Moving Conditions: Exploring Symptoms Through Movement and Drawing

In May I ran a Moving Conditions workshop as part of London Arts and Health Creativity and Wellbeing Week. The following text is featured on the LAH website.

“All symptoms can be transformed into “advisors” so that they are not just “bad” things to be eradicated. Their meaningfulness itself is often a great relief.”

Arnold Mindell, ‘Working with the dreaming body’

For the past couple of years I’ve been offering workshops exploring body symptoms in creative ways, using drawing and improvised movement. Participants start with drawing a physical symptom they’re experiencing. These drawings become starting points for moving and imagining, alone and in support of one another. The workshops have been partly inspired by my training in Processwork, a body-based therapeutic approach, which understands symptoms as a form of ‘body-dreaming’, carrying creative information. I find this to be a life-affirming idea.

It’s important not to romanticise difficult body experiences. They’re extremely tough, and many unjust factors mean some bodies carry the burdens of health, societal and environmental inequalities more than others. This is a collective issue and needs to change. While a multitude of practical ideas, actions and resources are needed to address this, creativity can play a key role in supporting wellbeing and access to our inner resources.

Thinking of my own bodily challenges as a form of ‘dreaming information’ has helped me become more curious and interested in what’s happening for me, which is already relieving. Giving attention to an experience without being too quick to define it can open up ways of relating to it. Surprising new perspectives arise when we explore creatively. Doing this in a group can help us connect with what’s shared and different in our experiences.

What I find particularly exciting in these sessions are the ways everyone brings their unique style and forms of perceiving to the experience, creating a space of mutual support that isn’t possible alone. The process invites poetic and inventive ways of being and exploring together, which are often missing in our usual ways of relating to our symptoms, and to one another. Patterns of being emerging from this often feel meaningful in personal and collective ways.

A participant of a recent session wrote:

“Dancing someone else’s image and considering how my own was danced by someone else was surprisingly helpful in making a marked shift in perspective… Dancing with imagined stories is deeply, deeply satisfying to me.”

Savannah Theis (she/her) is an artist, group facilitator and trainee therapist, living in London. Often collaborating and co-creating settings for participation, she’s interested in what helps us speak, listen, move and make sense together. More information about Savannah and her work can be found here: