Do Bodies Really Remember?
Saturday 7 March 2020 - London
With Roz Carroll, Dr Cherionna Menzam-Sills, Dr Kathrin Stauffer, Nick Totton
This conference attempts to scrutinise the often-repeated claim that bodies remember events, speak the truth, keep the score, and do other things that were previously seen as the province of minds. To treat bodies in this way is clearly preferable to the previous psychotherapeutic approach of ignoring them altogether. But is there a better way to conceptualise their role in our experience of the world and in the formation of our identity?READ MORE...
Is there perhaps something unhelpfully romantic about this way of interpreting neuroscience? Is it even a more subtle form of the mind’s imperialist tendencies, to understand the body’s response as if they were mental ones? And, very importantly, does it help or hinder us in working with trauma?
Registration and Coffee
Dr Cherionna Menzam-Sills
Cells, Tissues, Fluids and Energetic Forces
In understanding body memory, it is useful to first determine what do we mean by “body.” In Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, we perceive body as cells, tissues, and fluids all suspended within energetic fields and their formative forces. We will look at memory at each of these levels. We will also discuss how traumatic and other memories tend to arise in Craniosacral Therapy and how we support clients in being able to gently process or integrate these within a safe relational field, while remembering also the felt sense of resource and an original blueprint in our bodies. Who were we prior to the trauma? We can also remember the universal formative forces still available to support us.
Unpacking the Idea that the Body Tells the Truth
Kathrin will reframe the question “Do bodies remember?”. She will suggest that what we are looking at is a desire for bodily expressions and symptoms to be meaningful. People are usually interested in this “embodied truth” or meaning and many wish to give it greater significance than meaning contained in thoughts or words. Kathrin will set up a psychotherapeutic inquiry into what kind of experience might create this search for the truth: for example being lied to, contradiction between verbal and nonverbal signals, lack of power, inability to find our own truth. She will take the notion seriously that clients might have very deeply felt motivations for this desire, and to see if we can bring some therapeutic space and some compassion to the problem.
Memory as Bricolage – in the Body and of the Field
Memory is bricolage: “a construction from a diverse range of things that happen to be available”. It uses mixed media – weaving sensations, muscle impulses and tensions, images (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic), feelings, symptoms, and familiar or forbidden narratives. It feeds on repetition and patterning that is complex and multi-layered. External and internal stimuli combine in free association, creating memories that may feel vivid or vague, fragmented or coherent, dramatic or mundane. As therapy stories unfold, memories alter and reconfigure: the presence of the therapist inevitably influences what emerges in myriad ways. Memory is not held simply “in the body” but rather “in the field”. This is more sharply evident when we consider transgenerational and collective memory. The field includes the bodies of the client and the therapist, and what each has internalised from the bodily and verbal communications of their parents, grandparents and others. It incorporates many tangible and intangible elements of culture, history and environment. When embodied traces become both resonant and relevant, history may be re-membered.
Bodies Are Not Auxiliary Minds
It has become a commonplace of body psychotherapy and trauma work to say that “the body remembers”’, “the body tells the truth”. Nick will deconstruct and dispute these formulations: to suggest instead that the body doesn’t remember, it reacts; it doesn’t tell the truth, because it doesn’t say anything; and, of course, it isn’t the body, but just bodies, plural. Speaking of “The Body” and attributing to it some sort of mystical wisdom is confusing, and makes it harder for us to understand how our bodies really do behave and how they need to be responded to.
Workshops, choose from the following four options:
Group 1: Nick Totton
Body to Body
Exploring experientially how bodies relate to each other, and how minds do or don’t accommodate the process.
Group 2: Kathrin Stauffer
Accessing Meaning Through the Body in Psychotherapy
There is usually a large gap between what a therapist can see in a client’s body and what is actually helpful for the client. In this workshop Kathrin will lead exercises to demonstrate this gap and bring some ideas as to how to bridge this gap.
Group 3: Roz Carroll
Diving Into the Kaleidoscope – Multiple Self-States Explored Via Words and Movement
In this workshop we will explore our (inter) subjectivities through several lenses. First we will explore the relationship between dropping into the body (vertical exploration) and non-verbal dialogue with another (horizontal exploration). This leads into a further meditative cycle of breath-gesture-feeling integration. From the particular embodied ground this evokes for each of us, we will notice how fragments of poetry resonate within and between us. We will conclude with a discussion of how sensing, moving, and imagining together now shapes our sense of the term “memory”.
Group 4: Cherionna Menzam-Sills
Touch, Memory and Healing
Physical contact often stimulates feelings, thoughts and memories. While we may not be paying attention to these experiences, they can profoundly influence our behaviour and relational tendencies. In this workshop, we practice negotiating mindful touch, as we practice in Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. We practice settling into a calm perceptual state of being, orienting to resource, establishing a safe relational field and within that engaging in mindful enquiry about how a simple physical contact affects us and may generate memories in the physical body, emotions and/or thoughts.
A 15-minute tea break will take place at 15.30