Interview for Nezavisne novine
Dance is not only good for your body, but it moves every part of your being – from sensual to spiritual, says Enesa Mahić, an accredited 5Rhythms teacher and a therapist. “Unlike running, riding a bike or taking a walk, dance allows us to let go of control more easily and our emotions become more available”, says Mahić.
NN: How would you describe the 5Rhythms to the newcomers?
MAHIĆ: 5Rhythms are a dance method which is not about learning or perfecting your dance moves, but about self-discovery and personal growth. It’s not so important what our dance looks like but what’s happening inside when we dance it. In this case dance is a fun, easy and intense tool for deeper self-understanding.
5Rhythms were discovered by Gabrielle Roth and they represent five different ways of moving, five different types of energy or approaches to life: together in a sequence they create a 5Rhythms Wave. Every rhythm has something to teach us: softness, strength, surrender, playfulness, presence… Depending on our character and upbringing, some rhythms come into are bodies more easily and some are very unfamiliar or even frightening. For example, if we are used to being strong, tough and unbreakable, it can be a huge relief (or a shock) to surrender to the rhythm of flowing, feeling that at least in this dance workshop I don’t have to take care of anything and anyone. If we grew up in a family where we always had to be quiet and polite, our body and soul need balance through discovering our force, loudness and intensity. As your body becomes more fluid so that different stories and moves can move through it, your heart become more “elastic” as well – it’s easier to accept the ebb and flow of emotions, you’re not afraid of what is in your heart. We learn that every emotion is OK if we accept and express it, it becomes bearable and we know it will pass eventually.
NN: How do the supressed emotions and traumas manifest in the body and how can dance help us to heal them?
MAHIĆ: Absolutely every single emotions you ever felt happened in this body and that’s why we need the body to go through the emotional blocks. Do you remember how does your body feel when you’re in love head-over-heels? What goes through your body when you get scared or angry? How does it feel to be sad but not allowing it and what does it feel like when you allow tears to flow?
Every emotions asks to be expressed but sometimes, due to a traumatic event or our upbringinf, we fail to express our instinctive or emotional reaction and it stays stuck in the body, manifesting itself as a chronic tension, emotional blockage, migraine or psychosomatic illness. For example, if we grew up in a family where open sadness or anger were not tolerated, as we grow up we learn to stop that emotion, we “swallow” it down, but the unexpressed emotion has nowhere to go, it stays imprisoned in the body. We need to acknowledge the way we block our emotions and then express them openly and physically in therapy, doing there what we were not allowed in the childhood (be it tears, yelling, pushing away, saying NO…). Step by step, our self-acceptance and relaxation will grow. We slowly learn to love ourselves regardless of our emotional state. Those scary feelings become familiar and harmless.
NN: You have a body-oriented psychotherapy practice in Zagreb – what is that?
MAHIĆ: Body-oriented psychotherapy is a branch of psychotherapy where, apart from the usual therapeutic work on emotions and attitudes, we always explore the inter-relation of body and psyche. It’s a therapy where people are encouraged and taught how to fully and physically express the emotions that have beed hidden or forbidden, so that the person can become stronger and more alive. These days there are many body-oriented approaches in the world but they all come from Wilhelm Reich’s work – he was the first person to deeply explore the way how body and psyche influence each other. Reich believed that the root of all neurosis is in the unconscious obstruction of the flow of our life force and he discovered different ways how to release the physical armour that the body always create. The method I’ve learned for 7-8 years is called Core Energetics.
NN: What do you expect from your workshop here in Banja Luka?
MAHIĆ: My colleagues and I had regular 5Rhythms workshops here before and I was delighted by the local dancers’ energy. Even though most of them never danced before, they went into the dance full-heartedly. There was a lot of passion, vulnerability, pleasure and joy . I hope for a similar atmosphere this time. On this workshop we’ll dance pure 5Rhythms, without mixing them with any other method. Many people are attracted by the idea of psychotherapy or working with their emotions but in order to go deeply into our emotions, we must be able to first know our bodies very well, we have to be able to easily embody every state we enter – from boredom to ecstasy – and for that there’s no better tool than dancing. This workshop will be an opportunity to dive deeply into our movements and get surprised by our bodies’ desires and abilities. Who knows, we might even become amazed by ourselves!
NN: You have a son. How important is emotional expression in childhood and how do we teach our children not to supress their emotions?
MAHIĆ: I always find it interesting that most of the parents understand that preschoolers can’t carry 20kg in their hands because they’re not physically strong enough; we don’t expect them to understand mathematics because their mental capacity is still not developed enough. But for some reason we often expect our child to have an emotional maturity of an adult – to understand what he feels, to know how to self-soothe, to be willing to share, to handle his frustrations calmly, to control his aggressive impulses… It’s important to give your child time and support to grow up and reach emotional maturity.
The first step, naturally, is that parents are relaxed about their own emotions. If we can accept our sadness, anger, fear, joy… we’ll be able to explain them to our children and give them space to express their emotions in a safe way, knowing that there is a boundary and certain behaviours are unacceptable. For example, it’s absolutely OK that the child is angry, loud or unhappy but we can’t allow him/her to insult or attack other people. It’s extremely damaging to give your children a message that they’re bad because they feel something – often we don’t allow kids to cry (especially boys), we laugh at them when they express a certain feeling or we say “you’re really not pretty when you’re angry”. The child starts believing that something is wrong with being the way he/she is and they develop chronic shame or frustration .