In a dance/movement therapy rut.

Graffiti at work.

Graffiti at work.

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.

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About emilyadannunzio

Board Certified-Dance/Movement Therapist. Movement Analyst (GL-CMA). Researcher. Dancer. Bartender. Detroit, MI.
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9 Responses to In a dance/movement therapy rut.

  1. Jeannine says:

    Indeed there are lulls…I think it is part of building stamina with this work…and a chance to find compassion for ourselves in these challenging places (easier said than done!) Beautiful, honest blog. Your commitment to sharing your deep truth is so inspiring. xo

  2. epluribusunum21 says:

    Great post. I can relate to your problems with passion. It’s challenging when others don’t share your enthusiasm and it’s hard to maintain the high at all times. I usual end up in quarterly ruts as a result.

  3. Kristen says:

    This resonates with me deeply. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve been feeling similarly and I think this beautifully written honesty helps me label some of my own “stuff”. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Lora Wilson Mau, MA, BC-DMT says:

    Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in this post. I can relate. After my first few years of working as a full time DMT I realized I am happiest, healthiest and do my best work as a DMT when I work part time. So I made the intention that I wanted a more flexible, open work life and over time have built a career of multiple part time jobs (DMT, teaching nonverbal communication at a university, and teaching Zumba.) I can still be tired from my work (and often am) but am able to maintain my passion more consistently because – as you pointed out – there is “newness”. I am shifting a lot. It can and does add some physical exhaustion to have to juggle 3 interconnected careers but the benefit to my soul and spirit is worth the extra effort. Make your own path exactly what you want it to be.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Laura. I too work well when I am involved in more than one career/project, which is partly why I continue to bartend (not to mention to help with finances) and stay active in the dance community. My involvement in multiple project allows me to access a variety of the effort elements in order to recuperate from each part of my life. As a fairly new dance/movement therapist though, I’ve go to put my time in to achieve higher credentials that give way to a more flexible schedule. Although working as a full-time dance/movement therapist can be exhausting, there is something romantic and rewarding about “putting your time in” or being completely saturated in the work. With each step I take, I am stepping in the right direction but I am not completely settled yet. And then again, I might be the type of person that never is.

  5. Audrey Albert King says:

    Emily, I appreciate your writing and honesty and hope you find strenght in your vulnerablity and support you are receiving from the community. Even though I am a newer DMT, I know in my heart that I need a few different jobs and a few different populations. Financial realities may interfere with this plan, but I am writing, trying to do research, presenting at conferences, want to teach at a University (LMA), and seeking out the populations that brought me into the field. All of this is going slow and falling into place, but my DMT community has taught me (the impulsive me) to take baby steps. Like Laura, I found Nia and becaume an instructor. I am so grateful that I stepped in to Nia because for me it is a Joy Factory and sustains me. I know from your other posts tht you have been a dancer most of you life. I understand that world and have struggled with that identity. I used to think and still sometimes think if I am not dancing every day am I still a dancer, or performer or choreographer, or teacher. What am I? Common thought in that world. Now a DMT, something I have been looking for my whole life. Is this my identity now? I know that I have to have a broader idea of myself that doesn’t include this world, which is very difficult and beginning to wonder if my love of dance has limited me. But, you never know, this laclluster bump in the road might send you on an exploration you never would have embarked upon. Find what makes you soul sing, how can we learn to sit with the ebb. Even thoughtI don’t know this, I am sure there is a benefit to this part of the rhythm. You always have interesting things to say and I admire your integrity. Ywe, we are here to grow the field, but I think supporting eachother is just as paramount. Just sayn’. Good luck in you quest and day to day.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Audrey. A lot of my “rut” does in fact distill down to my identity as a dance/movement therapist. I too had gripes with the dance world which inspired my decision to pursue a career in dance/movement therapy. Now that I am here, I am beginning to notice the dissonances between our community and my identity as both a professional and an individual. So, then I begin to wonder will I always do this- find the dissonance, separate myself, reinvent what these things mean to me? I don’t think this questions my love for our field, or that the field has to limit me as you mentioned above. Instead I think it speaks to this higher cognizant about our passion for the field and our work. We truly love it and want forward progression for our community. We’re not afraid to examine and reexamine. But like you said, baby steps, and baby steps, and baby steps, and…

  6. Pingback: Reflecting on Dance.Movement.Therapy. | Dance.Movement.Therapy.

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