In this Q&A Jill Hayes, author of ‘Soul and Spirit in Dance Movement Psychotherapy’, explains why a transpersonal approach to Dance Movement Psychotherapy is so effective and shares her memories of a client whose work with soul and spirit allowed her to recover from addiction.
How do you write about the connection between body, movement and soul?
I offer a particular perspective on the body and its movement as connected/joined to other living bodies and other living forms in nature. The body-self which feels and responds spontaneously and intuitively in relationship with other unique forms is given the name: soul. Soul is therefore the first response to being in the world as a separate living form. Sensitive and mobile, resonant and feeling, soul is born from the intelligent body, as a complete system.
Soul gets covered and becomes inactive/deadened by conventional, habitual response patterns. So to awaken movement from inside the body is to find a way back to soul: the creative core inside the living body.
What is it about the model of ego-soul-spirit that is so important in relation to DMP? How does it impact upon the bridges between them?
DMP makes bridges between ego, soul and spirit because all these aspects of self can becomes awake and conscious through moving bodies in the therapeutic relationship. DMP thrives on the premise of transitional space, constantly weaving connections between the felt-sense of life and the imaginings and thoughts about life. Articulating sensing, feeling, imagining and thinking is what DMP practitioners are trained to do.
Re-imagining and re-naming aspects of self as ego, soul and spirit provides vocabulary which can convey mysterious and sacred aspects of experience which are often neglected and sidelined in contemporary mental health practice. Recognising and asserting the conditions and the process through which mysterious healing occurs is important in re-conceiving and re-appraising potential methods for creating mental and physical wellness.
Mental health frameworks tend to favour observable, logical methods of practice. Sadly this cuts out a wealth of possibilities for healing. The invisible, the subtle, the energetic and ultimately the inexplicable need to be included in frameworks of wellness, for without them the palette of possibility dries up and is reduced to a few pale colours.
DMP awakens soul because it encourages participation of the whole body system in the process of change: it awakens the organs, the glands, the skin, the bones, the muscles, the fluids; it enlivens spirit through its attention to the flow of blood, the flow of breath and the flow of vibration through the living body, and it develops ego which listens to soul and spirit, inviting a mindful approach to appreciating and reflecting upon the felt sense of movement inside the body.
Describe the transpersonal approach to DMP and the experiential focus. Why is this so effective?
Transpersonal DMP is so effective because it contains a deep respect for a living process which happens despite the rational ego. It makes a place for the mysterious, inviting it to manifest in the therapeutic process. The welcoming of the mysterious brings new possibilities which cannot be thought by the rational ego, but can be imagined by the psyche (a potential for imagining which is not limited by the experience of the ego) and felt in the soul body (which is joined to a living process uncapped by the separate self).
Transpersonal DMP invites the client to enter a creative flowing stream of potential growth and expansion through body, movement and imagination. Endlessly flowing and changing, movement and imagination create new pathways for the mover who trusts in the unknown and who can follow the call of unknown movement and unknown images.
Such transpersonal process is different to working with someone according to a rational theory. Theory often provides a rational pathway for the therapist to follow, offering a rational logic upon which to base interventions and to draft interpretations. Transpersonal practice rejects such assurances and puts its trust in an unfolding process which cannot be predicted, which offers riddles and confusions and surprises in equal measure.
In transpersonal practice the psychotherapist must give up looking for certainty and come home to uncertainty, to not knowing, to not being the expert, to being simply another vulnerable human being sharing an experience with the client. If both the therapist and the client can call up soul in the living body to provide clues to healthy living for the client, then that is enough. Entering into the experience of soul and spirit together is what makes the changes. It is effective because the creation of a flowing mobile relationship provides an axis of change. When both partners commit to being open to soul and spirit, a current of change is called into the process, inviting healing from the core of all life.
The Jungian vision of psyche as imaginal flow of change is present in this model: images pop up and startle the mover, guiding the moving body into relationship with patterns of balance and change, highlighting what is missing, what needs attention, what needs integration. Imagery is embodied and moved to expand the possibilities for growth and change.
How does the book explore soul and spirit?
The book explores soul and spirit both practically and theoretically, shaking the terms free from past cultural and religious contexts, but retaining their essential association with a sacred, mysterious movement of change. Case studies are used to illustrate the presence of soul and spirit in therapeutic practice. They exemplify how soul and spirit awaken a creative process of change.
Are there any cases of working with clients in this way that stick out in your mind? Why is this?
The case study of Lauren (Chapter 6) endures in my mind because she was able to work with soul and spirit to recover from addiction. In the containment of our joint commitment to her healing, Lauren was able to listen to her inner body (her soul) to understand that for growth and peace she needed to develop love and respect for her creative core.
First using images of psyche, which were strange, beautiful, frightening and unknown to her, Lauren moved and drew them to let them flourish and communicate, so that she became aware of the patterning of her extrovert self in the world, as well as aware of her inner potential, which lay frozen and unrealized inside.
Then through somatic practice, initially alone and then increasingly with me (intuitive tactile connection informed by many sources: Body Mind Centering, Authentic Movement, Cranio-Sacral Therapy, Mindfulness) Lauren delved deeper into her soul and deeper still to find spirit, realigning herself with spirit, listening to her need to connect fluidly, responsively, respectfully and truthfully with the world around her.
To move forward with integrity, Lauren needed to accept herself as she was. To accept herself as she was required the development of love, as joy felt in witnessing life in her own unique form. Without affirmation from an external source through touch, energetic resonance, parallel emotional sensing and imaginative empathy, it would have been hard for Lauren to love herself. A therapeutic relationship potentially provides a core relationship of growth which the client has perhaps never before experienced. This core relationship in which the client’s life and creativity is loved by the therapist, energizes the client’s commitment to her own life, so that she comes to appreciate that she has all she needs inside her to find her own way, because her body soul is sacred, it joins her to all life. She becomes capable of unraveling the past and unfolding the present trusting that the impetus from her core is a sacred impetus which will unfold her potential creatively and without distortion, so that she can become who she was intended to be; she understands that propelled by body and psyche, her blueprint will fulfill itself.