(Written while in post as AD with Hearts & Minds)
Brain Awareness Week got me thinking. Thinking about how unhelpful thinking is when you are clowning. Thinking about how thinking about not thinking is even less helpful. Thinking about brains and bodies.
In face of the prediction that 131.5 million of us in the world will be living with dementia by 2050 and that according to EPAD (European Prevention of Alzheimer’s Dementia Consortium) there hasn’t been a new medication for Alzheimer’s in the last twenty years, it strikes me how important it is that we pay attention to how to be with and celebrate a person once their brain doesn’t work as it once did. To consider that we are more than our brains. We are bodies, and as Jules Montague puts it in her ted talk, ‘embodiment allows people to exist in the world, to be resolutely present...it is our gestures, habits and actions and Dementia can’t take that away.’
As therapeutic clowns we are responding with our whole body and not just our head and thinking brain. The thinking clown might come in to a ward with a plan to entertain, but the embodied clown will arrive with the intention to meet someone in their gestures, habits and actions to create a tailor-made theatrical experience. For it is in this embodied place that we share and recognise our humanity and sense of self, regardless of cognitive capacity.
By using therapeutic clowning to connect in an emotional, person-centered way, we observe that people become more verbal, more interactive and less isolated – observations backed-up by recent compelling research by Daisy Fancourt that the arts can play a vital and central role in the general wellbeing and cognitive health of people living with dementia, ‘enjoyable activities can induce positive affect and heighten arousal which has been shown to lead to improved cognitive performance.’
Intellectual thinking is highly prized to humans, but profound experiences of human connection rarely have anything to do with rational thought.
I am a therapeutic clown and performer. Writing here is part of my wider practice and maybe some of my thoughts will trigger some thoughts of your own and I hope that helps.