How “holding” becomes accessed and developed in DMT;
i.e. how “holding”, a key concept of object relations is translated into an energy model.
The Good Enough Poem
I see you
I hear you
you are a good enough child
I am a good enough mother
what do you need?
I can hold you enough
I can hold you as long as it take for you to
walk on your own 2 feet
I will hold your hand if you need
I will stay as long as you need
One day you will go
I will help you to go
you are a good enough child
I am a good enough mother
Maria Sangiorgi 2011
The act of “holding” a therapeutic dance movement space is full of riches. As I experience this through the work that I do with my groups, I feel a great sense of reverence at being a container, a vessel, a “good-enough mother” to my groups. This particularly applies to my homeless women with schizophrenia, who are very damage, traumatised and marginalised.
“The good-enough ‘mother’ (not necessarily the infant’s own mother) is one who makes active adaptations to the infant’s needs, active adaptations that gradually lessen according to the infant’s growing ability to account for failure of adaptation, and to tolerate the results of frustration.” (Winnicott p 13, 1971)
The concept of holding is very powerful. The word itself says it all, whether it be through a Winnicott framework or simply what it means to hold, which is to support, to contain. For me holding has an alchemical or magical quality.
One of the skills that I received from the Levanthal quantum-based therapeutic model is the intention to hold energetically. This involves my strong clear intention; the things that I do that cannot be seen but are potently directed to the holding of the client. Creating a space to allow the client’s dance to unfold, and then to hold them in that dance, makes the foundation for my DMT practice.
The minute I walk into the building at the Prague house I am holding my intention to hold the group. I am mindful of them. I place a row of yoga dots (rubber coloured circles) along a corridor to the room that I work in, and I also place a dot at the door of each woman, whether they frequent the group or not. Some come all the time, some occasionally and some never. Over time those dots have drawn a couple of women into the room. Through those dots I hold all the women in Prague house. Maybe if I was to be there for a long time I would draw many more to the room with the dots. This is a population that is seldom ready to join in. Simply getting them to arrive is a dance in itself.
I set up the room and play the same tune each time so when they arrive even if I am not there, perhaps because I have gone to find one of them, they know that I am there. The music is like a baby sitter that takes care of them till I return. They know that I will return. Every week I bring organic fruit and home grown herbal teas, with the intention of offering them some high vibrational nourishment that is lacking in their everyday diet. I hold the safe space for them, I care about them, they are women who have not been cared for. This is a time for women only, the door is propped open as they arrive and then closed when they are all in. Through the continuous repetition, the dots, the music, and the food, I have created a pattern and set the environment. These things represent my relationship with them even in my absence
In this safe space of acceptance they can bring their damaged idiosyncratic selves. Two may be physically present and wanting to participate but very lethargic, one may be asleep, one may enter the room, stay for a while, maybe dance, then leave; one may leave when the music comes on, one may sit outside the room for a time, and then disappear. These are the many variables I am holding when I work with these women affected by schizophrenia.
I compare this situation to a mother with five children, each one with different needs and personality. I am the good enough mother who meets then at the place they are at and accepts them, whilst holding my intention to engage them in a dance, a dance that as I become more skilled, I draw from them, not impose on them. In the holding, I am also aware that the more they trust me the more they will play out the damaged part of themselves; they can become demanding, manipulative and aggressive.
In Winnicott’s theoretical writings, he emphasises empathy, imagination, play and, in the words of philosopher Martha Nussbaum, who has been a proponent of his work, “the highly particular transactions that constitute love between two imperfect people”. (Winnicott p 146, 1973)
What a wonderful revelation, two imperfect people. As a therapist it is important to accept that I do not know the answers, but I can be good enough and I am good enough.
In my opinion the following are the entwining of Winnicott’s Therapist’s Presence with the Quantum Healing Dance:
- listen and learn – I listen to them through their bodies and their movement, I learn who they are and I mirror that back to them though movement. Then I expand that movement so they know that they can reach higher, further, deeper than they thought.
- the non-intrusive mother who is present but lets her child play – the presence from a place of not-knowing – I am there in the room with them, not expecting anything from them, allowing their dance to develop, and trusting the process.
- leaving time and space for the Real Self to emerge – The real self comes through time, trust and consistency.
- the space in between, “a period of hesitation” where the client discovers himself, his play, and the other, and learns to deal with his own anxiety, and builds his new self. – This allowing the spaces in-between is part of the energetic holding, a space for the Quantum Healing Dance to occur. In this timeless place held in the structure, the room, the chair, the Newtonian, I am ready to see and seize the dance, their dance. I follow them, I mirror the dance back to them and they expand it and I expand it and another dance evolves. As outlined in Leventhal’s Chart 1 “Healing = a balance and mix of elements from each paradigm; a journey into the mysterious unknown.” (Lev, 2008 p. 6)
- the good enough mother, (who does not need to be the biological mother) – in this case the therapist, who makes mistakes but tries to be present, without squashing or shoving, allowing the client’s real self to surface.
Sometimes, with some of them, turning up to the session at all is the dance. If I expect anything else of them I lose them. I do have to wait for them to come to the dance. I hold as the mother who responds to the child and lets the child gradually develop and progress.
Over time I have seen beautiful things happen in that holding. Through the Quantum Healing Dance, the spaces in-between, through my patient waiting, I have witnessed an emergence of the self. These women, with their very limited body expression, have improvised a dance of their own. This was possible because I have provided them with a space where they feel held and safe.
Winnicott D. W. (1971), Transitional objects and transitional phenomena, Playing and Reality, in Routledge Classics 1971, volume 13, page 13.
Winnicott D. W. (1973), The Child, the Family, and the Outside World (Middlesex) p.146
Leventhal, M (2008), ‘Transformation and Healing Through Dance Therapy: The Challenge and imperative of Holding a Vision”, American Journal of Dance Therapy Vol 30, pp.4-23 [modified version of a speech given at the ADTA 42nd Annual Conference, September 2007, Brooklyn New York]