In a time of heightened emotions, solo dancing and prolonged time with our families, how can understanding our emotions boost our wellbeing,connection, and dancing?
I interview Antoinette Ross to find out just what our emotions have to teach us right now.
Books mentioned in the interview:
Permission To Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society By Dr Marc Brackett
Emotions: Living Life in Colour By Graham Benyon
Here’s the transcript for those who prefer to read.
Hi, and welcome and thanks for joining us.
I’m going to let you introduce yourself, because today we’re going to be talking about communication particularly through COVID, but then also for afterwards as well and how we can carry that through into our lives for better relationships.
It is a pleasure to be here, it’s really nice to be invited.
So, I’m Antoinette Ross, I have been running a small consultancy for the last 10 years. And in the consultancy, I’ve mainly worked with two client groups, in education and also in business.
And the essence of everything that I do is about, how do we build these very strong connected relationships? How do we create environments where children can learn and where, you know we can feel comfortable and where we can be really performing at our best?
And that’s effectively what I’ve been doing now for, just the Managing Director of that consultancy.
Just the managing director, like that, that’s hard work making that successful.
So, thank you. And you also dance in your spare time, don’t you, you’re an active dancer, I believe?
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the things that has really helped me because as you say, a lot of my work is very cognitive. It’s very intellectual. I’m spending quite a lot of time on the computer. And one of the really fastest ways for me to get back into my body and just to feel alive again is through dance and my particular dancing is through salsa.
I love it. I mean, it’s more than, the music is what really kind of keeps me alive.
Definitely, I mean, swing, there’s just something in it that just sparks joy and lightness, and it just brings us alive, doesn’t it? So yeah, very connected, very much part of my spiritual tribe.
And it’s about relationships as well. I mean, there’s a lot that I learned through salsa that I didn’t learn through some of the science and the research. I think it’s very important when we can talk maybe a bit more about this, about how dancing gives you an experiential understanding of relationships, that actually you’re not going to get from a book.
And so, I was wondering if maybe you could kind of go into a little bit, you said about finding the best ways for us to learn and grow. You know, I always think, well, whatever we’re giving our children, we should be giving our adults because we have the inner child.
And also, because we don’t stop learning and growing. It’s kind of this assumptive I’m an adult, I’m done now, I’m finished. But how do we translate that into, kind of the day to day for businesses for dances for humans?
Yes, so learning and growing, you make a really important point and there’s a couple of things, I suppose.
The first thing, I’m all about kind of prevention as opposed to intervention. So, partly why I work in schools with teachers and children, because there are some tools that we can give children that will enable them to develop into more higher functioning adults and more content adults.
And, there’s a certain reality and the reason why I work with adults is because sometimes when we don’t get some of that education as children, we have to learn it somewhere because it will show up. So, in terms of, kind of what I would call kind of growth mindset, I think there’s just something about keeping our curiosity alive. And, you know, my, I think one of the things that I spend a lot of my time teaching children and adults is around this emotional literacy.
And I think in these times of COVID, if you want to get really curious about one area or grow and develop in one area, I would, recommend, using this time to get very curious about your emotions. Because we know from the science, we know from the research, that people have a greater emotional literacy and greater emotional intelligence, they form better relationships, they have better attentional capacity so they can focus for longer.
They have higher creativity in performance and there’s a certain amount of energy that you get through our relationships, relational energy, so sometimes, oftentimes, you know, you can gain some energy through building a really strong relationship, so you would likely to have or feel more alive.
So, there’s lots of things that we can gain and I think particularly in these times, you know, we’re in situations where we’re having to spend a lot of time with family members and you and I were talking about this during the week. You know, those birth, if you are with your birth family, you know, there is a lot of stuff that has probably kind of gone underground that, you know, you get a bit of a break from, that tends to kind of come up at Christmas. But for some of us, it’s Christmas every day.
Natalie: And not in a good way, right?
So, yeah, so my recommendation would be, so there’s few things, one is, get really good at recognizing and labeling the emotion. So, if you notice you have an emotion that’s coming up.
One of the things that I know, speaking very personally as well, one of things that I really struggled with is actually having a language to describe my emotions. That’s the first thing, just to start to develop that habit, what is the feeling?
We know again, from the research that most people know when they’re angry, know when they’re happy, and then when they’re sad.
They have three settings, in terms of motions, but there are about forty.
Natalie: Okay, so can we maybe, bring some of those languages in?
Because I know I can understand like the shape and the color of emotion. Emotions come as like a very strong color for me but I don’t always have words to articulate it and I’m trying to expand my language and my, like dictionary really, of how to express those, so that I can understand them better and I have found like, the more I can articulate them, the more in control I become of them, it kind of always gets smaller and it’s not an overwhelming thing.
It’s really hard to find that language, so could you bring some of that in or suggest some places to go look to find it?
Yes. Yeah, so, in terms of emotions, if you are quite a cognitive and you like science, I would highly recommend a book that Dr. Marc Brackett has just brought out and I can either give you a link.
He’s just written a book called, Permission To Feel, explore some of that.
Then he’s, again, he’s the science guy so he talks about emotional science, but there’s lots of stuff, really amazing stuff in there that will help explore and develop that connection that we have with our internal emotional world and I highly recommend that.
There’s also another book, I can’t remember the author of it, but it’s called Emotions and I’ll find out the author of it.
