What are you communicating through your posture? What are you saying with your tone of voice? What is your body really feeling right now? Anger, sadness? How do you know? Dance Movement Therapy is defined as “the use of dance movement as a psychotherapeutic or healing tool…rooted in the idea that the body and the mind are inseparable.” This practice does not necessarily involve “dance” in the everyday sense of the word. In my practice, “dance movement” includes acquainting yourself with the integration of breath, physical gestures (like hand gestures or posture when telling an emotional story), emotional expression, etc. As we say in the Dance Therapy world, “the body does not lie” and can be a profound source of information and clarity when working with difficult and/or confusing emotions.
Body movement, from our heart beat and breath to our outward gestures and rhythms, is the most basic form of communication of our inner world. In my practice, I operate from the premise that aspects of our psyche exist outside conscious awareness, and that these aspects are often nonverbal, hidden within the dark folds of the unconscious, and can only be contacted through the body. While we may not be able to immediately make sense of our physical and/or emotional pain, the truth becomes legible as the unconscious stories arise in body movement, sensation, and memory.
Example: The Caregiver Anxiety
The information that our body detects and integrates is far more intricate than our conscious mind perceives. As a child, our caregivers’ body conveys a massive amount of information that patterns our own way of being in the world. For example, does the rhythm of my caregivers’ heartbeat feel like a hummingbird’s heartbeat, fast and furious? As a child, I may not know that she/he has anxiety attacks and is terribly stressed out by finances, etc. Yet, I will discover my heartbeat racing in the night time, unable to sleep, or feeling intense anxiety as I sit down to balance my checkbook, or avoid paying attention to finances at all and find myself in debt! This pattern may interfere with wellness, happiness, relationships with partners, children, co-workers, etc. and I will feel confused and distraught, not understanding what is wrong. If I take the time and explore the heart racing, allowing my body to move as the heartbeat wills, being mindful of emotions, memories, etc., I will be able to slow down the pattern enough to discover the origin of the anxiety and re-pattern the way my body responds to stressors by learning tools to support my nervous system in sequencing stress. This process provides the tools to give me the power of understanding and choice to live my experience and life differently.
In this way, contacting and working therapeutically with the body is the most direct method of awakening and gathering our disjointed aspects in order to integrate them into consciousness and grow towards our experience of health and sense of True North in our lives. Listening deeply to the body through the language of sensation, we follow stories and impulses toward growth, resolution and health.
Dance/Movement: Any movement felt and/or expressed by the body including breath, heart beat, temperature, gesture, facial expression, and larger movements and rhythms. Dance/Movement can be visible on a spectrum of tiny movements all the way to large movements. We will build awareness around movement in the body during the session.
The Body: The body includes the physical body and mind as well as the energy systems that run through and surround the vessel of flesh, muscle, and bone. My intention is to support my clients in continually returning to the wisdom of his/her body throughout the session.
Stories: Stories are not always verbal. Stories can be a combination of emotion, sensation, and memories appearing in the form of smells, visions, sounds, pain, pleasure, etc. This is the “Mother Tongue” of the body – a pre-verbal form of communication where our bodies to speak to us. These are the stories that surface throughout the session and inform the healing process.
True North: A feeling of “being in the flow” with our sense of purpose or destiny in life. Just as the north star guides our path from the celestial map, we too have a north star within us, guiding our journey as an inner compass. Knowing how to locate our inner north star supports us to find our way through the most tumultuous of storms.