Why did I leave talk therapy to do something different. I was a humanistic therapist applying the work of Rogers, Perls, Gendlin, Erikson, even Ellis, in my practice. The experiential nature of the work invited me to be myself versus wearing the pro forma blank mask.
Then I met John Pierrakos, MD. at a Humanistic Psychology Conference. Everything turned rightside up for me and got even better. By looking at the body, I achieved a quick, dead on, ability to assess a person’s personality and behavior.
I didn’t throw out my DSM, but used this information to support traditional diagnoses and to question them. Body therapy techniques and exercises transformed my life, helping me love again, move my career in a new direction, finish my doctorate, adopt a child, and do all the things I secretly wanted to do.
If these tools worked for me, what would they do for my clients? So I changed my practice, not totally, but enough to help my clients find their core, move into their bodies, and way from the mind that led them to fear and self-judgment.
The bottom line — I believe talk therapists and traditional therapists need to integrate the body and the transpersonal into their practice. Reasons: boredom sets in; clients don’t change; you experience less pleasure; your own life feels stuck; and when you want to help your clients experience pleasure, be in their truth, and open their hearts.
We parked the car in the Munich airport this morning. After an 11-hour car trip through the Alps and four hours sleep in a German Pension, we boarded the plane for Berlin. (They will pick up the car after the training when they return to their summer home by the sea). Heidi told me the man sitting next to me on the plane was flirting, but I didn’t notice. Lost in deep meditation I wondered “why am I here in Germany,” “why am I flying to Berlin?”—a place I viewed with horror as a child. Simply put, I am here about forgiveness. The first time I came to Berlin to teach, I felt hateful and angry. I felt like an outcast. I felt like I was being persecuted. When the class processed their work in German and no one translated for me, I experienced intense loneliness and rejection. The second time I came, the experience was somewhat better. I came to teach in a small village between Hamburg and Breman and because I love country and farmland, I found it tolerable. Also I talked a woman in the class about being Jewish, and that helped me to let go of my underlying hostility and fear.
This time being Jewish came up as soon as I came to Grafenhaun to teach. Laurenz, the director of the program, and I started to get to know each other in a deeper way and he asked me about my roots. I told him I was Jewish and he seemed surprised. He asked me if I needed to deal with this in class. He asked how I felt about being here in Germany. I told him I am happy to be here and I don’t need to deal with this in class. And that felt true. And then as luck would have it…..
I often do a demonstration the first day of class. When I asked for a volunteer, Lois came up to the front to work with me. She told me that she has pain (chronic) in her solar plexus. When she started to work in that area of her body (deep breathing, kicking, etc) an intense yearning for the nurse who cared for her from birth till age two occurred. Soldiers came to Lois’s house and took the nurse away because she was Jewish. From then on, Lois was not allowed to broach the subject to her parents or mention the nurse by name. (The nurse survived the camps and Lois has seen her since). Needless to say, this experience touched me deeply and I then chose to share my Jewish heritage with the group. I applauded her courage and desire to work on the loss of a Jewish nanny. I felt relieved that she could release grief still held in her body, some fifty years later.
Earlier on the plane, I realized some anger and hate still resided in me. When I looked down below at the green fields, I saw them covered with blood. That feeling quickly changed to forgiveness and love. I am grateful to be here and to have the opportunity to heal and to make a difference.
I also realize that I need to take more time off when I return to the states, I will try to take the last week in August – to do errands, to think, to meditate, to write. I want to spend time in silence and in forgiveness. Not filling the space around me with words. Here in Europe I hear sounds. Since I don’t know the language—many of the sounds appear to lack substance or emotion. Silence offers tremendous knowing and wisdom.
A soul named Lila came to earth embodied as a beautiful infant girl.
Lila’s body comprised two energy systems, the high speed vibrational system of the soul or higher self, and the low speed, biophysical system, including the fight or flight response, of the human organism. The second system had been designed to protect the human body from threats.
The Earth parents loved their delightful daughter, but were not pleased when she cried and screamed. Once during a temper tantram, she told her mother “I hate you.” Both parents were deeply offended by this behavior. Little girls should be “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Not wanting to be judged as bad parents if anyone heard that their child acted out, they called the witch patrol. This group of seven witches worked to rid Earth children of base, shameful, and disgusting “lower self” behaviors. The witches used methods of shaming and punishing that caused the beautiful little girl to bury her anger so deep within herself that no-one would ever know it existed. By suppressing her negativity within the muscles and organs of her body, she suppressed her “higher self ” energy at well. Now she would no longer be considered an angry child, but some of her special and unique gifts disappeared too. Lila did not notice the absence of her true self. When she thought about her old behavior, such as telling her mother she hated her, she felt ashamed. Over time, she forgot that she ever had negative feelings. The witch patrol had done their job well.
