Sunday, November 20, 2016

Coping with Trauma: Internalization and Externalization

Good or bad, my mind (and possibly spirit) has always lived outside of the life I am experiencing. In order to synthesize experience, and protect myself from trauma, I have acted out my life through observation of self as a separate thing from life. Before this idea moves too far away from me, before it seems like some kind of sickness, a disconnection between self and body, I must emphasize the point that this is all defense. Every bit of it. When I was a child, I learned very quickly that coping and growing can only be achieved simultaneously by the internalization of every type of trauma. Letting trauma hibernate, live within my body like a black volcanic seed, made it something I could control. Internalization gave me power. And as a writer, an artist; as a wander and a storyteller, control of tone, of feeling, of what I say and don't say, what I feel and don't, and when I feel it-- all of that is absolute. The power of internalization has always been the drum in my body, the pounding, stressed note that says keep going. 

This has functioned quite well until it stopped, dramatically, in July. In July, the separation, the compartmentalization of my life, started to make me feel fragmented and stressed; I worried about things I couldn't see beyond the psychic energy of knowing something was before me. If I am to explain this in very distinct terms: the volcanic seed has created a monstrous cavern between my mind and body, and my spirit was growing very, very, thin trying to bridge the gap. And I couldn't say anything about it, I couldn't show it, put it into words, so I internalized all of it, let the cavern grow, stressed and weary and frustrated on the inside, but functioning through the routine of my life outwardly. 

Then last month, I realized what had happened. It was one of those profound, personal realizations you find sometimes through journaling. The problem is this: compartmentalization and internalization were no longer functioning, and this is because, in my immediate life, I no longer needed to isolate in order to cope (if I am honest, there is no longer immediate trauma in my life). That's huge. The end of October came around, and suddenly, I realized some way within me, that black volcanic seed, stopped growing. 

And it can't be understated how much this has changed everything. 

For better or worse, I will always be a shy, introverted person. However, I am becoming a person who externalizes, which has completely effected my growth as a dancer, and hopefully, a communicator. At the end of October, I told Tim that something has changed within me, and body is finally listening. 

Yesterday, for the first time in a while, Tim and Langston picked me up from ballet, and saw the last fifteen minutes of my class, where we were working on a combination that included pique turns. Tim was pretty astounded by my progress. My body was achieving something it had never done before. 

And this last Tuesday, even though I was very sick, my teacher had the same response. At the end of our lesson, she commented on how much progress I've made since the last time we had worked together, about three weeks before. Not only is my body responding to my mind and spirit, but my mind knows how to ask for the physical explanations. (I've also developed this wild muscle at my hip because my legs have learned to isolate movement from my hips. I didn't know this muscle came from that, until my teacher watched my barre work last Tuesday, and was surprised to see the muscle herself). Even isolation, when externalized, can become a strength.

Right now, I'm reading Jennifer Homan's history of ballet. She writes about Jean-Georges Nouverre, a French ballet master from the early eighteenth century and the revolutionary changes he made to the art, and the absolute fact that ballet is always political, and always a response to the governing body and culture of a society:

"Words, he said, often failed, or else they served as a cover, masking a man's true feelings. The body, by contrast, could not dissimulate: faced with an anguishing dilemma, the muscles instinctively reacted, twisting the body into positions that conveyed inner torment with greater accuracy and pathos than words could ever muster."

1 comment:

Meghan H. said...

I'm glad you've reached this point in your life. I hope I can do the same someday.