I had a speech to give in school when I was about 12 years old and was terrified. My father helped me plan and rehearse it. One of things he told me has always stayed with me. I realise now it was a very old and common trick of the imagination. But back then at 12 years old, it was miraculous.
My fear was equally split. I didn't know whether acutally giving the speech or the teacher I was giving it in front of was worse. I was afraid of both. To deal with being frightened of the speech, I practiced with my father listening and helping. The teacher was dealt with like this.
Imagine, my father said, Mr Stent in his pyjamas. It's 7 o'clock in the morning and he's stumbling down the hall to the toilet.
Mr Stent in pyjamas was an extraordinary image. To see him in my mind stripped of his white shirt, tie and grey suited authority was immensely liberating. Mr Stent became human, vulnerable. Through my father's suggestion and his insistence I practice, the speech became manageable. I did it and survived.