Life Model Bite #2 – Joy Dance

One of the basic skills taught in the Life Model and at the Thrive conferences is sharing joy with others, and thereby building up the joy center in our brain. It is the first of 19 vital brain skills that help us to reach the maturity appropriate for our physical age.

It’s a very simple exercise and we did it multiple times during the Thrive conference. Probably it not only helped us learn the skill of “Sharing Joy” but it also provided the connection with our training partner that we needed for other exercises. You can find it described in the “Basic Thrive Skills, Year 1” training guide, written by Jim Wilder, Chris and Jennifer Coursey.

I found a similar description of this exercise in a book from Susan Kuchinskas “The Chemistry of Connection” and she calls it “Attachment Dance.” Based on these two sources I decided to call it “Joy Dance”.

The following is a combination of the instructions of these two sources.

Wilder & Coursey’s description is more intended for intentional exercises, while Kuchinskas’ description is more naturally integrated into everyday life. Kuchinskas gives one description for parents and caregivers, and another one for adults. The following is based on her instruction for adults.

  1. Pick a quiet time and a situation where it is natural for you two to be face to face, such as sitting at a café or talking in your living room. Sit close enough that your knees could be touching.
  2. Begin to notice when you two look into each others eyes, and when one of you looks away. Give yourself the permission to look away whenever you feel like it. (This is not a stare-down contest à la Garfield.) 😉
  3. Intentionally hold your friend’s gaze for a few moments whenever comfortable. Observe your body reaction: Is your breathing slow, or do you feel a constriction in your chest? Are you leaning back, sitting upright, or leaning forward?
  4. Whenever necessary, let your gaze move around the room again. You may look at your friend’s mouth or hands, or at something else in your environment.
  5. Look back at your friend and notice when she (or he) returns your gaze. If it feels natural, say something positive about her or your relationship. If it doesn’t feel natural, say it to yourself. You might think something as simple as, “I really like her” or “She is such a precious person.” Think about what you appreciate about your friend.
  6. Continue to observe how your body reacts. Is there any change? Whatever you experience is ok.
  7. Repeat the process as long as it feel right.
  8. If you want to do this with a friend as an intentional exercise, agree to do it for 3 minutes, connecting and disconnecting as needed, and afterward discussing what the experience felt like.

(Wilder & Coursey p1-2; Kuchinskas p67-68)

The purpose is to stay in your comfort zone as you draw closer to the other person and then retreat a bit from connection. If the exercise is successful, you will feel a stronger bond with your friend. You will feel closer to that person and experience familiarity with her (him) as well as shared joy. In an unsuccessful exercise you will feel tension, anxiety and fear. You might feel like avoiding the person or running away.

Wilder & Coursey also mention that it does not work well when you are tired, or upset by something else, or you do not have a positive bond with the other person. In my experience, it won’t work well either when there is a lingering tension in your relationship. On the other hand, even if you don’t know the person very well but both of you are motivated to learn this skill, it can work very well despite the lack of a previous bond. At least that was my experience at the conference. However, it is not recommended to do it with a person of the opposite sex who is not your partner.

So, what is actually happening here?

The whole process is a nonverbal communication between the right-brain hemispheres between two people, communicating our most desired positive emotional state – that we enjoy being with another person. It strengthens our joy center, thereby increasing our joy strength, which enables us to better deal with problems and suffering. And it releases dopamine.

Recent brain science has discovered how our right-brains communicate with each other. A signal is sent from one person’s right brain (to be precise – the right orbital prefrontal cortex), and expressed through the left eye (or the left side of the face), perceived by the left eye of the other person, and communicated to the other person’s right brain. Then the same kind of signal is sent back, from right brain, to left eye, to other person’s left eye, and to the right brain. This back and force communication happens six times per second and grows stronger over time. Isn’t that fascinating? This is of course completely subconscious and cannot be faked.

You have probably seen people whose eyes sparkle when they look at each other. This happens when people are in love, but not only then. It also happens between parent and child. It happens between good friends. It happens every time when we are glad to be with somebody. It is our right brain telling our vis-à-vis nonverbally about our joy of being with them. Without this joyful experience of being with people who are glad to be with us, we cannot experience wholeness. Even though we can enjoy beautiful things, such as a sunset or a painting, joy is relational and therefore most powerful (and amplified) when experienced between people. According to some neurologists, the most basic human need is to be the “sparkle in someone’s eye.” Or in other words – to do the Joy Dance. 🙂

On this background, I am even more touched by the passage in Zephaniah 3:17 –

The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,

with his love he will quiet you (or: calm all your fears),
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

It took me a long time to understand that God delights in me, rejoices over me, even when I have messed up. His love and joy over us does not depend on our perfection. It took me a long time to grasp and believe that God is doing a Joy Dance because of me. Today I know it’s true, and it fills me with great joy and thankfulness.

13 thoughts on “Joy Dance

  1. Hi Jutta,
    I would be very interested in knowing where, precisely, these studies can be found. my neurons are hungry and must be fed.

