Gratitude and pride – my experience from the Psychodramatic Bodywork® workshop
Last month I went to a Psychodramatic Bodywork® workshop organised in Belgrade, Serbia and created by Susan Aaron, an Ontario Registered Psychotherapist, and a Canadian certified director of Psychodrama. I knew it was going to be overwhelming, and I was told (sort of) what to expect. It was deep work with emotions and their expression; it required overcoming shame, building intimacy, and showing vulnerability. It required bringing to the surface the deepest hidden parts of ourselves (that we were afraid to show to ourselves even) and expressing it in front of people we have never seen before, and probably will never see again. Looking at it from this perspective, it required a lot of strength and courage. And at that time, I had zero idea how overwhelming it would be and how exhausted I would be days afterward. I identified five core, maybe I can even say life-changing lessons learned from this experience.
1. We’re ALL pure and loving souls
I was mind-blown by how a supportive, understanding, compassionate, and empathetic environment we can create with people we don’t know and have never seen. We were total strangers, and we could share our deepest emotions and talk about well-hidden pain that we never shared with anyone. If we can do it there, why can’t we do it purely with our daily surroundings, with people who already know and care about us?
I was aware that this connection is there, in this room, no matter our traits outside of this room, no matter judgments, critics, and our insecurities projected into others in the real world. Once we leave that room, we’re that complex human full of beauty and roughness, but in this room, we were able to hear each other and be there for each other. In this room, we were the world that we all needed.
2. What I have to say is important
I am usually bothered by people sharing their, I would say, totally irrelevant impressions to the whole group. For example, when you’re in a teaching class, or in a meeting, and there is this one person that starts talking about themselves and sharing their thoughts about some topic but this opinion was not needed or important. Or, when they are asked to share something short, they go and share it fully, lengthy, and full of details.
Or was it totally irrelevant what they had to say? Maybe sharing itself invites discussion and interchanging thoughts, creating a connection but I was anxious about time or FOMO (fear of missing out on something else) to see that. Before in my life, I would be bothered by these people and think they are taking up too much space and there won’t be enough space for the rest of us (me?), I would even think they are disrespectful sometimes. But were they? Or was it me who didn’t allow me to express myself and to be that person who talks and shares when there is the need to talk and share? Was I bothered by them because I subconconscuously wanted to be like them, a person who would not block their authentic wish to be heard?
At some moment during this workshop, when I was quietly asked to share my experience, I said that I don’t think it’s that relevant and that we were behind the time already therefore, it’s not a good idea. But I was told something that made me realize everything I shared above. I was told, “You belong to this group. You are important here, and what you have to share is important.”
And since then, my whole perspective on that has changed. Because I am important. And what I have to say is really and undoubtedly important but I am the only one who can allow this for myself.
3. Deep emotions are NOT going to swallow
When I witnessed those disturbing acts of emotional expression, screams made in despair, and when I heard so many touching and upsetting stories, I could feel severe pain all over my body. I would inherit that pain as it was mine, and that is the pattern I learned as a child. My body would squeeze and numb. It was disturbing seeing others in their emotional expression and also when I was the one doing it. Shame and guilt seemed so big that if I want to picture it in front of me, I couldn’t see where it starts and where it ends. As the workshop lasted for three days, I realized that after each day and each segment of the day, I felt more comfortable and less disturbed by everything that was coming up.
Emotional expressions and all the pain I observed suddenly started to feel like art, like an artistic expression of our authentic self, like a ritual after which our souls would become free. It was that powerful and genuine that I naturally stopped being disturbed in a way I used to be. I changed the view on the whole situation. It was not dangerous, it did not put anyone in danger.
It’s was not threatening, it was liberating. Feeling emotions is liberating. It felt like a boundary between myself, my body, and my skin and between others was finally created and it’s like my body learned I don’t have to take on something that is not mine. It felt like I had witnessed so much pain those days that I somehow realized that this expression was only that – an expression. It was and it is safe to express them and let them out of the body no matter how disturbing they might look like at first. I got a proof that this way of expressing emotions wouldn’t kill me nor it would kill anyone else. But ignoring those emotions might, in one way or another.
4. I thought I was angry, but I was sad
Once sadness was the workshop’s focus, I thought that would be the easiest emotion to express. I can cry and I allow myself to cry, and I practiced being vulnerable and overcoming shame by letting tears in public many times. But I never realized that crying might not be connected to sadness at all. How do I know if earlier in life, I was sad when I cried? Maybe I was angry or scared? Maybe I learned to share the majority of my emotions by crying? We were explained that letting tears out is not the actual body expression of sadness. The body expression of sadness is when you let all the wrapped pain (that feels like stones) tighten into your body through sounds, be it screams, howls, or wails. And you let it while someone else is watching and supporting you. Sounds pretty vulnerable and uncomfortable doesn’t it? I could not do it at all that day. I would see and hear many stories and feel genuine sadness for them, I would let my tears out but I didn’t have a need to express that sadness differently, the feeling was not too strong for me. Or was it?
The next day, while talking to a coordinator, I was stimulated to let the sound that I felt it’s wrapped in my chest. It felt like anger, it felt like a strong and heavy stone that stops me from breathing freely. I thought I didn’t let all the anger out the previous days. The coordinator was holding me safely and I only noticed I want to scream to let that anger out. Once it could feel safe to let my voice out, the voice broke and my body started crumbling into tears. I was sobbing like I never did in my conscious life and I was disturbed by the shock that I was crying. Why am I crying when I was planning to scream and let my anger out? Because I was wrong. I was not angry, I was sad. I am sitting there, in a room full of people where everyone could see me, sobbing and letting this hidden and tight pain out, thinking where did this sadness even come from… thinking how ugly I am right now while sobbing, and holding my eyes closed to reduce shame, sitting there, in shock, and letting it go, not doing anything to stop it, overwhelmed with gratitude that this is going out and making room for new energy.
5 …And joy comes naturally
And joy did come naturally. After letting it out and finishing the cycle of expressing anger, fear and sadness, I felt as free as I probably never did, and freedom is one of my core life values. Everything got a different sense. As the day was ending, I would be watching the sun in between trees from the window and thinking only about one thing. Peace. I can do as many activities and plan my life all around joy, but if I don’t dedicate time to see and validate other emotions I hold tight, give them space, and then let them out, I cannot get to true joy. I won’t have space for joy if those emotions are not treated. I won’t be free.
And I want to be free.
After full 3 exhausting days, I felt overwhelmed with the beauty in so many layers and knew I would need time to process it all. I still think this workshop is wrong advertised as, for me, this is nothing like a workshop. I attended dozens of psychology workshops, and nothing could be even compared to this. It’s life-changing work and experience, everything one soul needs. And I also know that nothing would be possible if the soul that shows up there is not ready for deep experience and it’s not going to be possible if it doesn’t make a decision to open up. This brings me to another feelings, huge as the shame described before, feelings in which when you put them in front of yourself, you can’t see where it starts or where it ends – gratitude and pride. Gratitude and pride. Towards my own inner child, towards this brave and strong girl, for everything that she went through and for everything that is coming up, for keeping going despite all possible excuses she could find. And towards all her beautiful and brave companions from this room, towards all these inner children that made the whole experience incredible.
Gratitude and pride.
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Thank you for being here.