I like to teach a wide variety of movers, but this does not come without challenges. Recently, on the second day of a particularly chaotic workshop, after trying to meet everyone’s disparate expectations, I sat them down and said I was trying, but having trouble meeting them somewhere. As they started to express their wishes, I affirmed their right to do so, and assured them that I would like to hear what they were thinking, so that I could integrate or negotiate with their ideas or needs. After this discussion, the group started to be more proactive, and started to work with each other when there were research platforms proposed and they took up my material suggestions with less skepticism. That made for an energized and joyful end to the weekend. One person came to me and said, they had realized that I was not responsible for making them have a good time.
INTERNALIZING GROUP ETHIC - SHARING SPACE/TIME
Sometimes I allow confusion, defensive competition and general chaos to happen before discussing group policy on being together. My thought is to permit the unpleasant atmosphere that the participants create, and then, in reasonable, collective discussion, come to an agreement on its mutual productive use, as a step towards the individual internalization.
When I introduce my work to new students, I am aware of the credibility issue. There can be no first level confidence in my competence without a demonstration of my superior knowledge or know-how, and in many cases, trust can be inspired my sovereign management of the classroom time and space. When and when not to use unfamiliar technical terms, or when and when not to use complex explanations requiring background? Reactions of bewilderment, skepticism, withdrawal, timidity, exhaustion, refusal to participate… these can all be positive signs that I am pulling people past their comfort zone, into a situation where they stand to learn and change… but they could just as well be negative signals that the person’s defenses are raised and they might leave and never return. Perhaps its important to notice when these states of mind begin, and respond to them as soon as possible. I think that prefacing discourse with affirmations of their right to ask if something is not clearly explained or too obscure can help to include them in the dialogue. If people ask me questions of their own accord, I figure I am probably doing a good job of making myself accessible. All that said, I can only be effective when I share what I know about a topic I am personally interested or fascinated by, so it is impossible to meet all expectations, wishes or needs.
Hampered breathing, unpleasant strain, non-contiguous angles in joints … Watch a person in difficulty move, try to feel what they feel feels like. Look at alignment first, and then evaluate energy creation/use. In my experience, the reason the person moving might have difficulty in one moment is because a choice in a previous moment might have been appropriate for another outcome. Explaining my perception for the reasons for the difficulty, I am careful to express it in neutral terms: a choice is just a choice, representing options and opportunities. The intended outcome is the context for evaluating the value of the choice. Some discomfort reported by my students that I think could signal a positive change or learning experience: confused coordination - dizziness, disorientation return to habits - moving fast as a way to avoid knowing what is happening resistant assumptions - defensive reaction to finding out something that contradicts previously held beliefs. I think these reactions represent vulnerable moments where a participant is at risk of injury. I usually counsel acceptance of the persistence of existing habits, and argue for a gradual transition.
I have an open-handed approach to emotions. Register emotions, acknowledge them, but don't dwell on them.
Create a receptive space/atmosphere where people can unfold into their stored pain, misery, anger, melancholy, but allow them to make their own connections and come to terms with what the process brings up.
A willing ear. An offer of a friendly hug. An understanding from my side, that looking so closely at micro-coordination necessarily destabilizes the sense of self. Alert the participant, or at least, expect emotional responses. Hostility, irritation, anger, skepticism, sorrow, joy, adoration and awe... De-dramatize, offer perspective of the common struggle, focus on the practical. Trust in the individual to deal with, learn from and put them into relation with the rest of empirical reality. Indulgence can be counterproductive. Wallowing in one's own misery or granting primacy to one's own feeling over the feelings of others can lead to a less responsible, less proactive participant. If a pathological mental state manifests, suggest seeking therapeutic support. For me, emotions as a subject come into full focus as part of a creative process towards an art work, where thematic material is examined and becomes the context for choosing specific qualities or insuring coherency in the message.
SUBJECTIVITY - the province of the individual
Unless the client is specifically seeking this kind of assistance, I find it invasive and inappropriate for a teacher or therapist to pronounce or make diagnosis on the basis of their own subjective perceptions of their client's personal feelings, experience or perceptions, however educated. Rather than preclude the subjective experience, the dry, bio-mechanical, scientific approach to teaching movement skills allows each participant their own, instead of defining their perceptions based on the subjectivity of the facilitator, teacher or therapist.
ANSWERING TOUGH QUESTIONS
Tough questions can inspire new areas of inquiry, but moderating the time-frame, and answering the needs of the whole group will sometimes make it difficult to enter into discussion on a topic. Sometimes a participant will not hold the group dynamics in their awareness as they seek interaction with me. Finding civil but firm ways of reminding them that I am not just there for them personally is a delicate social mine field to cross.
If I don’t know enough about a subject to respond effectively, I think the best policy is to admit it immediately. There is no credibility to be had in pretending. Perceptive people would know if I dissimulate.
Dissent and discourse is important for the continuity of the AS project, which is making use of the scientific method in order to update its data-base. But this discourse should remain collegian, and framed in civil terms. A participant who resorts to underhanded insinuations or insult might have to be barred from class if they don’t respond to direct requests for respectful interaction. The unpredictable nature of the classroom pushes me to constant reflection and preparation. The years of gathering experience and studying my subject materials pay dividends when I find myself in situations where people are resistant to an idea or question the pretext for a supposition or concept.
I will never be ready for everything that might come up. Accepting this is also part of being ready to meet these challenges.