Lately I’ve been feeling lackluster about dance/movement therapy, like I’m in some kind of rut. I don’t feel motivated to read anything involving dance/movement therapy nor have I written in my blog in over a month (sorry about that). At work, I do my job day in and day out, but my passion for dance/movement therapy has been burning at a low flame. GASP! How could I say that I’m in a dance/movement therapy rut? Aren’t I ALWAYS supposed to be passionate about dance/movement therapy and the work I do? I certainly feel the pressure to feel that way especially since I have chosen to be visible in our community by blogging. As a true believer in speaking to what is happening in the “here and now,” I must admit that I feel like I am in a rut.
It started in dance/movement therapy supervision about a month ago. I was exploring my lackluster feelings about dance/movement therapy with my supervisor noting that I felt miffed by it all. I shared my feelings about my work personally and about our culture as a whole. “Get out of it. Separate your personal self from your professional self,” is what my supervisor offered me. I took this nugget of advice and tried to do just that. I picked up a new book, traveled home when my sister had her second child, and started rehearsing with a dance company on Tuesday nights.
During my attempt to separate my personal and professional self, my partner offered me some wise words. We were sitting at the kitchen table discussing this very topic and he said to me, “It must be hard to separate your personal self from your work since who you are is integral to your therapy approach.” What he said landed and it landed hard. His words provided both clarity and depth to my current state of mind. He was right- who I am as a person defines me as a therapist. The relationships between my authentic self and my clients is the very crux of the type of dance/movement therapy I do. No wonder I was (and still am) having trouble separating the two.
So there I sat, swirling in confusion between the conversation between my personal and professional self. All the while, I couldn’t shake the lethargic feelings throughout the day-to-day work as a dance/movement therapist. I didn’t feel burnt out at work and I was certainly addressing self-care post-work, so why the heck was I feeling so unmotivated?
I went back to my dance/movement therapy supervisor.
After ruling out burn-out and compassion fatigue, I processed with my supervisor about what is important to me as an individual and how this might relate to my clients and my workplace. I like newness. I’m an innovator and self-reflection is very important to me. I realized that maybe these components are hard to maintain after working at the same job for such a period of time. Maybe the newness and innovation of my position has worn off? Maybe I’ve gotten too far into “the grind” that I’ve lost my self-reflector (this would certainly explain why I haven’t been able to write a decent blog post lately; trust me I’ve tried). Maybe I’ve lost sight of the fact that the process of change for my clients (adults with Developmental Disabilities) is often slow and the same challenges are met daily. It’s hard to admit that I have lost sight of such things because in a way I’ve let myself down.
Speaking to the larger picture of my dance/movement therapy rut, I know I must understand that my passion for my work will certainly ebb and flow. It must be hard, and unachievable, to sustain passion at a high intensity (or is it?) for a long period of time. I draw from my knowledge of Laban Movement Analysis that for every exertion there must be recuperation. Or maybe, as a passionate person, I have to be careful with my passion and not let it get in the way of my connection to my work and to my clients. Yes, I am passionate about change, but that must not convolute my therapeutic expectations for my clients versus their personal expectations of therapy or the reality of what is achievable. My passion for dance/movement therapy is also confronted by the reality of the work place and by the reality of the healthcare system at large. I must remember not everyone is as passionate as I am, and that each individuals’ passion manifest in different ways.
The frustration I feel towards myself for being in such a rut is certainly exacerbated by social media (trust me, I realize I am being a bit hypocritical here). There is something about the dance/movement therapy culture that demands over-enthusiasm for our work. Our heritage and our culture is rooted in a sense of martyrdom, that we had to prove ourselves as counselors and mental heath workers from the beginning. But I don’t have the energy to pretend that I love my job as a dance/movement therapist with with every fiber of my body. That’s tiring.
As glamorous as it seems to be a full-time dance/movement therapist, there is the reality that it is full-time employment. Like many full-time positions there comes a sense of monotony and routine. Maybe I am just now realizing that being a dance/movement therapist is like any other position. Maybe the glam of fulfilling the path of becoming a dance/movement therapist is waning and reality is setting in. The reality that yes, for the most part, I love my work, but there will be days, weeks, months even that I don’t, or that it’s “just my job.” That, like with anything else sustained over time, there will be lulls.