From Wallflower To Sunflower
An interview with dramatherapist Claire Schrader on a new book that aims to empower “quiet people.”
JOHN: Could you tell us a little about the client work that led up to writing this book?
CLAIRE: I had been working with people who were experiencing some aspects of feeling like a wallflower. They were experiencing shyness, social anxiety or found it almost impossible to speak in a group or deliver a presentation. Some are introverts who feel disadvantaged by the fact that they are quieter and more reserved than other people. Wallflowers are very focused on what others are thinking about them, often because they’ve had lots of very unpleasant experiences that have caused them to become self-conscious. And most wallflowers are in their heads.
So the Sunflower Effect gets them out of head and into discovering natural instincts through this very safe way of working with drama. It enables them to get inside the skin of another person, someone who’s not a wallflower. Where they have the freedom to behave in a completely different way — once they’ve got over the discomfort of doing the drama. It gives an internal focus on the character — instead of what other people are thinking of them. And then suddenly they start waking up to different parts of themselves — just as I did — even if it’s very deeply buried away. It is a kind of magic.
JOHN Tell us about your own journey from Wallflower to Sunflower
CLAIRE: I was a wallflower from a very early age because my mother had to deliberately repress my sister and me. Everywhere we lived neighbours were either uncomfortable with or disliked childhood noise. So we became two very quiet, well-behaved children who were seen and rarely heard. So I was this very shy, quiet girl with very low self-esteem who stayed on the sidelines and felt awkward in most group situations. I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it. I believed that was who I was. I went into nursing because I had very low expectations of what I could achieve. I was so miserable doing my nursing training, depressed most of the time that I ended up in the nurse’s ward with acute abdominal pain because my GP thought I had gallstones. I met a night nurse who was at RADA (a drama school) and was so enthusiastic about her training it lit a spark in me. I became as excited as she was about it — I even began to think of going to drama school which was a completely crazy idea for someone like me.
I had decided I was going to do something about my shyness so when I went to university as a mature student, I went with a determination that I do whatever I could to stop being shy. And I had already decided I wanted to give drama a try. I did a drama class and loved it — and experienced that spark that I had felt right back in my meeting with the night nurse. From then on, there was nothing to stop me. I did drama at every possible opportunity. It was pretty terrifying, but by then I was ready to expose myself in this way because it was helping me in my quest to get rid of my shyness. I soon realised that I wasn’t shy anymore, I was speaking up in classes, I was performing lead roles — and was seen as one of the “confident ones”.
JOHN; Why was drama such an important step towards self-confidence?
CLAIRE: I fell into it by chance, and it worked! Drama first all freed me to express myself in a very different way, and then that affected how I behaved in my outside life. I don’t think anything else would have worked so well. The fact that you get applauded for acting the character sends very powerful positive messages to the unconscious — and that also helps with confidence. It’s also a thrilling thing to do. I felt so good after performing for the first time. I was terrified of course. But it was such a great sense of achievement of doing something I didn’t think I could do.
JOHN: Can you tell us a little about the client work you do today and the results?
CLAIRE: I run 12-week courses. People come to the first session feeling very uncomfortable and dreading what they are going to be doing, and by the end, they are doing things they never believed were possible. They’ve come alive. Everyone who completes the courses experiences a significant improvement. It depends on a lot on the nature of their issues. Some walk away from the course, a completely new person. I wrote the book because I felt this way of working really needed to be out there in the public domain.
JOHN: I’ve seen first hand how people shift in your workshops, do you think that’s because it involves people physically rather than just intellectually?
CLAIRE: Yes, the physicality is very important. Drama literally brings you physically alive, and that is very energising. Actually, it gets you to operate on several levels — at a physical level, at an emotional level, but also through the mind because you speak the words that the character speaks. You have to find their words within yourself. It’s all about “being”. I teach people to find these words from their intuition because most people start worrying about what they’re going to say and if they’re going to say the wrong thing etc. We all know how to do drama because we all played pretend games as children. Even if you didn’t, it is part of how we develop psychologically. Children have very vivid imaginations and can easily imagine themselves as someone else, and they don’t have any problem imagining what that person would say. This ability never leaves us — it’s just it’s rather dormant — and it just needs to be reawakened.
You saw how it easily that happened in the workshop we did. The people got completely involved in the person they were playing, and it enabled them to understand what motivated that person. They forgot about everything else. Most people working in office environments are very deadened because the work they’re doing requires them to think and to operate in their heads — and so this was partially why everyone responded so well. It was such a relief to be doing something physical and discovering an enormous amount in the process.
JOHN: How is this different from other self help books?
CLAIRE: Most self-help books are focused on techniques to build confidence, but they don’t deal with the real issues of what keeps people locked away: the protective psychological walls that are deeply entrenched and can’t be shifted by other means. Where this book is different is that it focuses on the issues that are particularly experienced by wallflowers and shows them how the Sunflower Effect can completely dissolve those walls. It also gets people to reframe their experience of being a wallflower — and that there are great perks in fact of being a wallflower — just like in the film of the same name.
It also offers a number of exercises that readers can participate in as they work through the book. So in the book, we explore one of the stories that I work with in my courses. They’ll also be able to sign up for the free bonuses that will enable them to work a little deeper with the story and give them a taste of how the Sunflower Effect can work. They’ll get a series of MP3’s, my free e-book The Self Confidence Myth, and lots of other good stuff that will support them on their pathway of change.
JOHN: What’s one thing somebody reading this can do today to start to experience the Sunflower Effect?
CLAIRE: Well, first of all, they can go to the book’s website
www.fromwallflowertosunflower.com and sign up for the bonuses. They don’t need to buy the book to get those, although it will help to read the book!
They can start imagining themselves as a Sunflower, the person they really want to be, as vividly as they can, and notice how they start to feel. They can imagine themselves as this Sunflower any time.
They can buy a sunflower or stick an image of a sunflower onto their screen saver and remind themselves that that is who they truly are!
From Wallflower to Sunflower: Uplifting New Book Empowers “Quiet People” to Thrive through Boundless Self-Confidence
Written by former wallflower and now celebrated confidence specialist, Claire Schrader, ‘From Wallflower to Sunflower: the quiet person’s path to natural self-confidence’ is a life-changing guide to opening the floodgates to limitless potential and self-possession. Fusing an ancient, adapted form of drama with scientific/psychological concepts that have been proven for thousands of years, Schrader guides readers through unleashing ‘The Wallflower Effect’ and — in turn — the bold self-confidence they have been repressing. The volume has scored critical acclaim before it even hits the shelves, with one reviewer writing, “If you are a wallflower and you’ve tried practically everything else, read this book and discover that all the things that people have been saying about you are plainly not true.”
Interview by John Grant, author of Better (disclosure: as the interview mentions, John and Claire collaborated in the past using dramatherapy techniques in a workplace setting. As a result, John is a fan of Claire’s work!)