“In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning…” – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
I remember when my children were young and they would get upset about something – hard feelings over not sharing a toy, anger about not getting what they wanted…it could have been anything really. “Use your words” was my mantra to try to get them to voice what was troubling them and I often needed to teach them the language to use to give life to their feelings. It ails our culture that we either don’t or can’t use our words to discharge our feelings effectively.
Some feelings are truly hard to put into words. Growing up as a child, I had no safe place to say how I was honestly feeling about my parent’s divorce, my father’s remarriage and my broken relationship with my mother. I felt so much pressure to hold it all together. I would escape into the garage as an eighth-grader, listening to music and moving to the song “Masquerade” by Berlin.
..When you see the price they paid
I’m sure you’ll come and join the masquerade…
I identified with the concept of hiding behind a mask, becoming fascinated and sort of disgusted with the fraudulent existence that I detected in myself in order to function within a broken home filled with unresolved dysfunction. When I would dance as a young person, I would literally feel that awful sense of dissonance about my inauthenticity dissolve and return me to a calmer state of being. I really needed to discharge that energy and dance made it possible for me to do so.
I still feel that way in my creative work. If anything, knowing that movement can return me to emotional homeostasis is my refuge, my sense of home for my authentic self.
I have been thinking a lot about the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) within our culture and what can promote resilience in those who suffer a high number of ACE’s. My score is a 5 (not counting having open heart surgery as an eight-year old) which is enough ACE’s to understand the challenges for students who come from difficult childhood circumstances to develop emotional intelligence. I firmly believe that the impact of dancing, significant role models at the right times in my life, along with natural curiosity for understanding human nature and counseling have helped me sort out how to move forward. Without those factors, I know that I would have struggled even more to have processed my upbringing.
Choreographing to express that which cannot be said out loud has given me a productive means to process difficult feelings as well as positive ones.
As a learner, the Language of Dance can give access to students to use movement to create meaning. I just loved talking in my dance class yesterday about falling after moving through a fall and then reflecting aloud with the group of dancers that “sometimes we need to let ourselves fall…” even when it feels foreign. The movement alphabet connects to our humanity.
Using intention in our movement language to create meaning can open doors to getting to know ourselves and our students in a genuine manner. Let’s believe in a world where everyone finds a way to say what we need to say, where we can dance our truth and move forward with clarity about who we are and what we feel.