But I read it a long, long time ago, and it was when exactly at the stage that you were talking about, where I was aware that I was getting better and I could understand different colors, but I wanted to get really granular. And that book really helped me, really dig into the differences behind emotions. And also, there’s such a thing called meta-emotions. So, it’s how you feel about a feeling.
Natalie: Oh, okay.
So, for example, if you are living at home at the moment, and your mother is really frustrating you, you might be feeling or you know, I’ve got a better one than that. My mother in law at the moment is in self isolation and she’s also going blind and she has a lot to deal with. And she’s craving connection but her way of reaching out and connecting is often, quite, what I experience is quite shaming.
So, you know, she will, she called me up yesterday and just like, I haven’t spoken to you for a week, where have you been? And internally, I felt, I was like, oh my god, you know, I should have reached out earlier. And then I have the shame of not doing it and then after that I feel the guilt.
And then there’s a certain element and then I have the anger of, well, you know what, I’m homeschooling, I’m running a business, you know, your son could also have called you. And so, it’s recognizing these different and I’m getting much better to that. And to some degree, it’s just a question of bringing your attention there and then connecting the experience you’re having with the feeling and you will, it’s like anything, it’s a muscle, you’ll develop it more over time. But that book, Emotions, it goes through, I think something like, I mean, really, it goes through the history of emotions in which emotions, you know, how, where courtly love arrived, and when we stopped talking about love, as a form of family relationship love and started turning it into romantic love.
So, there’s lots of different, you know, you can go into it and into it, into it, but the most important thing is to connect it to your own personal experience. And then absolutely, if you’re struggling with that, then find external resources to help you understand, well, when I’m feeling that, what actually is that feeling? Because there’s a very distinct difference between feeling shame between, feeling guilt, between feeling humiliation. And the other thing, just from, the through the lens of COVID, and what people might be experiencing at home, the one emotion that I would spend the most time investigating in myself is anger.
So, that’s a good one because–. So, a ridiculous story, for me, not very profound, but we’d done our weekly shocks of trying to just do one, you know, if we’re going out too much, all of that, and we’re not very good at it.
We normally spend way too much money just getting little bits every day. And I got really, like I could anger, I said, I’ve got angry at the fridge being too full, because only a little fridge and I just couldn’t see anything. And I was like, and then my partner came in and I was like, you know, you can fill us up, wherever and he could feel like the little snappiness about ready to like jump at them because they’ve just presented themselves, it’s way easier to snap at them than to like feel whatever it is you’re feeling.
And I had to kind of like, he looked at me, I was like, you just go out the kitchen for a minute and he’s like, okay. And he’s great because he’s like, you’re doing a weird thing, I’ll leave up to it.
But it was literally like, I was like, why am I angry that I have food?
Like, I’m really blessed that I’ve got food, what’s actually going on?
And then I was like, well, there’s actually more, it’s just overwhelming and I can’t, I don’t feel there’s any clarity in this fridge, which is like, it’s not really about the fridge, is it?
And so, then, I have to be like, okay, well, what is it about? And I was like, I’ve just not been out. It’s the first I’ve been out with quite a lot of people. Some people weren’t respecting social distancing and I found that quite frustrating because like, my need to respect others and me and, you know, it’s not really for my safety, but I’m like, you don’t know where I’ve been like, this is about respecting everyone. All of that had felt kind of breached and suddenly quite overwhelmed, so I was like, oh, I think I need to go sit somewhere quiet with like, a clear area round me for a bit, which I did. Then, I was fine and thankfully, my partner is great because he’s like, you’re doing a thing that I don’t understand and I’m going to let you do it and then we’ll talk about it afterwards if we need to. But yeah, previously, like, a couple years ago, I’d have had a massive argument with him, because, well, it wouldn’t have been him but I’ve had a massive argument with whoever walked into the kitchen because I didn’t understand various emotions and I wouldn’t have known what to do with them or really how to break it down. So, I think that’s quite a, yeah, I still have loads of work to do. But I think that’s quite a good point to raise of like, understand what’s going on for you.
Absolutely. And actually, what you’re demonstrating there, Natalie, is quite a high sort of sophisticated set of skills and strategies that you have clearly learned over time. There’s an indication there of the work that you’ve already done. Because you know, you did have the capacity to think, you noticed it when it came up, you reflected on, hang on a sec, you know, I’m feeling angry now, this is not fitting this current situation, where is this come from?
You did the investigation and that’s, you know, what I would recommend for everybody, when these emotions come up, particularly anger comes up, recognize it. And then you also took care of yourself, you created a bit of space for yourself so that you could, you know, do some of that investigation, you took care of yourself, and you also took care of your partner, bless your partner, he sounds like a very patient person. And this stuff is really important, particularly at this time, respecting each other’s emotional responses and reactions to things. And then you also went back to hang out, where did this come from?
You know, you and you were able to identify the fact that, you know, yes, the fridge is packed, and it’s not how I want it, but this is, and this is not about the fridge, what is it about? And then you went into that inquiry around, okay, well, actually, when I was out earlier, people weren’t respecting social distancing, and I felt under threat and also I didn’t feel that I could respect them, which is clearly a value of yours, that sense of respect of others and respect itself.
So, you had a value, which is often at the root of some of our–. Anger is usually about injustice, it’s like, something’s not fair here. And then people weren’t respecting that and that’s, there’s a sense of injustice for you, because that’s a value that you hold quite dearly. So, that’s like a perfect example for everyone listening about a process that you can go to, so that you can learn and so that you can grow, so that you can get to the point where, the you two years ago, that would have escalated. And this is oftentimes what will happen, there’ll be times when this happens for you and for me, where you don’t have that capacity to be able to press the pause button investigate, but instead of it, you know, instead of you reacting from the anger, and also feeling, probably, I would imagine, underneath the anger was some fear about your own well-being when you were out and people weren’t respecting those boundaries, maybe.
