Sunday, September 4, 2011

Core Scenes and "Help Me Rhonda"

In class, when I do a song that I’ve done a lot, it becomes ingrained in me, almost a conditioned response.  This is a good thing because even if my brain doesn’t remember the movement, my body will.  When the movement is so deep-rooted, I can present it with confidence and give direction much better.  On the other hand, if I want to change something in the choreography, in the moment I do the change, I totally forget what comes next.  It’s as if doing something new changes the rest of the choreography in my brain and body.  I can find myself in front of a class and sense that everything is about to come to a screeching halt.  So I have to fake it.  But that can actually take me in a new direction and require me to look at an old routine from a new perspective. 

This reminds me of what therapists call “core scenes.”  A core scene is a negative interaction you have in a relationship that happens time and again.  It’s so predictable that it’s almost scripted.  Here’s one I remember from high school: 

I was friends with a couple (Jack and Linda), two of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.  Even though it was 1975, Jack had a real connection to the music of the 50’s and 60’s.  He particularly loved the Beach Boys.  Before Jack and Linda started dating, Jack had a girlfriend named Rhonda of whom Linda was very jealous.  Whenever there was a party, there was of course a lot of Iron City beer.  After a few drinks, whenever the song “Help Me Rhonda” came on, Jack would replace the phrase, “Help me Rhonda, help me get her out of my heart” with “Help me Rhonda, help me get her out of my pants.”  This would send Linda into a violent rage, and the scene would usually end in either tears or physical altercations.  At any party, it wasn’t a question of if this would happen, but when.  Jack just couldn’t help himself.  It happened every time. 

This kind of thing happens to us all.  He says something totally incendiary.  You respond in kind.  It’s like a conditioned response, and you just can’t help yourself.  You say what you always say because this time he’ll hear you!  This time he’ll understand. Yes, well, we’ve all been there, and it doesn’t work.  You end up exactly where you were the last time you had this argument.

Actually, all you have to do is change one thing.  Altering just one response will change the outcome.  You have to decide that you don’t have to “win.”  In these core scenes, no one is winning.  The change doesn’t have to be you surrendering, either.  All that is required is a different response. 

Just like in dance, one change can transform the whole thing and point you in a direction you would never have imagined was possible.


  1. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this because it supports one of my favorite (and often-used) quotes from the brilliant Albert Einstein: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I can't tell you to how many clients I said this when I had my hypnotherapy business....

  2. Great post Sue. We've all been there but not all of us recognize it.