What’s stopping you? Feelings and thoughts around resistance to calling a session, session

This session was called by Alice who was sitting in the big circle at the beginning of the day at the beginning of the event feeling a lot of resistance toward proposing a session and wondering if anyone else was feeling that way, and therefore deciding to call a session on this question.

We began as a small group and asked 'Why we are here' (in this session)?

One woman spoke of the feeling of 'stuckness', changes in trajectory changes in circumstances, particularly post covid, and moving from overseas to live in the north of England. They spoke of the difficulty of restarting things again, particularly post-covid- restarting things they had done in the past aswell as also becoming a parent, and having a lot of questions about what this new life in England could bring and how to make a life in a new place. We spoke of the challenge of making space for ourselves as women, and one person expressed this feeling of needing to shrink down particularly post covid to fit in to whatever box there was available. We discussed how it's hard to create space for yourself when you are not feeling confident or entirely welcomed.

Some more people joined us.

We spoke of the resistance to go forward and how sometimes that is because of the unsaid or unknown power dynamics in a room for example, in this room, at this event, the feeling and/or the knowledge that there are people, who are heads of theatre companies that you would like to work with...and how it's perhaps difficult in the big circle to get up and propose something when you feel like you need to be the 'very best version of yourself' for example to speak articulately, to have a 'Good' session to offer, to look good, to speak well into the microphone, to stand well with the microphone, to be a little bit funny yet poignant, intelligent and memorable. Basically, the pressure to put on a good mini show! Many people in the group shared the feeling that we needed to be many of these things, and that this was difficult and we were creating very high expectations of ourselves in a vulnerable space.

There was also the awareness that while you might call a session and that takes some courage, that there would also be the possibility no one would show up to your session and that this possibility, this vulnerability made it even more difficult to propose a session. Several people also expressed that it was difficult to propose a session when you're not 100% clear yourself on what you want to call a session on...

Someone described the open floor, the circle, the big circle, as like going to a club, and not knowing where the bar is, and needing some time to feel your way into the bar. It was then expressed that for some people, it was easier to go into a bar that you didn't know, and feel comfortable more quickly, than others because of a number of factors including your gender, the way you are dressed or your ethnicity. We talked about how it was the same here. A person joined the group who very helpfully talked to us about a term ‘path dependency’ which comes from the field of social sciences. It roughly explains the idea that we are where we are because of the path that has gone before us. We discussed this idea for a while and had many aha moments it's a fascinating and very relevant concept. We discussed how much easier it is for some people because they have literally seen the path trodden before them- you don't have to be the 'path pioneer' which is an often tiring place to be.

Other people came and left the group.

We discussed how there is this moment, this hump you have to go through, or over, in order to offer something up, that there is a risk one has to take to put oneself out there. We discussed how this happens a lot in the making of Theater and Performance, that there is often if not always this moment of needing to go through the resistance to present something worthwhile. We discussed what happens when you stay in the hump, and how the nature of theater of art requires risk and putting yourself in a vulnerable- position exposing yourself in a way.

We looked at what the barriers were again with different people around what was stopping you or what would stop you from calling a session for some people who were not performers the reasoning was more on the side of not wanting to get up and speak in front of a group of people, for others it was more not wanting to look stupid like an idiot for a proposing a session, for others it was not having something really burning to talk about, for some people it was not having to have homework of writing up reports, some people wanted to attend other sessions that were called so didn't want to call a session at the same time, for some people it was having such an open invitation that it became a bit scary that if there are no parameters to watch you can say it puts pressure on what you do say and for some people make one feel like they have to say something very profound and say the best proposal ever that encompasses all the pertinent questions in Theater right now.

I was asked and so spoke about why I called the session. I spoke about wanting to create a space to address the potential elephant or elephants in the room for people, the unsaid things dynamics that stopped people from sharing and speaking up. I said I also wanted to make a space to discuss our feelings rather than something more perhaps strategic or intellectual.

We discussed what pushes us to make art, and something that was shared between us was a sense that we make art, or do anything- including calling a session- so that we don't feel lonely. We came to some sort of consensus that stepping up in the middle of the circle to propose a session was perhaps fundamentally about saying I am alone, are you alone do you want to come and join me in solidarity, so we are not alone and how this was very much the same in any performance. This Desire not to be alone fueled us to make work, to create a shared experience. Several people reflected how this desire for a shared experience became even more powerful during the lockdowns of the past few years. We shared some examples of ways that we continue to find connection as artists even those sometimes it can feel like you are siloed. One person spoke of a dance group they were part of with dance of friends during the lockdowns and how this was such a life line for him and not feeling overwhelmed by loneliness.

It was a very tender and heartfelt session and I felt grateful to have begun dnd sharing such an experience and sense of hope with others.