welcome guest
login or register

Dance and Depression

Last week I was to three parties - a lot of dancing and good company. After the third party, as I was on my way back home I thought writing a blog post, as once again all the partying touched some of the central themes I've been writing about. But it took me four days to find an inner clarity which I need for words to come out;

I took a train and a bus to get to a friend's birthday party. It was a theme party, so lot of the guests wore phantasy clothes, face paint, glitter and feathers. I had flowers braided in my hair. I only knew the couple hosting the party, but somehow it felt rather easy just to slip into the general atmosphere of a garden party. Although, I do have this tendency to just observe - despite being physically present, feeling that inside I'm just an outsider watching others having fun. Again, I recognized that feeling inside me, and allowed it to be there, occasionally gently guiding myself towards participating instead of merely observing. And so I found myself having nice meaningful conversations with people I have barely met before.

As the day turned into a night, we gathered indoors. And suddenly it was like a small piece of carnival from Recife, Brazil. Some people were playing drums, and a group of ladies threw a choreographed dance. Many of the guests work in arts and music, so spontaneously more people joined in dancing and playing, adding more instruments to the impromptu band. Oh how do I love this kind of parties, where people bring their skills together, creating spontaneous joy and beauty. How the music and dancing create a sense of togetherness which goes deeper than spoken words. From that it smoothly went into a general dance party; as the live band quit playing the stereo was turned on and people just kept on dancing. And occasionally old classics sent us into a collective sing-along.

After all the dancing, in the small hours, I felt myself already a bit tired, and happy and satisfied with all the good things. So ready to find a peaceful place to sleep? I had packed a hammock so that I can go sleep outdoors in case there is not enough space in the house - and so that I can take care of myself, not to strain the resources of the couple hosting the party. Oh well, but since the sauna on, I decided to have a bath to wash up before going to sleep. And again I found myself gently embraced by the warm social atmosphere; the sauna was fully packed, at some point people were singing old folk songs, we went swimming in the nearby lake and it was already the morning dawn.

The sauna experience was totally good, and after it was all ready to sleep. I gathered my stuff, set up the hammock in between spruce trees near the path from the sauna to the lake. Just when I got myself settled I heard people approaching - the couple hosting the party had been taking care that everyone finds a place to sleep at, and they didn't know where I were. So they came to check. Silly me - again I had just slipped into my semi-autistic inner world, quietly withdrawing from the social sphere without saying anything to anyone. The people came to warmly remind me what positive group connection is about - you pay attention to other people and take care that no-one is abandoned. At the age of 43 I still have to learn this kind of things; the things I know on the rational level of my mind, but so much of my deeply-learned emotional habits are all about withdrawal, avoidance and staying protected.

The following day, after a nice unhurried brunch, I continued my journey to Helsinki. There it was kind of a wedding party of another couple of friends. Although, they had made it clear that the party is not to be called 'a wedding', and that there were no formalities included. So it was all about the social and emotional side of that kind of party; old friends gathering together to celebrate love, to show their happiness and to wish well for the couple. Again it was live music played, different musicians joining for different pieces. And people dancing. And eating, chatting and laughing. Unlike the previous party, this one was mostly a sphere of friends I've known for more than 15 years. Yet, again I had to gently remind myself not to merely withdraw into the observing mode, but to reach out to participate, to be present, to share. Yes yes, I'm am and always will be an introvert through and through - and in my life there will always be a lot of social situations where it is just wiser to stay a bit reserved and protected. But the question is to learn to open up and to share in such situations where my inner protection is not necessary. I'm taking small steps to re-learn to socialize without anxiety.

Friday was a day to catch my breath. And Saturday it was the third party - again, a private birthday party where an extended group of friends is invited. I've half randomly became a part of that extended sphere of friends, getting a personal invitation, although I don't really know the other people. But I like the birthday guy organizing the party, and he always picks good bands to perform. For me this party is all about dancing. And dancing in my way - I'm not dancing to seek contact with other people, I'm not dancing to perform a show for an audience to watch; I'm just dancing to get a bodily sense of presence, to get more deeply immersed into the rhythm, the mood and melody of the music. For me it is highly therapeutic, it helps to overcome some deep memories of physical violence and trauma. To dance wildly and freely is the moment when my body and soul is not pushed around by anyone, when I can be in the centre of my presence, to feel the life and joy - to dive deep inside the inner sphere of my being, seemingly not taking contact with the other people, yet finding a sense of contact with the band playing, getting immersed into their music, letting their energy reach my energies and allowing my body to improvise, to leap and to bounce.