I mean, maybe, I think, you know, it’s really hard to like, the forefront of my mind understands the risks and has seen the dangers to people. And like, touch wood, I’ve been very blessed that no one I know has been directly ill with it or passed away and I know many people had that.
And so, I’m not sure it was a fear, I also have like, for martial arts, I’m quite bad at really acknowledging risk until maybe a little bit too late. But yeah–.
Antoinette: It makes you feel confident in your own–?
Yeah, I mean, I know it’s a virus and it’s often, like, I can’t fight the virus, right, like I literally can’t fight it. But yeah, I think the martial arts taught me to really trust myself and also like, understand that sometimes just, keeping going gets you through that time of uncertainty. And so, I’m not sure it was fear, but it was definitely something to do with being overwhelmed. And with that value of respecting each other, not being acknowledged and you kind of wanted to, there’s some people were like, kind of almost playing Pac Man down the aisles, and you know, like, they’re waiting for each other and they’re like–. And this other person just like goes through the gap that everybody’s been leaving, clearly to socially distance. And you’re like, okay, you’ve got like, a scarf of over face and gloves on, but you’re not helping anyone.
So, I think, yeah, a value of community and a value of respect for other people and for me was definitely being breached. So, yeah, I think it’s just also a bit, you know, it was a moment, I always kind of feel like sometimes we get these moments like, what is it, a needle in a haystack and it’s not really about the needle, or the straw that breaks the camel’s back, sorry, it’s not about that straw, it’s about all the other straws gone before.
And this was just a moment where everything was not quite how I wanted it and it was overwhelming, and I can’t control it and all these other things and I was like, oh, yes, really not about the fridge.
Yeah. And it makes sense, because I think, probably a lot of people, you know, who can relate to that. I know that I can certainly relate to that, you know, you’re kind of doing really well and you’re doing, people asking how you’re doing, I’m like, I’m doing okay, the kids are okay, they’ve not gone feral, you know, it’s all okay. And then, you know, there is an accumulation.
I think the other thing is, there’s a lot of, you know, the other contagion at the moment is anxiety. And depending on who you’re speaking to, and what you’re watching and looking at, that’s also going to be having an impact on your capacity to be able to keep that at a manageable level. And oftentimes, as there’s only a certain degree of control we have about what we can let in and what we keep out.
I think this is the other issue, in terms of people at home, if you are living with somebody who’s, you know, so my husband’s coping strategy is to know everything he possibly can about COVID, that will have him feeling more in control and more well informed. Now, you know, that means that he is watching, reading a lot of information around COVID. And then at the dinner table, he sits down and then while he’s eating, and he will tell us about what he’s been learning, some of which is very interesting, very useful. But I’m holding a different context of, there’s a couple of things, A, I don’t want too much of that in my mind.
There’s also an element of, this information is not something that my daughters, I have a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old daughter, they don’t have the capacity to be able to put that into perspective. So, that’s also going to create other tensions at home, is just recognizing that for him, that’s what he needs in order to feel in control. And for me, actually, I’m setting a lot of boundaries around what I watch, about what I see and I also want to set those boundaries for my girls too, because of the age that their brains are out and their capacity to actually be able to put in perspective and recognize a realistic amount of threat.
They don’t have that part of their brain yet, their ability to be able to judge through it, that’s just not there yet. So, these are the other tensions that I’m sure you know, a lot of you guys will, you know, we’re all kind of trying to manage as well, in terms of all different ways of coping with this.
Yeah. So, I was wondering, maybe we could unpack that a little bit because you’ve brought up some really great things. And I think, like you said, if you’ve been doing a bit of a personal development journey already, or you’ve been doing mindfulness, anything like that, maybe some of these terms are coming in, very familiar. I think some people just haven’t had the space and time until now to really sit with wellness, to sit with personal development.
So, you talked about, initially before I had my small little therapy session, thank you, talked about naming emotions, so we named them, right? And then maybe we could go through a flow of like naming them, understanding them and then you talked about boundarying and coping strategies and just like really briefly what those look like and how you can start bringing them in, without then, risking because I think sometimes when we first start boundarying, and I know when I first did it, it became almost very selfish. And it was like, no, this is my way, it needs to happen this way, because I was boundarying from me, but I wasn’t allowing the other person to bring in their own. So, maybe we can just talk very briefly on that. Would that be okay?
So, yeah, that makes absolute sense. So, yeah, so exactly like you said then, I’m just thinking what I’ll use is I’ll use me and my husband, because we’re quite, it’s quite, we are very different in a lot of ways and our capacity to be able to respect that in each other is might be, I’m hoping to be quite useful. So, as you say, I know exactly what you mean, in terms of when you first started to set boundaries, because I felt exactly the same way.
I think, so I’m just thinking, well, the best way to frame it. So, the first thing is, particularly, even if you are with birth family or a partner who is coping in a different way to yours, is to develop that capacity to recognize that they have a different strategy to you. And to try and this is the tricky thing, this is where the spiritual journey comes in, try not to judge that as it worse than your own one.
Natalie: Just different, yeah. My partner is this, he likes ti hear the news and I don’t need to know. No, don’t go change anything.
