February 21


How Following Joy Leads to Love

By Sue Ingebretson

February 21, 2012

courage, dancing, Love, Michele Rosenthal, Post Tramatic Stress, PTSD


Let’s keep the love theme going for the month of February! I’m happy to share a guest post today that’s all about finding love in the face of adversity. You’ll want to hear what my friend and colleague, Michele Rosenthal, has to say about her own journey dealing with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).


How Following My Joy Led Me To Finding My Love

Sometimes in life, you really do have to, as Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Take me, for example. For over two decades I struggled with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As a teenager, I survived a rare, life-threatening illness and then, got stuck in a mindset that just couldn’t let go of trauma. Eventually, nightmares, insomnia, emotional numbing, avoidance, fear and anxiety took their toll on my health. Twenty-five years later, after years sitting in therapy waiting for my psychologist to heal me, I realized the truth: I would only heal when I decided to take responsibility for my recovery process. I had to actually do something.

I decided I needed to figure out what would make me feel better. My thinking went like this: I feel depressed and full of despair every day. What would I rather feel? The answer: ‘joy’. I wanted to feel joy so desperately that I would have done just about anything, including going out of my comfort zone to find it.

Once I decided the feeling I wanted to have, I set about finding it. Looking back over my life I realized that whenever I danced I felt an enormous, incredible feeling of freedom, transcendence and joy. So, I decided to dance, a lot. The only problem was, I only knew how to freestyle, which is what I’d grown up doing in nightclubs. In the small beach town in which I now live, however, clubbing every night of the week isn’t an option. I decided to learn to partner dance at a local ballroom studio.

Not having any formal dance background – and never having danced with a partner before – I walked into my first Argentine tango class not knowing what to expect and only knowing I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I took a deep breath, summoned all my courage, and stepped onto the dance floor. John, a man about my age, was the assistant teacher in the class. Since I was new, he was assigned to work with me privately during the class to bring me up to speed.

With brown hair hanging into cheerful brown eyes with lashes so long they curl up at the end, John’s eyes are set in a broad, round face with a perfectly straight nose. He has the sort of flat cheekbones that hint at some small degree of Native American heritage and skin that is smooth and tan. John’s about four inches taller than I; he leaned his head down until our faces were level and separated by only an inch. His eyes were so intense and impish and merry and full of happy life, I was completely distracted looking into them. I pitched my head a little toward him and returned his smile. When we settled into the tango embrace, John led me into the basic pattern. We danced holding each other’s gaze.

Forward, to the side, glide back, cross the ankles, we flowed around and around the rectangle of the tango basic step. John’s lead was gentle yet solid. He neither pushed nor pulled me around the floor, but lightly suggested where he wanted me to go. My body followed instinctively, not following because my head knew the steps, but because my body was inexplicably drawn toward this body leading it. We practiced over and over, each step bringing me deeper into the feeling of terrific happiness that I always found when I moved my body to music. By the end of the class I had gotten good enough at the basic step to join the group. I had also gotten very curious about who this John person was.

It turns out, John was curious about me, too. At the end of the class he asked to take me salsa dancing, which I didn’t really know how to do but was all too happy to have him teach me. A few weeks of spending time together on the dance floor built up a chemistry that led to spending time off the dance floor as well.

That was all five years ago. With John by my side, I’ve learned eleven different partner dances, accessed and thrived in my capacity for joy, performed and taught dance and in the process: developed a love and relationship better than any I’ve ever had. With a little help from a fabulous hypnotherapist coupled with a lot more work on my part (and support from John), I kicked the PTSD once and for all, too. Now, we still dance constantly and are choreographing and teaching my brother and his fiancé a tango for the first dance at their wedding this summer. Joy and love are so much more bountiful when we share and pass them on.

Michele Rosenthal is a Post-Trauma Coach and the author of Before the World Intruded: Conquering the Past and Creating the Future, A Memoir.

Find out more about Michele and her work at her Heal My PTSD website!

  1. What a beautiful guest post Michele! I love to dance and can’t wait until the day that I can dance again. In the mean time I choose to live my life as if I were dancing! The other day I was made to have a psychological evaluation. The psychologist after seeing my symptoms appear within minutes of just sitting in a chair, asked me how could I continue to handle these symptoms on a daily basis. I told him that I choose to stay as positive as possible, I try not to focus on what is lacking but what is bountiful, I choose to focus on what I can do vs. what I no longer can do. He seemed stunned! I am so happy that you too have found your Joy! ~Lisa

    1. Oh Lisa — I’m so glad you read this post. Isn’t it lovely? I knew that it would speak to you on such a personal level. Thanks to the both of you for sharing!

  2. Wow! That’s a wonderful story! Power to you Michele for taking the first steps, both as a tango and a step towards your goals!

  3. I L.O.V.E this story!!!

    I dreamed of dancing soon after getting a diagnosis of fibro. My doc told me, ‘you got fibro for life kid. No cures for you.’ Sigh… Somehow, the guts to defy my docs arose with this desire to dance.

    Here several years later, I am dancing.!! Fibro is only a part of my past. All because I took responsibility for my health too. Food, Water, Rest, Exercise and Owning My Power all needed to be worked on to provide me with a foundation to heal.

    The happiest people I see are dancers!

    1. I absolutely love your attitude, Abigail! I’m so thankful to have you post a comment here. You’re sure to be an inspiration to all!

  4. Thanks to you all for your support! Sometimes, just by accident, we stumble upon just the weirdest strategy to achieve our healing goals. I never thought dance would lead me out of the darkness, but it was the beginning of my stepping into the light. Makes me believe so deeply there is hope for us all. Onward toward freedom!

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