Not too long ago, I went to see a dance-theatre production in Spain, Ponte en sus Zapatos, a physical theatre exploration of the concept of putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. (The title literally translates as ‘Put yourself in their shoes”). At one point, each of the performers enacted a sort of physical mime of a set of feelings: holding the belly while doubling over with hilarity; beating the chest in anger; holding the head in an act of sorrow. It was as though each body part held a particular feeling.
When we see someone miming doubling over, hand on the belly, it’s an almost universal sign for laughter or happiness. Likewise, the chest-beating, or the head in hands. It’s a kind of physical shorthand.
But sometimes it’s not that clear.
For years I would get a tight throat in certain situations of conflict, or even tension. Touring with a theatre company in the UK, with a difficult director, I would find my throat aching repeatedly. Eventually, rather belatedly, I realised that the tight throat happened every time the difficult director issued a new, contradictory, instruction.
The tight throat was anger.
We carry everything in our bodies, whether we pay attention or not. When we experience emotion, we feel it first in our bodies. (That’s why they’re called ‘feelings.).
Writing is about noticing and recording as much as it is about imagining. Remember back in week one I asked you to celebrate your body, feel its connection to the earth? Today, I wonder if you can observe and map the way your body holds feeling.
Begin with considering your dominant sense. What I mean by that is, what is the sense that you most rely on in the world? Is there one?
What is your memory sense? The sense by which you call up memory? Is it different from the one which you most call on in your daily life?
Now, move to emotions. Recall a moment of joy. Sit with it. Let it expand in your body. Where in the body do you feel it? Can you locate it?
What about anger? Where does that sit for you?
Where in your body is sadness located?
If you want to take this a little further, take a character – perhaps your Mrs Brown from yesterday, or perhaps a character you have been thinking of or working on – and ask these same questions of them. Where does the character feel joy? Hope? Anger?
And if you’re really wanting to stretch (or you want to return to this thinking later), write a scene in which a dominant feeling is never spoken of directly. For instance, a scene in which the character feels furious – don’t use the word fury, or anger, or cross etc.
Let the body do the work.
He began with the hands