And certainly, for me, so I have a very strong meditation practice. And I will like, spend, you know, 45 minutes to an hour in meditation, come out of that and then you will tell me about some crazy story about Trump on the internet. And I’ll be like, go, don’t kill my buzz, I don’t want to hear this, quick boundary, boundary, boundary. So, yeah. So, how do you manage that?
So, the first thing is, you know, it’s, you know, recognizing the human being for who they are. I mean, one of the other really useful tools that I use a lot with my relationship with my husband is, what’s the motivational state?
So, I, recognize, you know, what’s he saying and what’s the emotion that is motivating that? And to the best of our ability and again, this is where the, to some degree, the mastery comes in. It’s about noticing, acknowledging, but not judging it, just recognizing that.
So, for example, in that example that I used before, particularly when this first broke out, my strategy was to limit what I was watching and what I was seeing. And I massively optimized meditation practice and I optimize support with and this is another really important strategy that I would, I want to recommend to the listeners is, you want to find, I would say, at least two people that you can have a really honest conversation with, and you want to, if you can set that up as look, you know, my partner’s driving me nuts or my mother’s driving me nuts, and I just, right now, I just need to express and I need you to listen.
And I guess if you’re alone as well, but it’s like, I’m just feeling really alone or I’m feeling really cut off or, you know, I guess you could use it in that way too?
Absolutely. So, you know, my checkouts are always, am I hungry? Am I angry? Am I lonely? Am I tired? So, just really checking out those basic needs about what might, you know what might be triggering some of my own anxiety.
And then so, noticing what’s the emotion that’s driving the other person and then meet that need. So, for 24:48 [inaudible], it was fear, I could see that he was feeling scared, he was feeling out of control, and he works in IT, because there’s a high degree of control and everything is very black and white and–
Natalie: isn’t it?
Exactly, whereas this really isn’t. So, then it’s about what support can I give him that’s going to actually meet, not what he’s saying but the emotion behind what he’s saying?
So, it’s going to be reassurance, it’s going to be just what I call, a good listening to, sometimes you just need a good listening to. But it’s how can I support the emotional need that I can see behind the, you know, the superficial?
Okay, and I think that’s really deep because I mean, to hear what’s underneath the words, that’s big.
Just that step alone is big, isn’t it? If you’re struggling with that, because maybe their words are like, triggering you, how would you ever recommend starting with that?
Yeah. So, you bring up a really important point and that is the number one person that you are in relationship with, that needs your care and attention is, you. And I know that I can, I’m only capable of giving that degree of care to my husband, when I am taking a lot of good care of myself.
So, there’s some certain practical things. So, for example, for me, with that conversation, I had that conversation with him and what I call a brief conversation. You know, I’ve reframed it as brave instead of difficult.
Natalie: Well, both take courage.
Yeah, exactly. Because I think if you go into it with thinking, I think this is going to be a difficult conversation, you can bring that that you can almost make, you know, create a self-fulfilling prophecy whereas when I had that conversation with you and I said, look, you know, what I’m understanding or what I’m believing is that you are really quite fearful about this situation. And your way of managing that, which is a very, you know, useful strategy is to find out as much as you need to in order to feel like, you know, enough. And my and, you know, we had that conversation, I said, my only concern is that I think we want to limit the amount of that information at the meal times because I just don’t necessarily want the girls to be worrying about that.
There’s enough stuff that they have to worry about right now. And that’s effectively how that conversation went. Now, the things to be mindful of and John Gottman did the research for this in the 70s and 80s, things to be mindful when having those conversations in ourselves and in the other person are what are called the Four Horses of the Apocalypse,
Natalie: So positive.
I know. And actually, if you could, yeah, and it’s really useful to have an understanding of what happens. So, those conversations, what I call, rupture and repair conversations go really awry, it’s usually because of these guys and one of them is contempt. And this is what happens over time in our long, usually I’m going to say long term relationship, but this can creep in when the resentment isn’t addressed, it can quite quickly morph into contempt, we want to be very, very awake to when we are harboring resentment because it turns into contempt pretty quick.
The next one is defensiveness. You know, if somebody accuses you of something or somebody says something or is putting you up on something or you know, having a difficult conversation, you know that part of you is very easy to get defensive.
The other thing is stonewalling. So, this is another one, so stonewalling is that, is kind of picked the hand and I’m going to remove myself emotionally from this conversation and I’m not going to engage. And it’s very, you know, that’s very much my habit because, in terms of, it’s what we do, we self protect, it’s like, I’m just going to emotionally withdraw myself here. And then the fourth horse of the apocalypse that we just need to be really mindful of is criticism, hyper criticism.
Natalie: Okay, and is that of yourself, of others?
Usually both, being both. And what I would say is when I’m being hyper critical of myself, very quickly, kind of becomes criticism of others. So, usually, others are usually a bit of a mirror to what’s going on with us. Not always, but often a bit more. So, those are the four horsemen of the apocalypse, particularly in our situation at the moment where we’re living with people that we might find quite triggering where we didn’t have much of a chance to, maybe we weren’t in control of choosing who we were going to be spending this lock in with.
So, just to be mindful of those four horses of the apocalypse. And what I can tell you from that research is, if John Gottman could identify to a really high or accurate degree, which couples are going to get divorced, and which couples were going to stay married and he could tell that within the first three minutes of a conversation that he witnessed.
