Emotional Sanctuary

Suppose you are watching a movie on television. You are alone. The movie at one point becomes very emotional and you are deeply moved by it. It affects you so profoundly diat tears come to your eyes. There you are, sitting in front of the TV with a box of tissues 011 your lap.

Another situation. You're sitting in the same chair, watching the same movie, being emotionally moved just as much, but one thing has changed: You are not alone. Others are watching the movie with you. If these people are your close friends, you might react as you did before. However, if they are more casual acquaintances, I doubt that you would weep as freely, if you wept at all. And if these people were complete strangers, you would almost certainly restrain your emotions more than you did when you were alone.

Now imagine yet another situation. Behind your television set sits a total stranger. This unfamiliar man is watching you intendy while you watch the same movie. He constantly scrutinizes your face, observing which emotions you display. Visions of BlG BROTHER Is WATCHING YOU! This would be an extremely uncomfortable situation, to say the least; so uncomfortable that ninety-nine percent of us would completely freeze, showing no emotion at all, keeping everything inside. An uncomfortable, even an unhealthy siniation. No need for the tissues here!

From these examples you can see that greater privacy makes people feel freer to react. Now how does this translate to our magic?

Suppose you arc watching a magic trick. At the instant when the magical effect occurs, you feel amazement. But at the same time a stranger (the magician) looks you straight in the eye. Do you think that at that moment you would follow your natural inclination to express your emotions freely and show your amazement—or do you think that you would restrain your normal reaction, or hide it completely, keeping inside yourself the emotion you feel? Granted, if you are an extrovert, all this might not bother you; but not everyone is an extrovert.

What I'm suggesting is this: When an effect happens, when people experience that moment of magic, it is probably not wise to look them in the eye, because in doing so you restrict or stifle their freedom to react openly.

The next time you perform a trick, try this experiment: Lets say you are vanishing a coin in your hand. The moment you open your hand to show the coin is gone, immediately look the spectator in the eye and note the reaction. Later, do the trick for another audience, but as you open your hand look for a second or two at your empty hand yourself. Do not make eye contact yet. Wait until the audience has started to react, then look up and make contact with the audience. This time you have given your spectators an opportunity to respond without being watched. You have allowed them some privacy to react freely! Note their reactions again and see the difference.

I feel that permitting your audience this privacy is very important. It not only makes stronger reactions possible, it also creates a much healthier audience. It isn't good for people to hold back their emotions, nor does it feel good. So, in giving your spectators some "emotional space ' you make them feel better and, consequendy, they enjoy your show much more. It is even possible diat dieir emotions will build with a "snowball" effect, their enjoyment and reactions growing stronger and stronger wirh each new trick.

I know that one of my tricks gets a stronger reception whenever I exercise this one simple expedient. Please try the experiment. Give your spectators this bit of privacy to react, by not making eye contact immediately after the effect has hit diem, and see die difference.

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