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Love Doing Ballet: Positive Habit Or Addiction?

December 2022

Another year has passed. I would like to remember it as a happier, lighter, freer, and more positive year than the two previous ones. And indeed, I felt very joyful when we danced together.

At the same time, we may wonder, is attending many, most, or all the available classes, workshops, and courses healthy? Is doing so a positive habit, or is it an addiction? By writing about this as an adult ballet teacher, would I be pulling the carpet under my feet?

Addiction is by definition a repeated habit despite its negative consequences. Whereas habits that "strengthen us and make our lives more satisfying.” was termed 'positive addiction' by William Glasser (American psychiatrist, 1925-2013).

The magazine Psychology Today further quotes Glasser that they [positive addictions] enable us to "live with more confidence, more creativity, and more happiness, and usually in much better health.” and writes that "Positive addictions, unlike their negative cousins, enhance life."

ballet autumn intensive, Waltz of the Snowflakes, London, 2022

However, Glasser's criteria for positive addictions, which are basically healthy habits, seem rather limited for anyone serious about ballet training.

They are:

1) It is something noncompetitive that you choose to do and you can devote approximately an hour per day;

2) It is possible for you to do it easily and it doesn’t take a good deal of mental effort to do it well;

3) You can do it alone or rarely with others but it does not depend upon others to do it;

4) You believe that it has some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) for you;

5) You believe that if you persist at it you will improve — but this is completely subjective — you need to be the only one who measures the improvement; and

6) The activity must have the quality that you can do it without criticising yourself. If you can’t accept yourself during this time the activity will not be [positively] addicting.

How do you feel about the above?

I find some of the criteria fitting for hobbies like gardening or knitting, but less so for ballet training, especially point 2.

And who stumbles at point 6? We know that ballet training can attract people with perfectionist tendencies. (Read my article Ballet Mindset about this subject).

If you think you have lost some of your original joy because you are over-critical of yourself, or you feel stuck, or you sense that something is holding you back, let's have a chat! I may be able to help in a private ballet lesson or with hypnotherapy.


Alexander Davis
Alexander Davis
Mar 15, 2023

Interesting read! There is a spiritual aspect to ballet, or rather it would be odd if it was missing. The ballet process of training mitigates against opportunties for self criticism? That is, an exercise ends and we move on. We may come back to the exercise week after week but we don't dwell on an exercise.. it sort of trains us to get on with things and prepare us for the next exercise? That is self criticism may be a luxury of living in the past where ballet demands we live in the present.

Alexander Davis
Alexander Davis
Mar 19, 2023
Replying to

Perhaps this is an adult thing? We are shown something, it seems easy and we may approximate to something that is expected. It may even feel good even though not perfect. So when we roll up again and it doesn't go as expected we can experience Prof Steve Peters critical monkey on the shoulder; "that was rubbish, horrible, learnt nothing" ... "I'm the very worst ballet dancer ever!". Which is perhaps an inflation? The gift is in the failure and the correction because we are urged to understand and refine something?

For all that I love ballet, its work ethic, conditioning and focus on technique I feel it misses a trick or two - the intimacy of the music, the…

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