Here we share an excerpt below from The Moving Child Films upcoming EBook, written by creator/director Hana Kamea Kemble. In this excerpt from the chapter on Emotional Development, Hana speaks about the relationship between power, emotion and movement.
At The Moving Child, we have two goals: empowered parents and empowered kids! We recognize this felt sense of power is grown through our embodied journey in childhood. From power with, power over, power under, soft gentle power, firm strong power – we are in the power dance from a young age and we are back in it again as adults in relationship with children.
How are we learning to be in right embodied relationship to power? How is it we can be supported to experience a good, safe felt sense of power?
From the powerful experience of a one year old discovering her voice’s ability to shape the responses of her caregivers, to a toddler’s experience of controlling their muscular tension and discovering how to increase the force they can enact on their environment, we learn to modulate our power. This process takes place through movement learning and is shaped by response of the world to our moving body.
Is our parent overwhelmed by our budding expression of willpower? Can the parent reset back into their own embodied felt sense of power using embodiment tools?
Power in the parent’s body might be experienced and communicated to the child through connectivity to the spine, or a sense of levity through the head and sternum, or full release of diaphragmatic breathing, sense of grounding through the legs or pelvic floor, or the modulation of the voice or availability of muscular system to respond to a child’s movement. For each parent, this journey will be different. When we lose our felt sense of power (or control!) during a situation with a child, it can be important to do a re-set into the portals of the body that can most help: catching a long slower out breath, feeling our feet pushing gently into the earth, activating muscle groups, finding a deeper tone of voice to speak with, allowing our body to move. There are many ways to stay empowered without overpowering a child.
We can also help children to stay engaged in difficult moments by giving them ways to redirect their movement or expression; for example, tearing up a piece of paper if they are angry, or throwing down soft clay.
When I think of the Maori people’s ceremonial Haka dance, with eyes wide open, jaw loose and tongue stretched out, strong weight, wide stance, direct movements in space, I see power and beauty expressed through the body in a safe way, where the shape of the body can support the intensity of the effort and the feelings being moved. Moving in unison, in synchrony, in rhythm, allows these dancers to feel not only connected to their personal embodied power, but to the power of the collective moving together.
Practice: What would it be like to create some time with a child to explore their own power dance, naming how they like to feel and express their power through their body, and talking about what that can help them with in life?
Perhaps by being super-heroes or donning capes, or grabbing foam spears, or just tuning into the parts of their body that feel strong, and can help them to dance their strength. Of course we also can be teaching soft gentle power, through other embodied explorations such as the ability to protect something small, or be exact and delicate with balancing their body or experiencing other types of body-control. And we can teach how to move from strong to soft, to strong again, such as in being different animals that have those qualities; so that the child’s body is ready when they encounter a situation in which different dynamics will be called upon in their self-expression.
From a young age, children are experiencing what it is to feel and express power in their body and in the world, and hopefully this necessary developmental process is supported to unfold in a good way. They are somatically learning from witnessing and experiencing their caregiver’s relationship, to embodied power as well.
We have all seen what happens when power is not expressed in safe ways. The energetics of this felt sense of power (or empowerment) lie embedded in our body systems, including our muscle memory, and we learn from a young age through how we are invited to inhabit our body and express ourselves, how to be in right relationship to power.
A felt sense of “power” is supported by what we call in Movement Analysis, “Body Connectivity”. This is when all parts of the body feel connected and accessible for movement. The body is sourced in access to full breathing, feeling free to use our voice, and knowing how to ground energy and charge through our body. As well as by feeling received and supported by adults in our moments of powerful expression; and knowing how to be with feelings that might otherwise overwhelm our mind-body.
A child’s felt sense of their parent’s power begins early, the power to protect them, keep them warm, safe, and the strength to meet and help contain and modulate their strong emotions, and the strength to set both physical and verbal boundaries. An empowered parent can sense when those boundaries need setting.
This is part of what takes place in dancing with our children, and wresting with them, helping them to pause, breathe, and then move again – embodying all different movement dynamics that underlie that felt sense of power.
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