A few times other people sought contact with me - which was nice. Dancing together with other people is so much different, and for me there is a lot to learn. For example, when I dance alone, I don't need to take care if I communicate my intentions, or if my movement pattern are somehow regular or predictable. But when dancing with other people it is far easier if there is a common language; some sort of familiar movement patterns, which makes the mutual communication easier. And the less there is choreographed steps, the more there is a need to listen to your partner - to take her cues and to clearly communicate your own movements so that a smooth flow of shared movement is to be found. This is where I often fail - if I listen to the other I might forget to listen to my own body and then I start lagging behind the rhythm, or my thoughts interfere too much and I lose the sense of free bodily flow. Well, but this time there were moments when we had a group of three people, synchronized to a collective movement pattern dancing to folk rock of Santtu Karhu ja Talvisovat.

All the other bands were good, too. One group totally worth mentioning is Seksihullut, a punk band I knew it exists but had never heard before. They packed cheerfully unapologetic attitude - most of their songs lasted only for 1:20 or so, played with a full blast of energy. I mean, it was clear that they didn't aim to please a mainstream audience, but they were just honestly doing their own thing in their own way not trying to be anything else. The band played together extremely well, and their singer had amazing voice - she could reach such low frequencies that it felt like the earth is rocking under your feet. She came to sat on the edge of the stage, jumped down to bounce and leap with us, making contact with the very ground which she made vibrate with her mesmerizing vocal performance.

Oh well. But back to reflections on dancing. Earlier in the spring I was visiting Tampere, and spontaneously went to a club with a group of people. Despite I came there with that group of people, I soon found myself dancing as there was a DJ playing music. I danced my way, not really paying that much attention if there are other people on the dance floor or not. Or, if they were, just taking care that I don't bump into fellow dancers, and only occasionally making a brief contact, communicating with the movements of other dancers. Afterwards my friends said that at some point the other people were discussing if they should join me at the dance floor, as they were slightly worried if I feel somehow awkward, alone or abandoned dancing alone. My friend knew me better and replied cheerfully that no need to worry about that. And, indeed - for me dancing alone is easier than making contact with the fellow dancers. Of course it makes a difference if feel immersed into a mass of people on the dance floor, but I don't need the safety of the group around me. I only need to forget if anyone is watching, and then dance like no-one sees me, just immersing into how the music feels like.

And back to the night of the third party of last week. I had been dancing for hours, to all the bands playing. Sometimes dancing alone, sometimes with a few other people on the dance ground, and occasionally together with others. I had been dancing so that I was sweating all over, I was physically exhausted but I wanted to keep going like there is no tomorrow. (No alcohol, only a plenty of mineral water. I've found that a best combination to enjoy dancing the whole night.) At some point a man came to chat with me, saying that for he it was the first time in this party, and that he had enjoyed watching me dance. That sparked me to tell him a story, how my dancing actually started in this very party when it was Mariska performing - was that four years ago?.

Earlier that year Mariska's band had released a new album, and in an interview Mariska had said that this time the lyrics were rather personal for her. And that when they went to studio she completely lost her voice - I understood that as a mental / emotional barrier; the moment when you are supposed to express your inner self, to bare your soul to the world, and you get hit with the instinct to protect yourself. When that need to hide is so strong that you feel partially paralysed. This is the feeling I've been struggling with for so many years. And then, on the last moment, Mariska's friend joined her at the studio, they started singing together and that helped Mariska to regain her voice. I still feel that the album delivers the energy of the very moment of breaking through inner emotional barriers. And then they announced that they are going to quit the band after that summer's tour. So I wanted to see them live, which led me to this strange extended birthday party deep in the countryside. Even before it was Mariska on the stage, I remember hitting the dance grounds alone - and slightly struggling with the feeling that 'now those other people are watching, they evaluate my moves, should I think how I look like, am I supposed to perform for an audience watching?', which I knew would quickly develop into an inner paralysis, blocking the spontaneous flow of movement. So I just friendly told myself that 'No, you don't need to worry about what others think about your moves. It is your body, your moves, your emotions. Be free and let the movement flow!'. Thanks to Mariska, thanks to this strange birthday festival, thanks to my friends I found that mood to dance, and from that on it has been growing so that nowadays it feels all natural for me.

