Movement is the key to health and mental health. Being “moved” physically, psychologically, spiritually, and socially allow us to enjoy life. When stagnation occurs and we get “stuck”, that’s when the challenges set in.
Everything is in constant motion. It is the nature of our universe that everything from the atomic and subatomic levels is always moving. This includes biological movement found on the cellular level, the movement of breath and the rhythm of our heartbeats. We move through physiological, emotional, spiritual, and social states throughout our lives and stages of development. We interact with our external environment and that moves us internally.
Stagnation impacts negatively on our health and mental health and our ability to relate to our self, others and our environment.
One of the definitions of movement that I like most is: a series of acts working toward a desired end. This series of acts can be found in all aspects of our lives; nature, biology, the arts, politics.
“The entire preoccupation of the physicist is with things that contain within themselves a principle of movement and rest...about its coming into being and its doings and about all its alterations… we think that we have knowledge when we know the source of its movement.” Aristotle, Metaphysics 340BC
We come into the world and find ourselves in the throes of what William James describes as a “blooming, buzzing, confusion!” As our nervous system matures, we become conscious of patterns and create associations. We begin to make sense of the chaos and our world becomes more stable. Our nervous system is excited by novel sensory experiences and then works at making it familiar and predictable. This process takes place throughout our lives. This is a healthy way of understanding change: our system is stimulated by a new experience and works at using it to help us grow and develop.
The poet T.S Elliot wrote: “We are the music while the music lasts.” Our consciousness is not a complete, passive registration of the external environment, but a highly evolved and selective construction that is aimed at survival; physical, psychological, spiritual, and social.
Our basic instinct for self-preservation enables us to respond to threat in three possible ways; fight, flight or freeze. We can fight our way out, find a way to run or escape the threat or, if neither fight nor flight is possible, we freeze, “play dead”. Robert M. Sapolsky ‘s book “Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers” is great at taking a look at how our environment today has transformed our experience of threats and our experience of the responses of fight, flight and freeze. For the purpose of this discussion, it is the freeze response that is most significant. “Playing dead”, numbing out, dissociating are all ways in which to survive a threat. Problems occur when, for whatever reason, we can’t move out of that state. Fear is movement’s biggest challenge. When fear is no longer just a “pay attention” message we get, but a state in which we get stuck, our development and growth is at risk.
Whose voice are you hearing and whose script is being spoken? Fear has its own voice that you may have internalized during the different experiences you have had in your life. The words that are scripted by fear are composed to keep you in that place. The words seem logical and the thoughts attached to those words seem justified. Listen to the words and be conscious of the thoughts. Become aware of the fact that this voice, these words and thoughts do not belong to you but to an experience or circumstances that led you to this place of being stuck.
What do we do to move ourselves out of this place?
1. 1. Breathe! Nice long deep breaths. This very act of breathing helps you to begin to move physiologically. This gives your nervous system the message that things are beginning to move again.
2. Don’t try to break out. Find a small opening and see how you can take that first step.
3. Listen to music. Listening is not a passive act. The elements of beat, rhythm, harmony, all have the potential to move you. Even if it moves you to feel the difficult feelings, the structure of the music with its clear beginning, middle and end, its predictable pattern of tension and release, all support you to be where you need to be to feel in a safe way.
4. Reach out. Don’t isolate yourself. You don’t have to do this alone.
5. Use your innate capacity to adapt to find meaning. “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor Frankl
Small steps bring about large results. Be patient. And finally, measure the movement not from where you want to see yourself, but where you’ve come from. Once you can identify a change, even the smallest one, you can trust that you are moving in the right direction.
“There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” Carl Gustav Jung