    I would also be interested in your thoughts on this
    The joy dance, “thrive” exercise and attachment dance also seem to share characteristics with the lakota learning circle and the qd fix. most of this seems rather obvious (to me anyway) I’d just use different words, re-establishing connectedness with (whatever) in the case of the example with another individual or, in your case, since you are of a spiritual bent, god. Orientals would call this feng shui, the maximazation of qi. An occidental insight, and I call it awareness. but the word is not the concept but only a word. the vedic’s? perhaps have it nailed best, they see “no difference between the universe and the divine” a position it’s real hard to argue with no matter what words are used.
    but I’m crazy, you’re odd and the world is insane.
    shucks, I feel another post coming on.

    1. I would recommend reading books by Daniel J. Siegel (e.g. The developing mind) and Daniel G. Amen (e.g. Healing the hardware of the soul). I believe that a lot what I learned from Jim Wilder is based on their research.

  2. Hi jutta
    what’d you think of the qd fix, spooky, puzzlilng

    1. It is not clear to me, what’s the purpose of it. In any case, it sounds intrusive to me and does not seem to respect a person’s boundaries.

    2. Hi Jutta,
      Yup, it’s quite intrusive. but is not purpose driven. It is just something that happens. I am occasionally approached by a stranger in severe emotional distress, who will begin discussing it with me. Why? I would consider it extremely unethical to do it uninvited. Understand this is an after the fact description of what happens. I notice the meme is always some variant of “do not allow someone to occupy rent free space in your mind, including me”. It’s a depth of personal I really don’t care to go to with anyone, especially a stranger. What is scary is that it appears to be mechanical. IE anyone can do it, regardless of motive. If a person can be disorientated there is a 6 second window of opportunity to plant a meme. (subliminal suggestion) I’ll put the password back on it, just wanted your thoughts on what’s happening. which you haven’t addressed yet.

      and Hi to you also Mr J, still unwrapping your gift I see.


    3. I don’t think I can claim to completely understand it.
      But here are some thoughts about it – the left brain is resistant to change, it can only change when the right brain is “upset” and gives it permission to change. So, maybe your sideslip is a way to upset the right side, and therefore the left side gets permission (or is forced) to change and reconsider things. However, I don’t think that your meme is actually spoken to the right brain, as the right brain is non-verbal.
      Maybe your qd fix is like the question in the movie “The French Connection” – “Ever pick your feet in Poughkeepsie?” 😉
      Despite your explanation it still feels not quite kosher to me. If you ask a person for permission to invade their space, it won’t be upsetting. If you do it without permission, it is a boundary transgression. Also, why do you call it a “fix”? Do you really think, you know what is right for others and you can and should “fix” people? 🙁

      (cross-posted on your blog)

  3. Why should one “not” try this exercise with someone of the opposite sex wo is not their mate? Wouldn’t it bring both of them closer to the Creator in a spiritual way? Through Agape Love, if nothing else? Each must know going in of certain boundries that should not be crossed.

    Exercising self control over corporeal matters can be a healthy spiritual activity. Do we not do it when we see someone we want to get to know better, but are afraid they might think us too forward or trying to “hit” on ’em?

    michael j
    loved this exercise

    1. experience shows that people too often misinterpret this joy dance as romantic interest instead of agape love; so I guess the exercise is OK if there is in fact romantic interest, but if this is not your intention better be careful.

  4. Hi Jutta
    I think you’re basically correct, but I view the sideslip as a way to bypass the left mind’s doorman rather than upset the right mind. DrB alls it the gatekeeper.
    As to ethics,I expressed my concerns to Dr. B who pointed out that if a person came to her for help, they had already given permission. (she’s a doctor of psychology) it is indeed spooky.
    saw the french connection clip, that’s it but the timings off. On the other hand the dog track’s video is right on.
    qd fix? tradition, i guess, i’ve been using it since about 15. Altho it should be called the un-fix. most people are already “fixed” if they need anything they need an “un-fixing” but that’s not for me to say.
    here’s another,
    i don’t have much time left and i’m trying to get this out. (how the mind’s work) i’ve had to invent my own lexicon psychology is hinky.
    I’ve been concerned about the ethics of this but the cat’s been out of the bag since the neolithic.
    my interest is not in what but how. that’s why i was interested in the comment you made of the 6 times per second feedback cycle.

    1. As far as I know the “doorman” is not the left brain, but the second level of the four level control center in the right brain. I know it under the name of “guard shack” and amygdala.

  5. Hi jutta,
    Ah, i see where i said it, in the email.
    I read my doorman post three times trying to find it.

    please change this;

    I think you’re basically correct, but I view the sideslip as a way to bypass the left mind’s doorman rather than upset the right mind. DrB alls it the gatekeeper.

    to this

    I think you’re basically correct, but I view the sideslip as a way for the doorman to bypass the left mind rather than upset the right mind. DrB alls it the gatekeeper.
    frankly, i don’t know where it’s located or even if there is a discrete “doorman” center. amygdala, you say, could be. but i don’t place a lot of faith in scan readings and the correlations psychologists make of them.
    my understanding, which could easily be wrong, but i’m less wrong than that the amgydala switches minds. makes sense. if the left mind is boggled, the switch would force a re-evaluation of existing data in the right mind. certainly not inconsistent, although not yet consistent (in my mind anyway). i always learn something when talking to centereds

    gatehouse? that works.

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