20 Jul, 2019, No commentsWhen it came to dance, I was scared – so scared! I was scared of touch, of others touching me, of how it can be misinterpreted, of how I would be judged; probably, not rejected, since everyone knew I was new – I don’t think they would reject me, plus they are here to connect or to dance, not so much to reject perhaps. But judge – yes: how I move, how I smell, how hairy I am, how I touch, how I don’t know what to do, where to touch, how I don’t understand what I need to be following... Anything I forget?
So I sat back, touching the wall with my back, my hands on the floor, legs stretched out in front of me. I was looking out the windows – intentionally, kind of pretending that I am not seeing inside the room. I also looked at others doing the improv: it was inspiring to see a man and a woman playing with each other, twirling each other on their backs, lifting and gently lowering, pushing each other away, running after each other, lowering to the ground and rolling around, and getting up easefully and continuing on through the movement without interruptions.
Then, I feel the invitation – a hand extended to me, close but not touching. And I follow, touching the back of that hand with the back of mine, sliding it, while my other hand supports my weight as I am crawling like a cat towards the origin of this hand. Elbows touching, forearms, shoulders. I slowly rotate to touch my spine to the side of the other back, we rock with the music for a few seconds. My hands are on the floor, my mind gets activated: “What do I do next?” And the other body helps me – beginning to lean forward so that I inadvertently put my weight on it as I lean back. Then, I roll off and our arms keep the touch as our bodies separate. We are vertical now. I feel the desire to roll the top of my head around the other body’s back, and my mind screams: “So silly! And maybe even icky!” - but I am already doing it before my mind gets to fully voice its disapproval. I lean into my head more, stretching my neck, massaging the other body’s back with my head. I roll. Arms again. I feel like leaning forward. A hand lands on my back and slides, then returns, pushes a little down as the body rolls around me. I wish it landed on me, put its weight onto me. I want to direct it, but I am scared to do that, to exercise any power on another. Yet I can invite, can’t I!? I stay longer in this position – leaning forward, while moving side to side. I lower my bossom at times, and maybe the body gets it a little as there is a moment when I feel more weight, but it’s over too quickly – the body probably is very cautious about not harming me. I straighten up, and we again begin the dance of hands and arms, while I forget about the feet. Then the body lands on its back, and the feet are in the air, stretching legs. I meet the sole of its foot with my hand. “Ew!” - my mind screams. “Oh well” - I think. “What will you do now?” - my mind is at a loss, and I am too – what do I do? I grab the ankle with my hand, thinking maybe to slide my hand down towards knee, being very conscious to not go further - fear of being misinterpreted right there with me. But before I can do that, the foot moves down, and I can either follow my hand on it, or I can connect in another way and let go of the foot. Or I can let go altogether! Hmmm... Before I can think, the foot is on the floor, and I am letting go of my hand, while touching my foot to that foot. I lower myself on my arms towards the floor, raising my leg in the air, the body’s foot follows mine, its leg in the air as well. I twist on the floor with the leg still up – it’s not easy. My forearm feels a touch, and feet let go. The other body is now flat on the ground, and I slide perpendicularly over it, ending up laying abdomen-on-abdomen. We rest there, then I begin rolling again – sliding off towards my head, but the body follows, not letting me off. Then I return, and roll to my side – over the body's legs and onto the floor, grabbing the foot with my hand before I get too far. A leg of the foot comes closer, then the whole body slides. I am now in the sitting position, and so is the body. We go back to touching backs. I feel scared because I feel stuck, my mind activates again, and I feel I have two options – either I let my mind prevail, or I begin moving again. Another body comes close, the two bodies touch and begin moving together. I feel that is the answer, and I begin to slide away. Was that a rejection? There is a moment when I feel a touch, and I can be saved from my mind if I choose to follow that touch – I can continue to dance and not think. I chose otherwise.
I have pushed my boundaries enough this time - from having never tried contact improv to doing it with minimal instructions at a small jam. I think I will be back.
"You make me happy"
24 Jun, 2019, No commentsI was part of a group discussing this phrase: You make me happy. Can anyone make us happy? To what degree are they contributing to our happiness? I felt enlivened by the discussion, and my strong desire to process it and share it manifested in this piece of writing.