I find that really interesting because like we’re talking about obviously very intimate relationships with our family and with our partners, but my mind’s instantly going to, perhaps one of the reasons why I was so passionate about trying to start the West Coast Swing Wellness project in that I’ve seen so much pain through dancing and I think you can have a relationship with that as an art form. And I know, I’ve gone through it when I’ve left hobbies, particularly I went through it when I left martial arts for a little bit, there were various things going on for me. And I think one of those horsemen turned up and I guess the thing is, like, I’m just thinking it’s one thing when there’s another person and maybe they have put the time in enough to understand what’s going on for you and give you the space to unpack that and allow you that space in the relationship so that it doesn’t damage.
But when it’s a hobby, when it’s a dance or something like that, it’s obviously the dance can’t reply. And we’re expressing these emotions, I guess a bit like when my partner was coming into the kitchen, and I really wanted to have like a little fight with him, not because I actually want to have a fight with him, but because it’s easier to get it out at someone else than to deal with it yourself.
I guess when you’re doing that to a dance or to a competition or then you start personifying the dance or you pick a partner that you’re putting that on, or you’re picking a collective of people that you’re putting that on. And they can’t reply or give you the space. So, then, I guess really the answer is you’ve got to sit with that and unpack it yourself and have that almost brave conversation with yourself, is that right? I mean, I don’t know. I’m just kind of, my brain is kind of like going out with that concept.
Yeah, I mean, I think, so, there’s a couple of things in there for me. I think the truth is that we offload our hurt on the people around us.
That’s just, that’s part of what happens, hurt people, hurt people. And that’s why I said at the beginning, it’s what’s really important is that you create either a friendship, and truthfully, I would probably recommend a professional relationship with somebody who is a professional because it’s quite a lot to bring into a friendship and you’re asking a lot of your friend, if you’re wanting to help process some of your suffering and some of your pain. I think if it’s pain and suffering, take it to a professional. And that’s because they are–
Yeah. And it could, you know, and I think, you know, I always, there’s a lot of competition about, you know, which is the best form of, I think you just follow your heart and you find someone that you feel you can trust. And they could be a psychotherapist, they could be a coach, they could be a psychiatrist, you just, you’re, you’ll know, you’ll know somebody that you feel safe with.
So, that would be my first thing in terms of, I think it’s really important for us to, what I call, to do the work, and the work is to work on our own suffering, our own pain, our own heartbreak, our loss, our grief, but to find someone to help us work through that with. And for some people that will be a meditation teacher, some people and actually, I do think that dance, you know, through dance and also, I imagine through your martial arts, you can process some of this stuff. I think particularly in the martial arts, I think about anger, developing the self-discipline, to be able to use the anger to bring you some strength without allowing it to take over, you are still in control of it, but you’re allowing it to kind of bring you some energy and some strength. And you can do that in martial arts, you can learn how to manage that energy in martial arts. I think you can in dance as well.
Yeah, I think it’s gentler but definitely you can. I mean, we definitely weren’t allowed to act in anger ever, like that wasn’t it, go sit in a corner and we would be given meditation then maybe our instructor will come over and have a chat with us about what’s going on, are you safe to continue today?
And I think that’s maybe where it started. I’ve definitely noticed like, as for me, with sadness or joy or near sometimes a little bit of like sassiness coming out in the dance, definitely play, things that you might not always feel you can express in day to day life, I think, yeah, I definitely feel them coming out in dance and the music for me really kind of communicates what part of your emotions is coming out in that moment.
So, yeah, I enjoy seeing that. And I think when you see that, for me when I see the really magical dances, I’m not good enough to see the technicalities of it, necessarily, but I love the connection and the conversation of what’s going on underneath the movement, which I guess is a little bit like the conversation that’s going on underneath the words when we talk to someone.
Absolutely, absolutely. I think, you know, I think, so, I mean, I think you can probably use dance in lots of different ways. There’s a couple of things that I know that for me, I come from quite a, well a big French family. And clearly my touch needs were set because I was like a koala, I’m the youngest of five, so I was kind of like a koala, who was often just attached to one of my siblings. And, I know that part of the reason for me, there’s two reasons for me kind of learning to dance.
One, was I wanted to develop my growth mindset and I wanted to keep learning? The other was because I needed something that was physical, it was in my body, but also quite expressive and I needed to get my touch needs met.
Antoinette: In an appropriate way.
Natalie: 37:18 [inaudible] but please hug me for about 30 seconds because my parasympathetic nervous system really needs it right now.
Well, yeah, and I think for a lot of our dancers right now is to recognize that you would have been having so much more of your touch needs met before the lockdown, now you’re at home, you know, you might not be feeling too, you know, kind of touchy feely with your birth family. Some of you will, some of you will have quite affectionate families and others of you, you know, you might be so, you know, you might be struggling with so many of the triggers that you don’t really want to give your mom or dad or brother a hug.
I think that’s the other thing to be mindful of. So, there’s just something about thinking through well, where am I?
Where can I get that?
You know, and even I mean, you can even hug yourself.
I mean, I would hug myself. I think it’s recognizing that you might have higher touch needs to other people and thinking about well, you know, how can I get some of that good stuff met in appropriate ways within the limits I have right now. Ii think that’s really important.
Yeah, I hear you and I think definitely, if you’re alone, it sounds silly, but hugging yourself is really good. I mean, I heard you can get like weighted blankets, I think there’s some studies on that being really good for you as well. They can be expensive, but I heard they really help.
