How can you dance during a government shutdown?
Some of us really believe that dancing only has a place in our lives when we’re at weddings or nightclubs or when we’re watching those TV dance shows.
Others of us understand that dancing is a state of mind that informs every part of our lives. Although it’s true that joy inspires us to dance, dancing through everything inspires the way we think as well as the way we act.
So if you’re angry right now about the current doings—and not doings—in our capitol, it’s clear to me that we’ve got several choices about how to handle our feelings:
- Turn off all media and ignore it
- Get even angrier
- Dance with it
Turning off all media is a strategy that definitely feels useful—and it certainly keeps your blood pressure within normal limits. Without the constant assault of the media’s focus on everything negative on the planet, you can focus your attention on the things that matter the most to you. Best of all, you can skip the overwhelming emotion that the 24/7 coverage of wars, murders and kidnappings and the imminent financial collapse of the world can bring up for you.
And yet, despite the peace you can feel on a daily basis without it, when you completely shut yourself off from all input from any media, you might miss something truly important for your safety or the well being of your family. In the end, you have to decide for yourself how much media input you want and exactly how you want to receive it.
When you get really angry about something this big that contains so many things that are completely out of your control, you totally shut down your brain. When you get very angry, your emotion shifts your brain into only primal functioning. Primal functioning means that you can only fight or run. You have no intellectual capacity, so you can’t respond—you can only react. Your frontal cortex, the part of your brain that thinks, plans and strategizes, has been temporarily neutralized.
So while your anger at a situation like the one we face right now is totally understandable, staying angry defeats you in a far more deadly way that the circumstances ever could. Staying angry keeps you stuck—and powerless.
Your third option is to dance with it—and before you dismiss this totally out of hand, consider that dancing is simply another word for moving. Dancing is the antidote to anger and avoidance because it means you’re in action. When you’re dancing, your entire brain is engaged in keeping you flexible and agile. That includes your frontal cortex!
When you’re dancing, you’re engaging with what you can do—in whatever circumstances you face. In this case, there are at least three things we can do together to have an impact on this situation:
- Contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives daily and let them know exactly how you feel about this situation and what you want them to do about it. Make it clear that we are in this together and that they work for us.
- If you’ve been furloughed due to the shutdown, use the extra time you have right now to nourish yourself. What can you be in action about right now that would leave you feeling positive about this time you have on your hands? What’s possible for you right now that wasn’t when you were working 40-60 hours a week at your job? If you will look for the gift in this obstacle, you will be astonished at what you find.
- If you’re a friend, family member or neighbor of someone who has been directly affected by the shutdown, reach out in whatever ways you can to support them. Simply by being present to the difficulty can work wonders for you both. Reaching out can take any form you like—just match what you can give to what is needed right now as best you can.
The experience of following in the footsteps of my primary role models, Viktor Frankl, Helen Keller and Nelson Mandela, has proved to me over and over that it’s not what happens to you that determines your success or failure—it’s what you do about it when it hits.
Each one of them danced with whatever showed up in their lives, whether it was incarceration in the concentration camp at Auschwitz during the Nazi genocide, a lack of sight and hearing and speech from infancy, or 27 years of incarceration in a 6×4’ cell during apartheid. Each one of them changed the world they lived in because they chose to dance with whatever showed up.
We can do it, too.