Steyn, M. (2015). Processes of identification and disidentification in performing artists: A transpersonal perspective [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Middlesex University.

Acting involves complex psychological processes. Performing artists often connect with varying degrees to the characters they portray, and the relationship between actor and character can be transformative and lasting. The dynamics involved in processes of identification and disidentification for actors have not been widely researched and documented, and begs further inquiry for both for the actor’s understanding as well as those who work with actors. Intrigued by processes of identification and disidentification, I set out to map these processes. By referencing existing literature from influential theatre figures such as Stanislavsky and Grotowski, and psychological literature that looks at identity aspects in performing artists, I was able to compare these views with the data I collected from a group of performing artists. By making use of Grounded Theory (Corbin & Strauss, 1990), I analysed the data. The first and second round of interviews saw students from the Tshwane University of Technology Drama Department engage with various questions to get to the underlying issues of identification and disidentification. Transpersonal exercises were also introduced to map these experiences against the academic literature, and a third round of interviews was introduced, seeking to clarify concepts from the initial analysis. It appears there are distinct processes of identification of the self-concept that take place in performing artists, especially in instances where they are required to deliver emotional challenging characters or performances. These experiences can be recognised by their transformational and lasting effect on the actor. Aspects of identification were observed primarily in four areas: identification of the actor with the character; identification of the actor with the audience; identification of the actor with the ensemble; and finally identification of the actor with the superconscious. These areas can also overlap or sometimes take place simultaneously. For the purpose of this study processes of identification and disidentification were mapped and evaluated against how they impact the actor’s ability to deliver a compelling and authentic performance.

Alef Trust logo

Transpersonal psychology newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive updates from the world of transpersonal psychology, news, events and updates on new webinars, courses and programmes.