Since Earth is a fairly dangerous planet, Lila no longer felt safe. Her fierce anger was gone Therefore, she created protective armor, called the ego mask, a method her parents would not reject, as they wore ego-masks themselves. The ego-mask hid the true self so that it would not be hurt and it created a false, distorted version of Lila’s real self, so that no-one would ever have access to the real Lila again.
After a while Lila, like all the others on the planet, forgot that the self she created for protection was false. She believed her mask image, thinking “this is who I am.” However, when Lila became a woman, she sensed that something was wrong. She never fully felt herself, and she never felt totally alive. She suffered from a lack of confidence and low self-esteem, even though she did very well in school and won many awards. After she separated from her third husband, she said “I cannot live this way anymore.” At that point, and for the first time ever, she turned to prayer and asked for guidance.
An angel heard her prayer and came to help her. But at first the help did not feel like help. “Who is this cruel angel who is telling me that I am not real, that I have denied my feelings, cut off my anger and my fear, and lived in a state of arrogance and false perfection”, asked Lila? The angel was very patient and helped Lila find the parts of herself she repressed as a young child. Together the angel and Lila collaborated to undo the work of the witch patrol. Once she could face her rage and her terror and free up the energy associated with these emotions, releasing it from the taut muscles of her body, Lila began to feel like her true self. The angel helped her to tear off the ego mask, to release and transform the stuck “lower self” emotions, and to experience her heart. Now Lila helps other Earthlings to reclaim their true selves, her angel visits her often, and she has joy and fulfillment in her life.
One of the most original thinkers in the field of Somatics (Body Therapy), Stanley Keleman has used his unique knowledge of the of the body’s functioning to help people grow, change, become unstuck, and transition from one life phase to the next. A pioneer, Keleman perceives the body, unmistakably, as the center of the self. Using Formative Psychology, the name for his brand of therapy, he teaches people to change their bodies so as to experience life more fully.
According to Keleman the body’s shapes changes over time due to nature and one’s voluntary effort to influence it. Bodies are inherited according to the rules of genetics, but immediately thereafter the innate structure changes due to the challenges and stressors of life. For instance, a five-year old responds to the yelling and screaming at the family dinner table by raising his shoulders in fear. So when this child grows up with shoulders locked and raised up around his neck, he cannot reach out to make contact. If he were then to seek help for relationship issues, a body therapist could help this young man learn new muscular approaches to life.
Keleman teaches individuals that they can participate in their own formative life process. By looking at their body shapes Keleman can provide workshop participants information about their life experiences, emotions, behavior, and belief systems. By educating people to use voluntary muscle movement to influence emotional and beliefs, he shows them how to turn their lives around.
Because body shapes have the ability to continually form and reform, one can have more than one somatic self. Each new shape represents another self wanting to be lived. People have the opportunity to form bodies appropriate for their age, work with the feelings and challenges of emerging shapes, and explore each unique individual identity as it emerges. The body process is the basis for how individuals form the self and their world view.
Stanley Keleman has been honored by both the European Body Psychotherapy Association and the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy and received an honorary doctorate degree from Saybrook University. By showing that the body is more than a series of innate reactions and that people can use voluntary muscle action to enhance their lives, Keleman teaches people to trust their bodies, to handle their emotions appropriately, and to have a better and richer connection to themselves.
I remember sitting with a group of people at a workshop in Fairmount Park, in a house owned by the park, located in Philadelphia. In the early 1970’s. I had finished a master’s degree in education form the Urban Teacher Preparation Program at Syracuse University and had come to Philadelphia to work in an inner city environment. I found myself excited by the work I did in the schools bringing a humanistic perspective to inner city children. I harbored a desire to raise self-esteem as well as teach. The air smelled of spring and the windows were open. It was delicious. I looked at the facilitator who had a Gestalt Psychology background, and I had a strong inner jolt: “I want to be doing that.”
Certainly part of that jolt was ego, maybe part was envy, even jealousy, but the strongest part lived beyond words. It pulled up from my essence saying this is my life path, what I am meant to do, want I want to do.
John Pierrakos told me he felt the same thing when we first met. We stood in the Sheraton Hotel in Philadelphia 10 years later, 1983. He had just presented a seminar on body reading and bowled over by its content I went up to where he was standing to ask if I could study with him. Later he told me that he knew right then that we would work closely together in the future.
When I was 16, my English teacher asked my class to write autobiographies. I wrote that I planned to be a psychologist in the future. Although this was1964 and I had never met a psychologist, I knew it intuitively. It became my dream and I never wavered.
I began my BA degree at Carnegie Mellon with the intention of studying psychology as an undergraduate. But it did not come to pass. I knew what I wanted to study, I knew it in my heart, I knew that I wanted to help people be more authentic, true to themselves. I also knew that I could not bring myself to accept the behavioral curriculum advanced by the psychology department and their emphasis on Skinner. So I changed my major to literature and I have no regrets. Because Camus, Shakespeare, and Dostoyevsky taught me what I need to learn about life and people.