Is drama therapy the answer for new mothers?
Rashmi Kotriwala, a Dubai-based theatre educator at EnAct, explores how drama techniques provide new mothers with an essential outlet for self-expression and self-discovery.
Motherhood. Motherhood is messy and challenging. And crazy. And sleepless. And giving. And still unbelievably beautiful.
Becoming a new mother is a milestone in any woman’s life. A very special one at that. No other milestone can compare to this phase. While this phase is easily termed as one of the most joyous it is also the most challenging phase of life. Yes, paradoxical but true. This stage of life is not only irreversible, it brings with it endless new demands on the new mother.
A woman barely manages to delete the memory of labor and the physical pain of surgery or stitches when she is saddled with the responsibility of taking care of a newborn, who is totally helpless and dependent on the hapless young mother. While she is overjoyed with the baby, the responsibility of handling the baby compounded with her post-partum depression and lack of help can potentially lead to mental complications for her, if not given attention.
In such situations, drama can potentially act as a refuge for the young mother. Surprised? You may wonder what drama has got to do with motherhood. You may find it hard to imagine how and why a young mother is able to devote time to learning drama.
So here is how! Studies have proven, without a doubt, the uses of drama and theatre as therapeutic options for mental well-being. Numerous studies have proven its effectiveness in treating patients with psychological disorders.
Today, we want to shed light on the usefulness of drama techniques to mitigate the challenges of motherhood.
Drama classes or acting groups by design, allow actors to delve into their craft by wearing someone else’s shoes. For the period of rehearsal, the actor typically forgets who she really is and her individual situation will be pushed to the back burner for that period of time. The actor (the new mother in question) will be able to take her mind off the responsibilities of the baby for that one or two hours and escape to live another reality. Drama offers scope for escaping one’s reality for some time. This allows us to delve into the challenges of another human, in another life situation. In preparing for a character, an actor develops empathy and compassion. Compassion is a great tool to possess as a new mother. Doesn’t it allow one to minimize one’s own life challenges?
Drama classes or theatre groups build strong bonds and become a great place to foster long-term friendships. All participants feel vulnerable and are made to shed their inhibitions. The shared vulnerability becomes a trigger for strong bonds of friendships. These bonds create a safe space for the new mother to express herself. Acting tasks lead the participant actors to explore various emotions and one is forced to express oneself while fulfilling the tasks. This way, the class or rehearsal, acts as a great opportunity to release any pent-up emotions.
To quote an anonymous thought on motherhood-
Motherhood wrecks us. It tears us down and strips away pieces of our identity that we thought would be part of us forever….
A new mother is stripped of her individual identity and she may feel lost and lonely in that journey. Her nights and her days are so demanding that she will most likely feel totally sucked up in the new routine. She may feel overwhelmed and physically and mentally drained. But when she indulges in drama she can feel free. She can connect to herself and get back in touch with her own identity. It may give her a grip on her own self. When acting she will feel a different energy and being away from the demanding routine she is able to get out and create a new identity of herself in a new environment.
Drama exercises target training the mind, body, and vocals. It makes one delve into the context of the story and analyze the characters which help in keeping the grey cells kicking. Drama therapy integrates the left and the right brain allowing creativity to marry logic.
Drama activities give ample opportunity for mothers to share their stories and learn about others. Mirroring, reflecting, interviewing, and improvisations all are used as tools to extricate each woman from the mental challenges that she may be feeling in her situation and that makes for a liberating experience.
We can conclude that drama therapy has the power of providing a safe space for new mothers to explore and redefine themselves after the birth of their babies and that may help them find their voice again, making this phase of their lives as rewarding as it deserves to feel.