We spoke to Therapy of Dance, In Conversation’s co-hosts Elise Mireille and Ella Newell about their latest podcast episode bringing together mental health insights from three Berlin-based psychologists.
“Ever since we moved to Berlin, Ella and I have not shut up,” says New Zealand born and Berlin-based creative Elise Mireille, who met her friend, now creative partner, Ella Newell in 2016. “The biggest thing we bonded over was our curiosity for the human experience and our shared, somewhat constant need to reflect on our own behavior,” she continues. “Some may call this neurotic, others judgemental, but we soon came to understand that it was, in fact, psychology.”
This joint interest in the inner workings of the human psyche soon led Elise and Ella to start their own podcast in 2019. Titled Therapy of Dance, In Conversation (TODIC), the idea was born out of Elise’s already established community Therapy of Dance (TOD), which she established in 2017 in order to help her “dance through” her struggle with depression. Aiming to normalize discussions surrounding mental health, the duo have interviewed a wide range of subjects, including sex therapists, psychedelic reiki massage therapists, psychosomatic workers, nutritionists, environmental activists, and intersex advocates, to name a few. “We love learning, and sharing that with others, too.”
For their sixteenth episode, TODIC decided to organize their first live recorded panel discussion. Hosted at the Friends Space Berlin, and co-produced by creative studio Peach, the event brought together three psychologists including cognitive behavioral therapist and psychological astrologer Judith Garay, sex and relationship therapist Leni Herzog, and cognitive behavioral therapy psychotherapist Nora Dietrich, all of whom have been interviewed for previous TODIC podcasts. Sat in a fragrant, scented room filled with essential oils provided by Apotheke Perfume—a Berlin-based perfume brand founded by Jessica Hannan, who was interviewed for TODIC’s 15th episode—the panel proceeded to discuss topics surrounding conflict, relationships, and finding your flow.
“We cannot make maths out of our feelings. So be self-compassionate and understand that having lots of inner contradictions is human.”
For people that have never attended therapy themselves, or those who were brought up with the concept of the “stiff upper lip”, the openness of the panelists may have come as a bit of a culture shock. However, as the conversations continued, and broached topics such as coping mechanisms, the psychologists comfortingly explained why some of us may find it difficult to let our barriers down when confronted with intimate topics. “What I think really helped me on my quest was to understand my protective layers, all my coping mechanisms that used to be helpful but aren’t anymore,” said Dietrich. “Instead of neglecting them and asking myself ‘why am I still like this? Why am I still using drugs, alcohol, or conflict avoidance as a coping tool?’ it was more helpful to understand that it made sense at one point in my life.”
This pearl of wisdom was just one of many that were discussed as part of the panel event, which you can now listen to as a podcast. Below, you can find some of the most prevalent insights from the in-depth, 30-minute dialogue, and discover the panelist’s opinions on topics ranging from loneliness to romantic relationships, self-acceptance to navigating life in the urban metropolis.
Is conflict vital to good relationships?
Leni Herzog: Imagine a relationship where there is never any conflict. What does it mean? It means that both people are always compromising what they stand for. You have to become a smaller version of yourself, and constantly adapt to outer expectations, or what you perceive to be outer expectations. Then, along the way, you’ll start to feel like you’ve lost connection to yourself as well as to the other person because you’ll start to worry that they only love you because you’re trying to be who they want you to be, and question: would you still love me if you saw me for who I really am? Conflict helps you to test boundaries and to find that out.
Judith Garay: The key to dealing well with conflict is to be very much in contact with yourself and how you feel. And you should communicate that on the spot if possible. You can even communicate your confusion and say “I’m confused, I’m bothered, I cannot understand why right now, but maybe in some days I’ll receive some clarity.” And take your time. Connect to your body, connect to your emotions, and then communicate this.
In Berlin, friendships come and go. It’s a transient culture and loneliness is an issue for many. How can we better understand these feelings of loneliness and work with them?
Nora Dietrich: What I’ve seen is that Berlin has all these opportunities to flee, to hide, and to enter a world where all the rules that we know in society are not valid anymore. I love that we have these spaces where you can redefine yourself, and where no one judges because no one cares. Sometimes this can lead to loneliness. For me, loneliness is an emotion we all need because it has, as every other emotion does, a voice within it that tells us what to do next. Loneliness tells you to connect and to reach out to people that you love. It’s important to learn how to differentiate between being alone, which you can very much enjoy, and loneliness, where you can be surrounded by 1000 people in Berghain and still feel very lonely inside. Then, if you realize you are lonely, you can allow yourself to work with the emotion, listen to it, and try to act on it. We all have loneliness in us, but many of us are too ashamed to say. As a result, we don’t reach out, and we just become a lot of lonely people in the same room. I think it would be nice just to be together instead.
