Review of Day Training on Finding Interpersonal Poise and Relating Consciously, with Richard Casebow, on Saturday, October 8th, 2016
As a Gestalt psychotherapist working relationally and with the body, I was fascinated by the idea that psychotherapy and bodywork through the Alexander Technique could be combined. I know little about the Alexander approach and even less about Personal Construct Therapy (PCT), so this was a journey of discovery.
The purpose of the day was to explore how we characteristically react, and control our reactions, in relation to others, and how we then carry physical and relational habits through our lives unless we bring them into conscious awareness in order to effect change.
The PCP theory was illustrated with a rather tightly packed power point presentation, and I must admit to getting lost in all the concepts at times. The presentation is available to members, so do take a look if you are interested; there is a lot that can be followed up.
PCP theory relates to neurobiological approaches, including the importance of gaze, learning self-regulation; attachment theory, and embodiment of constructs learned especially in childhood. Alexander Technique is based on minute observation of physical habits and movements in order to bring them into conscious awareness and hence the option to change them. Thus the two approaches did have quite a lot of cross-over.
For instance, one of the first exercises was to explore with a neighbour a time when we each felt an instant rapport with someone, what this was based on and what “stance” we took, both physically and attitudinally, with this person. We then looked at colour preferences, what a liked and disliked colour meant to us, and how these related to our own histories. This was a technique called “laddering”. This was followed by an exploration of what acceptance really meant, i.e. seeing the world through another’s eyes, and how to develop empathy.
Regarding the importance of gaze between the pre-verbal infant and its main carer, so important in bonding and attachment, we had the opportunity to look into a partner’s eyes and explore our reactions and meaning-making as a result. Looking directly, and then moving away and how we managed/still manage difficult situations by redirecting our gaze led to some important sharing between people
For me the most mind-blowing part of the day was what the Alexander practitioners call “weird walking”. No, not John Cleese doing his funny walks, although at times it did look this way! This was based on the idea that we walk with our legs, not on them, and Richard used Fred Astaire as an example of someone who danced as if his legs were hanging from his pelvis; he moved from his thoracic cavity with legendary lightness. To try this out we were invited to choose a “workshop friend”, stand opposite them, and start to move towards them enthusiastically. Before we started Richard paused us, noting how many of us immediately pushed forwards with our necks and heads, whereas to feel into the back of the body first, and then, with a little lift from between the vertebrae of the upper back meant that he could help propel us forward towards our friend. We then moved back the other way with the idea of a difficult situation, noting our posture, and then attempting to adopt the positive stance before walking forward.
This felt hugely significant to me, as, re my difficult situation, Richard noticed my jaw tightening and suggested I loosen the grip of my back teeth. I was amazed at such fine tuning in to something I hadn’t been aware of, but, more than that, the most difficult situation in my life at present involves someone who has a prominent jaw that is characteristically locked in anger! I now feel I have a means to protect myself when I am next in that situation, so that I do not co-create any more tension.
Overall I found this an extremely positive day, the main joy being discovering and feeling close to so many of the participants who I engaged with. I did have reservations about the feedback session when we were all given a timed slot to say how it had been, and felt that there was too much theory to take in. I was left feeling that I had learned a lot about myself, but doubted that there was much I would want to take into my therapeutic practice. I appreciate Richard for his boundless energy, having travelled all the way from Edinburgh and back, and mostly for his very sensitive observation and responses to us all. And his phrase “breathing is recommended”! Thank you, Richard.