Really helpful and the research has showed with people that struggling with anxiety, particularly anxiety at night, those blankets have scored really, really well in the research, I’d highly recommend those. Because it, kind of feels like you’ve got, you’re feeling contained and that’s effectively what we’re wanting, the need to feel, when these difficult emotions come up, we have some level of containment. And the other thing I was going to say is I’ve got a couple of friends who are single, who are living on their own and one in the State and I prioritize my contact with her.
Yeah. So, if you’re somebody who’s in a family and you know someone had reach out to them more then.
Absolutely, it’s why I haven’t been calling my mother in law. She’s got granddad, she’s fine, she’s getting her touch needs met.
Okay, and I think, so there’s also studies, I know we’re kind of way laying and we’ll try and like summarize in a minute for anybody’s like, who, where are you going, is this as a problem when you get to people in the world, especially like, I love it.
So, we’ve got like, touch needs, we’ve got communicating and checking in with your emotions and I think that’s really important is like, recognize the emotion, understand what’s going on, try and give yourself the space to meet the need or the value of being there. Understand what somebody’s saying is not necessarily what they’re feeling, it’s like the words are not the same as what they’re feeling or trying to communicate.
And, if you can meet the emotional needle, can you do things like, so I’ve tried with my partner, I’m not always sure and I just don’t know, there’s something going on, but I’m not sure, he doesn’t always want to, it’s not his preference to articulate it. So, I have recently just taken saying what you need. I don’t know if that something to be asking, I know there’s something up, but I don’t know.
Do you need space? Do you need hugs? Do you need to dance it out? Do we need like a funny film? Like, what is it you need right now?
I think that’s a very useful thing. The thing just to be mindful of is that for some people, and I would have put myself in this category, till quite recently, if you say, what do you need?
They’ll just look at you blankly because that might just not be a question or an inquiry or something they’ve ever really considered. And there’ll be for some people recognizing their wants and needs will be quite tricky and you know, and anyone who’s done a workshop with me, will see that kind of blank look, you know, you ask, what do you need, and you can see the blank look. And it’s almost like, I don’t even understand the question. And that’s okay because with your partner, what you’re wanting is you’re wanting to develop those neural pathways in his mind or her mind, to think about, well, actually, what do I need? Because it’s really important for us all to start thinking about, how can I take care of myself in this situation? And clearly, you know, and he’ll know, because he’ll know you that when you’re asking that question there’s a concern there, you’re a bit worried about him.
Yeah, and we have had conversations surrounding that and sometimes I will say, good, do you want solution mode or listening mode?
Absolutely. And my recommendation would be on listening mode 90% of the time, because you got to be very careful with solution mode. And that’s your solution would be your solution for you. And oftentimes, it’s not as helpful as helping that person find their solution for them, although that is quite a sophisticated skill set, I would say.
Yeah, I mean, essentially, is me saying, do you want me to just kind of listen and be a partner or solution mode does involve a little bit of coaching us and we sort of had the conversation surrounding that. And it’s then I asked questions about, what about this possibility, what else could be done?
How do you see, you know, and we kind of find something that’s suitable for the other person? But yeah, you have to know me and spend some time with me to understand that’s what’s going to happen.
So, we got that, find the emotion, understand what’s going on, unpack it for you, look after yourself first and really do the work yourself first, find at least two people or kind of two central people that you can have these brave conversations with and ideally one of these would hopefully be a professional because it’s a big ask of a friend and for them, to have done enough work to not take on that emotional toll themselves when you’re unpacking it, just to give you space to unpack it and not pick it up themselves. And then we talked about our touch needs, which I think is great, because we don’t talk about that, we all think like touches about sex. And it’s really not, it’s about many things, about communication, connection, safety. And we talked offline in the week about when newborns are born and put skin to skin and we understand that the skin to skin helps them do well, boosts their immune system. And if they’re in ICU, they can get something called failure to thrive, which is literally, they’re not thriving, we don’t know why, there’s not really a medical thing you can do and often those babies have volunteers, if their parents are too unwell or not present to hug them, to initially give skin on skin contact and you can see incredible results from it so yeah. And solutions to that are, if you have somebody that you’re willing to hug, hug them, if you don’t right now, hug yourself, maybe way to blanket, maybe get something wrapped around you nice and tight or solid or some pillows and that kind of thing. And then we–
Antoinette: Get a teddy.
Natalie: Yeah, really big teddy, I love that. I’ve got one, hang on.
It’s going to give you a hug.
I don’t have anything down here unfortunately, to hug. I’m lucky, I’ve got my kids.
eah, but so then you’re talking about checking in with your friends or if you are alone yourself to really reach out to people. And I guess I was just going to put in there, I’m kind of taking over here but I was going to put in there, I think it’s so essential to see people so I think this is a way of using the video technology has really come into its own because just seeing emotive expressions, seeing a smile can give you serotonin oxytocin.
I’ve been trying to send either voice or video messages to people rather than typing them, to try and give that almost intrusive sense of passing there.
No, I think you’re absolutely right. I think there is just, there is something very, you know, we are neuro-biologically designed to connect to others but mainly through seeing faces, and through those kinds of nonverbal communication, that we do need. So, absolutely face time, zoom, use this technology so that you actually get to see somebody, it’s really important.
Great. And so, we’ve kind of talked a little bit about what dance can bring us in terms of our emotions and what we might be losing in terms of that touch, is there anything else that we could maybe bring into understanding ourselves, our emotions and other people, into our dance because you’ve said, having a better relationship with yourself and with others, helps us perform better, helps us be more confident, boosts everything going on for us. So, when we do return to dance, and whilst we’re missing it now, what do we need to utilize, look out for?
