I earned my license to practice psychotherapy a few years ago, but I’m not certain talk therapy works. Granted, I was a client for a good 15 years, and I know I changed quite a lot during that time. But I have also found that psychotherapists are imbued with so much power – if only by virtue of projection – that talk therapy can be quite harmful. With one therapist, I felt strongly that she had a specific agenda, and when I shared this belief, she denied it, and suggested that I was just projecting my disowned wishes onto her – that it was my agenda, in reality. I still don’t know if she was gaslighting me, but since that time I think that it’s somewhat dangerous to enter a long-term therapy-client relationship, because all humans – even analysts – are flawed human beings. Yes, they can seek out supervision to work out their own countertransference, but if they’re not virtually 100% “pure,” they may bring their own garbage into the relationship and have an adverse impact on the client.
I stopped being a client in my mid-thirties, and since circa 2003 I have been seriously involved in a dance/movement practice called the Five Rhythms. Although I have teachers, they have a 1:many relationship in class, and I feel I have room to develop my own practice, not to be pushed in a specific direction or told that the way I am moving is “wrong.”
I cannot tell you how freeing this is. When I dance – provided I feel I am in a “safe” space – I can somatically express exactly what my bodymind needs to get out. Sometimes I do question, though, what kind of growth this practice facilitates. Am I just “getting it out” in a Reichian release-type fashion? I know release work is healing, but I don’t think I’m changing my core beliefs or anything. In some ways, I actually feel fairly stuck, especially with my interpersonal issues.
Part of the problem of doing movement practice in a group is that I am balancing authentic expression of my innermost self with feelings about being part of a “tribe,” not to mention dealing with erotic attraction. I am looking out while moving from within, and the former often ungrounds me from my inner experience.
Yet despite the distractions inherent in being in a group, I often derive a feeling of nourishment from participation in one – even if I don’t actually talk much with anyone. I feel I am having real connections with some – contrary to what my analyst-in-training said, which was that these dance experiences aren’t “real” interactions because words are not spoken.
And even if my psychological patterns don’t dislodge by virtue of my movement practice, I do feel an almost shamanic experience of surrendering to something deeper than my surface consciousness. It could be that I just need to get my rage out – for I tend to scream and thrash about at times – but I can’t see any other culturally-appropriate way to express it. I can exercise all I want, but it’s no substitute.
Probably the most profound experiences I have had on the dance floor have been when I’ve felt the vibrations in my chakras. When it does happen, it’s usually the fifth (throat) although on occasion I do feel some type of energy at my crown. It is fairly common for people to place one hand on their heart (4) and belly (3), and I do this, too – but I don’t think the energies here are as vibrational, if only because the matter there is more dense. (I’m talking here with absolutely no authority about chakras. I attended a three-day training with Anodea Judith and have read a few books.)
I also tend to shake a lot in class. My understanding is that it’s a release of kundalini energy (Shakti) that is thwarted in “her” attempt to meet Shiva at the crown because I have blockages in my energy system. Sometimes I feel I would fit in at one of those Pentecostal meetings where congregants shake and speak in tongues (although I don’t do the latter).
Where the Twain Meet
When I was a grad student studying counseling psychology, I took a few workshops plus a class in Hakomi Therapy, and I was also a client of someone certified in Hakomi. Developed by Ron Kurtz, Hakomi is a body-oriented therapy influenced by Buddhism. It goes beyond the “felt experience” of Gendlin (“focusing”) and goes deep into how specific messages are encoded in physical patterns or areas of tightness.
I have not studied dance therapy, nor have I been a client, although I know there is someone who has developed a dance therapy model based on the Five Rhythms. I have no desire to be a dance teacher, but I would be interested in doing some inner work combining 5R and therapy.
I’m certain that I would not be where I am now without having immersed myself in the world of psychotherapy for so long. I learned about Kundalini when I was studying at the California Institute of Integral Studies. And I learned about the Five Rhythms when I attended an East Coast conference on psychotherapy and spirit (which is what CIIS is known for). So my path does have a purpose.
I’m not sure I’ll ever break out of the life-long patterns with which I am unhappy, but I do know that dance/movement practice keeps me sane – not literally, for I’ve never decompensated, but just releasing all the angst I carry around (either from the past or the stresses of daily life) helps me to live my life with some greater degree of serenity than if I didn’t dance on a regular basis.