Moving with the unknown
By sarah boreham, Feb 5 2015 10:18PM
There are metaphors that spring to mind when thinking about movement, the body and not knowing:
Which way to turn
Whether coming or going
What the other hand is doing
Which path to follow
What to do with myself
Throughout my training and work as a new dance movement psychotherapist I have found, staying with the unknown, a key skill to master and something that I have to keep in the foremost of my awareness.
The therapy arena is one in which assumptions and bias are accepted and challenged and my embodied sense of what ‘I know’ about a client is often ‘grainy’. This reminds me of Gendlin’s description of ‘felt sense’ and my urge as a keen dance movement psychotherapist to ’ be doing therapy’ and making a difference, may cause me to leap quixotically into the omnipotent realm of claiming ; ‘ I know what you are thinking and feeling’ and I know how to fix that. Embodied Self- reflection is imperative whilst leaping into the canoe and paddling down river with rapids of assumption and prejudice frequently to ride out.
To counter this, an embodied buoyant act of maintaining afloat is needed to authentically stay with a client’s experience in dance movement psychotherapy. Because fixing and helping can be a seductive intervention, that may lead a therapist to move into an embodied story, instead of witnessing or moving slowly towards a depth of the river that needs to be prepared for, instead of wading further along without consideration of a client’s pace, capacity, desire, choice or empowerment. It is tempting for a therapist to look for the substance – the meat and veg of the work.
A reality in ‘reading other minds’ is that if a client’s experience is overly interpreted through words an important piece of information may be lost or buried as quickly as it emerged; indeed sometimes there are no words or movement, then what happens ? What happens when there is no content or it is not clear, when a client sits down holding his head, gaze, torso like a lead weight towards the ground, as a therapist sometimes the only impression I am left with is one of confusion and a subjective desire to make an interpretation.
Recently I experienced this counter transference as I watched a client sweep from a flailing waving of arms high above his head with his words that he wanted to get rid of a certain behaviour and thoughts that stopped him from opening up to others, limiting his recovery. I imagined his sense of self lacked cohesion, yet this metallization alone left me feeling like I was in the shadow of the not knowing, I searched for my feeling felt? I turned my gaze away from him and the small bubble that he seemed to have constructed surrounding himself.
I felt alone, closed off, insufficient, unknowable, in the dark and this I concluded was the important information for me, I was treading water and it was my task to experience my counter/transference, it circled me around the centre of my body as if it was a rubber ring keeping me afloat, somehow offering support but keeping me from racing ahead. It was something to hold onto and it enabled me as therapist to hold my client in mind and body, as I modelled this basic metallization feature to my client.
As I realised this my knees and spine softened and my breath deepened, I wondered if staying with the unknown had enable me to challenge the fixed rigid central nervous system, false self and ideas that emerged in the therapy space of the hour.
It can be a scary thought that nothing has certainty, stability, fixedness in the body/mind of experience, however the more I discover, the more resilient I become and the greater capacity for holding the unknown, for me it twists and turns like a river or a Mobius strip, I thought to myself how change winds me and I move it.