So, I was thinking actually, I think Joe made a really important point in here about using this time to heal your body because I imagine, for those of you that are dancing professionally, that puts a, you know, that’s a lot for your body to be able to contain and to be able to have that endurance for it.
There’s something about using this time, I would say, to mix it up a little bit and make sure that you are dancing just for the fun of it. And certainly, in dance you know, you’ve got the discipline side of things that you need to be disciplined in order to maintain and to grow and develop.
But the other side of it is also just to remember that, you know, just to use your body, just to have fun and to let the music dance through you and to just and to have a little bit of free flow and also, allow your body, instead of having the kind of rigor of dancing regularly, which I’m sure most of you will need to do is to take some of this time to let your body heal a little bit, let your body rest a little bit, heal any kind of underlying injuries that you might have had, which most professional dancers would have had at some point.
So, take some time to heal and then I guess when you go back to it is just to fully delight in, you know, being grateful for that, getting those touch needs met again. I mean, certainly for me, when I think about dancing, I think about joy, I think about, there’s a certain amount of exhilaration that you probably get just because the endorphins are just so useful.
So, I would just recommend, I suppose it’s an exercise in mindfulness and gratitude. So, whilst you’re not able to dance in the ways that you have been in this time, is just to find a more gentle ways to enjoy your body and let it heal and then when you return to it, really delight in the exhilaration, the joy, the connection. And just that deeply reassuring feeling that I know that I get when I’m dancing with somebody that I have a really high level of trust and connection with, I think about, you know, I can think about to people that I dance with regularly, where there’s an ease, because we’ve danced long time, our bodies know each other really, really well and just to really delight in that, that would be my recommendation.
Yeah, I really like that.
It’s sprung to mind something the teacher said to me, and I’m not going to name them because I haven’t got that permission, I’m sure they’d be fine with it. But they asked me what do I think makes West Coast Swing a dance?
And eventually, we came to, where they guided me to, is a conversation and it’s a conversation connection.
So, if one of you is talking all the time, it doesn’t work. If one of you is silent the whole time, it doesn’t work.
So, I guess this is where this understanding each other and ourselves really well, almost intuitively and without words can really enhance our dancing because if we can communicate well, verbally, then, oh my gosh, that’d be amazing because you’d have to have that as like almost an embodied idea, before you can verbally communicate it. So, your dancing must go up when you–.
Absolutely, and I think if you want to look at this time as an opportunity, there’s an opportunity here for you, for us all to work on, what are some of the barriers that I put up when I’m dancing? You know, certainly for me, I had, you know, I really struggled with, I was a very strong lead, which is not good in in dancing, you know, the leader needs to lead. And it was very hard for me to relinquish some of that control and underneath that control was a lack of trust. So, we can be using this time and I can using this time to look out or what is it that I’m not trusting? Who was it that I’m not trusting? And this is the time to do our work, if we can use this time to do that work on ourselves, when we go back, you know, you can go back as a more trusting, more connected.
I mean, this is our time to really work on ourselves because there’s very little else for us to be able to do, truthfully. You know, there is an opportunity here, and, you know, in terms of the most important relationship that we can work on right now is this one with our self and self-care is crucial, in terms of a relationship, whether it be a dancing relationship, or a romantic relationship or even a familial relationship.
The more that you can use this time to get anchored, to pay attention to what your mind is saying, to notice when you’re being hooked and being triggered and come back to a more centered, trusting, calm version of yourself, the better you’re going to be. When, you know life comes, you know, things move on and life moves on, however it’s going to look like, none of us know that, after this period of lockdown, but I think that’s the golden opportunity here, is work with your stillness, work with trust, notice the barriers that come up when you are dancing with partners and work on them now.
And I guess you can apply that to yourself as well and maybe remove the self-judgment. I think there’s a fine line and I noticed it in myself I can easily go too far with this between critiquing and understanding where the growth is and how to grow. So, oh that person over there, I love the movement she’s just done, I’m going to want to learn to do it. Okay, it’s not quite working in me, what do I need to change? Oh, my weights not quite in the right place, right. Where does it need to go? It needs to go here.
Okay, let’s practice that.
That kind of thinking versus, that movement she’s done is amazing and I can’t do it, I’m rubbish, I’m not able to do it, I can’t copy it, she’s so much better than me, why would anybody want to dance, you know, it spirals down. And I know on a good day, I’m in complete growth mindset. And on a bad day, I am beating myself up with criticism. And so, I guess, letting go of judgment, but allowing critique in full growth.
Yeah, it’s putting your attention. So, the thing about critique is it’s self-focused. And when you’re being self-critical, you’re diminishing yourself. And actually, when you’re striving for excellence, you are focusing on the behavior, on developing a behavior. And that’s the thing to pay attention to, is what I’m, this is the story I’m telling myself right now, just diminishing my self-esteem or is it actually helping me to get better at what I want to achieve? And that discernment and continually recognizing, you know, we are very self-critical, human beings are just very.
