I had a good friend in London in the early 1990s, Celia Goodyear, who worked with children with severe cerebral palsy. Most of the kids had no control of their bodies whatsoever and could only move their eyes. A common issue with such profoundly handicapped kids is they don’t detach from their mothers. Because the mother has to do everything for him, the child doesn’t recognize that he’s separate from her. The child can’t develop, and the mother becomes utterly exhausted.
Celia came up with an idea. She hired a musician, a pianist, to sit in the therapy room and play an upright piano. Celia sat as the child lay flat on the floor. The mother was not in the room. While the pianist played, Celia intuited how the child wanted to move to the music. She would sway the child’s arm, move his leg, dance his body. Some of the moves were small, some sweeping. After weeks of such dancing therapy, she and the mother started to notice that the child seemed more aware. It seemed that it had started to dawn on the child that he was a separate individual, that he was a person, and his mother was a person, that they were two and not one.
The consequences were profound for the child. He was happier, more content, less frantic, cried less. Meanwhile, an interesting side effect happened to the mother. So used to having the child so dependent upon her, looking to her so profoundly, that this new separation was hard for her. She wanted to go back to the old way. Celia and I joked that she needed to dance the mothers around the therapy room, too!
I did an article on Celia and her work for a glossy London magazine. This was before the magazine printed the articles on the internet, so I cannot link it here, though I so wish I could.
Why do I tell this story as a writer?
I sometimes find that my deepest creativity is severely handicapped, and I must listen closely with my intuition to how the creative soul wants to move, and I have to slowly, painstakingly jiggle my fingers, rotate my wrist, swing my elbow, arch my back…I find I have to learn how to dance myself across the room.
I sometimes find that I am so embedded in what society expects of me, generations of expectations that go back beyond my lifetime, that this soul desire to move is latent and hidden, and when it starts to rise up, it doesn’t know how or where or when to move. So, I say softly to the arm of my poetry, to the foot of my plot, which way would the soul like to dance? And I must move, despite the apathy, the resistance, the years of training to be a good, caretaking little woman. Despite the terror embedded in me that artists are poor and will become homeless, despite my bag lady fear, I have to, I WANT to, dance the soul. I must dance to separate myself from the mainstream, to see myself as an individual, to individuate. To be happy, content, less cranky. To cry less.
I sometimes find that I use Celia’s technique as a coach. I can feel the way a client’s soul wants to move, and I suggest a movement, a step. With each movement, my hope is the eyes grow ever more clear. With each step, I hope the client learns: Oh this is what I was meant to be!
And then as a side effect, clients have to deal with other people’s reaction to their newfound soulful freedom. Friends worry we’ll abandon them. Lovers stress that we’re outgrowing them. Keep dancing the soul! Sooner or later, friends and family will see, and they’ll notice their own arm moving, their own hips sashaying. They’ll look in the mirror and see their own eyes clearing.
I’m a writing coach and offer a free initial consultation, http://www.artofstorytellingonline.com