Something about nothing

Sara Goodier writes.

There is something about the nothingness of silence.

Absences, non-occurrences and gaps (psychological or physical) have long been acknowledged as constructs that seem to afford filling, termination or completion (Hearst, 1991). As an assistant psychologist I notice this urge to fill gaps, avoid silences and a constant need for progression. In an age where we are constantly ‘doing’, sitting in silence can prove unbearable for some.

But in dance this is part of the process – this aesthetic function is something we call the ‘light and shade’ of movement. Without pauses and stillness (nothingness), however brief, there would be no dynamic to the moves, which follow the light and shade in the music; the highs and lows from one phrase to another. The nothingness of an open space across a stage is not to be filled, it is to be navigated around, and used to accentuate the skill of the performer.

Dancing is good for me; it comes with the benefits of exercise on mental health, it helps me feel connected to myself and others, it can be a cathartic emotional release through strong, powerful moves (think Tango), or mindful, as I isolate one part of the body at a time.

But dancing is useful in a way that is perhaps less considered, mapping onto my experience of clinical interaction; this is the metaphor of therapy as dance. It has its own set of steps, timing and speed depending on the relationship, the rapport and therapeutic alliance. The steps are sometimes left unsaid as we learn from the actions of the other. The therapist leads as attitudes, beliefs and emotions steer the steps towards the common goal of flowing together. When a client is engaged with therapy, those silences in conversation that typically feel uncomfortable become an important part of the ‘performance’ and often lead to a more exciting exchange.

In dance, the silence, stillness and the open space across a stage can be integral. As I settle into therapeutic ways of working, I am learning that in therapy, doing nothing but just being, can sometimes be the catalyst for change.

Sara Goodier
Assistant Psychologist (NHS)

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