So, you know, and I know that there are a few different disciplines that say that you can switch that part of you off, I don’t believe that, I think you can turn the volume down and you can turn the volume up on the parts of you that are going to support you to learn that move and that are going to support you to be and to dance at your best. And that’s the bit that you want to be focusing on, what support do I need right now to enable me to do what I want to do or dance how I want to dance? And I can promise you that self-criticism, there’s lots of studies around this, is a very ineffective way at creating performance, it is far more likely to undermine your performance and also create a whole different set of issues, than it is to improve your performance. And I think that kind of brings us full circle back to, you know, during your attention, to speak to yourself in a compassionate way, in a kind way and also finding a purpose, you know, what’s my why? Why do I want to learn to do this move? What’s my why here? What would that bring to me? What would I gain? That’s so much more useful, in terms of supporting you and motivating you to learn.
I love that. I’m so big on finding your why and the bigger why as well, but–.
That’s a whole different loophole I think Natalie.
We could keep going for hours, but I’ve loved it. So, I think that it’s just been so valuable and there’s so much in that conversation that we could take out into our personal lives, our professional lives and our dancing as well, if those are different. Thank you for the time. Would you mind just kind of, I guess, summarizing, so there’s a nice little flow for people to follow with some little tips on how they can start these things, because you know, growth mindset and everything else we’ve been talking about, possibly new, we do have an article on growth mindset so hopefully, people have read that. Guys, if you haven’t, go read it, I did write it. I am biased, but if not, go read something by Carol Dweck. She’s the wonderful psychologist, the queen of the concept. You don’t have to trust my words, trust hers. But yes, so for people who want to kind of summarize that, gargantuan amount of self-development all in a few minutes.
A lot of stuff.
I think there’s about 10 years of therapy just in this hour. There’s a lot in, haven’t we, Natalie? But growth mindset, we’ve got permission to feel, we’ve got a lot of different. Okay, so if I was going to kind of summarize from the start of our conversation to this one, I think the key elements that we’ve come to is, I suppose the central theme is, our relationship with ourselves is absolutely crucial, developing an inner dialogue that is compassionate and kind, and motivating.
Also, thinking about what do I need in order to be able to be at my best so that I can handle having brave conversations so that I can be there for my partner, so I can be there for my family members. Thinking about, you know, what my own wants and needs might be, you know, if we’re not very good at recognizing our own needs, that’s another inquiry that I would really recommend people start thinking about, what’s my need right now? Other things that we covered, we started off talking about the importance of emotional literacy, and recognizing our emotions, we know from the science how important that is, learning to identify and take some of the overwhelm out. Once we’ve got to a stage where we’ve taken care of ourselves, we’ve recognized our wants and needs, we’re getting better at identifying emotions, we’ve got a vocabulary that we can use to describe our inner landscape, then thinking about, if I’m going to keep myself away from resentment and contempt, what’s the brave conversation I need to have now, this little thing that’s niggling me, it’s nagging me and I need to actually have a conversation about it. So, it’s being, feeling brave enough and to have those conversations and address it without being too attach to the outcome. What else? I think that we covered.
Get yourself a teddy, if you don’t have a teddy, I would highly recommend it, particularly those of you that are self-isolating on your own.
Yeah, I mean, and I suppose you know, overarching was is just to the best of your ability, find ways to take care of yourself and to use this time as a way of anchoring yourself here. There’s an opportunity for you to really develop a muscle where, if you can use this time, either using friends or that a support system uses time to get some support in place whenever you need to do your work, is what I would say. I mean, this is the time to do your work because the more work that you do internally, the more your relationships improve, the more in alignment you are so that you can be in align with your values and what you care about most. This is the time to, I think, do some of the internal work so that when things shift and change again, you will be a stronger, calmer, more authentic version of yourself.
And with that, like your relationships, and your performance and your growth goes up exponentially, right?
And it’s not through self-criticism and driving yourself and forcing yourself and this, you know, into these kind of insane regimes, but it’s through positive encouragement, reassurance, support, you and there’s no, the problem with motivating yourself harshly is that there’s, there’s a cost.
There’s a cost to self-esteem, there’s a cost to yourself. When you find, when you’re in support and in connection with other people and we’re all supporting each other and we’re all able to hold each other through our own suffering and each other suffering, then everybody, everybody gains from that’s. That’s where we really want to get to.
Yeah, and I guess like my experience, and I’m sure it’s yours is, none of this takes suffering away. Sadly, it happens, and it is part of life. But it means you can get through it quicker, learn from it quicker, grow from it quicker, and it means that even in that suffering, you can also still see joy and you can hold both and let go of both very quickly. So, it means that life is just easier and better, regardless of the ups and downs.
Absolutely. Absolutely. 100% agree.
Thank you so much.
I really appreciate it. And if anybody does want to come and ask you some questions or maybe they even want to have a session with you, like, where can they come find you? How do they get hold of you?
So, the best ways to get hold of me are through my website, that is
or you can contact me on Twitter, my handle is @ACVRoss. Those are probably the most, quick ways that you can get hold of me, you know? Also, I’m thinking there’s a couple of signposts just based on what’s come up today that I’ll send to you that you can post on your website.
Yeah, well, in the description below of the video. Thank you so much. Guys, please do remember that we’re here for you. If you do realize that you want someone to talk to, please contact the wellness page, contact Antoinette directly or myself directly, we will be very happy to guide you to either what we can do for you or who else is in our community because we have some incredible therapists, counselors, coaches and alternative well-being practitioners who can help you through this journey, whatever it is, and we want to help make sure, that’s the whole reason we brought this up, is we want to make sure that you have that person that you trust and you feel connected to and if we can be the bridge for that great. So, just DM us and we will help you find the right person for you. Thank you.
Antoinette: Thank you.