Episode 069: Discovering Emotional Intelligence through Acting with Adrian Alita

Adrian started teaching acting during his graduate studies, and fell into the realization that acting uncovers emotional intelligence. Drama exposes stories and emotions. Studying acting helped Adrian become a better husband and father, and teacher in general.

Most of what keeps people back from being able to act is their emotional inhibitions that don’t always exist in children. Teaching acting is a lot of helping people overcome their adult inhibitions and become more childlike.  Adrian starts with helping his student become free, then develop passion, followed by coaching on technique.

Technique has more to do with what’s going on in the situation or another person you are talking to, and how to deal with it.

Two things that Adrian has learned about parenting through his acting experience are 1) allowing children to recognize for themselves when they have done something wrong and teaching as a form of discipline rather than punishment, and 2) learning to apologize and model humility for his children.

It’s tempting to be reactive to the things that trigger strong emotions, but Adrian has learned how to hold space for those feelings to know how to proactively respond to those feelings rather than being reactive.

Teaching to the whole child requires two major components. 1) using questions, and 2) kinesthetic awareness.

Adrian sees himself as a tour guide rather than a purveyor of knowledge. He teaches by asking questions, and guiding rather than always preaching.

Teaching through questions allows children to think and pull out of themselves the things that really matter. You might even discover that children already have a good grasp of the concept you want to teach them.

Kinesthetic awareness means physical play, and physical safety. This helps children become aware of how to use their bodies and express their feelings in physical ways.

When children are reactive and impulsive it’s important to hold space and help them to work through the feelings. Adrian says three more best-practices to hold space and manage strong emotions: 1) Breathe. Just breathe. Don’t just breathe when you’re in high-emotion situations. Practice breathing. 2) Ask if they know why you said no to them. 3) Reward and reinforce positive behaviors.

Theatre exercises help children recognize different emotions, and how to respond to other people’s emotions. Adrian teaches activities like saying empty phrases with an emotion to help his students understand the differences.

Adrian also explains what he means by “backward design.” It is basically takin a vision for the direction you want to go, and then stating that intention at the beginning so you work toward that objective. Sounds a lot like family culture!

Ultimately, being able to push through our limitations of our emotional development, we have to be willing to sit with the discomfort and work through it anyway.

Adrian and I talked a lot about the importance of the struggles of life, and that emotional intelligence and backward design are closely linked to personal development. Our children deserve to know that they are worthy of being loved in spite of their mistakes because we are all imperfect, and we learn from our imperfections!

About Adrian:

Adrian Alita and his wife Hannah homeschool their five children ages 3 to 12. He is an Associate Professor of Theatre and Head of Acting at San Diego State University and has over twenty years experience performing in various entertainment venues. His versatility in acting is immense, having done everything from being a seal trainer and stunt man to Shakespearean and comedic roles on the stage. As the owner of ACT OUT in Class, he teaches emotional intelligence through drama workshops and shows teachers and mentors how to effectively do it themselves. You can connect with him through Instagram @actoutinclass or his Facebook page ACT OUT in Class.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/actoutinclass/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/actoutinclass/

Recommended Books:


Time Stamps:

[3:00] Adrian talks about how he stumbled onto emotional intelligence though drama
[5:38] Acting is about letting go of inhibitions and become like a child
[9:30] How teaching acting has influenced Adrian’s family culture
[14:10] Holding space and creating experiences
[18:50] Two ways that Adrian teaches to the whole child
[22:50] Three ways Adrian helps his kids work through strong emotions
[26:00] How Adrian went from Sea World to acting
[30:00] Adrian describes a theater game for teaching emotional intelligence
[32:35] Rituals to help teach impulse control
[37:50] What is backward design
[40:40] Adrian’s Mission Statement
[42:07] Our children are not our, but we are shepherds
[44:08] Christ said, “come, follow me” He didn’t tell us to fix ourselves first!
[46:00] How to deal with life’s hardships, trials are a necessary part of life.
[54:30] You have to be bad at something before you can be great!
[55:24] What is legacy to Adrian

About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.

1 Comment

  1. Renee Mongillo on 03/06/2019 at 3:26 AM

    I am moved to tears by today’s podcast, especially the question about Legacy! I am so tremendously grateful for the gems that Adrian shared with us throughout.
    I am writing a talk on repentance and I gleaned so much from what he had to say and will share it this Sunday.
    Thanks Jodi for your wisdom and your openness!!!

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