n 1. phenomenon in which muscles react to an injury to a joint, bone or ligament by contracting in order to form a protective splint.
2. a sign detected during physical pain whereby the patient involuntarily contracts muscles second to pain.
verb (used with object)
- to keep safe from harm or danger; protect; watch over:
- to keep under control or restraint as a matter of caution or prudence:
Physical trauma can cause a wide range of reactions and emotions that emanate from a sense of pain and loss on a variety of levels. Following injury, treatment and rehabilitation of any injury, it's quite common for the body to remain with a sense of "guarding" as part of a preventative tactic to further injury, pain and loss.
This is normal, or rather it is recognised, as part of a healing process. But what if the fear doesn't shift as quickly as you would have hoped. What if, you are not afraid any more, but the body is? How do you convince the body? Or is it that fear still exists within you and sub-consciously you are feeding that feeling into the body?
I've been having a few conversations recently about this process of rehabilitation because although I am no longer "injured", I am still recovering from injury. My body still seems fearful about going to more extreme places that I would like it to. If I am being honest, I myself am still a bit fearful of the result of asking my body to do so.
As I continue to work on getting this body dancing again, I organised space where I can be in a studio each day. I have felt that this was a required necessary step, to go into the studio with no pressure but to be in a familiar place where I can put focus on what it is I am aiming for.
I've worked on my pelvic stability, strength and precision and one would think it would then be easy to dance. After all, I pretty much have what feels like a new body. Doing all the right exercises have worked. I'm strong, stable and ready. Right?
Aye right!!! (that's what us Scottish say when we mean, "erm, no").
So... why didn't I feel like I could dance anymore? I'd finish my wonderful and considered rehab routines and then as I got up to "dance" (create, improv, make a sequence), my mind would go blank! WTFrick? Why the sudden block? Why after so many years of restrictions and pain to deal with, now resolved, can I no longer feel any connection with the dance?" Hell, I waited 9 years to have my body parts reconnected. You would think it would be exhilarating when you start realising you have more facility than actually EVER in your entire dancing career and you'd think that it would be a joy to experiment with that.
Something wasn't connecting, be it me or my body, I was struggling.
People said... (and rightly so), go to class, someone else's class, but to be honest, doing that didn't make much of a difference and I wasn't enjoying the constant fear of what will the next exercise be and will I be able to do it. Can my body handle it? It wasn't ready and neither was I really willing to have to control the emotional roller coaster that goes on in my mind when I try new things (old things) for the first time (again). I wasn't sure if I could hold back the emotional tears or put myself in a space where people didn't understand why I got shy.
As an injured dancer, you guard. We guard who we tell we are injured, how injured we are, how much pain we are in. We guard how we move, how much we are able or not able to express, how emotional it is/has been, who we expose our real and honest feelings to and how we talk about our treatment, trying not to criminalise someone who was only really trying to help you but couldn't because simply their skills are not to a high enough level.
We also guard the idea of how much confidence you lose when you are working with an injury and even how much one might express this entire journey through a blog which is very public and which in fact is opening up all of one's vulnerabilities and perceived weaknesses to the world.
In fact, it's more than that... the guarding has resonated into other aspects of my life, as a person, as an artist, a creative. I've become so careful about who I show my capabilities (at this stage) to, what I say about myself, how I describe my career to date, what I do and how I express (or not) my opinions, who I say it to, just in case ... What? Someone judges, disagrees, has an opinion, changes their mind about giving you that opportunity of work, to try a project?
Guarding to this extent makes you hide, or rather shuts you down, or rather gives me the inclination to keep quiet, be polite, be that person who has a voice but who is wary of using it. It resonates across the physical, the emotional and the mental and translocates into the communication and expression.
It makes sense and I get it. This is me operating in the emotion of fear. Oh. But wait... This isn't how a Scottish girl is brought up in life - well, I wasn't anyway. Nor would you imagine that working in the arts would also allow you to master "guarding" as a daily technique. But I hear it all the time, I see it all the time, not only do I recognise it in myself, it's there in others too.
I'm not saying that all skills, use and ability to be tactful and diplomatic should be ignored or go unexecuted, but where I am from, you are taught to express what you really think and have an opinion, albeit it one has to be able to back that opinion up.
Whether guarded in physicality or communication, it's not healthy. In fact, it's almost the exact opposite of what us, as artists are here to do - express.
In truth, throughout all of this, I almost disappeared, from myself, from the industry.
I knew I had to find a way to get back to being me. I knew I needed a project, something to really get my teeth into. Sometimes I find my own story so boring now but in reality I'm still going through it. The journey didn't end just after the surgery, nor after the physio or even after a year and a half of rehabilitation. I have had incredible support to date, in all the right places, at all the right moments from the most generous and knowledgeable people. But, the journey - my journey - continues and this is the next stage.
Question: how do you find a project where you can take time to re-discover your capabilities and confidence in yourself and your body? Y'know, one you don't have to plan and run yourself. What if, for years, you haven't believed there would be someone prepared to take you and your dysfunctional dancers mind/body on board, into a project? Who might be willing, understanding and considerate enough?
Well HELLO! ...
Kerry Nicholls has, through her KND PMP (Kerry Nicholls Dance: Performance Mentoring Programme) done just that. She put her trust in me and took me on. What an incredible and inspirational woman - I can't even start to tell you about it else my blog right now would just be a full on gush about how amazing she is and how grateful and honoured I feel to be part of the 2015 group. I would probably start a, "We love Kerry Nicholls" fan club to be honest, ha-ha. Hey, I know I'm not the only one thinking it, so stop laughing.
In only one week of her programme and through her guidance, with support and inspiration from an incredible teaching faculty, and alongside another 15 amazing dancers, I have changed. I have changed in ways that I can't yet describe because I'm still changing!
In one week, I have gone from being in a very static place, to moving very fast indeed - literally! This has been what I needed at this stage, what my body needed and I am finally learning to trust, let all these guards down, day by day, sometimes even by the minute. I am learning to be myself again, the artist, the dancer, the creator. Me.
The journey continues and I'll tell you more about it next time.
Until then... Don't walk... DANCE!