The man was happy to hear that story, and I also said that personally I hope that some of that energy will shine through. Hoping that my silly goofy dancing will make someone feel like 'the heck, I can do that too' - be it dancing or some other area of human existence. The main thing is that energy, those personal ways of overcoming what ever mental or emotional barriers there might be hindering your inner sense of freedom. So we had a little nice discussion about music and about finding the inner sense of freedom; the freedom to be the person you feel like you are. And then the next band started to play, and it all turned into the crowd bouncing and singing along.

Oh well. I had somehow expected that after all that partying I will return home feeling refreshed and energetic, enjoying a week without customers, so that I can continue with my house renovation project. But, alas, in the beginning of this week I found myself feeling empty and disinterested. Like everything is devoid of any meaning. Like the very existence is a burden to be carried. Like making any contact with anything feels like deliberately laying your hand onto a red hot iron, so you prefer to avoid any contact with anything and end up feeling empty and isolated from life itself. Uh oh. I already know this is the core feeling I developed already in my childhood. At that time I always thought that it is just my acute reaction to the situation surrounding myself, and that I will feel different once I move out from the biological family to find a life of my own. Thirty years later I'm still working with that emotional burden. (And I think it is partially exactly because now I feel that I can live the life of my own - now that everything is safe, comfortable and beautiful, which also means that it is safe enough to face some of those unresolved painful emotions I deeply learnt in childhood - at first it looked like a paradox, that finding the perfect environment takes me back to the depths of sadness, but I'd guess this is how the psyche works; the workings of soul is built on top of a foundation, and if that foundation needs to be renovated, then it is better to do it only when it is safe to do so.)

So, instead of trying to get rid of the depressed mood I've enjoyed the possibility to dive into my own feelings. No customers means that I have all the time for myself. Like, as a kid I sometimes wished my mother would have more time to really pay attention to my emotions, and to offer some kind of adult solutions to the trouble I experienced. That seldom happened. But now I can take both the role of parent and that troubled little child inside me; laying on the sofa, gently holding my hands on top of my belly or chest or shoulders, telling myself 'it is okay to feel the way you feel, no problem. Let's take care of this, we both know that this is not the end of the world, that no matter how devastating the existential void might feel like, in the end the dance of life has a greater force, and we will find our way back to connect with the joy. That will come, but right now we can enjoy the fact that there is no need to cater to needs and intentions of others, so it is okay just to rest, to rest deeply.'

I know for me there is no rational, no theoretical, no theological answer to the feeling of existential void. The meaning of life is something you either feel deep in your soul, or then you don't. If you don't, no amount of theory is going to make you feel meaningful. (Or, if it does, it is not the theory in itself, but the hidden emotional aspect of the process of thinking metaphysical or spiritual or religious theories.) And as I have often mentioned, I still do remember those deep strong spiritual experiences when I was 17 and 18, when all the emotional pain got washed away with a sense of my soul seamlessly blending into the oneness; the moments of pure bliss, when isolation was no more, but all was filled with beauty, compassion and joy - in such a way that there is an immediate sense of meaning. Not in the sense of 'the ultimate goal of life', but the way that the very moment of existence is meaningful in itself, not lending its meaning from being a means to achieve some future objective. But that very beauty, compassion and joy being the meaning in itself, the deep core of life, out of which flows all the dance of existence we witness. Oh well. I know, I remember, I feel that this sense of meaning is there. It is just that I temporarily have lost my direct contact with it - but immersion in dancing, or a sudden social warmth of friends, or an unhurried spontaneous meditation on the sofa helps me to regain that contact. If not all at once, then step by step.

So, here we are. After all the partying I've spent my days with inner spiritual / emotional work. Renovating my soul instead of renovating the house. Not programming Tarupaja, not fishing, not being productive. Only taking care of my emotional well-being, taking all the time it takes to soothe that burden of childhood traumas. And now when I feel back to life, guess what I'm going to do the coming weekend? Yes, to go to an another festival, to dance like there is no tomorrow =)

A punk band called Seksihullut
Their singer has mesmerizing voice
... and a wild, energetic attitude
All the dancing made me sweat
tags: 
depression
diary
music
spirituality
up
8 users have voted.

Comments

At the age of 44, I can say that I've had quite similar social struggles in the past from time to time. I've mostly gotten over them by realizing that I am what I think about, for better or worse. If you can vision yourself being a certain way and keep visioning it in your mind over a period of time and not dismiss it, and believe it is truly possible/reality, you will inevitably become that person, again for better or worse. My main help with these things is my relationship with God/Jesus.

