes one experience to scar you for life.

As you might imagine from the root of the word, a catastrophizer has the ability to turn experiences into catastrophes.

Sure, there are all sorts of actually-really-bad-things that happen to everyone. But in a world of TRAUMA (all caps), trauma (lower-case), and “trauma” (air quotes), it’s just a very strange choice to allow an unpleasant thing that happened once to become a way to freak yourself out every time you enter a high-rise office building and can’t find the stairwell.

Actors of course do this too.

That one time you hyperventilated from stage fright?
That one casting director who called you fat?
That one agent who dropped you and said you’re kidding yourself thinking you could ever be an actor?

It is a choice to bring any of that baggage into the next audition, the next meeting, the next rep relationship. Far better to remember all the times you didn’t even get a whisper of stage fright before curtain-up. All the casting directors who are everything from indifferent to you all the way up to your biggest fans. And every agent who would never call into question your God-given right to attempt a storytelling career.

Look, I feel for the lady. She’s decades older than I am and still shellshocked from an elevator experience that happened before I was born. That’s gotta suck and I appreciate that she made it off the elevator without relapsing into the full-on reliving of something she’s obviously spent a lot of time replaying. But that she continues to bring total strangers into her “trauma” (or trauma… just for sure not her TRAUMA based on every detail she shared about the experience) is a choice. And it’s a choice that picks up momentum and has the ability to snowball into all sorts of negative — optional — energy.

My challenge for you today is this: Ask yourself where in life (if anywhere) you might be more likely to catastrophize things. Where is your language about reality more extreme than necessary? Where is your retelling of a situation that happened in the past intended to garner attention or pity rather than an actual solution? Where are you going from an air-quotes “trauma” all the way up to a caps-lock TRAUMA about anything?

Is there optional nonsense you’re carrying around and then spreading around?

’cause as y’all know, our energy enters the room before we do! And it’s not like you have to party-party-party through all of life’s experiences, but you’re more castable when you’re not adding nonsense to the collective energy of bringing art to life.

Share in the comments below where you can downgrade something you’ve tended to catastrophize! I’d love to help celebrate your drama detox for 2019!

BTW, I’m still accepting HEADSHOTS for the updated edition of my incredibly popular feature called “Bad Headshots, Good Headshots”. THANK YOU to everyone who’s submitted thus far. I’m so excited for what we’re seeing already! Y’all rock!

Oh! And yes, yes, yes… our FREE quarterly SMFA Tune-Up call is Friday! Hooray! This is when we jam about all things Self-Management for Actors and I answer your questions about your creative journey! (I’ll be emailing soon to let you know we’ve updated the free SMFA Hot Sheets too. Holy cow, y’all… I’ve got two words for you, regarding the SMFA Show Sheet in particular [that’s 23 pages of what’s-actively-casting goodness, y’all]. Those two words are Atlanta and Netflix. Good GAWD at the casting going on there, and there! WOW!)

Okay! 🙂 “See” y’all then!

All my ninja love,

bonnie gillespie

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

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  1. Catherine Ryan January 8, 2019 at 8:12 am

    OMG – ThisthisTHIS! My life JAM cuz what’s the point? Why flood yourself with negativity and draw that sh*t back into your sphere?! And yet the gremlins wants feeding. Finishing touches on a short film script to go into production later this year has the negatives of my 1st experience asserting themselves again. Just taking note of what happened and turning it into a list of “Actions to Help Head Off _______” helps to soften the catastrophizing. So much is in the perspective of our thoughts. I am embracing the things I learned to do it even better this time and thanking the universe for providing those lessons I made it through.

  2. Deborah Cresswell January 8, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    So . . . in the over 40 years of my career, I have NEVER been dropped by an agent – nope, never. On a couple of occasions I’ve “parted ways’, but that is a friendly breakup, a whole different scenario, and a MUTUAL agreement. But this past FRIDAY I was suddenly and completely – and most importantly – *UNEXPECTEDLY* DROPPED!!!! It came out of the blue – WHAM!! BLINDSIDED! Like being hit by something that nearly knocked you out! For the rest of the day, I was truly upset – traumatized even. I’m not a youngster….that makes it tougher to get a new agent. Pilot season has begun. That adds stress that I’m not “getting out”. At first I began “traumatizing”. After all, it couldn’t be worse at my age and at this time of year…..could it? Mmmmm…..there is ALWAYS something that can be worse. INSTEAD I have chosen to view this as a POSITIVE thing and an OPPORTUNITY. The truth is, my (now former) agent really didn’t send me out on things that would improve my career, give me better opportunities, etc. In reality, she sent me on a lot of tiny roles – costars, one-liners, etc. I’m no longer AT THAT LEVEL!! So she has actually done me a FAVOR. I can look for someone new (TOUGH AS IT IS AT MY AGE), someone who will be excited about me, and together, we can create something beautiful. And no, this hasn’t happened YET — It has only been a few days since the breakup. But I am CHOOSING to be positive rather than the initial traumatizing that I felt, because negatively will not bring me what I want. Going forward with POSITIVITY is *my* choice. And I am EXPECTING it to work. So, that is my story of the crazy way I am starting the New Year — but I think it will bring GOOD things!! And I hope the same for each of you! (my website is being re-done, so not available)

  3. Ninja Erin January 8, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    Catherine, Deborah — we’re SO glad to see you both embracing the possibilities rather than dwelling on the negative. Keep on moving forward and *choosing* the positive! <3

  4. Ninja J February 18, 2019 at 3:34 am

    I think the biggest thing I catastrophize over is the media and the “dirt” they can or would dig up.

    1. Bonnie Gillespie February 18, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      Right? And if that keeps you “living small” for fear of what they could/would do with what’s dug up, what a shame!!


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