The phrase was mostly discouraged from the perspective of taking responsibility for our own feelings and not allowing others that control over us. At the same time, agreement ensued that it can be a legitimate expression for people in time-tested relationships. Below, I outline both perspectives, with some personal philosophical digressions, which feel relevant to the topic as well as to me.
1. Everybody ultimately agreed – or kept silent in their disagreement – that making us happy is not anyone’s responsibility.
In an Ideal world, we would ...
What is this ‘Ideal’ world anyway? Is this not the world we WISH for ourselves? Is it not the world we strive towards creating in order to lead joyful lives for ourselves and others? Is it not? And if not – why not? I feel tired – I feel frustrated sometimes – with the argument that we are humans, which makes us imperfect, thus we cannot have anything ideal. My response to that is: of course, we can’t – as long as we keep thinking we can’t! If I decide to get on a diet, and then cut myself some slack with a remark like “I am only human – I cannot be perfect” or “stick to the 80-20 rule” - can I really expect myself to succeed with that diet that I embark on? Alternatively, what if we were to shift our perspective to a different version, something like: “I am a Human – with a will-power and ability to make conscious choices” - what if we empower ourselves in this way to then take on this diet, and to not cut ourselves slack, because – guess what? That would be the most loving thing we can do to ourselves: believe in our strength and ability to achieve the goals we set for ourselves… So, back to the “Ideal World”…
In the Empowered World, we… do! We do!… In an Empowered World, we do take on responsibility for what emotions are ours, and thus nobody can make us do or feel anything, because we ourselves are controlling our reactions. You see, when someone “makes” us happy – we give up our control to make ourselves happy, we let others lead the way. The same way as that, then, they can “make” us unhappy – we give up control again, and it is easy to do so, considering that giving up control is becoming a pattern in our lives in this way, which is deepening due to the positive reinforcement of this pattern – we gave up control, and we feel happy (“they made me happy!”), so why not give up control again?
What is an alternative? The alternative that I strongly resonated with during this discussion was the idea, articulated by one of the attendees, that maybe what makes us (or some of us?) happy is the actions, or, rather, the results of the actions taken by another – and in this scenario, another person does not play a role in our happiness. (This is an extension of one of the “4 agreements”, presented in a book by M.Ruiz: “Do Not Take Things Personally.”) What does this mean exactly? Let’s say, I have a new boyfriend, who, when I am sick, comes over with some chicken soup. Coming from the idea of actions making me happy, I would be indeed happy due to his actions – however, I would not be “made” happy by him, and this would not “make” me love him more; that is, I am happy from the results of actions, but not by a person. What is another scenario here? He comes over with this soup, and he does “make” me happy, which then leads to me feeling delighted at having found such an amazing caring guy, and start planning our wedding in my head – because why not jump at an opportunity to marry such a loving and caring guy, who will bring me soup when I feel sick and do a whole bunch of other wonderful things that I cannot imagine right now, but that will make me so happy in our marriage!? Is this not how many of us operate?
1A. The same argument of control/responsibility was approached from another direction as well: the use of “I” and “You” statements in the light of NVC (Non-Violent/Compassionate Communication approach, developed by Marshall Rosenberg). One of the points NVC emphasises is the idea of making “I-statements” rather than “You-statements”, for example: “I feel angry when ...” rather than “You make me agry.” The argument that Marshall makes is, when we make the “I-statements”, we take on the responsibility for our feelings, as well as acknowledge that another person’s behavior was a trigger, and we may still like the person in general, just not their specific action that triggered us – the whole premise of NVC is that, instead of attacking a person in a conflict, we attune to our feelings and needs behind those feelings – and address the opponent’s specific behavior that caused the feeling in us. This approach, according to NVC, is a lot more likely to lead to a mutually-satisfactory and, hopefully, a more connecting way of resolving a conflict, or even simply communicating.
So, going back to the topic of discussion here, the statement “You make me happy” is a “You-statement,” which, according to NVC, would be more benefitial if replaced by “I-statement,” such as “I feel happy when you bring me flowers.” Such a statement would, again, put control (and responsibility) into our own hands, while naming a specific action by another that created a reaction in us of feeling happy.
