Dance requires a deep sense of embodiment. But that can be very challenging to do if you’ve experienced trauma. Trauma has a huge range; there is no set definition of what it is that can traumatize a body, a mind, an entire being, as we are all so individual in our processing.
For a long time I have hated being in my body because I could not allow myself to embody any movement. Being in my body required me to be in a state of constantly reliving the sensations of my trauma. It was far too much for my nervous system to cope with. Dance only held connotations of fear, distress, guilt and shame as that was what was living in my body. Dancing brought these feelings to a physical level, so I began to hate dance, angry that I wasn’t able to use it as a release. But how can you release what you are holding onto so tightly?
When the nervous system has been unsettled so significantly it requires a lot of time for it to come to again, which is not ideal when in an intense environment such as dance training. One regret I do have about my time at Northern is not being kinder to myself in first and second year. I spent so much time fighting with my body, expecting it to perform and demanding it to dance. But on reflection I needed to be caring for it, it was so deeply hurt but I was only punishing myself for that fact.
How do you reclaim your body? How do you dance in a body that is holding such trauma? These are two questions that I have been asking myself for the last two and a half years and I continue to ask them.
For me, it has been a case of meeting my body again, introducing myself to it, on its terms, as someone who is not there to cause my body or mind any fear or pain. I have had to ask my body to trust me, to let me sit within it again and reassure it that I would not harm it. I have had to be patient in learning to befriend the trauma in my body as for so long it refused to even let me in. I cannot express how disorientating it is too feel so distant from the body you have known as home since the day you were born.
I am edging very, very slowly back into myself but there are still some days when I have to step back, as the memories still lie present within my body. But slowly, I am coming back home to myself.
To you the reader, you are not to blame for the traumas you have faced, so please do not punish yourself or hurt yourself further. As cliche as it may seem, acceptance really is the first step in stepping back to yourself but you cannot force that to happen. It takes time. It is a slow process, one with many steps to be taken in your own timing. But know that the option of coming home to yourself is there, the door is always open and when you are ready you will begin walking. You are allowed to reclaim your body and dancing can be so very joyous again, start by giving yourself love and time. You will find comfort within yourself again.