Do we have to heal ourselves before we can love romantically? How can we create new healthy patterns in our romantic relationships instead of reflecting past childish behaviors?
ND: I think the first step is to get in touch with our inner children which are at play all of the time. Most of the time we expect ourselves to behave differently all of a sudden, but without really allowing ourselves to go back in time to understand what is influencing our behavior. Is it an angry child who was never heard, or is it a neglected child that had to fight for themselves? If you know then you can start spotting it while you’re in conflict and in moments of emotional exposure. That doesn’t mean that you can just tape over them and change these inner children inside you. But you can talk about them, give them space, and be the caring adult that takes them on their lap and says “it’s fine that you’re here, it’s ok, you get your space. But then at some point we have to figure out how to make you grow.” So I think it’s really about knowing what parts are in you, and starting to love them as well.
LH: I think what’s so nice about what you just said is that we learn how to love ourselves, or how to accept ourselves in relation to other people. The idea that you learn to love yourself and then learn to love other people perpetrates the notion that you can postpone romantic attachment until you’ve met some kind of personal goal. I think we heal ourselves all the time in all the relationships with have with all the people around us.
“It’s important to learn how to differentiate between being alone and loneliness, where you can be surrounded by 1000 people in Berghain and still feel very lonely inside.”
How can we keep the spark alive in our friendships, so that we don’t put so much pressure onto our romantic relationships?
LH: In friendships it’s much easier to create a smaller version of yourself because you spend less time together. Most friends don’t really want to hear what’s really going on with you because they just want to have a really good time with you, go for a coffee, or go partying or something. But then we have a few friends who we spend a lot of time with. With them, we create friendships that are very close to romantic relationships. And to keep that alive I think honesty is the most important thing. It’s so important to feel like you can trust the other person, and know that even if you disagree on something it doesn’t mean that it’s going to end the relationship, which is an idea I think many of us have. That’s something we have to learn anew, that we can still be in contact with people even when there’s disagreement.
What are the benefits of being authentically ourselves?
JG: I think it is very important that we remind ourselves that there can be contradictory positions within ourselves. Reaching the point of knowing who you are is impossible because life is dynamic. We are changing all the time until the day we die. If you find yourself in inner contradiction, it’s ok. Whereas the world of work demands us to be either right or wrong, black or white, and for two plus two to equal four, in emotions, two plus two equals 1003100! We cannot make maths out of our feelings. So be self-compassionate and understand that having lots of inner contradictions is human.
How can we learn to love ourselves unconditionally?
JG: It’s very difficult, but not impossible. It takes all of your life. There will always be things we dislike about ourselves, and there will always be a critical part of our mind that stems from the ego. We need to learn to take what we don’t like and know that it comes from a place of pain and not acceptance. We need to be very caring and loving to the parts we don’t like about ourselves. They are there to teach us about unconditional love. We cannot pretend not to have them. That’s the beauty of the human condition. But I think when we all realize that we are all made out of love, that every movement of our molecules is love, then we will not need to love ourselves, because we will only radiate love to everyone and everything around us.
LH: What I find much easier than self-acceptance is self-appreciation. Just to appreciate that we’re all here, we’re alive, and we’re human. When you look at two different trees you appreciate them just for being there, but when it’s about ourselves, or our friends, or people around us, we judge. This idea of appreciating that we’re just doing what we’re meant to do was, for me, was much easier at the beginning than self-acceptance, which seemed like such a high goal.
Therapy of Dance, In Conversation (TODIC) is a podcast advocating for open discussion surrounding mental health. Based in Berlin, and founded by Elise Mireille and Ella Newell in 2018, it was born out of Elise’s pre-existing dance community Therapy of Dance (TOD) which hosts bi-weekly dance classes and conversations. TODIC organized its first live event on January 25, 2020, which featured scents from Berlin perfume brand Apotheke, and panelists including cognitive behavioral therapist and astrological psychologist Judith Garay, sex and relationship therapist Leni Herzog, and cognitive behavioral therapy psychotherapist Nora Dietrich. The event was co-produced by creative agency Peach and was hosted in the FvF Friends Space. You can listen to the panel discussion here, or if you want to check out other TODIC episodes, head over to their website.
We regularly host events in collaboration with inspiring creatives from all around the world. If you’d like to find out more about people that we have welcomed to our events space, why not read this interview with L.A.-based actress Jessie Ann Kohlman, who hosted her trauma focused film symposium ‘Cortisol’ with us in April 2019.