Interestingly, and on the topic of “Ideal World” and self-set limitations, this idea of utilizing NVC led to a discussion about “translating” others’ words and actions towards us into what needs and ideas stand behind those. This, then led to a puzzled reaction regarding how impossible it is in the daily lives to keep translating every situation into needs and feelings. The response was voiced – and I applauded within my heart! - that it is entirely possible to do that and make that into a habit - I can vouch for that based on first-hand experience practicing NVC weekly for 6 months. And again: I cannot help observing how much the statement of the impossibility of such functioning would be a self-limiting belief, and how wonderfully empowering it would be to hear that living consciously and making such useful changes in our lives is indeed possible and doable – even in our arguably-not-Ideal world.
In response to my above-mentioned philosophy applied towards my new boyfriend bringing me healing soup when I am sick, I have been faced with two difficult questions. Firstly, would my not attributing happiness to any person but only to their actions not mean that I am lonely? Secondly, what about if that person is so loving that he keeps doing all these wonderful caring things for me – would I thus be dismissing his love? Would I fail to let love touch me? The answer to these questions is “no” - I have to admit, though: it took some time to articulate the reasoning.
Why would I appreciate the actions but not the person performing those actions? Why does this person not “make” me happy by their actions? Because I am self-content, I am happy, I love myself and I appreciate myself, and I can and do take care of myself. As such, anyone’s act of kindness (or motive) towards me – such as soup during sickness – is a lovely gesture, without which I could very well live and thrive. Their act of kindness, then, makes me appreciative of it – like a little miracle that happened, which I did not anticipate but feel delighted about. At the same time the person doing it, hopefully does it out of their kindness and good will – and, thus, is doing it for themselves, rather than for me: maybe they want to feel good by helping someone, maybe they feel good when they see me smile with gratitude, maybe something else – either way, they are not trying to manipulate me, consciously or subconsciously: the new boyfriend is not trying to get in bed with me by bringing me soup and thinking I would be so grateful as to give in to his advances, for instance. The person in this world of mine is doing something kind for themselves, and the result of that kindness impacts me in a lovely way, and we are both happy (without “making” each other so). In this way, mind you, I would not be lonely – no more lonely, anyway, than I would have been otherwise: I can still see and appreciate acts of kindness that serve me, and expressing that gratitude may certainly serve a purpose of connecting with others.
Now, the more complicated question of a person in love, who keeps on doing lovely things that should “make“ me happy, really gets the same answer: no matter how many loving and caring things they do, in my perspective, in a healthy and loving relationship we need to keep appreciating the results of those actions – independent of who is behind those actions; as such, this person in love with us is still not getting any “points” for their actions. Why? Because we love them unconditionally: we love them with these actions, and we would keep loving them – even if they don’t do these kind things for us (read that again, please: even if. they don’t. do these kind things for us in the future. – we keep loving them just the same) – and we accept and appreciate them for their choices. How is that for an Ideal World? Or is that an Empowered World, that we wish to be living in? Being loved for who we are, doing things for our partners and others - out of kindness and personal joy, and feeling accepted with the choices we make for ourselves, without expectations that we will keep doing those lovely things for the rest of our lives, that we “should” be doing those things in order to continue being loved… I wish that for myself and everyone else.
2. Another valuable perspective regarding using the phrase “You make me happy” created a more agreeable discussion. This discussed the view that, as an isolated incident, without history or any likely future for a connection, the phrase “You make me happy” may be considered meaningless. At the same time, for two people who have a longer-term relationship, this phrase may signify the accumulated appreciation of the actions over time – the Time concept here is key: we know this person and their past choices for some Time now, and we are generally in agreement with those choices.
Still, the phrase “You make me happy” is not that great of a fit, but it seems to have more room for existence in this context: your actions have been making me happy over the time I’ve known you.
This wraps up the discussion on the topic of the value of the phrase “You make me happy.” What remains, though, is a question brought on by my digressions above: how many of us want to be in control of our own lives – to live in a truly Empowered World, to take responsibility for recognizing our feelings and meeting our own needs, to love unconditionally – without expectations and demands?