What comes to age, I've always found it comforting that it is never too late to learn. That our minds are not cast in cement; what we learn in childhood sure forms a firm basis for the rest of our lives, but later on it is still possible to re-learn and to witness that basis changing.

I don't know the details on how you think about that visioning thing, and I've read different versions of it. The way I feel, vision and belief are essential, but often they also need to be coupled with practical stuff, effort and little details. Like, if someone had a glorious vision of himself as a super guitarist, the mere belief probably wouldn't make him a super player - unless the belief and vision translates to actual training and practice. The way I see it, these go together; an inner vision urges to have its practical realization - and practical details derive their power from the inner vision which keeps you going to the desired direction. Without this connection a vision is a mere daydream, and practical work is mere mindless toil.

Well, I sure do agree that a personal spiritual / religious relationship helps a lot. The topic is vast and I won't go deeper into it in this comment. But I've been thinking about writing something about the themes of Judgement / Grace (although, I don't yet know if I'd write in more neutral psychological terms, or if I'd use the religious language of Christianity).

Hi Erkka! I loved this one. First, I was so jealous of being invited to three parties in a weekend, and all of them sounded so free and fun. Then, I thought of what a good writer you are, and how a large part of that separateness that I feel in crowds I always attribute to the writer part of me, the part that always holds myself back and takes notes. Then, I was so admiring of your knowledge that the only way to deal with those deep emotions is to invite them in, feel them fully, and watch them disperse. It's as if they just need to be experienced, and only then can they leave. It is wonderful to read someone who understands this. Our culture has such an avoidance mentality, but really it is the ability to fully experience these feelings that will release them. Only then can you truly dance in freedom and the bliss of the self below those patterns and emotions. Thank you for a wonderful read!

Clementine

Oh my. All the things you mention in your comment, they are pretty much the same themes which made me Mariska fan, and why I've found your blog such a refreshing read.

About four and half years ago when I heard Mariska's Matkalla manalaan for the first time I was deeply touched. Not only are the lyrics well written, the content uses the metaphors of ancient pagan shamanism - the idea that soul can temporarily leave this level of reality and travel to other realms to seek hidden wisdom. This song is about visiting The Netherworld to find a key to mankind's problems. The lyrics reveal the wisdom found, and it is simply 'to love'. All of this in a format of easy-to-listen dance-pop song.

Around those times my chronic depression still had a firm grip on my soul, and I constantly felt separate, isolated, disconnected - unable to establish direct emotional contact with anyone. But that one song by Mariska suddenly opened a door somewhere in my soul. In one interview Mariska said that when writing lyrics for that album she was dealing with her personal emotions, most notably with fear of death. Instead of trying to avoid unpleasant thoughts or emotions, the song Matkalla manalaan uses the symbolism of diving under water; not to avoid, but to fully invite in the fear of death, to dive deeper into it to see what lies in the root of it.

Somehow Mariska's way of expressing these thoughts and emotions works especially well for me. It was her music which helped me to re-find the joy and freedom of dancing. It was that deep sense of sharing which greatly helped me to open up my soul, to feel less separate, making it easier to contact with other people.

Although, in crowds I tend to escape inside my own world. For me it is (and probably will always be) easier to share with a few close friends, or one random stranger at a time. And I'm so very happy to have such friends in my life.

I'd guess that it is exactly the same themes which made me to follow and to comment on your blog - always fearing that what I comment appears as a 'nosy mr.know-it-all always wanting to announce his own opinions'. Hehe, so the kind of fear reactions which have made it hard for me to open up and to share freely without anxiety. I'm so very happy and thankful for your patience and warmth which has helped me to dive through a yet another layer of social fears =)

Adding a footnote to the blog post. I wrote "Well, but this time there were moments when we had a group of three people, synchronized to a collective movement pattern dancing to folk rock of Santtu Karhu ja Talvisovat." - and now it appears that someone captured that on video and posted it to youtube. (Funnily enough, that clip is part of an article in an Estonian magazine. I can't read Estonian, but the pictures deliver the atmosphere =)

The video clip rather clearly shows the moment when we all pick up a smooth, collective movement, and how it breaks up when we start to improvise more. Anyhow, for me that was one big step towards learning to spontaneously connect and to synchronize my movements with fellow dancers. And, as always, I think the technical skill doesn't matter that much, as the main thing is that free, spontaneous, deeper-than-words sense of being-together.

Pages

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
Please reply with a single word.
Fill in the blank.