Persona Medusa: An Embodied Tale of Anxiety

| December 17, 2015

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Persona Medusa: An Embodied Tale of Anxiety

Selective Mutism is an extreme anxiety disorder where people cannot talk in certain situation (i.e. school) due to severe anxiety, however, they can be talkative in other situations (i.e. home) where they are comfortable. 7 in 1000 children suffer from this disorder and if left untreated will continue into adulthood.

Persona Medusa is the story of a boy, DJ, who upon starting school is struck by an overwhelming force of anxiety. The anxiety is so strong that he stops speaking and is paralysed of all expression. He continues to experience the same anxiety and paralysis of expression each day at every expectation to speak such as, the roll call, class-mates trying to speak to him, his pencil breaking, his paint brush drying, the teachers asking him questions and worst of all at break-times. DJ has a safe place home where he can speak freely but this is slowly eroded by the immense anxiety that attacks him in his away from home life. The anxiety follows DJ as he leaves school, starts college, travels, enters the work force, makes and loses friends and falls in love.

With his marriage coming up DJ decides he wants to give a speech but first he must confront the anxiety that first confronted him at the age of four on the school classroom threshold.

‘I watch as the door handle descends to a guillotine slope. It pauses there. I feel like a cold blade has sliced through me. I focus on a thin sliver of light at the edge of the door. It begins to widen like a sunlit knife slowly turning sideways.’

Persona Medusa is structured on an exercise called the Spinal Roll which Actors use for freeing tension and the voice. Overlaid on top of this structure is a tale of a boy being stalked through a jungle by a tiger which is symbolic of the fight or flight response. The roll call becomes ‘Tiger Eyes’, speaking in class becomes ‘Stepping on a Twig’, home-life becomes the ‘Clearing’ and then ‘Cloud Over Clearing’.

DJ must make peace with the stalking tiger and rise and speak with a fully embodied voice.

Told with imagery and a self help structure Persona Medusa is an essential book for anyone who has experienced the big freeze of selective mutism, social anxiety or indeed any type of anxiety and is looking for a roadmap out of the cold and into the warmth.

Persona – that through which sound passes.

Medusa – the terror that freezes the onlooker.

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