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Russell Brand, hypnosis and ‘the comedy shit’

Posted Dec 09 2009 2:07am
Whilst doing my ironing last night (because that is the glamorous life I lead), I was  watching a documentary/interview with Russell Brand (Skinned: Channel 4).

Before I continue, I’d like to issue a warning here that I am going to be talking about a certain bodily process today. Yes, the title of my post is a bit of a clue. I am talking today about all the crap, poo, shit, whatever you call it, that we carry around… and how to let go of it.

I find Russell Brand absolutely fascinating (the ‘character’ he talks about creating for himself in order to do stand-up, his use of language) and I nearly dropped the iron when he talked about the pre-gig ritual that he goes through to prepare himself for a stand-up audience, in order to ‘empty his mind and feel more open, more focused.’

Basically, what Russell Brand does is to take himself off to a toilet cubicle and do some self-hypnosis. He gets himself into a relaxed and focused awareness, if you like, a way of being that I would call a kind of ‘trance’ or doing ’self-hypnosis.’ Oh, and pardon my crudity here but he also, so he told us last night, usually does a big poo at this point too. And that’s where Frank Skinner, his interviewer pointed out that most stand-ups do. Apparently, it’s called ‘the comedy shit.’

Now, one of the reasons I laughed out loud at this idea of Brand sitting doing self-hypnosis whilst also evacuating his bowels is that, just a couple of hours previously, I’d been having a conference call with some of the students on my Word Sauce Online Writing Programme. We had been talking about the phase in the writing process that they have been exploring over past weeks, a phase that I call ‘Letting Go.’

This Letting Go – of physical tension, or pre-conceived ideas, of learned narratives or, not to put too fine a point on it, of all your shit – is an important part of a process of reconnecting with what it feels like to be you, what feels right for you as opposed to what you think you should be doing, for example.

And several of my students over the years have mde the connection between letting go of stuckness and other unhelpful crap and the daily bodily process of… ahem.. evacuation.

Some students have used words like ‘emotional constipation.’ One student told me that his daily morning practice of free-writing – of letting go of whatever happens to be on your mind onto the page – was closely associated for him with his morning bowel movement. He took his journal into the loo with him. Each was just as necessary.

So here, as I ironed my pillowcases, was Russell Brand, talking about the very same thing: his pre-gig Letting Go ritual in which he frees himself of shit on a physical, mental and even spiritual level. Hmmmm… Very interesting.

You know, I am always reluctatnt to over-psychololgise physical health issues (sometimes things just happen) but I do suspect that there is some correlation between the way that our bodies process food and the way that we process emotions. Perhaps that is why there is a growing evidence base for hypnotherapy in the treatment of IBS and ulcerative colitis, for example. After all, emotions produce complex chemical reactions in our bodies – oestrogen, cortisol, adrenaline – that need to be processed in the same way as the chemical reactions in our food. Or is it simply that we understand the two processes in similar metaphors?

And did you know that there is far more serotonin in your gut than in your brain? Or that your colon is a muscle and can, therefore, be subject to muscular tension?

So letting go – through daily self-hypnosis, deep physical relaxation and writing or through your personal toilette; through the morning ‘dump’ on the loo or onto the page  – could be more significant than you may even realise.

If you’re feeling a little stuck, it might be worth asking yourself what you’re holding on to. :-)

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