The psychological process of change; opportunity through adversity.

Humans are biologically designed to use all five senses in interactions with the world, creating memories which instil social learning and enforce a sense of belonging. 

dancing shoes

Dance classes create a context in which all senses are at play, creating positive neurochemical responses in the brain. This results in increased well-being and reduced stress, as well as better health choices and more meaningful relationships. 

In this way, we believe the physical disconnect that is part of social distancing and quarantine has likely affected ballroom dancers even more profoundly than non dancers. This may have resulted in withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, restless sleeping patterns or agitation, which are normal psychological responses to an abnormal situation. After all, the usual dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin fix (social bonding and feel good hormones) from partnered dance practice is missing. Familiar emotional issues may also be emerging, so this is a valuable time to do some personal housekeeping. Perhaps the dance floor is the only space when you feel truly connected to another, or your dance persona has become your entire identity, and it’s difficult to know who you are without dancing being center of your life. 

An essential experience of being human is the need at certain times throughout our lives to re-invent ourselves, to make a fresh start and to re-imagine our role and place in the world. This need to creatively craft our identity and journey is an integral part of what in Jungian terms we refer to as individuation. The process of becoming a more honest and refined version of yourself often involves embracing new values and discarding what no longer serves us.

Creative inspiration and psychological energy are both necessary for the process of renewal. In fact, this capacity for change and renewal is one of the hallmarks of a healthy system. By contrast, one of the ways to identify a neurosis or deep-seated issue is the individual’s refusal to change or in psychoanalytic terms, to re-symbolise, a way of being in the world that is no longer functioning optimally. In death and rebirth mythology, ego death is regarded as a phase of self-surrender and transition. 

It is not only normal, but necessary to encounter adversity. It is part of the human condition and that which facilitates growth and an increased capacity for consciousness. We would not grow if we were never challenged to do so. Emotional growth usually involves overcoming certain issues and previous levels of adaptation, behaviours, habits and thoughts which are no longer useful.

There are two consistent characteristics of the issue of emotional stuck-ness or depression: an attachment to the status quo and an inability to assimilate trauma. One way to work through this is to actively engage with one’s responses to the world. One cannot continue through life and deal with adversity through force of will alone. A collaboration with the psyche as a whole, that is, the unity of conscious and unconscious, is achieved through consciously engaging with ourselves and others. The world is undergoing an emotional renaissance and we are currently in the transition period, which can be very uncomfortable. Consequently, we are faced with choices which affect our individual and collective well-being, and ultimately, our dancing.

In Dance-Intelligence workshops we provide an emotional space to reflect, as well as actively work on psychologically strengthening the psyche. In this way, we offer support to dancers experiencing emotional upheaval and preparing them to re-enter the world of partnered dancing after the COVID pandemic. 


*Image credit: Anna Lisa Libelle

Jodie Mackay | Clinical Psychologist

Copyright 2020 © Dance-intelligence. All rights reserved.