One of the biggest reasons people give up in the early stages of learning Salsa is the fear of looking silly because they can’t do it.
And teachers and competent dancers are sometimes a bit quick to play down or dismiss these fears altogether.
“It’s just something you have to go through.”
“Get a thicker skin!”
“Don’t take it so seriously!”
“Just stick with it, it won’t be like this forever!”
Easy for them to say, right?!!
The problem is, to the reptilian and mammalian parts of our brain, this fear is very big and very real. This is because our brain is wired for social connection and acceptance. It craves it. It goes into meltdown if it is withdrawn or not forthcoming.
The reason for this is that social connection was necessary for survival of the species. A human being cut off from the rest of the tribe would have less protection, less food and warmth, less chance to procreate and therefore less chance to survive.
If we are under any threat of being outcast or alienated from the “tribe” our brain STILL goes into panic mode in exactly the same way. This sets off a cascade of hormonal and physiological responses which actually switch off the learning and logic areas of our brain, making us slower to pick up new skills and learn coordinated movements.
Yep…fear of messing things up and looking foolish actually makes it MUCH harder to learn!
We go immediately into fight or flight mode
Our pulse and heart rate speed up, breathing gets shallower and faster, mouth gets drier. Muscles get tighter and your whole body gets stiffer.
So how do you get past this very real physiological stress response?
Simple really…just give your brain the social and physical connection it needs.
The quickest way is to connect with the people who are learning alongside you. If they appear unfriendly it’s most likely that they’re grappling with the same thing. Someone needs to break the ice and it might as well be you! They’ll probably thank you for it…
If you already feel under pressure, and the stress response has already kicked in there are a couple of things you can do:
Firstly, take some slow, deep breaths. If you push into your stomach halfway between your belly button and pubic bone at the same time, this will encourage your diaphragm to engage which will help to reset your breathing patterns and calm your brain and nervous system in seconds.
The other thing you can do is to use what’s called a “pattern interrupt”. Taking a break for a few seconds and doing something different – even something as simple as shaking your arms and legs out or giving yourself a hug will help to bring you out of your reptilian brain and into your logical, more rational learning-friendly pre-frontal cortex.
If you enjoyed this article and would like more of the same, you can join my free private Facebook group “Social Salsa Made Simple” 🙂